Golf Fitness Stretches Broken Down

In the golf fitness world, misconceptions run rampant in regards to flexibility and stretching. Most golfers may have a general understanding of stretching and flexibility training due to their coach or trainer’s instruction before or after practices or matches. Fewer weekend golfers have as much, if any, exposure to flexibility training. Common misconceptions include differing opinions about whether or not to stretch before, during, or after a workout. Most people who workout or try golf fitness will fail to ever stretch a single muscle. Some who do stretch may be over-stretching or simply stretching completely wrong.

There are two major focuses every golfer or individual working out should keep in mind:

1. Flexibility is essential in every golf fitness routine and for proper activities of daily living.

2. Don’t stretch cold muscles.

So how can you engage in proper flexibility training for golf fitness? Begin by defining flexibility.

Flexibility is the ability to move joints through their normal ranges of motion. The key word in that definition is “normal”. It is very possible to over-stretch. Without going too deep into the physiology of flexibility training, it may help to briefly explain the principles of tissue elasticity, tissue plasticity, and tissue viscoelasticity.

Tissue elasticity refers to the ability of a muscle to return to it’s original form after an external force is removed. Our body is highly intricate, and this ability of our tissues is essential in preparation for activity. When our muscles are stretched to the point of their elastic limit, also referred to as the “yield point”, they are able to improve their extensibility. This is how regular stretching increases flexibility. Over-stretching, or taking a muscle tissue past it’s yield point, is called permanent set, permanent deformation, and more well-known as a strain. A simple way to avoid this would be to stretch to the point, or just before the point, of pain.

Tissue plasticity is the result of a muscle tissue deforming when loaded past a yield point. Continually doing this causes repetitive microtrauma to the muscle. Your tissue will be less efficient in their movements, less stable, and your range of motion will be decreased.

Tissue viscosity is what allows a muscle to resist load. Tissue viscoelasticity is a combination of both elasticity and plasticity, in regards to their behavior. For example, if you stretched a muscle with a low load, or simple pressure, it is going to react with an elastic behavior. Conversely, if you subject the same muscle to intense pressure, or a higher load, a plastic response will occur. The principle of viscoelasticity reacts to temperature. For this reason, it is vital to warm up the body’s fluids and muscle tissues before stretching. This reduces viscosity and allows for proper flexibility and extensibility. If you’re going to work the legs muscles, ride a bike for 5-10 minutes and then stretch.

These principles of muscle tissue help explain the importance of flexibility training due to the added benefits of preventing muscle deformation, chronic microtrauma, and gradual tissue failure. Flexibility training is also important because it reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. If your muscles are flexible and trained for the movements you put them through during exercise or sport, your chances of injury will diminish significantly. Stretching is important, and equally important is stretching properly.

As mentioned previously, your muscles should not be stretched past the point of discomfort. When stretching, you have various options to reach your flexibility training goals.

Static stretching can be done alone. No partner is required, but proper technique is key. An active static stretch occurs when the individual applies extra force to increase the intensity of the targeted muscle. For instance, performing a hamstring stretch while lying on the floor, grasping the thigh with both hands just below the knee and pulling toward the chest while straightening the knee is an example of an active static stretch. This stretch, pulled to just before discomfort, would be held for 10-30 seconds and repeated.

Passive static stretching occurs when an outside force applies the pressure, such as stretching the hamstring against a doorframe or table.

A hold-relax stretch can be done with a partner, preferably a trained individual. The individual will passively stretch your hamstring, while you relax on the floor. You will hold the stretch for 6-8 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds while the stretcher passively stretches you again. A contract-relax stretch is very similar. Instead of holding the stretch for 6-8 seconds, you will push against the force for the same amount of time and then relax as the stretcher performs another 30 second stretch.

Dynamic stretching is a great way to warm up. This type of stretching mimics a movement about to be performed in an upcoming sporting event or fitness workout.

Active isolated stretching refers to a stretch that never lasts more than two seconds. Instead of holding a static stretch, as with the hamstring, you may pull your thigh toward your chest, and slowly straighten your leg, hold for two seconds, relax and then repeat. This type of flexibility training allows the muscle to gradually increase it’s range of motion during a pre-exercise bout. Pick a set number of reps, and perform each while going a little further with the stretch each time. Again, only stretch the muscle to the point of slight discomfort, not to a painful point.

Whichever stretching technique you choose, remember to pick one that either mimics movements you will soon engage in or one that feels the most comfortable. Warm up your muscles very well, and stretch gently. With each added session, your flexibility will increase and your range of motion will improve. Stretch after a warm-up, before your exercise routine or sporting event, and stretch again afterwards to allow the muscles to return to their normal position.

 

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The Kinematic Sequence for Your Golf Swing

The level of competition on the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour, and the Champions Tour is insane. Take a look at the next tournament on TV and watch the player’s swings. Pay close attention to their backswings. They don’t all look the same do they? There’s a reason for that. We are all built differently. Some players are taller than others. Some are stronger with larger frames, and some are just smaller individuals. Your body type will say a lot about your swing. If you are tall, you will swing more steep. Shorter players usually have shorter arms, so they may swing more around their bodies. But there are plenty of short players with upright swings and plenty of tall players who swing around their bodies. So how do so many different players will different swings all get similar results? The answer is proper kinematic sequencing. 

The Titleist Performance Institute has their own “Philosophy of the Swing”:

“We don’t believe there is one way to swing a club; we believe there are an infinite number of ways to swing a club. But we do believe that there is one efficient way for everyone to swing and it is based on what they can physically do.”

So the “efficient way” that TPI is referring to is the kinematic sequence. Before I ever became certified as a TPI Golf Fitness Instructor, I read Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. He wrote about this sequence of body motion on the downswing. He didn’t call it the kinematic sequence, but it is the same thing. The kinematic sequence is all about how golfers can generate speed and transfer that speed into the golf ball with an efficient repeatable pattern. Hogan called it the "magic move" and he described it as beginning the downswing by the turning of the hips to the left (for righties). 

On the second part of the swing, the downswing, after the backswing has been completed, the kinematic sequence goes like this:

1.Lower Body (hips, weight shift toward target)

2.Thorax (chest & shoulders)

3.Arms (as an extension of the club)

4.Hands (club shaft)

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Each step in the kinematic sequence builds on the previous step, creating a nice chain reaction. Ben Hogan does a great job in Five Lessons of explaining this as an automatic sequence if initiated by the hips. You shouldn’t have to do too much conscious thinking or “making” for the kinematic sequence to work properly. If you start your downswing with your hands, for instance, you have almost assured yourself of being out of sequence, robbing yourself of power and accuracy.

From TPI:

“Each segment of the chain slows down as the next segment continues to accelerate. Think of the handle of a whip. The first thing you do is accelerate the handle of a whip to generate speed. Then you rapidly decelerate the handle to transfer speed to the next part of the whip. The same thing happens in the best ball-strikers in the world. Their lower body represents the handle and the club shaft represents the end of the whip. Unorthodox styles may have no effect on your ability to generate a good kinematic sequence. In other words, Jim Furyk and Davis Love can have the same kinematic sequence.” 

So is the kinematic sequence the answer to the challenges of the golf swing? In a way yes, but there are other factors. You have to have good segmental stabilization. In other words, your body has to be balanced and flexible enough to swing properly. You can know how to swing, but you also have to be able to swing. Poor conditioning affects the body becuase limitations exist.

This is where a TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor comes in handy. Not only can you learn the proper kinematic sequence, but you can learn to isolate and eliminate and physical limitations in the golf swing. To find a TPI CGFI in your area, head here:

Find An Expert

If you are in the Memphis area, email me at ExerciseYourDrive@gmail.com and we can set up a consultation. 

I'd love to hear your comment below! 

 

 

Golf Swing Help: S-Posture

One of the great things I learned while being trained by the Titleist Performance Institute was how to film a student’s golf swing and look for common golf swing characteristics that may be directly linked to problems with the student’s golf body. TPI calls them “The Big Twelve”, and they include the twelve most common golf swing characteristics. They don’t call them “flaws”, and you shouldn’t either. 

One of the first golf swing characteristics I look for has to do with the student’s posture. I check this from the down-the-line view. A golfer’s posture can either be deemed an “S-Posture” or “C-Posture”. 

S-Posture is a swing characteristic caused by the player creating too much arch in their lower back by sticking their tail bone out too much in the setup position. This excessive curvature in the lower back puts abnormally high stress on the muscles in the lower back and causes the abdominal muscles to relax. The deactivation of the core muscles can cause a loss of posture or reverse spine angle during the backswing. This, in turn, puts the lower body out of position on the downswing and will affect the swing’s kinematic sequence of motion. 

You can actually stick your butt out at setup without arching your back if you just hinge from your hips and keep your spine in a neutral stable posture. This requires good core strength and proper stabilization in the lumbar spine. Golf instructors spent years teaching their students to stick their butts way out during the stance phase of the golf swing. It was a fundamental that was thought to lock the body into place and help maintain good golf posture. There was a major problem with this teaching: a lot of golfers started complaining of back pain. The high stress put on the lower back muscles puts added pressure on the back during the golf swing.

The S-Posture characteristic can also be caused by too much (anterior) pelvic tilt of the hips at address. In non-anatomical terms, this basically means you are sticking your butt out and tilting your pelvis and hips down toward the ground too much and creating a big arch in your lower back. Another cause of S-Posture comes from a misunderstanding of an athletic setup position. This is common in athletes who have played baseball, football, and basketball and were always taught to “break down” and look ready. This isn’t a bad thought, but you can still get into an athletic position by just hinging from the hips and flexing the knees. 

If you feel you are falling victim to the S-Posture, either correct your setup with a correct hip hinge, or try these exercises to gain the proper strength and stability required to make a proper, injury-free golf swing. 

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How To Film Your Golf Swing

When you film your golf swing, it helps to know what you need to be looking at to get the best feedback. When I was trained as a golf fitness instructor, the guys at TPI taught me how to film the golf swing for myself and my clients. 

Maybe you've never tried to film your golf swing before, but I promise it's easy, especially will almost all smart phones having a camera these days. To film your golf swing, you don't have to use a high-speed camera or something as fancy as the Golf Channel utilizes to film the pros on TV. Be warned, however, that an iPhone or iPad camera isn't really designed to capture something as fast as a golf club being swung, but it does a decent job. A DSLR camera does a better job, but both it and the phone cameras are going to show a little blur in the club when you pause the video. Just know that's normal when you try to film your golf swing.

You can learn a lot when you film your golf swing, and you may even save yourself some money by not having to go get a golf lesson as often, but you have to know what you're looking at. There are a ton of things you can notice when you film your golf swing, but today I'm just going to talk about how to see if you're getting into "The Slot" on your downswing. This "slot", or power position, is the place when you are attacking the golf ball from the inside and it ensures you can deliver the clubface to the ball squarely and with power. It also keeps you from coming over the top and hitting weak shots. So let's talk about how to film your golf swing and check to see if you are coming over the top or finding the slot on your downswing.

        • The first thing you want to do is film your golf swing. I mentioned a few camera options, but whatever you choose, make sure you have someone filming it for you. You can do it yourself and use a tripod, too, but I just want you to be sure you get your full swing in the video.

        • Set the middle of the camera up in line with your hands (at address) in the "down-the-line" view.

        • Be sure the camera is set up far enough back to get your full swing on the video. You should have a bout an inch (at least) below your feet and above your head.

        • There are a number of golf swing analyzing videos on the market, and I'm not going to get into all of them today, but there are apps for the computer and the phone. These apps comes with line that allow you to draw on the screen and really see if you are getting into the proper positions in the golf swing. If you don't want to spend any cash, please don't. You can use string or a piece of paper to see the lines without spending a dime. They just won't be permanent.

        • After you film your golf swing (I should mention you can do this anywhere: indoors, outdoors, in a simulator, etc. but it works best when you hit an actual golf ball), get it uploaded to your computer or view it on your phone. First, take notice of your setup. Draw a line along the original shaft plane at address all the way through your body. (SEE PICS BELOW)

        • Next, move the video forward until your humerus (the bone between your elbow and shoulder) is parallel to the ground and draw another line along the shaft. This is now "The Slot". Your hands and club need to travel into this area on the downswing. If they don't, you're hands are initiating the downswing and you're going to come over-the-top of the golf ball. (SEE PICS BELOW)

        •  Move the video forward and see if your hands and club enter the slot. If they do, you will stand a much better chance of hitting the ball square and straight. (SEE PICS BELOW)

        •  Chances are, you're going to see yourself moving your hands forward and swinging at the ball too over-the-top or steep. To eliminate this move, you have to get in sequence. Think about "finishing your backswing" first, so that you give yourself enough to time to get to the top before you begin your downswing. Next, follow the following sequence to swing the club properly:

If you can begin your downswing by the turning of your hips to the left and think about swinging from the ground up, you're going to stand a much better chance of letting the club drop into the slot and hit more solid, straight golf shots.

 

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A Great Way To Grip The Club

A good grip is one of the most important aspects of a golfer’s game and the key to proper fundamentals, mainly because of all the things that go right with a good grip and all the things that go wrong with a bad grip. Tom Watson called the grip “the most important fundamental in golf”. 

A great way to grip the club and get a solid hold is to grip the club out in front of you. When you do this, whether you’re holding an iron or a wood, point the toe straight up, make sure it’s square to your target and take your normal grip. Keep the club parallel to the ground by aiming the bottom edge of the clubhead, not the top of the clubhead. 

For righties, always grip the club first with your left hand. Grasp the club along the base of your fingers, not the palm. This will ensure proper wrist cock and freedom in your swing. You should be able to see 2 and a half knuckles when you look down at your left hand. If you only see 2, you may hit the ball more right than usual. 3 knuckles and you may hook too much. 2 1/2 knuckles is a good fundamental start. Your left thumb should run down the right-center of the shaft with little to no bend. From here, place your right hand on the club, also in the fingers, and you have the freedom to either interlock your pinkie and index finger or overlap your right pinkie over your left index finger. Your left thumb will fit snugly into the palm of the right hand under the padding of the thumb. 

Your thumbs and index fingers on both hands will form a solid “V” shape. These Vs should remain parallel to each other. They should both point somewhere between your chin and right shoulder. If your left V is in a good place, but your right V is pointing way outside your shoulder, they are not parallel and your grip is too strong. An overactive right hand will lead to too much hand action and a probable hook. Line these Vs up for proper aim. 

Grip the club this way out in front of you with the toe pointing up and then lower the club to the ground. It should be much easier to aim the face at the target and hit balls with a fundamentally strong, solid grip.