Tag Archives: golf swing

Sort your neck for more shoulder turn

What golfers call shoulder turn is actually thoracic (a.k.a. upper back) rotation, however as the head remains still whilst the upper back turns our cervical spine (a.k.a. the neck) must be able to rotate too if you are going to achieve full shoulder turn in your backswing.

The neck also plays a vital role in how well the rest of your body functions.  As Dean Somerset says, along with the feet and the core, the neck is one of the major stability centres in the body. To generate power, you need mobility. To have mobility, you need stability. Proximal stability feeds distal mobility. Instability signals the brain and nervous system to put the brakes on power output because it feels threatened. A lack of stability is a threat to your nervous system.

If the deep core stabilizing system of your body (of which the deep neck flexors are a part) is unstable, your nervous system will simply recruit more superficial muscles to take over. Neck position, therefore, can play a HUGE role in not only arm movement but also hip mobility, in other words we talk a lot about fixing alignment from the bottom up (i.e. at the feet up) but fixing from the top down is also an important strategy.

In the case of the shoulder, every muscle that holds the shoulder to the body and keeps it from falling down, is held up by the neck. If the neck is in a forward head posture, muscles like the sternocleidomastoid, scalanes, levator scapulae, and upper traps will be all jacked up, which will alter the ability to move the arms around. One of the most common relationships is inhibition (weakness) of the deep neck flexors to facilitation (tightness) in the hamstrings. Lack of stability in the neck causes a reflex compensation in the hamstrings to take over the job of the neck flexors. Neck alignment/ head position will also play a role in hip mobility due to the anatomical link to the spinal chord.

The deep neck flexors flex, side bend, and rotate the head as well as being a big part of the stability system we discussed. They do a ton of stuff. Assessing them is critical.

So, how can you determine if the deep neck flexors aren’t up to par?

The first test we like to utilise is a standing cervical rotation. Standing upright in good posture with the feet together turn the head to the left as far as you can and tilt it down, you should be able to touch your collar bone with your chin, then repeat on the other side.

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Take a close look and you’ll see in the first picture I’m quite able to touch as high on my collar bone and also my shoulder has shrugged up slightly in order to help me get my chin and collar bone too touch. These are the sort of things you need to look for and suggest your neck rotation may not be up to scratch.

Next up we use a supine neck flexion to test the activation of our deep neck flexors. Lying on your back place the base of your thumb at the top of your sternum and point your thumb. Pull your neck down to touch your thumb and hold for 20 seconds.

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Do you feel fatigue, soreness, discomfort, shaking, or the need to hold your breath during this exercise? If so that indicates the muscle may be inhibited and needs activation/strengthening.

So what can you do about it?

The key is to activate the neck flexors after releasing areas of your neck such as the sternocleidomastoid, scalanes, levator scapulae, and upper traps that have been prone to tightness and stiffness.

Sternocleidomastoid hands on SMR

Supine lacrosse ball deep neck flexor activation

The video is an abbreviated version just to give you an idea. The full exercise involves; holding ball under chin for 20 seconds. Next side bend right and left four times keeping control of the ball. Then rotate right and left four times maintaining control of the ball. Lastly do not hold your breath or clench your jaw.

So, If you’re in need of more shoulder turn check your neck function. If you find a weakness or lack of mobility put these exercises into action and I bet you’ll see an improvement.

Incidentally, this article came about from  question posted on twitter so if you want your questions answered pop over to twitter (follow us if you aren’t already!) and tweet it to us.

Stretching is a waste of time

I spend most of my time working with clients who want more mobility, be it the ability to get a greater shoulder turn in the backswing or to turn more to ‘load the hips’ in the downswing. The flip side of this is that I spend most of my time working with golfers who spend far to long sitting, either at a desk 8-10 hours a day or on a plane/train/car traveling to the next tournament 2-3 days a week. Unsurprisingly, a fair few of them arrive on my client roster with the mobility of a clam, meaning even basic human movement patterns, such as the squat or hinge are challenging endeavours.

Seeing that part of my job is centred on optimising movement patterns and mobility, these clients expect me to help them improve in this area. However, what isn’t expected, indeed even resisted by some, is when I break down my ‘mobility’ methods, It’s often not what people expect. For most clients, there is very little to no static stretching whatsoever.

The response is pretty predictable – “how am I going to improve my mobility/flexibility if I don’t stretch?” Or “But I’m stretching everyday at the moment; surely I need to do more if I’m going to get better?” My response is to ask whether there religious stretching routine to date has actually improved their mobility. The answer is always No.

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No matter how much time a client spends stretching, they typically see only transient improvements in flexibility and negligible improvement in motor control when performing any movement using that new range of motion. Static stretching alone is not the answer. In fact, it barely provides any benefit at all.

As a result, I’ve dropped almost all static stretching from my programs in favour of some more advanced mobility methods I’ll discuss here.

Why stretching doesn’t work?

Well first off, muscles can’t actually be lengthened – There are various research studies that have looked at this exact topic. Secondly a single 20 second static stretch has been shown to noticeably reduce force output – hardly ideal if your about to go and do a strength training session or complete a high power output activity such as golf.

Most importantly however, tightness in the muscle is often just a symptom not the cause of the problem and therefore stretching is just a band aid for the symptoms and will not fix the cause in the long term. A muscle is tight because it’s protecting a perceived instability, compensating for another area, or is guarding against a perceived threat. So if your tight first you need to ask why said muscle is tight?

For most of us with tightness one or all of the factors above are also at play in limiting range of motion.  Stretching doesn’t address the cause of the muscle being tense in the first place. If the muscle is actually ‘tight’, static stretching should allow the muscle to become less tight, and those gains should be permanent if they are appropriate to the restriction. However, particularly in an area like the hips, that are designed to have a large range of motion before actual end range due to a bony block or capsular ending, the muscles are most likely hanging on to give stability to some other part of the body. Static stretching won’t fix the issue on a permanent basis, as you’ll simply return to being tight as a drum again to give you the stability to move.

You need to fix the stability issue, which is the cause. Not attack the tight muscle, which is just the symptom with static stretching.

As a quick aside: The hip joint can get to 170 degrees of flexion, and in some angles outside of the sagittal plane it can get to more than 200 degrees flexion. It can also extend to between 40-60 degrees, which adds up to way more than the necessary 180 degrees to do a split. This leaves soft tissue restrictions as the reason most people can’t hit the splits. Sure, some have structural issues with the shape of their hip joints, but that can’t be something that could account for the entire population.

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Bodybuilder, Flex Wheeler, used to hit the splits on stage, carb depleted and dehydrated while packing more muscle than 95% of the population, proving the concept of “muscle bound” reducing flexibility to be completely and utterly false.

Let’s look at the hip flexors as a specific example, a tight hip flexor is often the result of femur sliding forward (anterior glide), resulting in the glutes becoming stretched and weak (this is what’s meant by a capsular issue). Additionally, if a segment is unstable, so other areas become tense to try to provide the stability needed to move. In the case of the hip flexors, they attach to the spine, so If you core musculature responsible for stabilising the spine is weak, your hip flexors will try to stabilise your spine and they’ll stay tight to give stability.

There is huge interplay between the core and the hip. It’s not enough just to look at the hip in addressing your poor mobility. To echo the message of smart people such as Gray Cook, Charlie Weingroff , and Mike Robertson who have really made this stuff mainstream, we need proximal stability to have distal mobility. In other words, we need relative stability through the trunk to make full use of the range of motion available in joints such as the hips and shoulders.

Another example would be tight hamstrings – many people have hamstrings that feel permanently tight and couldn’t touch their toes if their life depends on it. Many of these golfers still cling to the idea that static stretching of the hamstrings is the answer, down this road lies nothing but frustration and wasted time!

These individuals typically display a pelvis that is anteriorly tilted, placing the hamstrings in a stretched position to start with, coupled with an inability to posteriorly shift weight back into the hips. If we can improve the lumbo-pelvic position and alignment, both statically and dynamically, we’ll improve that feeling of hamstring ‘tightness’.

If not stretching, then what should I do?

As I said earlier muscle, or any soft tissue for that matter, doesn’t have the physiological properties to permanently deform and lengthen. That leaves us with optimising adjacent players in gross movement patterns to improve the pattern itself, and create an illusion of muscles gaining length or suppleness. True mobility, therefore, is dependent on an athlete’s ability to create proper movement strategies.

Below is the plan of attack we use with our clients to get their mobility restrictions in the right direction:

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While many people think foam rolling or other SMR techniques are a method of stretching, they’re not. The muscle isn’t undergoing any kind of length change, but rather a neural down-regulation that reduces resting tone in prime movers, meaning you can move more easily and with a better chance of having balanced tension around the joint. It’s a testament to how resetting the neural tone of a tissue can help increase range of motion faster than simply stretching. Picking up that tight hamstrings example again, foam rolling/ SMR techniques hitting the glute, glute med, and adductors are often useful to reduce tension in these muscles and allow a more posterior pelvic tilt. Here’s a tact and floss SMR technique that I’ve found particularly effective:

But again, un-gluing a chronically tight area without restoring stability to the tissues it’s trying to help stabilise will only result in it getting tight again.

Dynamic mobilisation comes into play with the newly unlocked joints and tissues. The role of active mobility is to train the body to use the range of motion in the most effective way possible so that the likelihood of maintaining this new range is higher.

When doing any active mobility, focus on keeping the spine tense and the core active while sinking deep into the stretches, hold each for a single breath per rep, and continue on to the next one. Continuing our hamstring tightness example, modified quadruped rock backs, kneeling adductor mobilisations or kneeling posterior hip/glue mobilisations work well.

Lastly, we need to ensure this new range of motion sticks and is usable within functional movement patterns. This is where motor control and movement pattern correctives come into play.

For the those with tight hip flexors this is where exercises teaching core control and separation of hip extension from lumbar extension are really useful. For those with tight hamstrings we will now utilise toe touch correctives, to address the poor pattern. As shown in the video below elevating the toes and squeezing an airex pad placed between the legs is a good option as it encourages posterior weight shift and engages the glutes to encourage posterior pelvic tilt respectively. As with dynamic mobility be sure to keep the core tense and focus on breathing.

Closing thoughts

If you happen to be the individual with tight hamstrings and a poor toe touch pattern, used as an example here, you’re in luck as all you need to do is follow along with the exercises in these videos and let me know how much better your hamstrings feel and your toe touch is after a month or so. However, the point of this article really was to highlight the limitations of static stretching and show the system we use in our programs to develop mobility instead of stretching. For any mobility restriction you have targeted foam rolling/SMR, followed by dynamic mobilisation work and finally pattern correctives will do much more for you than mindlessly static stretching ever did.

If you would like to see more articles like this, covering how to deal with other specific mobility restrictions such as tight hip flexors, t-spine or shoulder mobility, let me know in the comments and if enough people ask for it we’ll get it written.

Introducing you to your lower traps

The lower traps don’t get a lot of attention, as they don’t make you fill out your t-shirt as impressively as big upper traps, you can’t see them in the mirror and most of all you probably simply don’t understand their importance.

Oftentimes, the lower traps are another one of those little muscle groups that no one cares about until they’re injured. It’s only then that they realise how important these muscles are.

Anatomy and function of the lower traps

Before we get into activation and strengthening drills let’s first understand the role of the lower traps in creating and resisting movement, and how this can impact the golf swing – a.ka. me getting my anatomy geek on!

Whilst most people may think of the big lumps of meat between a bodybuilder’s head and shoulders as the traps, these are in actual fact just the upper traps. The trapezius muscle actually extends all the way down the entire red section seen below, and is generally broken down into three sections  – upper, middle and lower.

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In order to properly understand the role of the lower trap first we need to briefly run over the joint-by-joint approach. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (thanks by the way!) you’ve probably come across this before, but here’s a recap:

The joint-by-joint approach states that the body’s joints are stacked on top of each other and that each joint typically requires mobility or stability in an alternating fashion. The ankle typically requires mobility, for example, whilst the knee requires stability and so on up the chain.

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If we follow the logic of the joint-by-joint approach, we know that the scapula typically needs more stability. This is to allow the gleno-humeral (shoulder) joint to move freely and effectively.

In fact, depending on which research paper you read, between 12 and 21% of all golf injuries occur at the shoulder. Further loss of range of motion can be a predictor of injury and we also know that amateur golfers tend to lose shoulder flexion, abduction and external rotation range of motion as they age. So scapular stability should also be a big concern for injury prevention, especially for those with shoulder issues already.

Due to faulty thoracic spine extensibility and/or overactive upper traps, our lower trapezius are often lengthened and weak. This promotes scapular elevation and downward rotation, which in turn leads to internally rotated shoulders. This is not good for golfers as firstly we know which we know that forward hunched position we call ‘S’ posture is not helpful to achieving good rotation in the golf swing. New research and ideas are starting to point to the scapular’s possible role in controlling the clubface too. For example a downwardly rotated right scapula internally rotates the shoulder, which unless the golfer makes adjustments in the swing or grip, will pronate the elbow and wrist, leading to a closed clubface.

The lower trapezius is important in all this as it promotes scapular depression, and work synergistically upper traps, and serratus anterior all work synergistically to promote upward rotation is vital if you ever want to exhibit full shoulder flexion, put simple the ability to get your hands above your head.

Dave Phillips was involved a great video on Adam Scott recently, in which he referred to the pelvis the pelvis as the ‘power plug’ in the golf swing. Any time you unplug the pelvis you lose posture and ultimately power. So what happens we you don’t have good shoulder flexion? Well every time you go to put your hands above your head, like in the backswing, you will either have to stand up out of your golf posture to get there, pulling the two power cables of your upper and lower body apart and unplugging the power plug, or you will go into excessive anterior tilt at the pelvis, again pulling the two power cables apart and unplugging the power plug, but extending the muscles of the abdominals so they can no longer contract as effectively and also putting the lower back in a more compromising position. Both of which may also lead to a reverse spine angle. Indeed, research has shown that better golfers exhibit more shoulder flexion and abduction, which in turn is linked to more shoulder turn in the backswing.

The Exercises – a.ka. The fun bit you skipped to anyway!

So we now know people tend have lengthened and weak traps that can lead to problems controlling scapular position. We also know there needs to be a balance of strength between the upper traps, lower traps, and serratus to upwardly rotate the scapulae.

Although in reality, poor upper trap strength is rarely the cause of poor upward rotation. Especially if you are a regular gym goer and/or have been following a standard body part split all those deadlifts and shrugs with no lower trap work will have left you with a lower trap strength deficit. If this is you, you need to nix the shrug in favour of something that will actually help your shoulder function and your golf swing. Even if your not, and especially if you have little gym or designated lower trap work experience your scapular stability and shoulder health will likely improve hugely by including these exercises.

So next let’s get to activating and strengthening those suckers so we can develop and actively stabilise better scapula position:

Floor Slides

Floor slides are a pretty good place to start. Low level and not too much can go wrong. Try to pull your elbows further down and actively depress the scapulae down at the end range.

Wall slides with scapular retraction

We are now working on elevation of the arms and scapular retraction/depression, a double whammy for those lower traps. As Mike Boyle says: “the key is that the forearms must slide up in contact with the wall while the shoulder blades stay down and back.”

Bent-over Y-raise

The bent-over Y takes away all support and requires us to stabilise our own body to move well. It look’s a simple exercise but it is often done poorly. Firstly, use light weight, you are never going to move heavy weights in this exercise and don’t try to. Secondly, the end of the dumbbell (or thumbs if you are just using bodyweight, which recommend to start) should be pointing straight up throughout.

From the starting position, drive through the scapulae and allow them to actively depress down. The key is not to think about moving from the elbows and shoulders, and also not to gain range of motion by extending the lower back – think solely about moving from the scapula.

Strength Progressions

Once you have these lightweight activation exercises absolutely nailed, you can amp thins up in the strength building department.

A well-performed chin-up or pull-up, where you actively depress the scapulae at the top, may be one of the best shoulder stability exercises you can perform. Unfortunately, this leads us to another issue. Performing a chin-up or pull-up with full scapular depression at the top is damn hard!

This is where the lat pulldown machine can be really useful, put an appropriate weight on the machine and go through a full range of motion. Focus on actively depressing the scapulae at the bottom position and hold it there for a 2 count before completing the rep.

Improving ankle dorsiflexion for a better golf swing

The ankle, along with the wrist, maybe the most ignored joint in terms of athletic performance. However the foot is our only contact point with the ground, in a sport such as golf where a powerful swing is the result of creating large amounts of ground reaction force its importance should be obvious. Structurally speaking the foot is also our base and affects everything else further up the kinetic chain. To quote Lance Gill

“We need to pay more attention to ankle dorsiflexion as it directly affects golf swing kinematics”

TPI research has for a long time espoused the link between issues maintaining dynamic posture in the golf swing, such as early extension, and the inability to correctly perform a deep overhead squat. The better understanding of movement mechanics brought to us by the increase in movement assessment, such as TPI’s own/ FMS and incredibly smaDorsi/plantar-ankle-strongergolfrt people such as Grey Cook, has also shown us the link between poor dorsiflexion and a poor deep overhead squat. To bust a bit of jargon here too dorsiflexion is simply your ability to flex your foot upward.

Dorsiflexion is also important for daily tasks such as stepping down stairs, getting up out of a chair and even walking! An inefficient gait pattern, with a circular motion or leg swinging outwards as the person steps, is often a result of a lack of dorsiflexion

How do you know if you need more dorisflexion?

Here is a really simple, down and dirty, assessment you can do right this second as the only thing you need is a wall:

Placing your left foot 5 inches from the wall step back with your right foot and get in a half kneeling position, so your left foot is still on the floor 5 inches from the wall and your right knee is down on the floor. Keeping your foot flat on the floor push your left knee forward until your knee touches the wall. If you have to lift your heel off the ground or your knee has to track inwards and not in a straight line in order to touch the wall your dorsiflexion is compromised. Swap sides to get a result for the right ankle too. Note: Ideally this test would be completed bare foot.

Ankle-Dorsiflexion-Mobility-Strongergolf

Let’s make it better!

Manual therapy and self-myofascial release techniques coupled with joint mobilisations to address restrictions in the joint have in my experience have proved to give the fastest and most effective gains in dorsiflexion (for those of you felt a ‘pinching’ in the front of the ankle when performing the test joint mobilisations are particularly important).

Foam rolling the calves is the most obvious; sitting on the ground with one leg atop the foam roller, pass the calf 5 over the roller 5 or 6 times. Adjust position slightly each time to hit different parts of the musculature and different angles. We can also amp this up somewhat by pausing on tender spots and performing ankle pulses up and down and circles, before continuing on to find the next spot.

A big thing often over looked in increasing ankle dorsiflexion is the role of the plantar fascia (the thick connective tissue that supports the arch on the underside of your foot). If the fascia is tight it will pull on the gastroc and soleus muscles of the calf, which will limit dorsiflexion. The foam roller is to global for such a small area, it doesn’t get into those fibres in the way we need, so a lacrosse ball is your best option here. Simply make 5 or 6 passes up and down the foot searching for those tender trigger points, when you find one just hang out there for a second before continuing on.

For many just this work on the plantar fascia will improve your dorsiflexion immediately. Try re-testing straight after doing this and I bet many of you will see an improvement. We even see improvements in deep overhead squat from doing just this, and a better deep overhead squat means better ability to maintain posture in the golf swing, not bad for a minute or too spent standing on a ball!

Lastly, It is also important to actually move and get some dynamic mobility improvements at the joint. Wall-ankle mobilisations are one of my favourite ways to achieve this

Foot and ankle mechanics can be improved quickly and easily. They also have a really significant impact on the kinematic sequence of your golf swing and ultimately your performance.

Spring cleaning for your golf game

The first major of the year has been and gone, golfers everywhere are gearing up for the summer season and looking forward to making this their best season to date. Much anticipation, along with re-gripping and replacing of golf clubs, buying new season apparel, upping time spent on the cp-overhead-squat-movement-testcourse and the range, and booking of lessons with the local pro usually accompany this period. However I think I have one more thing to add to that list: A physical screening.

Golf fitness is not about doing endless cardio on the treadmill or even, about lifting weights. It’s about getting your body into, and through, dynamic positions in the golf swing with greater speed, power and efficiency. With this in mind, everyone we coach online or in the gym is put through a movement assessment to identify individuals weaknesses in these movement patterns, help develop appropriate programming in order to improve mobility, strength, stability and power and ultimately best benefit their golf swing. After all, you wouldn’t go on a road trip without mapping out the route you want to take beforehand. So why would you jump into an exercise program to improve your golf game without knowing exactly what areas you need to work on?

A physical screening for golfers should give information on areas such as:      

– posture            

– balance            

– the ability to disassociate the upper body from the lower 

– shoulder mobility, particularly external rotation

– thoracic spine range of motion

– glute strength            

– core strength   

– power output        

– hip mobility, particularly internal rotation

– hip flexor/hamstring/calf flexibility 

The physical assessment can be an invaluable tool in improving your swing mechanics, as it can rule out physical factors that might be causing a swing flaw. If an individual test poorly for a particular component and presents a swing fault associated with it, removing the physical deficiency will often improve the swing fault. However, if that individual tests well for a particular deficiency, but presents with a swing fault that typically correlates to that deficiency, we can equate the fault to poor swing mechanics and/or bad habit.  This would require work with a teaching professional, so that the inefficient motor skill can be corrected and the neuromuscular pathway reset.

So whilst your getting ready for this summer of golf, consider a physical screening and really start playing your best!  

The glutes are No.1

Today’s article is a guest post from Nick Randall. Nick is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter, Rehab Expert and Massage Therapist contracted by Golf Australia and Golf Queensland to work with their elite player squads. Nick also recently developed and launched the world’s most comprehensive golf fitness app – ‘Golf Fit Pro’. You can also get individually tailored golf fitness programs on his website – www.golfitapp.com.

golfitapp-nickrandall-strongergolfThe 3 areas that have most influence on your golf swing are:

– Glutes / Hips

– Core / Pelvis

– Upper Back / Scapula

Get these working well and your golf swing has a much better chance of operating like you want it to! This post will focus on what many golf strength and conditioning coaches refer to as the kings of the golf swing, the glutes.

Our gluteal muscles are a complex group of muscles that do a variety of different jobs, all of which are very important to both our day to day functioning and more intense exercises and sports performance. They also have a crucial part to play in the golf swing.

They are largely responsible for controlling the positioning and movement of the pelvis and hips. What your pelvis and hips are doing in your golf swing has a large influence on the direction that your torso, arms and club are moving in as demonstrated in the principles of the golf swing kinematic sequence. This is essentially the principle that movements in your lower body have a flow on effect right the way up your body and all the way out the club head. (Note: Indeed a 2012 study found that increased pelvis rotation speed and stronger glutes lead to increased golfing performance).

The glutes are so important to our golf swing and our everyday function, and yet we see people who have poor glute activation and function on an all too frequent basis! Lack of glute activation and strength is the root of so many evils:

– Tightness and/or injury in hip flexors, low back, ITB and hamstrings.

– Poor motor skills in basic movements such as squat, lunge and bend.

– Lack of stability and control in lateral and rotational movements (golf swing). – Lack of power in a multitude of movements (running and golf swing for example).

With a few simple exercises you can wake your glutes up and get them working really efficiently in your golf swing. The exercises featured in the video below are some of the ways in which we get the glutes fired up.

 

Use these exercises blended into a warm up or between sets to activate your glutes, and feel your quality of movement improve.

 

Shoulder mobility and your swing plane

There are several physical characteristics that can directly influence the plane the club travels on, as well as, the orientation of the club face during the swing. Mobility in the trail shoulder (right shoulder, for right handed golfer) is one of the most important.

The position shown in the left hand picture, demonstrates the most stable position for the trail arm. The weight of the world can be supported with the trail arm more vertical. Indeed, many coaches have used the analogy of atlas holding the weight of the world over his head to visualise the positioning of the trail shoulder. This is also the most common position seen on the PGA and LPG tours today.

If the trail shoulder can’t get into this position due to a physical limitation, typically lack of general shoulder mobility, thoracic mobility and/or  shoulder external rotation, then a more horizontal trail arm will be seen. This will also often result in a higher swing plane than ideal and/or the club travelling across the line at the top of the backswing position, as shown in right hand picture.

The player has two choices. Adopt a less than ideal position of the trail arm in the swing or change their physical abilities. Below are some of my favourite exercises for increasing shoulder mobility:

Adding in some soft tissue work for the pecs is also a great way to manually improve muscle fascia and get back some range of motion in the shoulder.

And make sure to balance all pressing movements in your program with rows also. A 1:1 ratio at least, although for those who lack shoulder mobility 2:1 in favour of rows is probably closer to the mark.

How to perform the Turkish get-up

The turkish get-up is a great exercise, that challenges your core strength along with your flexibility, stability and coordination…just as in the golf swing!

Whilst this exercise can be a little complicated and daunting at first, the goal couldn’t be simpler; get up from the floor and then back down to the floor whilst supporting a load overhead. Grab a kettlebell (or dumbbell, water bottle, shoe or anything else you can hold in your hand) and give this great move a try.

Do you need more thoracic rotation?

Thoracic rotation is incredibly important in the golf swing, having a good degree of thoracic rotation is essential if you are going to rotate your upper body and transfer your weight correctly in the golf swing. Lacking in thoracic rotation can result in a reverse spine angle or reverse pivot as the body attempts to compensate by rotating the lower back (not to mention the potential for injury or lower back pain this can bring). Quadruped thoracic rotations are a simple, yet effective, exercise to increase thoracic rotation and help sort that reverse spine angle.

Ab training for golf

The golf swing is often described by coaches as a pendulum. The pivot point for this pendulum is somewhere on the spine, depending on your height, build and swing plane. The club, hands, arms and shoulders should rotate around the relatively fixed point of the spine. Studies have shown, as a result of this rotation, the spine is exposed to considerable and sudden load, force and angle changes. The role of the abdominal muscles, as well as the posterior chain and hip musculature that makes up the ‘core’ in everyday life as well as your golf swing, is to resist these loads and protect the spine. So stop doing those sit ups on a swiss ball (this is actively putting your spine into flexion and could actually do more harm than good to the typical golfers already beat up spine) and lets get your abdominals strong at what they’re supposed to be doing…protecting your spine! Get it right and you will feel better, move better, be physically able to play and practice more, experience less pain, and be less injury and prone.

The plank exercise has become incredibly popular in gyms everywhere and its a great place to start. Its a simple exercise that teaches the abs and core musculature to brace to keep the spine in a neutral position and act against extension (gravity is trying to pull you down, pulling your spine into to extension or hyperextension, thats why your hips sack when you tire doing a plank, your abdominals can’t adequately brace to resist extension anymore). However the plank has a couple of major drawbacks for golf. Firstly, it is static in nature whilst the golf swing is a highly dynamic movement. Secondly it only teaches muscles to oppose extension forces, whereas the golf swing is a complex movement involving resisting forces from multiple planes simultaneously.

Once proficiency in static stabilisation exercises such as the plank, side plank, etc, has been achieved golfers must develop dynamic stabilisation across a range of movements developing anti-lateral flexion, anti-rotation, anti-extension and anti-flexion. The chart below represents a comprehensive ab training protocol that develops these qualities at different levels of ability, simply start at level 1 and continue up the levels as  progress allows.

Slide1

 

*adapted from New Rules Of Lifting Supercharged, by Alwyn Cosgrove and Lou Schuler.

AE = anti-extension

ALF = anti-lateral flexion

HF= hip flexion

AR = anti- rotation

**the quality trained will be altered by which position you choose to carry in.

The exercises here are definitely a case of the more you put in the more you get out, the further you progress the more the movements develop the complex dynamic stabilisation required in the golf swing. The higher level exercises are also done more often from standing which is advantageous, as we don’t swing a golf club lying on the ground (the problem with a lot of ab training for sports in my opinion). Don’t be tempted, however, to start with level 5 exercises as you need competence in the lower level exercises that come before to execute them properly. Get at it and improve your gold and your spinal health.