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:

  1. Weight transfer
  2. Lower body rotation
  3. Upper body rotation
  4. Arms
  5. Club

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).

BATTER’S UP!

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.

golf-power

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]

Download (PDF, Unknown)

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.

Phases of the golf swing - the top.

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].

Jason Rivkin

Golf Fitness Coach

FitGolf Performance Centers of the Delaware Valley

 

Prepare For Spring Golf With Fitness and Flexibility Training

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.

Tight Hamstrings

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.

Hamstring 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!

Jason Rivkin

Proper Core Strengthening For Your Golf Swing

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

What is Your Fitness Handicap?

It has been a very exciting time in the golf world lately! The Masters finished up and a new star was born.   Jordan Spieth took his first green jacket and the number one spot at the Masters.

Speith2

It is difficult to think this 21 year old ever had swing faults.  But he did, and lots of practice really paid off.  Many athletes are born with natural talent however, it is also extremely hard work to make it to the top and then maintain that spot.

Back in 2006 Spieth partnered up with his current trainer, Cameron McCormick.   McCormick saw right away that Spieth’s swing was steep and this produced a reverse pivot.  Spieth also had a tendency to slide his hips during the back swing instead of rotating.

McCormick accredited these swing faults to immobility and weaknesses within Spieth’s glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, and his lower back.  The main muscles that are firing during the swing.  After 9 years together, extensive training, and a better mind to muscle connection McCormick has created a Master!

speith 3 speith4

Everyone has to start somewhere.  Look at Rory McIlroy, he has been working with his trainer, Steve McGregor since 2010.  When McGregor first worked with McIlroy it was very apparent that there were a few issues.

McIlroy has been swinging a club since he was a toddler without a large focus on his own physical fitness.  Instead he had been relying on his natural athleticism.  This worked for him, for a period of time.  McIlroy, you see without the proper physical training he was actually creating a problem for himself.  This led to an injured lower back from overuse and an imbalance in strength between his left and right side

McGregor worked on core and back strengthening along with more single arm and single leg exercises.  After a short 5 years with his trainer, McIlroy is sitting pretty as a top golfer with an increased club head speed, more distance with his driver and being able to hit the ball harder without losing his balance.

rory2 Rory1

There is a lot of scientific evidence out there that suggests strong and physically fit people have a higher level of self confidence, self worth, and physiological well being.  Knowing what your personal weaknesses are can go along way to making you into the strongest and most confident individual you can be!

Contact your local FitGolf Performance Center to find out what your fitness handicap is and how you can get started on your most powerful swing!

Get Screened, Get Tested, Get Assessed – Get Better?

Following his Open Championship win at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Rory McILroy posted the following picture on Facebook:

Back to work today @GSK_HPL #betterneverstops #GSKHPL

  The picture that Rory McILroy posts on Facebook was taken at the GSK Human Performance Lab Sports Science Center located in Brentford, South England. Many fans on Facebook were curious and posted comments on his page such as,

Looks like a hard day in Gym and Fitness camp.”

“Should I do this to improve my golf?”

“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!

Spring Your Body to Powerful Golf

Spring is FINALLY upon us and over the last couple of months I have been asking our golfers what their goals are for the 2014 golf season. In almost every instance, one of their goals includes distance and power. Some people are looking for an extra 10-20 yards while others are simply trying to delay the effects of aging and maintain the power they already have. As a golf fitness coach, assessing what needs to be done to increase power is not rocket science. I ask myself one, does this golfer have the necessary mobility and flexibility across all of the body’s joints to create power? And two, does this golfer have the necessary strength and stability around those joints to harness the energy flexibility creates? After a long winter of hard training the answer to these questions should be and usually are YES. From here I turn my attention to the golf swing itself. It is great to have the necessary power tools, but if you can’t put the pieces together then all of winter’s hard work goes to waste.

I have been looking closely at our golfers’ swings, and with the help of our technology I have seen that many of our golfers share a power killing flaw. This flaw is a lack of weight shift and pivot of the trail leg. Most amateur golfers are aware that the majority of power comes from the lower body, but don’t necessarily know how to create power without making the swing upper body dominant. The trail leg (the right leg of a right handed golfer) serves as the foundation from which all energy is created in the backswing. I commonly see trail legs that exhibit the “wobbly knee” trait and bodies that sway into the backswing. The key to loading and unloading the trail leg is to keep the leg stable without moving laterally. As previously stated, this requires both mobility and stability of the trail leg’s hip.   

Many of our golfers are uncertain when I ask them whether or not they are loading their trail hip. There’s a great swing drill you can use to feel the sensation of a loaded trail hip. In your address, shift 80-90% of your weight to your trail leg with the knee slightly flexed. 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 rolling your weight to the outside of the trail foot or the knee “bowing” outside of the foot.

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.

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.

If you can perform this drill successfully, go through AT LEAST 20-30 reps. Doing this will ingrain the loaded feeling in your brain, which will help you successfully load in a regular, complete swing. If you struggle with the drill and feel tight or unstable on your trail leg, you may need some hip stretching, hip stability exercises such as clam shells and side leg lifts, or balance work to improve your ability to load your trail leg.

For any questions on the body, fitness, and how it relates your golf swing, please contact me directly at [email protected] or by phone at 610-940-3835.

Dynamic Hip Movement for More Power using Golf Fitness – Part 3

This week we continue our discussion on the importance of the hips in the golf swing and how to harness the power of our newly learning movement. If you have missed the previous posts, you should review PART 1 and PART 2 before using the information in this post. The order is important because you cannot learn how to run without knowing how to balance on your feet first. You must have the range of motion and know how to use that new range before you can effectively create power. With that noted, we may move on to the exciting stuff.

Powerful hips are necessary in many aspects of health and performance. In golf performance, they influence club head speed, kinematic sequencing (hips drive the downswing), and the ability to create a solid base for the rest of the body to move around. That solid base comes from your ability to slow, or stabilize, the speed that you have generate. As I mentioned before, it is hard to stop the sports car with the big engine without having big enough brakes to stop. Your body will not let you generate more speed if you are potentially going to injury yourself. They body does a great job of protecting itself from self harm. How else do you think you keep your head above your feet all day?

One easy way to swing faster is to … swing faster. Before you swing for the mountains, there is a right and wrong way to do this. Do not grab the weighted club and hit balls as hard as possible. Your back and shoulders will not like you if you do this. It is best to train power with an upright spine and develop skill in golf posture. Because of this, we train speed by swinging like a baseball player. This helps to avoid any unnecessary pressure in unnecessary places. Using a 5 iron, start by kneeling on a pillow and swing the club like a kneeling baseball player. Perform 10 repetitions and then swing the club the other direction. That is correct, I just said swing the club as if you a lefty (for all you right handed golfers out there). After you have evened out your 10 per side, stand up and perform the same 10 swing to the right, then 10 swings to the left.

By swinging the club in both directions, you are learning the ability to generate and control speed from both directions. This rotary stability development teaches you to create more speed and gives your body the ability to control the swing all the way to the end. This drill does have a cardiovascular component to it and can easily be substituted with your current exercise routine. Again, I stress the importance of taking the time to be sure each step in placed in the right position. If you have questions about your physical abilities for power generation, consult your local Golf Fitness Professional for a full consultation.

Contact Ryan directly at [email protected] with any questions in regards to the body in the golf swing or golf fitness training. 

Dynamic Hip Movement for More Power using Golf Fitness – Part 2

In my previous post, the importance of mobility was discussed for improving ones ability to get to the lead side. Since we now know how far the hips can move, let us learn how to reach the end of the road. It is pointless to have a map in hand without a destination to go. We will begin by doing a drill called the Side Lying Clamshell. lying on your side with the knees and hips at a 45 degree angle. Keeping the hips steady, seperate the knees as far as you can go before the hip begins to roll back. Repeat this move for a total of 40 times both sides.

To use this strength in a more functional manner, the Half Kneeling Rotation drill is best to train the hip with the force of gravity working against us as it would in the golf swing. Start by kneeling on one knee with the arms holding a golf club overhead. Keeping the lower body still, rotate the upper body to the right and then to the left. Be sure to maintain a long axis through the spine. A common mistake is to ‘corkscrew’ the arms or bend backwards as you rotate. The stick should remain level to the floor at all times and the chest should be stuck out like a proud golfer. This drill should be done for 10 to 15 repetitions and repeated on both knees.

Eric Cressey states that you can only generate as much power as you can stop. What he means is you will likely not drive your sports car 100 mph without having the brakes to stop you before hitting the wall ahead of you. In my next post, we will discuss how to generate more power in the golf swing by training our body to slow down. I know what you are thinking, ‘but I want to go fast.’ I will explain next time why the ability to slow (or control) the body is a necessary part in speed generation.

 

Contact Ryan directly at [email protected] with any questions in regards to the body in the golf swing or golf fitness training. 

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