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.
On the left, you will see poor loading of the trail hip. Notice how his weight rolls to the outside of the foot and the knee bows out.
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.
Proper Half Kneeling Positioning
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.
Half-Kneeling Chops with Rotation
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].
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!
The smoothest golf swings always appear as one fluid motion. While all golfers have a distinctly unique golf swing, the best ball strikers have the same sequence of movement from start to finish. Research has shown that the most efficient method of putting the golf ball into play is by beginning the downswing with the lower body leading, and the upper body and arms following along for the ride. All of these things occur in a very short amount of time, and in order for the swing sequence to occur this quickly and in a coordinated manner, a player must have proper control of their body.
In the first half of the golf swing, the body needs to separate its upper and lower halves in order to produce the tension our muscles need to “fire”. The greater the separation of these halves, the more likely a player is to create a powerful downswing. However, inhibitions in the core muscles, such as the abdominals and glutes, may prevent a player from rotating and separating correctly. This in turn may throw off their sequencing and most likely create compensations in technique. Along with the potential inability to separate, golfers may become weaker on their right or left sides due to repeated motions to the same side of the body. These dysfunctions may be demonstrated during certain exercise tests, such as rolling patterns. Rolling patterns are developmental exercises utilized to improve muscle activation and contraction sequences of the upper and lower body. They are also as simple as they sound: rolling from your back onto your chest, and rolling from your chest onto your back. These patterns help detect deficiencies in a player’s movement pattern, as well as any asymmetries on one side of the body compared to the other.
These rolling patterns, simple as they may seem, can help determine whether or not there is a lack of strength in the player’s core, joint tightness, or deficiency in motor control. As children, we learn to get from one place to another by any means necessary, and one of the first movements we are able to make is by lifting our head and rolling from side to side. At birth we are innately given the ability to properly separate our upper and lower body, but over time we lose that, possibly due to injury, joint tightness, or muscle weakness. This may make a movement such as rolling much more difficult than it is. Since golf is a rotational sport, a player must have the ability to coordinate movement from one side to another, and it is important to help a player develop the proper muscle control needed for their swing.
There are four different rolling patterns we like to use here at FitGolf: upper body face-up, upper body face-down, and lower body face-up and face-down. Let’s try a lower body roll, facing-up: Lie on your back with legs extended and your shoulders fully extended over your head on the ground. Now try to roll your body to face down position starting with your right leg only. Try not to use your upper body. Repeat on the other side. For an upper body roll in the same position, we want to lie on your back with your legs extended and your shoulders fully extended over your head on the ground. Now try and roll your body to the face down position starting with your right arm only. Try not to use your lower body. Repeat on other side.
Give these exercises a try at home, and try to determine how well you can separate your upper and lower body in both rolling and golf. If you have any questions about rolling patterns or separation in the golf swing, please contact 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].
At FitGolf Performance Centers we are constantly working to improve the understanding of how the body affects the golf swing. We have started up a new Research Project at our Delaware Valley location in cooperation with our National Headquarters. We are going to be looking at the rotation in the body and how it effects the flight of the ball in reference to distance utilizing cutting edge technology.
Why? Well, we have a hunch that lacking full rotation and flexibility within the body is going to negatively affect the power a golfer is able to generate throughout the swing.
Think back to the days of childhood when you would snap your brother or sister with a rubber band. You really pulled back on that rubber band to get the full desired effect of that quick, powerful snap resulting in a lovely red welt on your siblings arm. Same idea! … sort of…
Looking at a PGA golfer’s swing they have a very large range of motion within their hips, shoulders and thoracic spine. How well the body is able to coil around in the backswing is going to translate to the amount of power they can generate in the downswing. Having full rotation and range of motion within the body away from golf is going to translate into the actual swing.
Each movement within the swing builds upon the previous movements motion and energy. If, there is a restriction be it from lack of mobility, previous injury, or a muscular weakness it will impede the transfer of energy throughout the swing. For example, if the hips are not able to rotate properly the body is going to overcompensate in another spot to deliver a swing. This however, is going to lead to faults in that swing such as a loss of posture, lateral movement causing sways, and most importantly a loss of power.
Feel like you may be a victim of a lack of flexibility and rotation within your body? Here are two simple exercises to add in to your normal routine that will aid in upper and lower body rotations.
The Open Book exercise is to teach your upper body to rotate separate of your lower body. While performing this exercise it is important to keep your knees to the ground. Do not force your hand to ground either. The more you practice this the easier it will become.
The second exercise is the Leg Over exercise. This is to teach your lower body to rotate separate of your upper body. While performing this exercise try to keep your shoulders on the ground. Do not force your foot to the ground with this exercise either.
Check out our other blog postings and newsletters to find other exercises you can do at home to help increase your odds of your most powerful swing. Also, watch for your local Fit Golf Performance Center to be holding the reseach study that you may partake in.
Any other questions regarding rotation of the body and generating power, email me at [email protected]
It has been well documented that flexibility is essential for a full, solid golf swing. As a golfer, how do you maintain and gain flexibility? Sometimes stretching alone isn’t enough. Many flexibility and range of motion issues stem from the superficial fascia located between your skin and the muscle. Fascia is soft connective tissue that surrounds muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. It is essentially is the structure that holds everything together. Due to various reasons, the fascia can become “stuck” to the muscle is surrounds. This is called a myofascial adhesion and adhesions can restrict muscle extensibility which in turn will affect range of motion and muscle function.
Stretching alone will not suffice in breaking up myofascial adhesions. Here at FitGolf Performance Centers many of our golfers go through multiple hours of myofascial release and soft tissue mobilization before moving onto more dynamic “golf-specific” exercises. It is critical that this first step is taken because without fascial mobility it is very difficult if not impossible to gain permanent mobility at a given joint.
Even if you don’t have a clinician by your side, there are self-myofascial release techniques you can try out at home or at the gym to help your flexibility. One technique that has gained a ton of popularity the last couple of years is foam rolling. If you haven’t seen or heard of a foam roller, it is essentially a foam cylinder that comes in all different densities and sizes. The higher the density, the firmer the foam roller will be. The foam roller is essentially dental floss for the muscles. Just as you floss to remove plaque from the teeth, you want to roll your muscles to remove myofascial adhesions. As you roll the targeted muscle, you should be feeling for the adhesions. You will know you’re on one because the area will feel tenderer than other areas. Roll SLOWLY across these areas until a release is felt or it no longer feels tender with pressure.
Before starting any type of foam rolling program make sure you consult a qualified clinician or trainer on proper form and technique. Personally, I am a big fan and promoter of foam rolling due to success for both myself and clients using the foam roller. Incorporate the foam roller as an additional tool to other methods to assist you in achieving greater flexibility for your golf swing.
If you have any questions about the foam roller and myofascial release techniques please contact me, Jason Rivkin, directly at [email protected].
A golfer’s grip on the golf club needs to be strong and stable in order to handle the force produced by their legs and torso. If your grip and forearms are not strong enough to handle this power, then you can lose accuracy and control. There must be a fine balance between a relaxed grip and “death grip.” There are a few articles out there about using dumbbells to strengthen forearms. You can purchase fancy grippers to increase your grip strength. You may even go as far as carrying a racquetball or something to squeeze as you drive in your car. No matter what you choose help increase the strength of your grip, you will still need to make sure that you prescribe a number of sets and reps. You will need to plan your rest as well.
While it may be good to address grip by itself as an exercise, it may be more effective to take a step back and see if there is something that you already do that will help increase your grip strength. Just holding a weight in your hand, will automatically engage the muscles in your hand. Even though you are picking up the weight to do a different exercise (dumbbell bench press, rows, bicep curls, etc.), you still need to be able to HOLD the weight. In fact, it will be your grip that will give out before your larger muscles begin to fatigue.
So a simple way to increase your grip strength naturally is to be aware of the amount of tension you are creating to hold the weight. If you are using OTHER muscle groups to keep the weight in your hand, then you are not strengthening your grip any more. One of my favorite exercises to increase my grip strength, shoulder stability, core stability, as well as drive my heart rate up is the Farmer’s Walk.
How to perform the exercise
Simply pick up a heavy weight (dumbbell, kettlebell, heavy suitcases, bucket of rocks, water, dirt, etc.).
Choose weight that you realistically can only hold for about 20 seconds, before you have to put it down.
Walk around with good posture, until you need to put the weight down.
Perform this exercise for 2 to 5 sets, and work your way up to 1 minute. When you can walk around with good form for longer than a minute, it is time to increase the weight.
For all Questions related to Aerobic Training Programs, golf fitness, nutrition, and your mental game email me at [email protected]
Recently, I came across a great article in Golf Magazine regarding the USGA and Chevron partnership to collect and analyze data aimed at improving the “health of the game.” As part of the Eagles for Education initiative, the USGA is using interns to distribute GPS Logger to golfers to help track their position and movement every 5 seconds along the golf course. The information is downloaded and sent out to the USGA Research and Test Center which is located in Far Hills, NJ. The information will help golf courses plan their course layout by identifying issues with start times, course set-ups, and bottlenecks along the course. For golfers, they will be able to understand how their pace-of-play can be affected by walking versus riding and/or playing from different sets of tees.
It seems any golfer can benefit from tracking their own data. Whether you have a GPS unit on not, tracking your movement is irrelevant. Keeping notes on your round: weather, humidity, how you feel, what you ate, club selection, shot selection, and fatigue level – both physically and emotionally – will allow you to look back and identify what you did well, and what you did not do well. Many golfers seem to go right to the “mental game” and believe that a bad round was due to “second guessing themselves.” That could be true, but if you don’t write it down, then you can spend a lot of time just guessing.
At FitGolf, we can help you plan out your round from start to finish: self-screen, warm up, pre-round and shot routine, nutrition, in game adjustments, post –round cool down. We are trained to ask you the right questions to figure out what happened, but it will help us more if you keep this data and bring it with you during your session. Many athletes in other sports track their own data – MLB pitchers keep track of which pitches to use with certain batters, quarterbacks chart plays to see how well they execute, and endurance athletes work off training paces to peak at the right time. Golf incorporates all aspects of training, so there is a lot of things that can affect your game. Reviewing the data will allow you to go back through your round, and see where things may have gone wrong. If you know what you did wrong, you will be able to focusing on correcting this for the next time.
It also allows you to see the things you did well! Knowing what you do well will allow you to rely on your strengths when things get tough. And since you record every round, you’ll have more reason to celebrate when you are successful!
For all Questions related to Aerobic Training Programs, golf fitness, nutrition, and your mental game email me at [email protected]
“Too bad the average person can’t afford such treatment.”
“Are these secrets to better golf?”
“Why are you dressed like Buzz Lightyear?”
Funny and negative comments aside, the main question asked, “Should I be doing this to improve my golf?”
The answer is “YES!”
It is true that some of the physiological testing that McILroy goes through in the picture (VO2 Max) may be a little over the top for the average golfer, however, when you want to be the best at your sport, then you will go through the extra effort to get the information you need about your fitness level. The GSK Human Performance lab is continually developing tests to measure an elite athlete’s strength , endurance, nutrition, recovery, as well as cognitive thinking.
Getting control of your “mental game”, means getting control of your “physical game.” Again, you may ask, “Should I be doing this to improve my golf?” The answer again is, “Yes!” However, you do not have to fly to Brentford to be tested. In fact, fitness assessments can be performed by most certified personal trainers or strength and conditioning coaches.
At FitGolf Performance Centers, we have our own Golf Performance Evaluation where we can put you through a physical screen to identify any muscle imbalances you may have. We also use KVEST Technology which helps us identify any possible PHYSICAL issues in your swing. Knowing your health history, as well as any previous injuries is important, because they can affect your golf game. Even something that happened years ago! It is important to know what kind of sports you played when you were younger, because the training you went through may also affect your golf game. Finally, your current lifestyle and job may also affect your golf game.
No matter how hard you try on the golf course, how many lessons you take, or how many mental golf books you read, you still may have issues with your game that have nothing to do with those things. Going through a fitness assessment will allow you to understand what your current “training age” is and where your baseline fitness level is at. Once you know where you are at, then you can beginning working on the areas that need improvement. You also are able to understand what you do well!
Many times golfers continue to practice the things they already do well, because it builds their confidence. Knowing what you do physically well, will allow you to spend more time on the skills that need development. Working with a Golf Fitness Professional will allow you to have an initial assessment, and develop a PLAN to address your weaknesses. Having a structured plan will free up more time because you will be focusing on the things you need to improve. More time, means more time to play and do more important things!