Friday, March 14, 2014

Getting Ready for the Golf Season

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The weather is starting to get nicer and nicer, and for many this means it's time to dust off those golf clubs from the garage and start hitting the links.

If you haven't been doing anything all winter, well you're in luck because you still have some time to get ready before getting on the course.

You might be asking, get ready for what?

Well Golf of course.  One of the biggest mistakes seen with golfers is just stepping into the driver's box and going.  No preparation, no progression; just go from 0-60mph and hope for the best.

Training for golf is still a work in progress for many, but taking the time to get in golf shape will go a long ways in improving not only your golf game, but ensure health and safety.

Golf is notorious for low back, hip, and shoulder pain.

Why?  It's pretty obvious when you consider the massive speeds of joint motion and the demands this puts on stability and control.  Compound this with the majority of golfers being under prepared for these demands and you have a mixture for potential problems.

As we like to say,

Earn the Right to Rotate!

The golf swing is like driving a Lamborghini at 100mph - it's freakin' poetry in motion.

But before we can get behind the seat of that Lambo, you need to pass the required driving tests and master the car at lower speeds.

Same for the golf swing - you can't just put the Driver in you hands and expect things to be peachy.  You need to master the lower ends of movement and exhibit proper range of motion and control before you start trying to get on the green in 2.

Let's go over how you can start to prepare yourself for the springs golf game.

Movement

The first objective we try to create is a quality base of movement.  If you can't move well, you can't perform well.

We want to be able to move in all directions and perform basic movements like squats, lunges, skips, shuffles, crawling, etc.

This movement will develop a good base in which a golfer can build specific skills on.  It's also an opportunity to build general conditioning and improve work capacity.  If we can build this base, all other skills will be optimized more fully and it will give you the ability to play strong for 18-holes.

Mobility

Mobility is HUGE in golf - just think about what the hip, spine, shoulder, and ankle go through on a typical swing.  These range of motion demands put a big burden on the body to safely reach these positions for optimal performance.  Here are typical areas of need...

Thoracic Rotation - During the back-swing the thoracic spine must rotate to create hip and shoulder dissociation in what is known as the X-Factor.  This X-Factor is what creates rotational power and if a golfer lacks thoracic rotation they'll lose out on power or will compensate somewhere else in the body.

The lumbar spine often compensates for this lack of thoracic rotation and we know the lumbar spine tends to favor stability.  The thoracic spine has greater range of motion potential than the lumbar spine and when we start "stealing" this range of motion from the lumbar spine, bad things often result.  Is it any question lower back pain is the #1 injury seen in golfers?

X-Factor From the World's Best

Hip Internal and External Rotation - During the back-swing, your rear hip needs internal rotation and the lead hip need external rotation.  As a golfer progresses down through their swing this rotation switches and during the follow through the lead leg needs internal rotation and rear leg need external rotation.  If the hip lacks this external/internal rotation during any of these phases, the swing mechanics will be altered, power will be lost, or again the body will compensate.

Of the two, lack of internal rotation is seen more often than external rotation.  It's no question why many golfers will turn their toes slightly outward, as this decreases the stress of internal rotation.  But this can only go so far.  If you can't reach maximal hip internal rotation, your back-swing and follow-through will be shortened and it's pretty easy to see how this can effect your swing detrimentally.

Shoulder - The shoulder may not seem like a vocal point of the golf swing, but it's importance can't be understated. In fact a study by Loook et al, 2013 showed how important the shoulder is during the golf swing. Here is a quote from their study

"while golf does not require an extremely demanding arm action, it does, however, entail highly synchronized rotator cuff muscle activity so as to protect the shoulder complex, especially during the downswing. These findings agree with research that also considered the activity of the scapular muscles in the upper back region (levator scapulae, rhomboid, trapezius, serratus anterior) throughout the golf swing. These data indicate that the upper, middle, and lower trapezius muscles work collectively, assisting in the retraction of the scapula throughout different sections of the swing"

The shoulder really is a neglected body part in golf, but it plays an important role in the power and consistency of a golf swing.  

Ankle - Another often forgotten joint during a golf swing is the ankle.  The ankle helps to transfer forces into the ground, and it also plays an important role during the many parts of the swing.  If the ankle lacks range of motion, often times the foot or knee will compensate and this can lead to many of the knee issues seen in golfing. 

Bretzel: The Best Golf Stretch Ever?!

We love the bretzel for all athletes, but especially golfers.  It targets just about all of the areas of need and mimics the demands of rotation needed for golf.  Give it a try and you'll why we love it!



Stability
 
After mobility it's vitally important to work on stability, specifically rotary stability.  Stability is the ability to control movements and resist unwanted movements.  If a golfer lacks stability, it reduces the ability to control the various positional demands seen during the golf swing.  This reduced control can potentially put specific joints in harms way.

If a golfer can't control the requirements during the back-swing, then this position may be causing harm.  Golfers need to be strong and stable in these large movements in order to ensure health and safety.  Some of our favorite methods include band/cable chops, lifts, and pallof presses.  Another easy movement is the side plank as this requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.

Pallof Press



1/2 Kneeling Chop



Strength

Golf is a lateral and rotational sport and thus it requires strength and power in these movements.  If you can train in these movements your golf game will improve.  A typical workout of bench press, bicep curls, and leg extensions does you no good for golf.  Your workout needs to improve your lateral and rotational abilities and this will help lead to maximal carryover and direct improvement on the course.  Here are some starting points that will help improve your strength for golf.

Lateral Lunges - This will help improve the drive and power created by your rear leg.

Turkish Get-Ups (TGU) - TGU's are an all encompassing exercise that really targets everything a golfer needs.  Kind of like the Bretzel, the TGU may be one of the best exercises a golfer can do.

Be warned though, it's a tough exercise and involves different steps, but once you master it, great things will happen to your golf game.  Check out THIS ARTICLE on the details of the TGU

Here's a great first progression to perfect before you start adding weight




Med Ball - Using med balls are a great way to develop the rotational power that is key during the golf swing.  This is also a great way to groove the golf sequence and perfect the sequence of hips, torso, shoulders, arms, to club.  HERE are some of favorite variations.



Single Arm Variations - Performing single-arm variations is a great way to challenge the body unilaterally and also apply some rotational forces in the body.  This will improve the bodies stability and control, but it will also improve the bodies ability to work unilaterally.

Single Leg Variations - Just as single-arm variations are important, so are single-leg variations.  Being able to control single-leg variations help to improve stability and control of the hip, knee, and ankle.  Plus single-leg variations are athletic and can help many golfers gain the strength needed for their game.

Learn More!

For even more info check out this Prezi

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