Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Golf : Improve your Swing



How to Fix Them?


Guest Article today on Golf swing mechanics from an old classmate of mine Dr. Don Wallace who used strong scientific data and rehab principles to correct some golf swings. Check it out!

Frustrated with your inconsistency. Have you tried all latest clubs? Maybe it’s not your clubs. Is it possible that your body is unable to perform a proper golf swing? Strength, flexibility, coordination and balance will help golfers play to their optimum potential.

Vladimir Janda was a renowned Neurologist and physical therapist who determined that there are certain muscles in our body are prone to be weak and certain

muscles that are prone to be tight. Interesting enough, the muscles that tend to be weak are the same muscles necessary for in an elite golf swing. These weak or inhibited muscles need to be activated and strengthened enabling you to perform a proper golf swing. The golf muscles that tend to be weak are the internal and external obliques (abdominals) the glut max and medius, (hip/buttox) and lumbosacral (lower back) muscles. The muscles that tend be tight are adductors (inner thigh), Psoas (Hip flexors), hamstring and thoracolumbar (mid to lower back muscles). An important finding by Dr. Janda is that the tig

ht muscles cause their opposite muscles to be weak or inhibited by something called reciprocal inhibition. For example if you perform a curl contracting your bicep, your tricep will be relaxed. So to get you optimum results, prior to strengthening your weak muscles, you should stretch your tight muscles.

A study of 750 golfers by David Leadbetter revealed that the elite golfer transfers 90% of their body weight to the back leg during the backswing while the amateur

s only transferred only 50%. On the initiation of the downswing a force of 110% of their body weight was transferred to the front leg of the elite golfers. The amateurs only transferred 65%. One reason that this occurs is because the body is unable handle these loads. It is important to recognize the swing fault, but if we know why it occurs we can fix the problem.

Lets go over some of the swing faults and what is causing them.

1) Reverse Pivot (figs B,L)

The reverse pivot is when the golfer’s back leg is straight and the body weight is shifted to the front leg. This reverse weight shift occurs due to compensation caused by weakness of the back leg’s hip, thigh muscles, specifically the glut max and the quadriceps muscles. If our back leg cannot handle 90% of our body weight during the back swing, the golfer will tend to straighten the back leg by locking the knee which helps support the body weight and then the golfer will tend to shift the weight to our front leg to maintain balance.

2) Inability transferring their body weight to the front leg

a) At the initiation of the downswing

b) At ball contact (fig F)

c) At the follow through (fig O)

This occurs due to lack of strength in front leg gluts and thigh muscles, not having the proper balance or a delay in firing of these muscles. As a result, we compensate by transferring the body weight on our back leg, something that you will never observe from an elite golfer. This will cause to hit the ball thin and again a loss of distance.

3) Swaying of the Pelvis

a) During the back swing (fig C)

b) During the downswing (fig G)

This is caused directly to the weakness or inhibition of the glut medius muscle. This muscle has a force of twice our body weight when we stand on one leg. So if the glut medius is weak or there is a delay in contraction of this muscle, the pelvis will sway in the direction of the loading. There is a tremendous amount of stored energy lost if this occurs.

4) Entire body (hips, torso, head and shoulders) sliding forward during the down swing (fig H). This results in a loss of distance and typically a push or slice. Again this is due to the weakness of the glut medius.

5) Swinging too much with our arms with limited body rotation (figs D, P)

One reason for this is inhibition of our internal external oblique muscles. A typical person does not rotate their upper body during the day. These muscles tend to go to sleep or become inhibited. Another reason can be lack of flexibility and mobility of the upper back. If there is too much curve in the upper back and there is overall poor posture of the spine where there the neck, mid and lower back are not aligned torso rotation will be limited.

Most of the rotation of our torso and shoulders come from the rotation from our mid back, not our lower back.

6) Loss of Spine angle

a) During the back swing (fig K)

b) At ball contact (fig M)

The reason for this is multifactoral

a) When the lower back muscles are too weak, they will not be able to hold their torso steady during the swing.

b) During the back swing as we discussed before if the golfers’ obliques are inhibited or weak, and the thoracic spine does not have proper flexibility or even improper posture, causes inadequate torso rotation. The result is a tendency to compensate by lifting their torso (body/head) up to try to create subconsciously yet ineffectively, a further backswing.

7) Coming over the top (fig J)

There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the primary reason are the arms and hands getting ahead of the body rotation.

When performing strengthening exercises I recommend to perform functional exercises, these are exercises that correlate to everyday life and/or your sport. For instance, sitting down pressing weight from a chair is a nonfunctional unless your job is to be a human automobile jack to press up cars with your legs so people can change their tires. An example of a functional exercise is performing a lunge. When performing a lunge, we are strengthening the gluts, quads while maintaining our core and balance. This is considered a functional exercise because when we walk, run, get up from the seated position or go up and down stairs we are using all of these muscles. Strength with coordination and proper sequence of firing of the muscles with balance is what is necessary in an effective golf swing. Strength without these other essential components is useless.

An efficient yet effective way to improve balance and actually glut medius strength, is to perform as many exercises that you do at the gym on one leg. For instance, if you sit and perform a curl you are doing very little for anything except your bicep. On the other hand, standing on one foot the glut medius and balance will be challenged while doing the curl curl.

Correcting the above swing faults will have common exercises.

If any of these exercise become too easy than advance to performing these exercises on a wobble board or physio-ball. This will really challenge your core, gluts and balance. Matter of fact, a study was performed and indicated that there was 300% more activity of the core muscle when doing the exercises like bridging on an exercise ball.

Correcting the 7 Swing Faults

Lets look at the reverse pivot and the non-transferring of the body weight to the front leg on the initiation of the down swing and the follow through. The first thing that you want to do is to stretch the hip flexors and hamstrings if they appear to be tight. The next thing is to strengthen and facilitate the glut max and the quadriceps while increasing balance. Two ways to check for weakness of the quads and glut max is to observe two movement patterns. One should be able to rise from the seated position with one leg smoothly and relatively easily and secondly is to observe the squat, the golfer should be able to squat down fully with the heels on the ground and the torso only flexing forward slightly.

Some great exercises are lunges, step ups, squats, and 1 legged bridges with a dip. When performing the lunges progress by lifting the stabilizing foot off the floor so all of your weight is on one leg. When these exercises get too easy, add more weight and or do them on a wobble board or physio-ball to make them more challenging. This will significantly help with balance and core strengthening.

The swaying of the pelvis back and forward or the entire body sliding forward can be corrected from stretching the hip adductor (inner thigh)muscles, strengthening the glut medius and improving balance.

Some of the exercises to strengthen the glut medius are: one legged bridging, one legged lunges or one legged step ups, side stepping with a elastic exercise tubing tide around the thighs, lying on your side with your elbow on the floor and your legs straight and lift you pelvis off and of course adding balance boards and physio balls to the exercises is added challenge.

Limited Body Rotation can be help by having good posture. Notice all of the pros have excellent posture. If you look at most pros from the side as you are looking at their target you will see that their head, neck, upper and lower back are aligned. Of course increasing flexibility of the upper and mid back (thoracic spine) is essential since it is the area of the spine that rotates the most. An exercise to help with torso flexibility is lying on your back and rotating hips and knees side to side. Another is sitting on the floor with one leg bent crossing over the other leg that remains on the floor and placing the opposite elbow on it and rotating as much as possible toward the flexed knee. I recommend checking out the exercises and stretches by Peter Egoscue.

The next thing is to strengthen the obliques. This accomplished by using a cable column or elastic exercise tubing, hold onto the handle with both hands and rotate to the back swing about ten times and turn around and rotate to the down swing. Again if you want to challenge yourself more, stand only on your back leg and rotate to the top swing ten times and then turn around and rotate to the top of your down swing standing only on the front foot. This will not only strengthen your obliques it will help with balance increase the strength and stabilization of the gluts and quads. So if you only want to do one exercise I recommend this one, it facilitates all the muscles used in the golf swing and will improving your balance.

Loss of spine angle again can be helped by improving the body rotation performing the exercises above but also by strengthening the lower back muscles. Proper dead lifts, lumbar extension exercises are very helpful. If your lower back is not ready for lumbar extension exercises, try the reverse lumbar extension exercises. You need a high table, lying face down with your thighs hanging off the table and lift them parallel to the floor. Bring the legs and thighs back down to the floor and lift them back to parallel about 10-15 times.

Coming over the top

There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary reason is the arms and hands getting ahead of the body rotation. So if we dominate our swing with rotation of the torso allowing centripetal force to be created and transferred to the arms and club rather than swinging with predominately the arms, the shoulders and club are more likely to stay on plane. Therefore the exercises for rotation will help the over the top swing. If the upper trapezius muscles are tight and the shoulders are raised up, forward and tense, an over the top swing will be inevitable. Therefore to eliminate this, stretching the upper trapezius muscles and ensuring that are shoulders are back and down will cause the upper trap to be relaxed at address and help eliminate the over the top swing.

Two of the best exercises that are fun and will develop your thighs, gluts, stabilize your lower back muscles and improve your balance are ice skating and rollerblading. If you don’t believe me, observe the development of Olympic speed skaters’ thigh and gluteal muscles.

Performing these exercises described alone is not the only answer, taking lessons from a PGA teaching professional after you get your golf muscles in shape will enable you to reach your optimal golf potential. You also might want to take some videos of yourself and determine if you can identify any of the above 7 swing faults. Now you will have an idea on how to correct them. You can teach a baby all you want to walk but if their body is not ready it will be impossible for them to walk. The instructor can tell you all things that you should do in your swing but if your body is unable to do it, than you and your instructor will be very frustrated.

Dr. Don Wallace

Check out Dr Wallace Website for information on Green Stick and how it can be used to correct and rehab swing mechanics.

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