At the 2016 World Golf Fitness Summit I attended a lecture presented by Liam Mucklow. Liam played professional golf and competed at the World Long Drive Finals. The topic of his lecture was improving the kinematic sequence of the golf swing. The kinematic sequence describes the way great ball strikers generate club head speed. Regardless of swing style, research has proved that great ball strikers generate speed the same way. The kinematic sequence describes this method. In order to create the most speed possible, transition into the downswing must start with lateral weight transfer to the lead leg, followed by rotation of the lower body, then the upper body, arms, and the club last.
Proper Kinematic Sequence/Order of the Downswing:
At FitGolf Performance Centers we use technology called K-Vest to see if our clients have a proper kinematic sequence. Almost all golfers I evaluate that desire a more powerful swing display a poor kinematic sequence. There is not a simple solution for fixing a bad downswing. Not one body is the same and there are a number of physical restrictions that act as road blocks to a good swing. If you feel like your body acts against you in the golf swing, you should seek the help of a TPI Certified personal trainer, athletic trainer, physical therapist, or chiropractor.
Liam provided some really interesting interventions to improving the kinematic sequence. One of the interventions that really stuck with me utilized a baseball swing. To understand the glaring similarities between a powerful baseball swing and golf swing let’s take a look at two examples of power at its finest. Let’s start with hall of famer Ken Griffey Jr.
In my opinion, that is the most beautiful swing in the history of baseball. Take note at the sequencing of movements when he goes to hit the ball. First, he plants hard into his lead leg. Second, he creates lower body rotation. Third, his upper body rotates. Fourth, he swings his arms. Lastly, he releases the bat and made the night for one lucky fan sitting deep in the outfield.
Now lets look at a golf example. I’m going to use Bubba Watson, a Masters Champion with an unconventional yet undeniably powerful swing…
Take a look at his downswing. The sequencing of movement is exactly like Griffey’s, isn’t it?
So what is the take-away of all of this? We know that powerful ball strikers sequence the downswing the same regardless of swing style. We also know that sequencing of a powerful baseball swing is exactly the same as the golf swing. Hence, you should practice the baseball swing to become a more powerful golfer!
Next time you practice go through your warm-up routine, then, before you hit golf balls take 10-20 baseball swings BOTH right and left handed. Make sure you practice good kinematic sequence. Always make sure your lead leg is planted before the bat or golf club rotates. Once you completed your baseball swings, forget about proper sequencing. Once again, once your done the baseball swings FORGET ABOUT PROPER SEQUENCING! If you practice these baseball swings regularly over time, your body will develop a new motor pattern, or muscle memory. Once this happen, the kinematic sequence will become a natural thing for you (that is if you do not have major physical restrictions getting in your way).
If you have any questions about golf fitness please contact Jason directly at [email protected].
How different would your scores be if you could drive 10, 20, or even 30 yards further? When our golfers here at FitGolf Performance Centers set their goals, rarely is additional yardage left out. As a golf fitness coach, I consider many factors before implementing a golf fitness exercise power training program. First thing considered is mobility. Without adequate mobility in the body’s joints, your muscles will not be able to lengthen to the extent which is necessary to create elastic energy to generate power. The more range of motion a golfer is able to obtain, the more power they will be able to generate. However, range of motion is not the only precursor to power. Golfers with great range of motion will only be able to use it to their benefit as long as they have adequate stability in their joints. The body’s joints have an alternating mobility-stability pattern. For example, the joints in the lumbar spine (low back) provide your torso with stability so your mobile joints in the thoracic spine (mid-upper back) have a solid foundation to rotate off of. If stability in your lumbar spine is compromised due to weak “core” musculature, it is impossible to safely and correctly achieve rotation in your thoracic spine, which is crucial to a powerful golf swing. Golf Fitness Exercises can help all of these things.
Golfers of different gender and age usually have issues with mobility, stability, or both. We generally see that men tend to have more issues related to mobility, but adequate stability. On the flip side, women and junior golfers tend to have much better mobility, but less stability. Every individual’s body is unique and it is important to have specific physical issues, whether pertaining to mobility or stability, identified by a golf fitness professional through a comprehensive evaluation and implementation of golf fitness exercises.
Once full joint range of motion and stability of all the body’s joints is established, it is then appropriate to implement power training into your golf fitness exercise program. Half kneeling medicine ball chop slams is a great beginner-intermediate exercise to start out with. This exercise requires a medicine ball and a partner or wall to which you will be bouncing the medicine ball to. Here’s how they are performed:
Start by kneeling on your left knee with your right foot out in front of you. With the medicine ball in your hands, elongate your spine to become as tall as possible and tightly squeeze your left glute and abdominals. From here you are going to use both hands to bring the medicine ball diagonally over your right shoulder. While maintaining balance and a tall posture, bounce the ball across your body with the goal of slamming it to the ceiling or over your partner’s head. It is critical keep your core engaged in order to maintain balance and generate the most power. If you do not have a medicine ball, you can use a 5-10 lb. weight. Just make sure you do not release the weight once you bring in across your body. Perform 5-10 repetitions and switch knees and directions of the bounce or chop.
For any questions relating to mobility, stability, and/or power, please email me at [email protected]
It is well documented that core strength is critical to prevent injury, back pain, and improve the golf swing. When I evaluate a golfer new to golf-specific fitness I often hear that he or she does “core strengthening” in their current exercise routine. My first question is always, “what do you mean, core strengthening?” Too often the response is, “Oh well you know, crunches, the ab machine where you press your chest down, things like that.” After full evaluation, 9 times out of 10 this individual exhibits weak core musculature, poor posture, flawed movement, and swing faults that will leave them prone to injury and pain.
When picking exercises for core strengthening make sure you pick exercises that will improve function and ability in whatever activity you partake in. Crunches and stationary abdominal machines (and resistance machines in general) are highly likely to be the wrong choice for golfers. The crunch and ab machines usually promote upper (thoracic) spine flexion. This rounds the shoulders and puts the back into a humped position. As a golfer, this is not a position you want to be training in. Excessive upper spine flexion and shoulder rounding promotes poor posture, rotation and flaws in the golf swing. In addition, crunches and other ab exercises that require you flex from the shoulders down to the hips can put a lot of stress down the neck and low (lumbar) spine. If you’re looking to improve your golf swing, avoid this type of core training.
For beginners, abdominal strengthening should focus on holding positions that promote anti-extension (arching) of the low back. One simple yet effective exercise that does this is called the dead-bug exercise (click link to view the exercise and instructions). With this exercise make sure you keep your abs braced and your low back flat and pressed into the floor. The dead-bug exercise will help you maintain neutral posture and avoid swing flaws (and hence prevent back pain and injuries!)
For intermediates, the classic exercise called plank is a great way you can challenge yourself. To execute a proper plank, start by laying face down on the floor. Position your elbows directly under your shoulders and make sure your toes and feet are flexed and curled up toward the shins. Before you lift into the plank position, contract both your abs and glutes, and make sure your knees are locked out. From here, lift your body off the floor and hold as long as possible. It is very important that you can maintain contraction of both the abs and glutes throughout the set. If you are unable to keep the abs and glutes contracted, lower yourself and take a rest before your next set.
I must stress that golf fitness usually does not look like traditional fitness. If you are unsure whether or not your current fitness routine is helping your golf game, I suggest you find a TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified Golf Fitness Professional in your area for an assessment. If you have any questions about golf fitness please feel free to email me at [email protected]
BS Athletic Training, CGFI-FP1
Golf Fitness Coach
This is part 2 (continued) of a 4-part series examining different phases of the golf swing. These phases include the set-up, backswing, transition into the downswing, and weight shift and rotation to impact. Most know that each phase is important into achieving a consistent and powerful golf swing. As a result this series will provide are simple exercise interventions to make each phase easier for the amateur golfer. This article is about physical interventions and exercises to make a better backswing.
In my previous posts I discussed ways to improve your address posture and backswing. Before you start thinking about improving your movement in the downswing you must make sure your positioning at the top of your swing is correct. It’s unlikely that I move onto downswing movement training if a client exhibits swing flaws at the top of the swing such as reverse spine angle, reverse pivot, and/or over rotation of the hips and shoulders. Based on my experience, a vast majority of amateur golfers exhibit at least one of these flaws at the top of the swing.
One of the best ways to avoid flaws at the top of the swing is to make sure the trail leg and foot is properly loaded and performing the role as stabilizer of the upper body and shoulder rotation (unless you use stack and tilt). Ideally, at the top of the swing the trail leg and foot should accept the majority of the golfer’s weight. More specifically, the back of the trail foot and heel should be loaded at the top. More times than not, golfers I assess do in fact get the majority of body weight to the trail leg. However, most do not properly get to the heel of the foot.
The key to loading the trail leg and heel is to keep the leg stable and eliminate almost all lateral motion in the backswing. A golfer can have one or more multiple physical restrictions making proper weight shift and load difficult. What we know is that a golfer must have adequate hip internal rotation (over 45 degrees), strong hip muscles and glutes, great balance, and good movement patterning to be successful.
There’s a great swing drill you can use to determine if you have what it takes to properly load your trail foot consistently. It’s called the trail leg loaded backswing. In your address, shift 80-90% of your weight to your trail leg with the knee slightly bent. Now take a slow backswing while maintaining 80-90% of your weight on the trail leg. Make sure your knee does not move or change its angle. You know you are doing this successfully if you are able to make a full backswing without moving your weight away from the heel of the trail foot or without the knee straightening out or “bowing” outside of the foot. If you struggle doing this then it’s likely you have a physical restriction such as poor hip mobility, strength, or balance.
It is difficult to self-evaluate golf specific physical restrictions. I recommend that if you struggled doing the drill correctly that you seek out golf fitness professional. In conclusion great ball striking requires proper loading of trail leg and foot. In my next post we will turn our attention away from the back swing and move to part 3, transition into the downswing. If you have any questions about how your body affects your golf swing, please email me directly at [email protected].
Golf Fitness Coach
FitGolf Performance Centers of the Delaware Valley
This is part 2 of a 4-part series examining different phases of the golf swing. These phases include the set-up, back swing, transition into the downswing, and weight shift and rotation to impact. Most know that each phase is important into achieving a consistent and powerful golf swing. What this series will provide are simple exercise interventions to make each phase easier for the amateur golfer. Today I will be writing about physical interventions and exercises to make a better back swing.
In my previous post (see previous post), I discussed what makes for a better backswing. Specifically, I discussed proper sequencing in the backswing. We know that to properly sequence the backswing the upper body must rotationally separate from the lower body. This is difficult for many amateur golfers due to physical restrictions and weaknesses in both the upper and lower body. I gave you all some basic exercises to improve the backswing which included open books, clam shells, and bridges. Hopefully you had an opportunity to try those out and make improvements in your range of motion and strength. Today I want to give you more advanced exercises to take your rotational abilities to the next level.
The next 3 exercises will take place in the half kneeling position. In conventional fitness the half kneeling position is often overlooked, but it provides a great way to perform golf specific exercises because it makes it easy to target important muscle groups for the swing. In the half kneeling position, I want your thought to be “tall and tight”. The top of your head should be as close to the ceiling as possible. Focus hard on the core muscle groups. This includes the glute (butt cheek) of the down knee, and the abdominal muscles. Make sure your upper body is not slumped by puffing your chest out.
The three exercises I want you to perform are half kneeling rotations, chops, and lifts. When you are performing half kneeling rotations, focus more on keeping your lower body still and stable, and less on how far your shoulders are turning. I’d rather see you exhibit less shoulder turn with no lower body movement, as opposed to more shoulder turn with some lower body movement. If you focus on contracting your glute and abs, you will be more successful. Executing the half kneeling rotation correctly will make it more likely that you will be able to separate your upper body from your lower body throughout the golf swing.
When you are performing half kneeling chops and lifts, make sure the resistance band feels like a moderate resistance level. It is better that you focus on remaining stable rather than pulling and pushing a heavy band or weight. If you don’t have resistance bands at home, then you can simply chop and lift with an object that weighs anywhere from 5-15 lbs. The goal remains the same, keep your body stable! Initially when you chop and lift, do not rotate your shoulders. Nothing should move besides your hands and arms. Once you feel very stable, then you can begin to rotate the shoulders. Make sure shoulder rotation does not cause lower body movement. If it does, then go back to no rotation until you improve your stability. Half kneeling chops and lifts are a great core exercise that will make you more likely to remain stable and in posture throughout the golf swing.
Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps of each exercise. Perform these exercises as often as you can for 2-3 weeks and you will surely feel more control and mobility in your backswing. In my next post I will talk about what’s physically required to make a good transition into the downswing to set you up for powerful and consistent ball striking. If you have any questions about this or golf fitness in general, please email me directly at [email protected].
Jason Rivkin, BS Athletic Training, CGFI-FL1
Golf Fitness Coach
Believe it or not, the start of golf season is rapidly approaching. Although it seems winter will never end, it’s time to begin tuning up your body. The winter tends to lead to a lifestyle that’s more sedentary than the warmer months. As a result, you might be coming out of the winter tighter or less flexible than you are during the summer months. Not only will this affect your early scores negatively, but it will also increase the chance of injury during chilly spring golf. Over the next month or so, I will be posting tips to keep the most commonly tight muscle groups loose for the start of golf season. Today we will discuss the hamstring muscle group.
Hamstrings are the muscles behind the thighs which originate from the pelvis and attach below the knee. The hamstrings take part in controlling the degree to which your pelvis and spine can bend forward in the address position of your golf swing and can dictate how well you maintain your posture throughout the swing. If you’re not able to touch their toes in the standing position, the chances of you maintaining posture in the golf swing significantly decrease and hence, lead to inconsistent golfing and a greater chance of injury.
If you think you suffer from tight hamstrings and they are affecting your posture throughout the golf swing, try the following hamstring stretch which will allow you to achieve ideal posture at address and minimize swing flaws influenced by hamstring tightness
Find a corner of a wall in your home where you can lay down on your back. Place your right foot up against the wall and your left leg flat on the floor. Make sure that your right knee is fully extended or “locked out” by squeezing your right thigh muscle and bend your right ankle down toward you so you feel a gentle stretch in your right calf. . Choose a distance from the wall in which the stretch is challenging, yet tolerable. From here, squeeze your abdominals and make sure your low back is pressed against the floor. If you are properly positioned away from the wall, this will create a stretching sensation in the back of your knee, your upper and lower hamstring, and the calf muscles. If the stretch feels intolerable, move farther away from the wall and reposition your leg. When you have found the right distance from the wall, hold the stretch position for 3-5 minutes or until a complete release of the stretch feeling has been accomplished. Switch legs and repeat the stretch.
You can advance the stretch when ready by gradually moving closer to the wall and sliding your leg farther up the wall. Perform this exercise at least 5 days per week. You should begin to notice a big difference in your ability to maintain posture throughout the swing. For any questions related to flexibility and fitness for golf please contact me directly at [email protected] Good luck!
It is well documented that core strength is imperative to prevent injury, back pain, and improve the golf swing. When I am evaluating a new golfer I often hear that he or she does “core strengthening” in their current exercise routine. My first question is always, “what do you mean, core strengthening?” Too often the response is, “Oh well you know, crunches, the ab machine where you press your chest down, things like that.” After full evaluation, 9 times out of 10 this individual exhibits weak core musculature, poor posture, flawed movement, and swing faults that will leave them prone to injury and pain. It turns out that they are not doing work to prevent injury and pain, but they are actually doing things to PROMOTE injury and pain.
When picking exercises for core strengthening make sure you pick exercises that will improve function in whatever activity you partake in. Crunches and stationary abdominal machines are highly likely to be the wrong choice for golfers and athletes in general. The crunch and ab machines usually promote upper (thoracic) spine flexion. This rounds the shoulders and puts the back into a humped position. As a golfer, this is not a position you want to be training in. Excessive upper spine flexion and shoulder rounding promotes poor rotation and flaws in the golf swing. In addition, crunches and other ab exercises that require you flex from the shoulders down to the hips can put a lot of stress down the neck and low (lumbar) spine. Let’s keep it simple, if you’re looking to improve your golf swing, avoid this type of core training.
For beginners, abdominal strengthening should focus on holding positions that promote anti-extension (arching) of the low back. One simple yet effective exercise that does this is called the dead-bug exercise (click link to view the exercise and instructions). With this exercise make sure you keep your abs braced and your low back flat and pressed into the floor.
For intermediates, a classic exercise called plank is a great way you can challenge yourself. With the plank make sure you start with your belly on the floor. Position your elbows directly under your shoulders and make sure your toes and feet are flexed and curled up toward the shins. Before you lift into the plank position, contract both your abs and glutes, and make sure your legs are locked out and as long as possible. It is very important that you can maintain contraction of BOTH the abs and glutes throughout the set. If you lose the glute contraction, lower yourself and take a rest before your next set.
For advanced golf fitness enthusiasts, these exercises should be used for warm-up and activation techniques before larger and more dynamic lifts and movements.
If you have any questions about core strengthening strategies and techniques for golf, please contact me directly by email at [email protected].
Jason Rivkin, ATC, CGFI-FP1 Head Golf Fitness Coach at FitGolf Performance Centers of the Delaware Valley
SEGMENTED ROTATION – USING RESISTANCE BANDS
At FitGolf we focus on training movement patterns to help create stability and consistency in your golf swing. Usually the movement pattern incorporates just your body weight as resistance. As you become more advanced, adding resistance to the movement pattern will help reinforce it. It is important to progress every exercise gradually; additional power, speed, and intensity may cause the movement pattern to become be compromised.
Separation of the hips and torso is important in the golf swing because it allows you to utilize the full power of your hips, while using the upper body and hands to direct the ball towards the target. This has been referred to as the “X Factor” in the golf swing. If you only use your upper body or hips and torso at the same time, you will not drive the ball as far, and your back and spine would eventually inform you of why this swing is not a good idea.
In March, LeadBetter Golf Performance expert Trevor Anderson contributed an article to the TRX Suspension Trainer website to improve your golf fitness. Anderson is a former pro football player, personal trainer, and TRX Instructor. The article had great exercises that you could use to improve your “golf athleticism”.
One of the exercises that were presented was Segmented Rotation. This is a great exercise to help you focus on keeping your lower body stable while strengthening and maintaining your rotation in your upper body and stability in that range of motion.
Segmented Rotation – Level 1
Before you can advance this exercise, you need to OWN the complete movement. You can spend a lot of training sessions just on this movement with extending the arms and/or using a heavier band.
Segmented Rotation – Level 2 – “Add the Lunge”
This exercise IS advanced, and you may need to practice regular lunges before you attempt this exercise. However for golfers/athletes who are comfortable with lunging, this will really help them create stable separation of the hips.
Segmented Rotation – Level 3 – “Put it Together with Power”
This movement is DYNAMIC, but in order for it to be productive for you, you will need to be stable in the movement. If you begin to lose stability in the movement or experience a decrease in power, then the set or exercise is over for that session.
At FitGolf, we use the TRX Suspension Trainer as well as the TRX Rip Trainer with our clients. However, you do not need to purchase a TRX Suspension Trainer or TRX Rip Trainer to perform the Segmented Rotation Exercise. We provide all our Masters clients with a Resistance Bank Kit that will allow them to perform the exercise with the same exact quality of movement.
For more information on Resistance Band Training, TRX Suspension Training, Golf Fitness Training, Aerobic Training Programs, Nutrition, and your Mental game email me at [email protected]
This is part 1B of a 4 part series examining different phases of the golf swing. These phases include the set-up, back swing, transition into the downswing, and weight shift and rotation to impact. Most know that each phase is important into achieving a consistent and powerful golf swing. What this series will provide are simple exercise interventions to make each phase easier for the amateur golfer. Today I will be discussing physical interventions to make a good set-up and posture easier to obtain.
In my previous post (click here for previous post) I discussed common flaws in golf posture such as C-Posture and its affect on movement in the golf swing. I also provided a drill called “Club Behind the Spine Sequence” to assist in feeling what it is like to set-up in a golf posture in which the pelvis and spine are in a straight and neutral position. Hopefully you all tried the drill out and had success.
Some of you may have found that it was difficult and uncomfortable to put your body in a position in which the spine is straight and the hips in a hinged position. Difficulty with active spinal and pelvic alignment is something I often see with new clients beginning golf specific movement training. Self identifying the root cause of golf posture problems is tricky, so I will discuss common areas and dysfunctions of the body that make achieving perfect posture difficult.
One reason why many amateur golfers find it difficult to set-up with straight posture is because the upper spine (thoracic spine) may have a difficult time extending or lengthening out. Many of us are sitting all day at work which leaves us vulnerable to a slouched and rounded shoulder position. The slouched sitting position tightens the shoulder and chest muscles, and weakens the stabilizers of the mid back and shoulders. The muscles that are weakened are responsible for keeping the upper spine long and straight in golf posture, but if you sit for the majority of your day, chances are you will have upper body posture dysfunction. The best way to fight upper body posture dysfunction is by stretching the muscles of the chest and the front of the shoulders, and strengthening the muscles of the upper back.
Two stretches I recommend you use are the “prayer stretch” and the “chest stretch over ball”. If you have access to a foam roller I would also highly recommend using “dynamic chest stretch”. Using these stretches daily will really help improve the flexibility in your chest and shoulders. For strengthening of the upper back, the simplest exercise you can do is resistance band or cable rows. The row can be done at the gym, home, or even at the office with a rubber tubing resistance band and will help take advantage of the flexibility you will develop in the chest and shoulders.
Another reason why posture is a challenge for many is because of pelvic muscle dysfunction. This works very similar as upper body posture dysfunction in that a lot of sitting will make certain muscles tight and others weak. When we look at pelvic and low back alignment issues in golf posture, the issue usually stems from tightness in the hip flexors and hamstrings, and weakness of the glues and deep abdominal muscles. In the seated position, the core simply does not have to work to support the upper and lower body. Your chair does all of the work for you! As a result, because the hips and knees are in a flexed and shortened position for prolonged periods of time, the hip flexors and hamstrings tighten. Due to the lack of core activation throughout the workday, the abs and glutes shut off and weaken. Muscle dysfunction of this type makes it difficult for the pelvis and low back to orient and stabilize in a neutral position. This makes good posture and rotation in the golf swing very difficult to obtain and maintain.
Two stretches and exercises I recommend using to improve pelvic muscle dysfunction are the “half kneeling hip flexor stretch” and “leg lowering against a wall”. The half kneeling hip flexor stretch will improve hip flexor length while training you to maintain a neutral spine angle. Leg lowering against a wall is a double edged sword. It will give you a great hamstring stretch while teaching the body to hinge from the hips properly and efficiently. For strengthening of the glutes, the best place to start is with the “supine glute bridge”. For re-education and strengthening of the deep abdominals I recommend starting with “lower abdominal exercise progressions: level 1 and 2-4”. To put it all together, try finding “pelvic tilt neutral” in golf stance. This is a great drill for pelvic control in the set-up and swing.
To conclude, setting up in great golf posture is much easier said than done. You must have sufficient strength, stability, and flexibility at the shoulders and pelvis. The problem is most of us do not because of too much sitting for prolonged periods of time! Try out the exercises to counteract muscle dysfunction that develops from sitting too much. If you do, your posture will improve.
If you have any questions related to golf health and fitness please contact me by email at [email protected].
Golf Fitness Coach