Swing away, with good form!

A Series on Functional Exercises for Golf: 1/3

Hello Golfers,

This article is written to shed some light on correcting the mechanics that effect a more fluid gold swing. When there is tightness in the hips, the golfer will adjust for this by prematurely rotating the torso and shifting the shoulders. This ‘premature rotating’ of the torso before the hips are in position is actually a compromising of golf swing mechanics. Bringing the muscles involved with torso rotation into play before the the hips are in position interferes with the distance that can be attained from the golf swing.

There are certain areas that the golfer must address in order to develop the physical attributes that make for a better golf swing:

  • Flexibility (Range of Motion)
  • Maintenance of Center of Gravity (Balance)
  • Generalized Motor Program Development (Sequencing)
  • Promotion of Good Posture

The exercises presented in this article can help the golfer to improve stability and increase range of motion in the hips. The improved stability and increased range of motion will enable the torso to rotate with minimal restriction. These exercises will also help improve balance with respect to shifting the hips and rotating the torso.

The rotation of the torso depends upon the degree of flexibility/release that is present in the hips. The golfer will “need 60° of hip flexibility (internal hip rotation) for an unimpeded backswing.” There is need for even greater hip flexibility for a proper follow through. “The follow through phase requires sufficient flexibility of both upper quarters and the hips to reach full finish position. Limitations in hip internal or external rotation . . . will not allow the golfer to fully follow through and thus not allow time to fully decelerate the swing.” **** Even though many excellent golfers may have faulty golf grips, all great golfers use their torsos properly.

These series of photos show how to set up drills that will educate the mechanics of hip rotation, internal rotator release and external rotator release. Keeping the hips level during torso rotation will lend to more timely activation (sequencing) of the muscles which drive hip shift and torso rotation.

The rotation of the hips, torso and shoulders must be properly sequenced: i.e. the hips rotate, then the torso and the shoulders finish the rotation. Teaching the body to move ‘in sequence’ and to be more stable will allow for effortless torso and shoulder rotation during the initiation and finishing of the swing.

Cable station torso rotation

Rotation is good for golf
Line up the shoulders so that they are over the hips. The movement addresses torso rotation and release of the internal hip/thigh rotators. Keep the knees seperate.
Rotation is good for golf
This movement educates the hip rotation, torso rotation and inner thigh release necessary for the backswing. Notice how the lead knee turns in slightly.

Backswing

In this position, the feet will not move. This will facilitate the release of the internal hip rotators and the thigh adductors. Keeping the torso upright as torso rotation ensues will engage the core.

The movements shown here are accomplished by using external resistance in order to illicit a core stabilization response. The hips have to stabilize as the internal rotators and the thigh adductors have to release

This movement teaches the body to rotate the hips and torso for optimal golf swing mechanics. The rotation of the hips and torso goes up to a point before the torso/spine and shoulders begin their finishing of the rotation. By teaching the body to be stable up to that point, the torso and shoulders will more effortlessly rotate during the initiation of the swing.

  1. The feet planted
  2. Keep the knees separate
  3. The core engages
  4. The hips and shoulders begin to rotate at the same time.
  5. Repeat this exercise on both sides
  6. The hips stay level and they shift position. This rotation facilitates a release of the internal rotators as the core stabilizes the torso in position for the backswing.
Rotation is good for golf.
With this movement the torso is aligned so that the back knee and the sternum are pointing in the same direction. The shoulders are lined up over the hips.
Rotation is good for golf.
The rotation of the torso occurs due to the coordinated rotation of the hip, knee and ankle. From the finished position, the torso rotates more deeply to finish the swing.

Drive/Followthrough

In this position, the stationary foot will not move. This will facilitate the release of the external hip rotators. Keeping the torso upright as torso rotation ensues will engage the core.

The movements shown here are accomplished by using external resistance in order to illicit a core stabilization response. The hips have to stabilize as the external rotators have to release

This movement teaches the body to rotate the hips and torso for optimal golf swing mechanics in relation to the downswing and followthrough. This drill teaches the body to be stable up to the point where the torso and shoulders will more effortlessly rotate during the finishing of the swing.

  1. The feet plant
  2. The core engages
  3. The hips and shoulders begin to rotate at the same time.
  4. Repeat this exercise on both sides
  5. The hips stay level as they shift position. This rotation facilitates a release of the external rotators as the core stabilizes the torso in position for the downswing and follow through.
  6. The trailing foot, knee, hip will rotate in the transverse plane as the hips stabilize.

http://somaxsports.com/web/efficientgolfer/index.php
http://overthetopgolf.blogspot.com/2011/03/most-important-part-of-golf-swing-your.html
**** Geisler (2001), Science of Flexibility, Michael J. Alter, Page 277

Single Leg Squatting: Stability and Flexibility

Progression 1/3: Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • Supported

Everyday, people engage in movements that involve coordination of the ankle, knee and hip joints (AKH). Movements such as walking, running, and jumping are variations of the Single Leg Squatting position. In order for coordinated execution of these movements to take place, proper engagement of the core and sequenced activation of the posterior chain are extremely important. Proper core engagement contributes to smooth integration of the hip, knee and ankle. The posterior chain is associated with spinal stabilization is key to integrating movements through the AKH.

Progression 2/3: Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • Unsupported

The core must engage and the ankles must be stable and flexible. It is from here that proper hip drive and knee extension can occur. Knee extension and back extension are predicated by activation of the posterior chain, in conjunction with good core engagement. When these pieces come together then the squat takes place as if the body were a piston in a well oiled machine. Single Leg Squatting will help develop these biomechanics.

Progression 3/3: Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • Weighted

    This is a list of muscles associated with the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex. Tightness or weakness in any of these areas could inhibit actions, ie; Single Leg Squatting, that are dependent on coordination through the AKH. *

    1. Gastrocnemius/soleus
    2. Adductor complex
    3. Hamstring complex
    4. Hip flexors
    5. Abdominal complex
    6. Erector spinae
    7. Intrinsic core stabilizers
    8. Latissimus dorsi
    9. Tensor fascia latae/IT-band
    10. Gluteus medius and maximus

    The human body is bilaterally constructed. As such, imbalances between the left and the right side of the body are fairly common; whether due to injury or dominant side biomechanics in sports or daily activities. In this article, we present Single Leg Squatting as a movement that will help with establishing continuity between both sides of the body.

    The Single Leg Balancing Squat

  • 1) Stand on one leg. Wrap the lifted foot behind the supporting ankle.

    1. This position ensures that there will be work done on the balancing leg side.
    2. There will be a contralateral transfer of the work as the hips stabilize the torso.
    3. You may need to use a support rod when you start working with this exercise.
    Balancing to develop stability
    Stand on one leg. Wrap the lifted foot behind the supporting ankle.
  • 2) Before beginning, draw the belly button in. Maintain the draw in for the duration of the exercise.
    1. I find it easier to inhale on the descent but you need to find what works for you.
    Engaging the transverse abdominis
    Keeping the core engaged will help stabilize the body.
  • 3) Keeping the chest lifted, begin your descent. Keep the hips square to the front. Maintain the descent of the hips toward the supporting ankle, as much as the flexibility of the hip and ankle will allow.
  • Center the his over the ankle
    Breathe evenly as you sink the hips.
  • 4) Descend as far as you can while maintaining good form.
  • Hips stable, Ankles stable
    Hip Flexion, Knee Flexion, Dorsiflexion.
  • 5) Keep the chest lifted, (re)establish the belly button draw in, press the foot firmly into the ground and begin your ascent. Do not press into the supporting ankle/heel with the lifted foot.
  • Back up to the top.
    Hip Extension, Knee Extension, Plantar Flexion.
  • 6) Come back up to the standing position.
  • Stable and balanced
    Standing tall and firm.

    The single leg balancing squat is a great way to develop the mechanics of ankle stability, knee joint strength, hip flexibility/stability, and spinal stabilization in lieu of moving on to heavier bilateral power/strength work.

    References


    Corrective Strategies for Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Impairments


    Single Leg Movement and The Lateral Sub-System

    *List obtained from Corrective Strategies for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex, NASM

Functional Exercises for Golf

Hip Extension with Feet on the Stability Ball

Hip stability is a very important aspect of movement. No matter what you want to engage in, be it walking, running, tai chi, tennis, or swimming. Specifically, hip stability plays a key part in the mechanics of golf. The stability of your hips comes from good core engagement and the ability to coordinate the musculature of the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip complex.

The primary purpose of the functional exercise being presented here is to develop Neuromuscular Integration. Neuromuscular Integration ties movements together so that the body, as a whole, operates as a synchronous unit.

How this exercise can benefit your golf game:

  1. Trains the posterior chain muscles (back, hamstrings, and glutes) to work together
  2. Conditions the core musculature as stabilizers
  3. Improves postural endurance
  4. Improves coordination
  5. Improves balance

Directions

  • Lie on your back and place your feet on the ball. Start with the feet separated and bring them closer together as you progress.
  • The little muscles are working
    We want to develop more spinal mobility.
  • Put your arms out to your side with the palms facing up. If this is your first time using the stability ball and your balance is not yet refined, your may want to place your calves on the ball and your arms straight out to the your sides at a 90° angle to your trunk.
  • From the start position, extend the hips into the air, over the count of three, until your ankle, hips and shoulder all line up. Hold for three seconds and then lower for three seconds.
  • Length of the lumbar spine
    The stability of the shoulders and the hips enables us to sustain this position.
  • As you become more proficient at this functional exercise, you can move your hands closer to your body. Also, you can either articulate the spine from the floor, place less of your legs on the ball or move your arms closer to your body, eventually placing them across your chest. All of these variations can serve to make the exercise more challenging and thereby lead to greater neuromuscular integration.

Instability in the hips leads to compensations in the mechanics of the golf swing. Specifically, when the hips are unstable, that instability translates into the shoulders, the spine and the knees. These parts of the body, that work to make up for the lack of stability in the hips, will eventually experience various aches, pains and sundry complications.

This is a challenging, yet basic, exercise. The hips may be restrictive due to tight hip flexors or the lower back may not be strong enough to support the work of the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip complex. Greater nueromuscular integration, that comes as a result of performing this functional exercise, will help with challenges in the hips and low back areas. As you perform this exercise, these areas will become less and less of a hindrance to improving your golf game.

Video – Stretching the low back

References – Paul Chek, The Golf Biomechanics Manual, 2001

Posterior Chain Activation

Me introducing the series.
Thank you for coming to listen.

Click this link – Introduction to the Posterior Chain series

The hip joint and the shoulder girdle are critical to the functionality of the posterior chain musculature. The musculotendinous attachments at the hip joint and at the shoulder girdle are important to engaging the core and stabilizing the spine. Because the spine connects the hips to the shoulders, ensuing movements of the limbs will reflect the stability of the core and the functional activation of the posterior chain.

Let’s start with movements that educate your awareness of the core musculature and the postural, stabilizer muscles.

These movements will teach you how to activate the posterior chain. To properly activate the posterior chain, you must engage the deep gluteal musculature and the hamstring complex while mobilizing the deeper back musculature to stabilize the spine and the shoulder joint. Bring the ball into position such that the legs are on the ball 1/3 – 1/2 the way up, from the calcaneus, along the back of the calf. Our arms, back and hips are on the ground. The arms should be positioned no more than 45° away from the side of the torso. This is the most advantageous angle for engaging the shoulder blades onto the back of the rib cage. ‘Palms facing down’ is standard arm position while ‘palms facing up’ is more challenging.

The little muscles are working
We want to develop more spinal mobility.

Click this link – We want to develop more spinal mobility

The gluteus maximus should be relatively passive during the movement. The movements will be enacted mainly through the action of the intraspinal musculature, shoulder stabilization and core engagement. As the hips lift, the spine will be articulated from the ground. In addition, the stabilizers in the hip/thigh region and the shoulder area will add to the ease of lifting the hips.

Length of the lumbar spine
The stability of the shoulders and the hips enables us to sustain this position.

Click this link – The stability of the shoulders and the hips enables you to sustain this position

Engage the core musculature (belly button drawn in and pelvic floor activated) and keep length in the lower spine (a more lengthened, neutral spine than pelvic tilt). As the hips lift, the Iliopsoas, along with the lower back musculature, will lengthen. This will allow for better stabilization of the hips.

Bring the feet toward your hips
The stability of the hips and the shoulders is necessary to go into this position.

Click this link – The stability of the hips and the shoulders is necessary to go into this position

From the initial lifted hip position, the knees go into flexion. The hamstring complex is the prime mover in this phase. However, the stabilization that you have established through the posterior chain, thus far, will be intensified. As the hips lift, the serratus anterior will become even more active in shoulder stabilization, The deep and superficial back musculature will maintain stability and length in the spine and the thigh and hip musculature will maintain the stable position of the hips. The core will keep all of the parts of the body functionally connected as the knees flex and the hips lift even higher.

Releasing tension in the back
How to stretch after engaging the spinal extenders.

Click this link – Releasing tension from the back after working the spinal stabilizers/extensors

Please be aware of your limitations as you go into these movements. The deeper aspects of your musculature will be engaged intensely as you work to activate the posterior chain. You need complete no more than 5 – 8 repetitions. As you get stronger, work on adding a second set. If you have any spinal complications or hip issues, you should consult with your physician or with your physical therapist before engaging in any exercise of this type.