Tag Archives: Injury prevention

Why do you need to be strong anyway?

Considering the name of this blog, and the length of time I’ve been running it, it is pretty shocking to admit I’ve never actually addressed this question before now, I’ve made mention to reasons to be strong in almost every article but never actually fully answered this question, all in one place, in a (hopefully) succinct and useful manner, so this is my intention right here right now. And as it’s taken so long I guess I had better be good!

At first glance golf doesn’t seem to a sport that requires much in the way of strength. The club is a light implement and a highly co-ordinated movement in which flexibility and speed are clearly required to execute effectively. That may be the case but strength is vital to all of those physical qualities. Indeed, research has shown strength training to:

  • Reduce injury risk in golfers
  • Increase Club-head speed by 7-10 percent, or the equivalent of 10-15 yards, without any ill-effects on accuracy.
  • Increased strength and flexibility allows golfers to adopt more optimal swing mechanics
  • Improve muscular strength and muscular endurance, which has a positive impact on golf swing consistency during an 8-hour, 36-hole round of competitive golf.
  • Improve shot dispersion stats
  • Increase greens in regulation hit as a result of being closer to the hole after drive
  • Improve putting distance control
  • Lower scores
  • Strength training in lengthened position has even been shown to increase muscle length more effectively than static stretching

The strength-speed continuum

If you’re a golfer you’ve probably swung a 400 gram club your entire life, and have therefore got pretty good at swinging light objects at near maximal velocity. In other words, you are able to put the force you have into the golf ball reasonably quickly, but you don’t have much force in absolute context to put into the ball. This explains why research has shown time and time again that strength training improves club head velocity (there are still some that claim that weight training is bad for golfers and to them I will add this caveat; bad weight training is bad for anybody, good weight training can certainly help).

The speed strength continuum, then, goes from absolute speed on the left to absolute strength on the right.

AbsoluteSpeed

Somewhere in the middle lies a sweet spot between general force production abilities and the abilities specific for your sport, this will obviously vary from sport to sport with a power lifter needing more absolute strength and a golfer needing to be slightly towards the speed/ speed-strength end of things.

We have the average golfer on the far left side of this continuum from years of swinging a light club at near maximal velocity and we need to bring you towards the right side, because absolute strength is the basis for a lot of things, not just power output but also stability.

Once we’ve developed some strength and brought guys towards the absolute strength end, we can begin to work exercises that work on that ideal middle area with a little more specificity to golf. This is where med-ball throws, weighted jumps, kettlebell swings, etc come in. There is fairly obviously a consideration for individual needs here too, the classic big strong guy for example might need to be moved towards the speed end of this continuum and we would focus our efforts on speed and speed-strength work rather than strength work. There may even a place for expanding the continuum further and incorporating overspeed (underload) training in or supramaximal loading with some individuals. That said, the vast majority of golfers start way towards the speed end and moving them towards the strength end represents the largest and most easily improved window of adaptation.

Reduce injury risk

Right handed golfers typically display adducted or internally rotated right hips, low right shoulders, left thoracic rotation and rib flare (see picture below??)

To a certain extent many of these are sporting adaptations that help to perform the task of swinging a club, however they are also imbalances that left unchecked can lead to injury. As Eric Cressey said recently:

“Specificity works great until you’re so specific that you wind up injured and have forgotten how to do everything else”

A well designed strength training programs will include rotational drills on the opposite side, and you take you through various ranges of motion in various stances so as to round you out as an athlete and counteract the effect of the golf swing to reinforce these imbalances. As noted physical therapist James Porterfield says, a well designed strength training program, working within the individuals current movement capabilities will do wonders to prevent and rehab injury.

Strength is also the basis of stability – a lot of injuries issues are brought about when flexibility/ mobility are greater than your ability to stabilise in the end range position – indeed I’ve often said from an injury prevention point of view I’d rather have an athlete that is tight but stable than a hyper mobile athlete with no stability, as that person is typically spending a lot of time on the physio table!

A good example of this is the lower back, we know that repeated extension and rotation isn’t necessarily the best thing for our spines, hence why a huge percentage of  golfers suffer low back pain. Good core and glute strength provides more spinal stability and helps us to achieve better spinal positioning as we rotate, taking some of the pressure of the lower back.

Increased body awareness and movement context

As the world renowned golf biomechanist Mark Bull once put it to me,

“The biggest advantage of S&C as I see it is movement context”

The golf swing is a highly complex, co-ordinated movement requiring precise timing of movements of pretty much every muscle in the body. You need, therefore, a good understanding of where your body is in space to execute it effectively.

Strength training is a great educational tool to develop awareness of how your body is moving and how to control it. Further, external load has a seemingly magical property to make a movement pattern ‘stick’ and become engrained in our memory.

Take the hip hinge for example, in a good hip hinge the muscles responsible for thoracic extension must be activated to prevent c-posture. The core musculature must do the same to keep the lumbar spine from extending as we rotate, putting the back in a compromised position. Pushing the butt back loads the powerful muscles of the hip that create so much of the speed in the golf swing. Good golf posture requires the ability to bend from the hips whilst maintaining the neutral pelvic tilt and spinal alignment essential for efficient rotation. In short a good hip hinge teaches us many of the skills we need to get into and maintain a good golf posture, come to think of it many of the cues we use in the gym to teach the hinge, such as screwing the feet into the ground, pushing the butt back and bracing your core will drastically improve you golf posture.

stronger-golf-hip-hinge

Not only that but the more movement variability we have, the broader the foundation we build. The wider the base, the more we can stack specific skills on top of it. An athlete who is solely engaging in golf like movements and oftentimes cannot or has lost the ability to perform basic movement patterns, they therefore have also lost those wide foundations to build their sports specific skill upon.

The golfer who establishes wider context has a wider array of movement perspective and greater kinaesthetic awareness, they are therefore more likely to quickly grasp new coaching cues or swing changes. In short, they are more coachable. This is also my major argument against early sports specialisation for kids.

Hopefully this post has given you more of the why behind getting strong for golf, the rest of this blog is littered with articles on the how so please take a look around, then go pick up heavy things!

Random golf fitness thoughts: April edition

1. Fitness isn’t just making the young guys hit it further and play better, it’s helping the older guys play longer and stay competitive

Bernhard Langer’s appearance on the Masters leaderboards was a reminder that working on your fitness isn’t just crucial for the younger guys on tour, or for adding distance to your drives (although it does that!), a good training plan’s main priority will always be to keep you healthy and playing longer.

As Langer has said himself in more than one interview for the PGA tour website:

“In my case it’s very necessary and I’m not sure I would still be here if it hadn’t been for the fitness”

Indeed, if you don’t know Langer has had two bulging disks in his lower back, as well as neck problems, and at the tender age of 19! He credits fitness work and mobility work for preventing these issues from becoming worst and allowing him to overcome them.

2. Go barefoot during your warm-ups

Going barefoot in your warm-ups (where developing movement quality and mobility should be our priority) really ups the ante on what we’re trying to achieve.

Going barefoot allows you to keep proper track of movement quality (foot positioning, is foot twisting, rollin, lifting etc). For example when we are doing ankle mobs we need to keep our feet on the floor and prevent the foot from rolling at all to make sure the motion is coming via ankle dorsiflexion not pronation. When the foot is in a shoe not only will the heel give you a falsely good impression of dorsiflexion but there is likely to be an element of heel lift and pronation that is hard to detect.

When doing stability work such single-leg balances, stork turns, single-leg mad ball taps and even single-leg hops if you are jumping on a comfortable enough surface, removing the shoes can be useful for the same reason. However, keep it to unloaded work in your warm-ups as form and comfort could suffer in heavier work, particularly in squats and other anterior chain dominant work.

3. Train outside

For most of you reading it will be heading towards summer and the weather will be getting better so why not! Training outside has not only been shown to have some great benefits on health, mood and mental state but, one of the things I’ve noticed over the years, with power work work, particularly med ball throws is that athletes seem to “hold back” when they’re indoors. They won’t throw at full speed because they’re already worrying about causing damage or more likely where the rebound will go, there just seems to be more inhibition as opposed to throwing outside in a big open space to a partner who is pretty far away. Maybe it’s the quantifiable feedback of actual distance, or maybe it’s just less restriction – but either way the effort and results are usually better.

4. Emphasise full-body exercises that teach transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.

As we move into the golf season introducing exercises that teach transfer of force from upper to lower body, oftentimes with a rotational element are a great idea. First off, they offer great ‘bang for your buck’ allowing us to train multiple qualities in one exercise. Secondly, they utilise force transfer in a way more akin to the golf swing and begin to bridge the gap between the strength you built in the off-season and using it on the course. Just make sure you have mastered the appropriate regressions before making use of these exercises

Cable lift variations in a split stance or with a lunge are my favourite to accomplish this task in core exercises, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options.

If you haven’t already be sure to check out the full article on in-season training I wrote here.

Lastly, this blog has been going a year or so now and this week is on track to be the biggest in terms hits so far, so a huge thank you to you all for reading and continuing to support! Special shout out too to The Grateful Golfer and Golf is Mental for there likes and comments on what seems like pretty much all the posts I’ve written in that time! Incidentally comment any golf fitness questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them in next months Random Golf Fitness Thoughts.

Thanks again,

Nick

 

5 tips for in-season training

In-season training for golf seems to be a pretty confused area for most golfers with opinions and attitudes ranging from; “I just play during the season,” to fully periodised in-season programs, altering exercise selection, load,volume, etc, to just carrying on with normal training regardless.

In this article I aim to give you some actionable tips, but also explain why this first option isn’t a good idea, why the other two both have merit, and which may best apply to you, your schedule and your on course performance.

Tip 1: Still Train

Realistically, you should be looking to train twice per week. Indeed a 15 minute, one set, workout is better in the long run than a missed day of training. In-season training will allow you to:

  • Maintain the strength and power you built in the off-season (especially important if you travel to play or are lucky enough to live somewhere with a long summer, and thus have a long season)
  • Prevent the build up of asymmetries and muscle imbalances that could lead to injury/ will have to be dealt with later

Tip 2: Manage Fatigue

All stress is stress; physical, emotional, mental, money, spouse, whatever. Once the stress bucket is full, theres not much you can do other than take a break to fix the problem. If the golf season sees a significant increase in the amount of golf swings you are making, walking you are doing (and probably more stress!) we had better factor that in.

Keep training volume low – In my experience, lifting twice per week with a 3 to 6 rep range during the in-season is appropriate for most. The off-season is the time for 4 or 5 day programs and tons of reps. In-season is the time for maintaining strength and preventing injury.

By keeping overall volume low, you can ensure you feel fresh during your round and not slow or tired, 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps will be enough to achieve these goals.

That said, reducing volume is going to mean different things depending on the needs of the individual. For golfers that are weaker/have less training experience or are playing less frequently  a reduced training volume may only need to be minimal and occur the workout before there their round (a Thursday/Friday workout before a Saturday round for example), for stronger golfers and/or those with a busier competitive schedule it may be necessary to cut training volume for the whole in-season period.

Train light and fast – There comes a point where continuing to pile the plates on to the barbell is tough on the bodies recovery ability and max lifts sap mental and physical energy that could be best used elsewhere during the season. Again this one for the stronger guys and you can get away without it more the relatively weaker you are but, dynamic effort reps and low volume will maintain the strength you have built in the off-season but allow you to feel fresh and ready to go exiting the gym. As an added bonus this type of lifting more closely mimics the high speed muscle contractions you’ll be using in the golf swing. Adding bands is a great way to achieve this, and the trap bar deadlift against a band is one of my favourites.

Tip 3: Avoid Soreness

I can tell you from personal experience that swinging a golf club when sore, particularly in the chest and shoulders, is not fun!

Cut out the eccentric portion of the lift as much as possible – eccentric muscle contractions have been shown to be correlated with higher levels of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). When working out during the season, we want to minimise eccentric work, the lowering portion of the lift, and maximise concentric work. This means no slow-tempo lifting and absolutely no negative sets.

You should complete the lowering portion of the lift as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining control, to limit the amount of time your muscles are under eccentric stress. Deadlifts (you can even drop the bar from lockout if you’re lucky enough to have a lifting platform), box squats and floor presses are great exercises that lend themselves well to this type of lifting.

Keep exercise variety low – After performing an exercise that produces soreness, the muscle will quickly adapt to reduce any damage from further exercise. As a result, not only is soreness reduced, but other side effects, such as swelling, reduced strength and reduced range of motion are also more quickly recovered from. This effect is known as the repeated bout effect, and is most specific to the muscles that have been worked. Therefore by picking the same exercise for each body part, and working the muscles in the same manner each time, we can make the most of the repeated bout effect to prevent soreness.

Tip 4: Reduce explosive rotational movements

Things like rotational med-ball throws are usually best left to the offseason. Firstly, golfers get plenty of explosive rotational work just playing their sport. Secondly, we know there is a link between high repetition of spinal rotation and back injury. So, at a time when the number of rotations we do is likely increasing, why add to that load in the gym? You are better off focusing on movements that groove good rotational mechanics and preserve anti-rotation strength to keep your spine healthy. T-spine mobilisations, split stance anti rotation scoop tosses and Pallof presses are my go to’s here.

Stronger-golf-half-kneeling-pallof-press

Tip 5: Mobility/corrective exercises for common trouble areas

It’s called strength and conditioning, but the truth is we could probably scrap the conditioning part with respect to golf and replace it with ‘mobility.’ All the eccentric stress of a greater volume of golf swings leads to significant losses in mobility. For those that couple this with walking the course for 3 to 5 rounds a week and travel long distances to tournaments (even if it is in a private jet), this tends to lead to missing out on basic functional movement patterns  like squatting and lunging.

The hips, low back and shoulders tend to get pretty chewed up in the golf swing, particularly during a long competitive season. Performing hip windscreen wipers and 90/90 stretches for the hips, corrective exercises like bird-dogs or glute bridges for lumbar and pelvic control and soft tissue work for the shoulders will help you preserve full range of motion and stay injury free throughout the season.

 

In-season training is incredibly challenging to manage correctly, as there are so many different stressors and variables in play depending on the individual. However, if you do your best to follow the tips outlined here, chances are you’ll be more successful than most!

P.S. If you want more information pertaining to your individual in-season needs then fill out the contact form below and we can arrange a Skype consultation to discuss it in more detail.

 

3 (or 4) Exercises to do everyday for better posture and better golf

There are some exercises I believe golfers can’t get enough of.

Why?

Because they help offset the toll that working on a computer (or even a mobile device) takes on your body and your golf swing.

Specifically, that toll is forward shoulder position, downwardly rotated scapular, a flexed thoracic spine and forward head position. This can lead to issues rotating and even controlling the club-face in the golf swing, as well as to neck, shoulder, and back pain.

All the hours you spending at your desk, surfing the internet on your laptop, texting and playing angry birds on your phone can’t be undone with a few hours a week in the gym.

You need to up your game, the more frequently you perform these exercises the better.

Now just hear me out before you complain too much about not having the time: The best part is these no-weight, no-sweat exercises anywhere, even in the living room during the adverts of your favourite TV show! (the videos below are actually filmed in my kitchen and conservatory just to prove the point).

Exercise 1. Forearm Wall Slides w/ Scapular Retraction

Stop what you’re doing right now, and sit slumped forward in a chair. Now with your arms crossed in front of you try and rotate your shoulders to the left and right just as you do in the golf swing, take note of how much rotation you are able to achieve.

Next imagine that there’s a string attached from the ceiling to your chest and that string is being tightened, pulling your chest closer towards the ceiling, extending your spine and making you sit up straight. Cross your arms again and rotate, you are able to get more range of motion right?

This exercise drives the thoracic extension essential for good rotation mechanics. As well as teaching good scapular position essential for overhead movements and that also has a potential affect on club-face position.

For best results, do 10 to 15 reps of this exercise up to three times a day. (It’s easy to do in your office, and a great warm up before you lift weights.) Those of you with shoulder issues will love how good it makes your cranky shoulders feel too.

2. Hip bridge w/ leg extension

It’s not just slumping that hurts your posture. Simply sitting can be harmful, too.

For instance, when you sit constantly, as most of us do, the hip flexors on the fronts of your hips become short and tight. What’s more, your glutes—actually forget how to contract. (After all, when you’re sitting they’re not being used for much of anything except padding for your hipbones.)

The combination of tight muscles on the front of your hips and weak muscles on your backside causes your pelvis to tilt forward. This puts more stress on your lumbar spine, which can lead to low-back pain.  According to Lance Gill and TPI lower back pain is the number 1 reason why people stop playing the game of golf.

From a technical stand point too the glutes are important, when we talk about hip/ lower body stability, the ability to rotate around a stable lower body in the backswing without swaying, or the ability to post onto a firm lead leg during the downswing we are essentially talking about the strength and ability to contract of the glutes.

Enter the hip bridge with leg extension. It strengthens your glutes and teaches them how to contract —which helps allow your pelvis to move back in its natural alignment. Do 5 to 6 reps for each leg, holding the top position of the exercise for 3 to 5 seconds.

Bonus exercise: For extra credit perform the couch stretch (so called because you actually use the couch to do it) for 15-30 second holds to stretch out those pesky hip flexors.

CouchStretch.jpg

3. Quadruped rotation/extension

Like wall slides, this is another great exercise for your upper body posture. This exercise helps mobilise your upper back by rotating at your thoracic spine, it as teaches the good rotational mechanics (rotating at the upper back not the lower back) that are vital in good swing mechanics and will also help protect that lower back from injury. Do 3 sets of 10 on each side once, twice or even 3 times a day

 

You’ll be amazed what a few minutes a day can do to improve your mobility and movement quality. As well as undo the damage to your posture, and golf swing, slumping 8 hours a day can cause. And because posture and state of mind are linked you’ll feel better, happier and more confident too. Now that’s what I call a win win!

 

Elbow Pain in Golfers: What to do

Today’s article is something a bit special! It’s a guest post from Sports Chiropractor and author Tom Feeney. Tom is a Sports Chiro specialising in myofascial release in Newcastle upon Tyne. He has treated Premiership, Olympic, NHL, and WWE athletes and the general public since 1997. His work has featured in The Telegraph, Athletics Weekly, Train Magazine, and 220 Triathlon, with his article on performance therapy for golfers being published on Stack and TPI.

In this article Tom takes a look at the research on Elbow pain in golfers and offers some practical solutions to get you pain free, back to the course and back to full training in the gym. I think you’ll really enjoy it so without further ado!

Tendon pain at the elbow is common in golfers. When on the inside it is called Golfer’s Elbow and when on the outside it is called Tennis Elbow. Some tips:

  1. Research shows Myofascial Release is better than standard therapies.
  2. Exercises help- try isometric (no movement) and eccentric (negatives) exercises.
  3. There is some inflammation in some tendon problems, ice may help after heavy use.
  4. MRI may be better than diagnostic ultrasound in identifying LE.
  5. Steroid injections don’t provide long-term benefit.

Should I ice it? The inflammation debate!  There may  be some swelling but in most cases ice is not needed.

Over the last few decades, LE stopped being considered a tendinitis because little evidence of inflammatory markers were found.  Tendinopathy became the new term of choice, but recent research found convincing evidence that the inflammatory response is a key component of chronic tendinopathies like LE.   My take: some inflammation is there, but it may be an important part of healing.  Only ice after heavy use.

What causes the pain?

In a nutshell, tendinosis involves too much tendon breakdown and not enough repair. When repetitive micro trauma damages cells, they create new collagen which is structurally different.

Is exercise the answer?

Exercises helped relieve pain in the short-term compared to no intervention 2011 study.

Exercises should progress from isometrics to eccentrics:

Isometric exercises involve putting a muscle and tendon under tension, but no movement. In some cases I give this exercise with the wrist and finger in varied positions.

Eccentric exercises with a band for LE are often helpful and easy to do.

Will it go away on its own?

2002 study found in 83% of cases of LE resolved at 52 weeks with no intervention.

Does manual therapy help?

Researchers compared Active Release Techniques (ART) and Myofascial Release to a control  group receiving therapeutic ultrasound, the release techniques were found to be much more effective. Two case reports  also found them effective. A recent study found myofascial release effective in treating plantar fasciitis, which is similar to tennis elbow.

What about injections?

Steroid injections were found to provide worse outcomes than placebo in a 2013 study.  “There may be a short-term pain relief advantage found with the application of corticosteroids, but no demonstrable long-term pain relief” – 2014 review.

Are MRIs or ultrasound scans needed?

2014 review concluded, “power doppler ultrasonography and real-time sonoelastography (is) expensive, and …this technology did not significantly add to the sensitivity and specificity of Gray-scale Ultrasonography”.

There is evidence of MRI signs of oedema on the asymptomatic side of many LE patients. Thickening or partial tearing was not found on the asymptomatic side. Therefore if the non-painful side shows swelling, it may not be important for an MRI to find the sore side has swelling!

Conclusion

Combine manual therapy with an exercise program, before getting an injection.

 

You can find more from Tom at his website www.whitleybaychiropractic.co.uk

7 must do’s for the off-season

The end of the golf season is fast approaching, and the days where we get on the course less are, unfortunately, fast approaching too. So let’s discuss the things we can do to make progress during the dark days of the off-season:

1.Rest

I’m sure this will prove slightly controversial but the fact is most injuries in golf are caused through over use, golf is a highly repetitive sport after all. Research has reported these injuries can be caused through poor movement increasing stress on certain joints/areas of the body (more on this in point 2), or simply as a result of the repetitive nature of our sport and the amount of swing’s a golfer is required to make in play and practice. After a long playing schedule in season I recommend reducing the playing and practice time for a month or so, in order to give the body a bit of a break from the wear and tear of the golf swing and to reduce the likelihood of injury.

Admittedly if you live in a rain and/or cold part of the world this will sort of happen naturally anyway, but if you’re lucky enough to golf year round, like most of the tour guys, it’s definitely something I think you should consciously do.

2. Corrective exercises

The reduced volume of golf being played gives us the chance to address the muscle imbalances and movement deficiencies that will likely have built up over the season as a result of the asymmetrical nature of the golf swing or just from daily life in general. As mentioned above, poor movement can mean you are placing increased stress on certain joints/areas of the body and therefore increasing injury risk, but it can also have a detrimental effect on swing mechanics too. For example, tour players have been shown to have hip internal rotation of at least 45 degrees on both sides, not having adequate hip internal rotation will limit your ability to rotate in the golf swing, possibly resulting in sway or slide during the swing. Lack of internal hip rotation has also be associated with with low back pain, especially in golfers, as you will be forced to rotate at the low bak to make up for a lack of rotation in the hips.

Golfers are typically deficient in t-spine extension and rotation, hip rotation, shoulder external rotation and flexion and ankle dorsi-flexion and pronation. But this is just a general list, to be sure what applies to you you should be assessed by a professional, any TPI, FMS or SFMA qualified coach will be able to give you a great movement screen. Once you know your movement deficiencies you can start work on appropriate corrective exercises to resolve them.

Stronger Golf provide online movement assessments, as part of which you will get a report with corrective exercise recommendations, if interested please head over to the online coaching page and fill out the contact form.

3. Locomotion exercises

A locomotion exercise is basically any exercise that involves travelling form one point to another, such as bear crawls or weighted carries. Locomotion exercises are a great way to take the isolated movements you developed through corrective exercises and integrate them in a more dynamic manner, whilst also developing dynamic stabilisation and core control. Favourites of mine include bear crawls, hill sprints, prowler pushes, single-arm carries and lateral lunge walks with overhead reach.

video credit: Eric Cressey

4. Increase exercise variety

“Far away from the fight you can do more that makes you tired/sore and effect your skill training.Closer to the fight you can do LESS that makes you tired/sore and effect your skill training”

Above is quote from Jim Wendler that I absolutely love. Yes it’s about prepping for an MMA fight but the same principle should still be used in preparing for the golf season.

The off-season should begin with more general physical preparation, and as we get closer to the season we shift focus to more sports specific moves. Trading in more sports specific exercises for movement patterns you don’t do as often, and increasing exercise variety, is a great thing to do during the off-season (think back to the point I made earlier about repetitive movement and injury). Variety also provides a richer proprioceptive environment which will carryover to better motor learning, core control, dynamic stabilisation, etc. The gym shouldn’t just be a place to throw heavy weights around, but also a place for skill acquisition.

So if you want to go for a bike ride, do sprinting or kettle bell work for conditioning, learn how to do a Turkish get-up or take up a new sport, the off-season is a great opportunity to do this.

5. Get stronger

Obviously the off-season is a great time to focus on getting stronger. As the quote in the previous point eludes to, you can do a little more volume and not have to worry as much about being to sore to play.

FMS-Performance-Pyramid

Yes golf is a skill game but you still need a solid basis of strength to be able to apply that skill. The pyramid above is taken from Grey Cook’s Functional Movement Systems material and clearly demonstrates the need for a solid base of both movement ad strength before we move into skill training later on in the off-season cycle.

As people like Jason Glass have commented recently, strength also goes hand in hand with stability in the golf swing. For example, I see a lot of golfers who sway or slide in the swing due to weak or inactive glutes. Strength is a surefire way to a more stable swing, more control and better ball striking. Plus there is always the fun fact of the more force you can produce the further you hit it!

6. Jumps and Throws

Once you have developed your ability to produce force it’s time to consider the other half of the clubhead speed equation – producing force quickly. The need to produce force quickly in the golf swing is pretty obvious when you consider that during the golf swing you must produce around 2,000 lbs of force in less than 0.2 seconds.

Jumps and throws are my absolute favourite way to develop explosive power, they require little or no learning curve for the most part (everybody learnt to jump as a kid!) and are safe and effective. I don’t really care how you do it, just take a light implement or your bodyweight and move it fast!

7. Anti-rotation core exercises

Golfers rotate a lot! We know that rotation can be problematic and increase injury risk for many folks (one of the reasons why I suggest you reduce the volumes of golf swings you make somewhat early in the off-season). We need to be strong and have a quality movement pattern in the rotational plane, with rotation coming from the hips and the t-spine whilst ensuring you maintain neutral lumbar spine alignment. Anti-rotation core work such as pallof presses are a great way to hammer neutral lumbar spine position, whilst stabilising in the rotational plane, laying the foundation for quality rotation and reducing the risk of injury as we build towards the season, and increase the amount of rotation we do.

That’s a few ideas of what I think should be included in a good off-season program. What does your off-season training look like? Let me know in the comments below.

What the heck is this thoracic spine anyway?

thoracic_spineTechnically, the thoracic spine is the 12 vertebrae that connect with the rib cage, located between the lumbar and cervical spine. Neck and lower back pain are so rampant in golfers and the general population that the thoracic spine is often overlooked. This is the wrong approach as a large part of avoiding pain in both the lower back and neck may lie in ensuring thoracic spine mobility. Simply put, the body does what is easy, not what is best. As we age the thoracic spine stiffens, as a result we tend to turn the head at the neck (cervical spine) or rotate at the lower back (lumbar spine). A mobile thoracic spine can help avoid or relieve both low back and neck pain by allowing rotation in this key area.

For years golfers in particular have been recommended exercises like hip crossovers and scorpians to ‘warm-up’ the low back, when in reality they should be avoiding exercises that excessively rotate the lumbar spine and instead focus on developing motion at the hips and thoracic spine. Don’t just take my word for it, check out this article by industry legend and the strength coach himself, Mike Boyle. The truth is good motion in golf comes from turning the hips and shoulders, not from rotating the lumbar spine. The bottom line, bad golfers turn at the low back, good golfers turn at the hips and shoulders.

Mobility at the thoracic spine is simpler to develop than you think. Exercises like quadruped rotations or half moons are great options. As is foam rolling the thoracic spine. Alternatively, swap out the foam roller for two tennis balls taped together: place the tennis balls under your back with one ball either side of your spine. Begin at just above the belly button, with the balls in position do five crunch movements. You should feel the balls pushing the vertebrae slightly forward, in effect creating range of motion at that segment. A series of these crunches can be done all the way up to the shoulder blades. The end result is often a large increase in shoulder turn.

If you are bothered by low back pain, neck pain or want more shoulder turn, try the attached mobility exercises. Remembering its not always where it hurts that needs attention, often its the joint above or below thats causing the problem.

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.