In part 1 and part 2 of this article we are going to go deep into what the term disassociation is and why it’s such an important concept for rotational athletes such as golfers to understand, and a skill they need to be able to perform.
Your Must Know What Your Sport Requires!
Every golfer knows that golf is a sport that requires rotational power. And training for rotation power requires that you to truly understand the concept of disassociation. Yet, of the hundreds of golfers I’ve worked with over the years none have said they’ve been introduced to the concept of disassociation in their lessons.
What Is Disassociation?
As is relates to golf and other rotational sports, disassociation can be defined as the separation of one body segment from another in the transverse plane (the imaginary plane that divides the body into superior and inferior parts, or upper and lower halfs).
The Perfect Backswing Sequence
image of Rickie Fowler courtesy Golf Digest
“The first move in the backswing we call the golf swing takeaway. For many golfers-learning to get a great backswing takeaway feeling can transform the overall look and simplicity of your golf swing.”__ Danny Maude, Golf Pro
In rotational sports such as golf there is a loading phase and an unloading phase. For golfers, the loading phase begins when the hands move the club away from the target line on it’s way to the top of the backswing. In order to do this effectively, the athlete needs to move their upper body over a relatively fixed lower body. This stretches out what anatomically known as the Anterior Oblique Sling.
This is the same way a quarterback throws a football and a boxer prepares to throw a right cross. The trail arm is moving away from the lead leg/hip. Or in other words, the upper body and lower body are separating or disassociating themselves from one another.
When you move your hands away from the target while keeping your lead arm parallel with the ground you are able to store elastic energy in your lead hip and torso because your spine is rotating around the fixed axis of your trail hip. This allows your torso to work in concert with your hips to generate greater club-head speed, in a more efficient and fluid manner.
Think Of It This Way…..
Think of a bow and arrow. In order to make the arrow go far and fast and to hit your desired target you must first stabilize the bow with your lead arm and pull the string back as far as you can with your trail arm. In order to pull the string back as far as you can you must have good posture, balance, strength, and muscular elasticity in order to keep one part of your body secure and stable while stretching out the opposing segment. One half of your body remains stable while the other is moving (mobile). This is what allows you to generate power and is a perfect example of how stability and mobilty work together.
In a proper golf backswing the upper body going in one direction while the lower body is going in the other direction, which puts incredible amounts of tensile load on the tissues that cross from the lead hip to the trail shoulder. In order to get “wound up” to release enough kinetic energy for a powerful golf swing it is essential that the upper body leads in the backswing over a relatively fixed lower body.
This all sounds well and good but most amateur golfers have a hard time separating or disassociating their upper body from their lower body in the backswing sequence. They typically take their hands too deep to the inside (in other words into their trail hip), instead of the hands moving away from the target line. This means that the upper body and lower body are moving together as a unit, not separating or disassociating from one another.
If You Can’t Disassociate Then……
If a golfer struggles to disassociate the upper from the lower body then we might see the lower body over rotate during the backswing. We might see a lateral motion of the lower body (a sway) or the spine moving towards the target line (reverse spine angle) instead of away from it. Or they might just stand up too early in the backswing transistion and lose posture (early extension of the hips/flat shoulder plance). Anything but stay stable with their lower body and have the upper body rotate around it. All of these swing characteristics can lead to path and plane problems in the downswing sequence such as over-the-top and casting, as well as inconsistent shots and certainly a loss of power.
Early Extension Of The Hips
Reverse Spine Angle
Flat Shoulder Plane
Pain And Injury
Not only that, but it helps to keep you spine moving away from the target line and not torwards it. When the spine leans towards the target line it’s a swing characteristic known as Reverse Spine Angle and it is the number one cause of back pain in golf!
This was a problem Rickie Fowler had prior to 2015 and the Body-Swing Connection video below explains that along with a drill used to help correct that movement habit.
Can You Disassociate Your Upper Body From Your Lower Body?
Those of us trained by the Titleist Performance Institute can screen a golfer injust a few seconds see if they can or cannot disassociate. When it comes to the backswing – the screen that gives us instant feedback is the Torso Rotation Test.
The Torso Rotation Test checks the player’s ability to rotate the upper body independently from the lower body. This is an important skill for properly sequencing the backswing and generating a good separation or coil. This movement requires good mobility of the thoracic spine, and simultaneous stability of the lower body.
In order to do this you must possess the following physical prerequisites:
- adequate upper body mobility (measured by having the ability to rotate your thoracic spine at least 45 degrees) To measure adaquate upper body mobility we use the Torso Rotation Test.
- adequate lower body stabiltiy (meaured by having adequate glute strength to stabilize your pelvis and torso while the upper body is moving)
To measure adaquate lower body stability we use the Bridge With Leg Extension Test. This test measures Gluteus Maximus Strength.
- adequate lower body mobility (measured by having adequate hip internal rotation in order for your your pelvis and spine to rotate around it). To measure adaquate lower body mobility we use the Lower Quarter Rotation Test .
And you also need the motor control or the coordination to do it. This takes practice to train the nervous system to move the right parts at the right time.
Brett’s Bottom Line:
To perform a powerful and repeatable golf swing both the stable and mobile systems are equally as important in relation to one another. Stiff and strong cannot create force or power, loose or elastic cannot create force or power without a stable foundation to work from. The ability to keep one part of the body secure while stretching and contracting adjacent segments allows us to generate speed and maintain consistent posture while doing so.
END OF PART 1