Tag Archives: Stability

Why golfers still need the bench press

Today’s post is a guest post from Bobby Dattero. Bobby is Co-Owner and Sports Performance Coach at Evolution Sports Performance in Easton, MA, USA. He holds a Master’s degree in strength and conditioning, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and TPI certified. You can catch more of him at his blog or on twitter.

The fitness industry is often guilty of very all or nothing thinking, this leads to different people in the industry often stating seemingly completely contradictory or opposing things, this I’m sure can be really confusing and a little disconcerting.

But why does this happen?

Training is not black and white. As Dan John is a fan of saying “everything works until it doesn’t”. There is no such thing as a bad exercise only a bad fit for that particular person at that particular time.

Training for golf is no different. You can get conflicting opinions on methods or programs. Some of this also stems from controversial headlines used to grab a reader’s attention (which hopefully this did).

Unfortunately, this is the way things go. It is much easier to write an article that asks you to “throw out your bench press” than it is to say that “all upper body exercises are pretty much OK to do unless you have an individual reason not to.” There is nothing that’s going to grab your attention with that second example.

This is why it is essential to look at the whole picture and when designing fitness programs and making choices regarding exercise selection.

So, let’s get to that old staple of the weight room,  the bench press. There are a few reasons why someone might not want to bench press.

  1. If you have a shoulder injury bench pressing may be painful. Never train in pain
  2. The scapulae are not allowed to move freely in the bench press so it’s “bad”
  3. The exercise is often loaded too heavy which results in missed reps and a lack of progress
  4. Stability is created by the bench and not the user
  5. Some gyms are small and cannot fit racks and bench presses in them

With the exception of point 1, I don’t buy into these reasons. If someone has a physical reason why the bench press is not a good fit for them, I have no problem eliminating it from their program.

A combination of points 2 to 4 is oftentimes rephrased with regards golf fitness as “golf is played on our feet so we should train on our feet, its functional.” This is has lead to exercises like the cable press gaining huge popularity amongst golfers. Now, someone can work their pushing strength while on their feet.

The body needs a variety of stimuli to adapt and develop all the facets of fitness required to play the game of golf. The bench press can be one of the best means to build upper body strength and, well, the cable press isn’t perfect either.

“When appropriately programmed and loaded the bench press is one of the best exercises for developing upper body strength”

The Bench Press can be Progressively Overloaded

Progressive overload is a term used to mean that over time we must continually add stress to the body in order to adapt to training. If the training load never increases then progress will cease. Training load includes sets, reps, and weight.

The bench press’s best advantage is that it can be loaded extremely well. We get to use both hands to push against the bar and the bench provides support for us. It basically isolates pushing.

A cable press is limited by stability. You can only load the cable press as much as you can avoid being pulled back by it. This makes progressive overload a challenge.

Take myself for example. I weigh 68kg/150lbs. It is really hard for me to hold the cable resistance in place without getting controlled by the machine. The press is not as hard as getting in position for the movement. A standard bench press is only limited by how strong I am. It will be easier to gain strength with a bench press than a cable press.

Forgive me because I do not have a research study handy, but strong people usually have a good bench press. That means something. If you want to be strong, it isn’t wise to completely disregard its use.

As I’m sure you’re aware Rory McIlroy has added some significant muscle and strength to his golf game in recent years and the bench press has seemingly been a part of a what is doubtless and balanced program of pressing variations to help him get there

Bench Press and Shoulder Health

The bench press can expose shoulder issues and its disproportionate use can potentially cause them. If that is your main concern then you need to really take a look at the risk of the golf swing on the body. More shoulders are beat up because of the golf swing and daily life than through bench pressing and this article is not getting into backs, knees, and hips.

There are steps we can take to protect our shoulders for improved performance and long term health.

  • Monitor Volume – Volume can be problematic for joint health. I would like to see most golfers keep their bench press reps at 6 or less. We can get our volume elsewhere.
  • Add Pushups – Pushups allow the scapulae to move freely. This helps train rotator cuff health while improving push strength and core stability
  • Use the Cable Press – Just because the cable press has limitations does not mean to stop using it. Again, the scapulae move freely and we train core stability with the movement. It’s a win win.
  • Use DB’s and Neutral Grips – A neutral grip is more shoulder friendly than a pronated grip. Use that with DB’s or specialty bars to spare the shoulders.
  • Incorporate Posterior Shoulder Work – Add a lot of Y’s, T’s, external rotations, and breakaways to train the shoulder stabilizers. High reps/volume works well here.
  • Row/ Pull double: If you do 3 pushes in your program, try to have 6 pulls. This will give the shoulder and upper back the kind of strength it needs to fend off cranky shoulders.

I do not want to make this argument to make the cable press seem bad, because it is not. It should be in most programs. The core stability developed and pushing strength is definitely going to complement your training.

When appropriately programmed and loaded the bench press is one of the best exercises for developing upper body strength. Continue to use it if you want to hit the ball further and shoot lower scores.

 

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.

3 training methods for the unstable golfer

Injury prone?

Can’t seem to get stronger and more powerful in the gym?

No amounts of stretching or mobilisations seem to help your mobility?

Your fitness program doesn’t seem to carryover to the golf course?

As a coach I’ve had a fair few clients who would answer yes to most if not all of these questions (I’m sure all of us coaches have) so what’s the deal?

You could be trying to add functional adaptations and sports skills to an unstable base.

The goal of this article is to give you some ideas for developing that stable base. If you can learn (or teach your clients) to effectively stabilise, the answer to those questions above should start to change for the better. But first:

A Quick Look at Performance Model’s

I am a big fan of Gray Cook’s performance model. In case you haven’t seen it before, here it is:

FMS-Performance-Pyramid

As you can see, the foundation of the pyramid is quality movement. Movement quality is the base you want to build athletic development on top of.

Without high-quality movement, you’re simply laying strength, power or sport-specific development on top of a cracked foundation.

But let’s break that foundation down a bit further (and hopefully guys like Gray and Charlie Weingroff would agree here).

Within that bottom tier, you have at the very least two primary goals:

  • Mobility
  • Reflex stabilization/motor control

Many factors will affect mobility, the least of which is muscle length. There are 3 reasons why a muscle shortens:

  • You tell it too
  • It feels there is a need to protect something in the body
  • It’s hanging on for dear life, to keep you balanced

Note those last two. They mean that the mobility you can display will be effected by the ability to stabilise (simply put, if the joint is stable at a particular range of motion the the brain will allow you to go to that range of motion).

For those with stability issues static stretching is on par with having someone with a headache bang their head against a wall.

So now lets look in a little more detail what stability actually is. As Gray is famous for saying:

“stability doesn’t mean strength.”

Stability can be even further broken down into static stability and dynamic stability. An example of static stability would be training someone in half-kneeling, whereas a lunge or split-squat would be training dynamic stability.

Once you have good mobility and stability, you’ve earned the right to load those patterns. There are many many ways of going about adding load, and this is another area where a good coach can be vital in determine what is appropriate. I believe that, as well as creating physical adaptations and increases in strength and power, once you have adequate mobility and stability, loading those squats, deadlifts, etc, helps cement these quality movement patterns.

Now that we have a baseline understanding, let’s look at some of the ways I try to improve stability with unstable clients. We’re also going to assume (just to make things simple), there are no obvious mobility deficits or asymmetries – as always a movement screen such as FMS or TPI is recommended to determine this.

Method #1 – Utilise Continuums

We all know that trying to fit a round peg into a square hole doesn’t work.

So why would we train athletes with a “one-size-fits-all” approach? Or list of exercises?

This is exercise progressions and regressions. Without it, you’re really just throwing random exercises and hoping they will stick.

For example, If someone has trouble demonstrating stability in a hinge or bend pattern, you probably wouldn’t want to start them off with a kettlebell swing. It’s a fantastic exercise, but the speed of movement may make it difficult to dial-in the technique. A conventional or Sumo-style deadlift may also not be appropriate due to the integrated nature of the movement.

Another option could be if someone simply can’t figure out to hinge in a standing position, you may want to give them a more isolated regression of that same pattern, without the weight bearing demands. As far as the hinge pattern goes, hip thrusts fit the bill here:

This will allow the athlete to perform and develop the movement pattern without too many inefficiencies in movement, re-learn the movement with proper reflexive stability and progress from there.

Here are just a few factors to consider when developing progressions and regressions for any movement pattern:

  • Low to High Speed
  • Isolated to Integrated Movements
  • Low Complexity to High Complexity
  • Small to Big Ranges of Motion
  • Single to Multi-Joint Movements
  • More External Stability to Less

Method #2 – Slow down rep speed

For those who are unstable, I like to use times of slow concentrics, as well as a ton of slow eccentrics.

Slow eccentrics provide several benefits for unstable clients:

  • They improves proprioception and body awareness
  • They shift the focus on active stability versus passive (it’s harder to hang on joints when you’re moving slow!)
  • The develop strength in the muscle
  • They develop connective tissue strength (tendons, ligaments, and joints)

Too often, people who are floppy and/or unstable get overuse injuries. Various studies have shown the effectiveness of eccentric exercises in dealing with/ managing tendonitis.

In my experience, when movement patterns are dialed in, and slowed tempos made a dedicated component of a training program, stability and performance increase dramatically.

Finally, isometrics and paused reps are an excellent choice as well. When you force someone to pause and control a motion at the midpoint, they really have no choice but to learn how to stabilize more effectively.

Method #3 – Add External Stability Initially

This is my go to option to begin with. Too often, we assume that just because our clients/athlete walk around every day, that they have earned the right to exercise on their feet.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

If an athlete can’t even stand on one leg without falling over during an assessment (incidentally the single-leg balance is probably one of the most commonly failed assessments we use, particularly in a sedentary population), then we need to dial someone back as far as necessary for them to get some traction. Again, you have to earn the right to exercise standing up!

The progression may look something like this…

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These positions are in reference to the methods in which baby humans learn to explore movement. Yes, infants are basically made of rubber and their hip joints look more like shoulder joints, that possess ridiculous mobility.  However, those little guys learn to control that mobility by putting in months of work and progressing from position to position – supine/prone, sidelying, quadruped, half/tall kneeling; until they have developed the necessary stability to stand, squat, walk, run, jump, etc.

As adults, it’s beneficial to revisit these positions to hone and refine our movement -especially since today’s more sedentary lifestyle seems to cause some loss of mobility and reflexive motor control.

The half kneeling position, for example, is a fantastic tool to improve these attributes.  By lowering the centre of mass (compared to standing), the athlete can practice moving through the hips and shoulders with less compensation and unnecessary motion through the pelvis and lumbar spine – which is common and more difficult to overcome in a standing position.

Summary

If you’re more prone to injuries, and/or the progress you do see isn’t as significant as you would like then instability could be the issue. Get you movement assessed, then try incorporating some of the options outlined above, and let me know how they work out!

If you’re interested in having us conduct a movement screen or develop a program individualised for your needs, that will absolutely get you more resilient, improve your athleticism and see carryover to your golf game get in contact via our online coaching page.

How to golf forever: 5 key exercises

Want to play the game we all love for as long as possible? Of course you do!

The golf swing is not an easy motion on the body and your posture likely sucks – You sit a lot and you stare at a lot of screens.

In order to play for as long as possible, you need to make caring for your body a priority in order to prevent injury and insure lifelong orthopedic health.

The first step is to get your training program rebalanced. Generally speaking most gym goers push more than they pull, leading to a host of potential problems down the road. Take a look at your current program and make sure to get a 2:1 ratio of pulling to pushing exercises.

Once that’s taken into account use these exercises to straighten out your posture and keep you on the course for the long haul.

No. 1 – Face Pulls

The face pull may be the most versatile loaded training tool in our arsenal for remediating poor shoulder and thoracic positioning. It provides the exact opposite movements to the ones we’re continuously pulled into on a daily basis.

This movement incorporates humeral horizontal abduction and external rotation of the shoulder and retracts the shoulder blades – all helping combat the hunched over, constantly adducted, internally rotated and protracted posture.

Slouching over a phone or computer reading this? that’s the poor position I’m talking about!

Don’t be fooled into thinking the face pull is just another dainty corrective exercise either. Sure, it can be programmed into any successful dynamic warm-up or activation technique for prepping the shoulders and rotator cuff, but you can also load this pattern up for a results-producing training effect.

No. 2 – Rear Foot Elevated Split-squats

To me the rear-foot elevated split squat might offer the biggest bang for you buck of any squat or single-leg exercise. You get the stability requirements of standing on one-leg, ycan load some heavy ass weight up with it, and it also provides some direct dynamic mobility work for the hip flexors of the leg which is placed in the elevated position (achieving an extended hip position with a flexed knee puts a nice stretch through the superficial and deep hip flexor groups while challenging this position under stability and strength requisites). All this adds up to you getting a downright brutal training effect when executed properly.

And there’s more! Not only does this movement have the ability to be loaded up, but done so in a safe manner. It actually protects the lower spine.

The single leg nature of the movement incorporates a reciprocal pelvic position that deloads the lower spinal segments and helps protect notoriously vulnerable segments from unwanted shear stress. When done with the weight loaded in a front racked manner the greater core activation will help to prevent anterior pelvic tilt during the movement (a particular problem in exercises like back squats) and hold the spine in neutral.

Basically RFESS’s mean you can strengthen the lower body without putting the spine under as much load.

No. 3 – 1-leg rotational med-ball taps

The relationship between a loss of balance and ageing has been long established. Put simply the longer you are able to maintain your level of balance ability, the more likely you are to stay active, healthy and without the need for rehab. Additionally, static balance proficiency has been associated with improved performance in baseball pitching, a movement that usually exhibits pretty good carryover to the golf swing.

The 1-leg rotational med-ball tap is a nice exercise to develop static balance whilst beginning to learn to disassociate the upper and lower body, and correct rotation mechanics.

No. 4 – Loaded carries

The loaded carry is another class of movement that is absolutely pivotal for every single person on earth to practice and master.

World class experts have been passionately teaching the loaded carry for years to tap into both a prehab model of the spine and synergistic neuromuscular stability patterns that link up the shoulders, core, and hips.

When executed properly, loaded carries are pretty much the ultimate form of core training. Indeed, low back and core health expert Dr. Stuart McGill, considers the programming of loaded carries absolutely essential.

So why does the loaded carry keep you healthy and functioning above all other core specific movements? The phenomenon of what Dr. McGill has coined “super-stiffness,” this can be explained as a rhythmic and timely firing pattern around a region of joints to maintain an optimal position.

The loaded carry does just that, and then some. Not only are the four layers of the abdominal wall being activated, but also the hip and shoulder complexes that can have the ability manipulate the position of the spine, especially when they become dynamic in nature.

Don’t dismiss the carry as just an optional metabolic finisher. When programmed with parameters of progressive overload, the carry can be advanced to match increasing levels of your skill and strength.

No. 5 – Glute bridge

If you haven’t got the idea from this post already, spinal health is a big deal if you plan on playing golf or moving in general for the rest of your life. Glute strength is a vital component spinal health.

You can prevent spinal injury through training the lower pillar of your spine in a more concentrated dynamic nature.

From the simplistic supine bodyweight glute bridge to the loaded hip thrust, the popularization of glute training has never been more mainstream.

The glute max forms a highly influential structure, with specific attachment points throughout the posterior pelvic structure, that plays a major role in enhancing both posture and stability throughout the lower lumbar segments. The glute medius may be equally as important to long-term function, responsible for both lateral hip stability and alignment.

From athletic performance to avoiding hip fractures later on in life, targeting the glutes directly translates into function. Manipulate range of motion, rhythm, and loading variables in training, and the glutes will enhance global function in every step of your life and undo the poor postural stresses of daily sitting while also firing up the posterior chain.

Best Golf Fitness Articles For Golfers – 27/09/15

The best fitness articles for golfers is back this Sunday morning!

And I have some cracking articles for you today…in fact so good I couldn’t choose just one best one, so you have 3!

Best of the week:

Hitting save on a movement document, Gray Cook

I use a lot (I mean a lot) of kneeling and half-kneeling exercise variations in my training programs. These tall-kneeling and half-kneeling patterns limit the stability requirements of a exercise and create bridge between your mobility work and your lifting work. This great article by the guys at FMS takes you through the why behind using patterns with both detail and clarity

What to hit on the golf course (hole by hole), GolfDigest​ and Matt Jones

I’m not a qualified nutritionist, but I know enough to know how important it is to performance on the course and in the gym. As such I’m always on the look for quality nutrition articles to share with you guys, and this one from Golf Digest and Matt Jones certainly qualifies! Love the emphasis on proteins to stabilise energy and ensure concentration.

18STRONG.com​ podcast with Charlie Weingroff

I think this is the best podcast from Jeff and 18 strong so far – yes including the one I’m on! Charlie is one of the best in the business and a proper S&C coach with the know how and scientific evidence
to back it up. This interview will give you a lot of the scientific rational behind why i don’t recommend golf specific or ‘golfish’ exercises.

Honourable mentions:

The simplest way to improve your warm-up, Chris Wicus

There is a big stability or mobility first debate going on at the moment in the fitness world. My take is neither particularly matter if you’re alignment is poor. Breathing drills are a method I have just started using to help with alignment issues. Here’s a great little primer on the basics

The worst thing you could do for your golf swing, Ryan Blackburn

This dovetails nicely with Charlie’s podcast on ‘golfish’ exercises. Exploring why you shouldn’t use exercises that mimic the swing or training aids like weighted clubs (1000% agree with this by the way..weighted clubs are a terrible idea!) and gives some good option for bog standard general physical preparedness exercises that are actually much more effective.

3 ways to increase force production in the golf swing – strength, speed and stability

While strength alone isn’t enough, strength is probably the first factor you should focus on to improve velocity. To develop more power, you need to be stronger. Put plainly, the more force you can exert, the further you’ll hit it.

Studies demonstrate, lower body strengthening is an area that deserves a lot of attention. The legs are are essential in creating ground reaction force and the first stage in transferring that force from the ground through the body and into the club.

Take a look at pro’s these days. A lot of the guys that have big legs, hips, and butts are some of the longest hitters, and the ones who look like they do it most effortlessly. Jason Day is a great example:

Jason Day a.ka. Quadzilla

Jason Day a.ka. Quadzilla

The stronger your legs, the more force you can generate. This has been shown in numerous studies to correlate to velocity in all most all rotational sports including golf.

Whilst a base of strength is incredibly important and something I see many golfers still overlook, strength alone is not enough and could even be detrimental. Research in the strength and conditioning world has shown that training certain qualities, like strength and speed, results in velocity specific adaptations to the body.

Better stated – train slow and you’ll swing slow.

Once a baseline of strength is established, I tend to focus on evolving the ability to ‘explode’. What I mean by this is you want to move with intent – fast, quick and crisp. This is area many golfers are lacking, they don’t know how to explode.

Once an athlete understands how to move a heavy weight slowly, you want to transition to moving a moderate weight fast, and a lighter weight even faster.

Speed trap bar deadlifts against bands (the band tension makes it harder at the top so momentum means the faster you pull the easier it is) are probably my very favourite exercise at the moving moderate weight fast end of the spectrum. Exercises like plyometric jumps, med-ball throws and kettle bell swings are effective for the lighter weight even faster part.

On the golf training side of the equation, this is where underweight clubs, hand speed drills and simply practicing swinging faster come in to play.

Lastly, and probably the least well implemented, is training for stability. To improve clubhead velocity, you need the proper motor control and dynamic stability to stabilize both the arms, the core and the legs.

To properly transfer force that is developed from the ground, you need a strong AND stable legs.

You need front leg stability to efficiently transfer force in the downswing, also don’t forget the body has internal regulations to avoid injury. If the lead leg can’t stabilize the force, the theory goes, your body won’t allow you to develop maximum force in order to protect you from potential injury.

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why I believe using weighted clubs is ineffective and can be harmful, especially for young golfers. You need the strength to be able to withstand the force to produce the force, your body will down-regulate force development to prevent injury otherwise.

To maximize velocity, you need to train the body to develop and withstand force. Too many programs focus on developing force alone. This can result in ineffective training programs as well as injury by pushing past your physiological limits. Whilst we use a lot of exercises to help develop force, we also use exercises such as reactive lateral jumps and lateral jumps with external rotation stick, which have a high deceleration component too.

Video credit: Eric Cressey

To recap; get strong so you can create more force, learn how to ‘explode’ and generate that force quickly, and develop stability so you can control and decelerate that force. Next, sit back and watch how far into the distance your drives now go flying!

Why hip stability is important in the golf swing

A lot has been written about the need for a stable trail hip, trying to load a weak trail hip typically causes excessive internal rotation and adduction of that hip, perhaps a pelvic shift towards it, a.k.a sway. And maybe even elevation on that side and lateral bending of the torso towards the target in a desperate effort to maintain balance, a.k.a reverse pivot!

The position your trial leg is in at address is the position it should remain as you rotate in the backswing. Loading into the trail side leg, without over rotating the pelvis, requires stability in that trail side hip. If you have good hip  stability it will allow you to turn without any sway. You will also be able to keep your centre of pressure within the inside of the trail side heel, this is important as it enables efficient use of ground reaction forces. Vital as, in the golf swing, we use the ground to create a coil so we can unwind the club with maximum force into the golf ball.

If the trail hip is unstable it may cause you to sway, which can lead to poor shot dispersion and a major loss in power.

Speith_v_amateur_impact_position_Slide_rotation_strongergolfNow take a look at the picture on the right. It shows Jordan Speith’s impact position (on the left) compared to a typical amateur golfer (on the right) what differences do you notice? Yes Jordan has definitely rotated more through impact, but what has allowed him to do that?

Notice how much more of his front foot you can see, his hip hasn’t come across covered it as it has for the amateur, he is able to this as his lead hip is stable and therefore provides a solid platform for his upper body to rotate. Indeed force plate analysis research suggests centre of pressure moves hard to target side in transition, a stable lead hip is vital to to provide a solid platform for that centre of pressure change.

To properly transfer force that is developed in your backswing, you need a strong AND stable lead hip. This lateral movement of the hip for the amateur, a.k.a slide, is a major power leak.

Also don’t forget the body has internal regulations to avoid injury. If the lead hip can’t stabilize the force in theory your body won’t allow you to develop the force either. Not to mention a slide can also create a ‘reverse C’ spinal position through impact and follow through which places the lumbar spine at greater risk of injury.

Do you have a stability issue? Assessing the squat

When an athlete can’t hit depth on their squat, the same advice is often trotted out to them

“it’s a hip mobility issue, work on that” or maybe “it’s an ankle or thoracic spine mobility issue”

But what if its none of these? what if it’s a stability issue?

If you are someone with generally crappy squat mechanics, can’t hit depth, excessive spinal tilt, knees not tracking over toes, etc. First off you need to ascertain if your mobile enough. To do this get into a quadruped position, from here rock back as far as you can maintaining your spine angle. If your able to bend at the knee, so the hip crease is back past the knee, congratulations you have passed and it’s not a mobility issue. If you fail, hammer the mobility work on the hips, ankles and thoracic spine, as the advice above.

Next, is it a stability issue? Grab a resistance band, dumbbell, squat rack or even doorframe at arms length as a counter weight and squat down. If your mechanics magically clean up and you hit depth (this will happen for many of you, believe me) then you have a stability issue. Pound your anterior core with with planks, rollouts, weighted carries, chops lifts etc and regular squat will start to look as pretty as the counterweighted one in no time.

Lastly, if you can get yourself into a nice, deep squat position using a squat rack or door frame as a counterweight but you can’t stand yourself back up then you have a major strength issue. Get yourself to the leg press machine and go to town. Do some planks to boost your anterior core stability whilst your over there too.

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.