The Loading Phase
As discussed in Part 1, 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.
If you haven’t had a chance to read Part 1 click the link below to take you to the article and get caught up.
Your Must Know What Your Sport Requires!
I’ve asked every golfer I’ve every trained this question: What part of your body starts the downswing sequence? Surprisingly many cannot give me a clear and concise answer. Well now that we know the upper body initiates the backswing sequence it should be apparent that the lower body begins the downswing sequence. And it does. BUT, if you don’t perform the backswing sequence correctly it will be nearly impossible to do so. Remember, some of the results of taking your hands too deep to the inside were early extension of the hips, flat shoulder plane, and reverse spine angle. All of which will make it nearly impossible to maintain dynamic posture and keep the club on plane.
The Kinematic Sequence
Using data collected from 3-D motion analysis systems we can look how golfers transfer speed or energy throughout their bodies. The way golfers get energy to the club is known as The Kinematic Sequence. The amazing thing is that all great ball strikers have a remarkably similar kinematic sequences of generating speed and transferring that speed throughout their bodies.
The Unloading Phase
The efficiency of generating speed starts in the lower body which then transfers that speed into the torso, then into the arms and into the club. This means that regardless of style (the way the swing looks), in order for it to be efficient, the downswing sequence needs to begin with the lower body.
The correct Kinematic Sequence is the key to a powerful, repeatable and consistent golf swing.
If you look at the best players in the world – when they get to the top of the backswing the first segment to move is going to be the pelvis (the lower body). The second segment is the thorax/toro, then the arm and finally the club.
The Perfect Downswing
The perfect downswing begins at set up. The best players start with a neutral spine at address. That means their spine is basically a straight line that represents the letter ‘I’. An ‘I’ spine gives you the best opportunity to rotate the torso efficiently. If you set up to the ball with either a ‘C’ spine posture or ‘S’ spine posture you will limit your ability to turn from your thoracic spine and more than likely compensate by rotating too much from your lumbar spine. This will eventually lead to irritation, inflammation, pain, injury and eventually surgery .
The ‘I’ spine at set up affords you the opportunity to disassociate your upper body from your lower body and take the club away from the target without losing your origninal postural lines at set up. Once you get your arms to the top of the backswing it’s time to begin the downswing sequence. Remember, in transition, once we’ve loaded, we want the lower body to initiate the downswing transition towards the target while the upper body is loaded or is still loading.
Can You Disassociate Your Lower Body From Your Upper Body?
There are two tests those of us trained by the Titleist Peformance Institute use to determine how well you can separate or disassociate your lower body from your upper body. Those tests are:
The Pelvic Tilt Test is a great test for overall mobility of the hips and the lumbar spine and tests the golfer’s ability to control the position of their pelvic posture in the swing. The ability to move and control the position of the pelvis is critical for optimal power transfer from the lower body to the upper body during the golf swing. If the player cannot separate or disassociate their lower body from their upper body they might just stand up or move their lower body too soon in the downswing transition simply because they do not have the ability to control the pelvis .
What I’m Looking For…..
So the first thing I’m looking for in the The Pelvic Tilt Test is how you set up. Is your posture neutral or does your spine look like the letter ‘C’ or an ‘S’? If it’s a ‘C’ or an ‘S’ this test is going to be very difficult for you to perform the Pelvic Tilt Test.
Next I’m going to ask the golfer to arch and flatten the lower back (lumbar spine) without the upper body moving. If the golfer has difficulty with this then I’ll hold onto the shoulders to see if adding stability to the upper body will help them to disassociate.
Like the Pelvic Tilt Test, the Pelvic Rotation Test is checking for the player’s ability to move the lower body independently from the upper body. This time to rotate the pelvis back and forth without movement in the upper body. This an important skill for properly sequencing the downswing and generating good separation between the upper and lower body. This movement requires good mobility of the spine, hips and pelvis, along with simultaneous stability of the torso.
What I’m Looking For…..
The upper body has to stay perfectly still while the lower body rotates back and forth. It’s critical that the motion is rotational in nature and not side to side. When you cannot disassociate the lower body from the upper body we usually see the body moving together as a unit OR the lower body moving side to side like a dog who’s happy to see you wagging its tail.
If the player has difficulty with this test, once again I’ll hold onto the shoulders to see if the pattern improves. If it doesn’t it may be we need to work on both lower body mobility as well as the coordination of the movement pattern.
This pelvic rotation test is critically important in the downswing sequence because as you know if you are working on path and plane, it’s the lower body being able to separate itself from the upper body that drops the club into the slot.
To see these screens being performed on two golf pros check out this Youtube video of my buddies Andy Proudman and Piers Ward of Me and My Golf get screened by Dave Phillips of the Titleist Peformance Institute.
Brett’s Bottom Line:
Being able to disassociate the lower body from the upper body is a major power source in the golf swing. When you can perform the torso rotation test, the pelvic rotation and pelvic tilt test without the compensation, now we have a formula for a powerful and repeatable golf swing. This is why the screening process is so important. The screen tells you how your body relates or effects your golf swing (the body-swing connection). This is critically important becuse if you are working on getting better and trying to improve your swing and your body is not moving the way it needs to to allow you to do the things you want to do with the club you’ll be effectively banging your head again the wall because you just can’t do it. You could be hitting golf ball after golf ball trying to improve your game and your pro cold be telling you the right things, but physically you don’t have the ability to do it. But once you’re armed with the information from the screen you can take that to your coach and either work around those physical limitations or try to break through them in the gym.