everybody deserves to feel better, move more freely
and play golf to their genetic potential.
As I sit down to write this (January 12, 2020), we had a high temperature of 66 degrees in New York City. But despite that spring like temperature I assure you it’s still winter, at least until March 19th. That’s almost enough time to get you in golf shape for the 2020 season.
Yes, spring is near and it’s time to start thinking about getting in golf shape for the 2020 season.
What Does It Mean To Be In Golf Shape?
Simply this: Having the physical ability to produce a consistent shot with minimal risk of injury.
Now if you are like the vast majority of my current clients (a male over age 50) your golf swing is probably not going to look like the pros. And sadly that’s what most teaching professionals will compare you to. They want you to get your body is the same positon as (fill in the blank pro).. Sorry, not gonna happen.
The fact is the average amateur golfer is not physically capable of performing the requried body movement that are involved in getting into the postion to produce a mechanically correct golf swing.
And the reason for that is they lack adequate flexiblity and mobility to rotate from where they need to rotate from.
Mainly the hips and thoracic spine.
So to be fit for golf we need to pursue performance, not appearance. It’s irrelevant how big your muscles are if you can’t get into a position to use them correctly. Suffice it to say most of you can be out driven by an average female college golfer. They are not bigger or stronger than you are but they likely move better than you do. They have the physical abiltiy to get into postition to deliver a powerful and consistent golf swing, with minimal risk of injury.
Where Do We Start?
If you want your 2020 season to be better than your 2019 season then we have to find out what’s working and what’s not working. That means taking a written and oral history of your past and/or current injuries and what part of the game you are struggling with the most. Then we move onto the physical screen. The golf fitness assessment identifies what your body can and cannot do and how that effects your golf swing (this is called the Body-Swing connection).
The main purpose of a fitness screen is to indentify and potential risk factors for specific injuries common to golf and the most common injury complaint amongst golfers is low back pain. In fact it’s reported that 70% of golfers world wide have complained of back pain at some point in time and it’s the number one reason golfers leave the game.
But You Already Workout….
I know you are struggling with flexibility and core strength. All of my clients are. If you are training on your own I compliment you on your efforts but I ask you this –
If you are don’t be hard on yourself... it’s because of the following:
1. The average amateur golfer does not have the knowledge of how of how to put together a complete training program.
2. The average amateur golfer does not know how to create a workable plan of action that integrates all the components that are necessary for their success.
3. The average amateur golfer needs someone else to be accountable to to keep them on track and moving forward.
If you want your body to be able to do the things you want it to do when you hit the links this spring you are going to need a plan.
I Can Help
As a golf performance specialist I have been helping golfers just like you improve how they move since 2002! My mission is to keep golfers healthy and having fun. If you’re in pain – you’re not playing the game you love. My goal is to enhance your bodies ability to deliver maximal force into the golf ball by reprogramming your sequence and conditioning the muscles that drive a powerful and consistent swing.
Today, almost every PGA and LPGA player uses a golf fitness professional to help them improve performance and reduce the risk of playing related injuries. So should you! If you want more distance – more golf and more fun then you need to call (917) 596-8485 and get started as soon as possible.
Brett’s Bottom Line:
“If your body doesn’t work the way it need to – to play golf the way you want to – come see the guru. I can help you play golf better!”
NY Golf Fitness Guru
“Feel The Difference In Your Body, See The Difference In Your Swing”
Here is what some of my clients are saying:
“I have had the great experience working with the NY Golf Fitness Guru for over a year.
This commitment to his workout programs and training, his in depth expertise of golf fitness, his vast knowledge in physiology, biomechanics , nutrition and ever expanding certifications has lowered my handicap in half , prevented injuries and has facilitated competing and winning my club championship and two other medal play events.”__Dr. Howard Zaiff
“Brett made a huge difference in my golf this year. I’m 68, 9 Hcp. More mobility, flexibility and distance. Can’t wait to continue.”__Dr. Allen Fishman
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.
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:
To measure adaquate lower body stability we use the Bridge With Leg Extension Test. This test measures Gluteus Maximus Strength.
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