A Good Swing Starts With A Strong Base Of Support
A good golf swing starts with a strong base of support (hips, pelvis and lumbar spine). A highly conditioned base of support will provide stability throughout the swing and allow forces to be effectively transferred from the legs through the hips to the upper body to produce optimal power and control. A strong base helps protect the joints and other supporting tissues against the strong compression, shear and torsion forces that occur during the golf swing. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that predispose the golfer to developing poor postural patterns and muscle imbalance that result in a weak base of support.
For much of our young lives we were stuck sitting in school hunched over our desk. We finish school and begin our careers. Many of us now find ourselves spending excessive time in our cars or sitting in poorly designed chairs hunched in front of a computer. Over time we are conditioned to have tight hip flexors and a lazy posture. Poor posture and muscle imbalance decrease musculoskeletal efficiency and disrupt communication within the neuromuscular system. Short tight muscles display a lower activation threshold, meaning they fire at times when they should be less active or inactive. Over activation of dominant muscles leads to decreased neural control to their opposing muscles. Simply stated, "when one muscle becomes tight and overactive its opposing muscle becomes loose and lazy." Tight dominant hip flexors create weak and lazy hip extensors (gluteals)and set off a chain reaction of dysfunction.
Tight hip flexors pull the pelvis into a forward tilt leading to an excess curvature of the lumbar spine. As a result the muscles of the abdominal wall lengthen and weaken while the muscles of the lumbar spine get short and tight. This pattern also causes disruption in our body's lateral stabilization system. The hip abductors (muscles that move the legs away from the center of the body) along with their opposing adductors (muscles that move the legs toward the center of the body) work to stabilize the pelvis during lateral movement. Inefficiency in this lateral stabilization system inhibits coordination and hinders proper weight shift through the golf swing. So what we are left with are weak hip extensors (gluteal muscles) that can't drive the hips through the swing, dominant hip flexors that won't allow the hips to open to allow a full turn, tight spinal flexors that are forced to do the work of the weak hip extensors, but are to tight to make a full rotation, and a lack of coordination needed to make consistently good ball contact. To make matters worse most golfers spending hours at the driving range reinforcing and strengthening this dysfunctional pattern. Is it any wonder the average golf score hasn't dropped in decades?
To break this pattern of dysfunction and build a strong base of support we must first establish coordinated muscle firing among the deep stabilizing abdominal musculature, the hip flexors and extensors, hip abductors and adductors, and spinal flexors, extensors and rotators. This is accomplished through the activation and strengthening of weak and inhibited muscles, and stretching the tight and dominant muscles. Once these muscles are re-educated and coordinated muscle firing is established we can then work to build optimal strength and power.
The first step in this process is the development of the deep abdominal and pelvic musculature. This is done by mastering the abdominal brace. The abdominal brace differs from the traditional abdominal training that encourages "abdominal hollowing" a.k.a. the "draw in" maneuver. With the "draw in" maneuver we are told to pull or draw our belly buttons towards our spines. Research has shown that drawing in actually lessens abdominal activation and decreases lumbar - pelvic- hip stability. The abdominal brace is an isometric contraction of the abdominal muscles meaning the abs are neither pulled in nor pushed out. This maneuver should be the first step of every exercise as it is the foundation of lumbar, pelvic, and hip stabilization. The following exercise will allow you to master this movement and re-educate the lower abdominal wall and allow the deep pelvic stabilizers to fire efficiently.
? Lay in a supine position (on your back) with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
? Brace your abdominals by tightening abdominals as if you were going to take a punch in the gut.
? Return to a relaxed position and repeat.
? Control Movement is the key. While performing these exercises pay strict attention to NOT allow the use of the legs (hip flexors and /or gluteals) while contracting the abdominals. The only muscles contracting are the abdominal wall; place your hands on the belly button to feel this isolated contraction
? There should be no tension in your neck or shoulders.
Don't limit the abdominal brace to exercise. Practicing the brace with all activity (sitting, walking, driving, golfing, etc) will help you develop the endurance your abdominals need to maintain a strong base of support as well as a healthy back.
A study presented by researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine's 51st annual meeting showed that golfers who possess strong hip muscles have lower handicaps and longer driving distances than those with weak hip muscles. This makes sense since muscles of the hip and pelvis play a major role in stabilizing the trunk and transferring forces from the lower body through the upper body and arms during the golf swing. The ability of the hip extensors (gluteals and hamstrings) and lumbar extensors to fire in concert also allows the body to react to and counteract the rapid rotational forces of the golf swing. The problem here, as we have already discussed, is many golfers have inhibited hip extensors and tight and dominant lumbar flexors. Under the best of circumstances our spines were not designed to swing a golf club. Now we compound the issue repeatedly forcing our spinal muscles to do the job of our hip extensors to power through the swing. Spinal extensor muscles don't have the size or strength to do this, hence the tremendous incidence of over use injury and lower back pain among golfers. So, what we need to do is quite down our lumbar extensors to allow the hip extensors to do their job.
The Bird Dog exercise progression effectively helps develop stabilization, coordination and strength of the spine. The key to this type of exercise is learning and then maintaining "neutral" spine. Neutral does not mean straight, it means allowing the natural curves to be present. This is imperative to allow the spine to function properly and movement to occur in a stress free manner. The golf club placed the length of the spine is an excellent cue that allows the golfer to feel the proper spinal positions and make necessary corrections. The club shaft should be in contact with only three points; the base of the head, the center of the back and the middle of the pelvis. Concave spaces should be seen at the neck and lower back.
? Position yourelf on your hands and knees with a golf club placed along your spine; make sure the rod contacts 3 points only (head-middle back-pelvis).
? Brace your abdominals and slowly raise one hand and the opposite knee just off the floor ( no more than 1/4 inch). Hold for five to ten seconds.
? Return to the start position and alternate sides.
? The club must remain in contact with all 3 contact points (head, mid back, pelvis).
Once you have mastered the Dog 1 then you can move to the next progression. Dog 2 adds the components of hip extension and shoulder flexion. This exercise is extremely effective in re-establishing efficiency in extensor chain (hip, lumbar, and cervical extensors).
Dog II ? Position yourelf on your hands and knees with a golf club placed along your spine; make sure the rod contacts 3 points only (head-middle back-pelvis).
? Brace your abdominals, slowly extend one arm (thumb up) straight out in front of you and the opposite leg behind you.
? Hold for five to ten seconds and repeat with opposite side.
? The club must remain in contact with all 3 contact points (head, mid back, pelvis).
? Do not allow your hips to rotate.
The key with Dog 2 is not to allow the lumbar extensors to fire during this movement. After mastering Dog 2 you can then further challenge the hip extensors by adding the bridge exercise. The bridge adds the resistance of body weight to the hip extension movement and further challenges (and strengthens) the deep stabilizers or the lumbar-pelvic-hip complex.
? Lay on your back with your arms placed at your side.? Brace your abdominals and squeeze your gluteals (buttocks) then raise your hips into a bridge position. Pause and return to starting position.
? Your feet should remain flat.
? This movement is initiated with the hips not the spinal extensor muscle; no pressure should be felt in the lower back.
? Maintain abdominal and gluteals muscles contraction throughout the full movement.
It is important to implement a good stretching program to lengthen tight muscles as you strengthen your base of support. Aside from the already mentioned hip flexors and lumbar extensors other areas commonly tight among golfers include the muscles of the hamstrings, neck, scapular elevators (upper trapezius and levator scapulae) and shoulder internal rotators. A qualified strength and conditioning or golf fitness professional can provide you with a postural and biomechanical analysis that can provide a more detailed picture of your specific areas of need. Improving your base of support will add distance and control to your game and help prevent, reduce, and possibly eliminate golf related pain and injury.
Bill Scibetta, RN, NSCA-CPT
Bill is the founder and President of Precision Fitness ? Personal Training Centers in the Charlotte, NC area and co-author of the book Play Better Longer! ? Peak Performance and Injury Prevention for Golf. Bill is a licensed Registered Nurse as well as a National Strength and Conditioning Association ? Certified Personal Trainer. After spending years practicing in the specialty of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Bill has dedicated his career to helping individuals identify and overcome obstacles that stand in the way of optimal wellness and peak physical performance.
Balance Your Checkbook And Golf Swing
We all search for it. Balance in our daily lives. Balance while riding a bike. Politicians are always debating a balanced budget in Washington, and most of us could use a little balance in our checkbooks. Balance is a term used in golf quite often as well. It's a "buzzword" and almost a cliché when it comes to the golf swing. I am sure you have heard numerous times from swing coaches that "you have to stay balanced when swinging your club." Others phrases that I hear when we talk about golf and balance are the following: "When it comes to a sand shot, dig your feet into the st...(related: Golf)
What Do The Core And The Golf Swing Have In Common?
The concept of "core training" is a "buzz word" in today's fitness and training community. It has also become a prevalent idea in the game of golf. In regards to golf it has been noted by many individuals that the core area of the body is where the "power" comes from in your swing, and in order to make a full turn you need flexibility in the core. This article will discuss the function of the core in relation to human movement and the golf swing.We will discuss categorically the functions of the core and how improvements in these areas can assist in the improvement of your golf swing. Before we begin discussing the functions of the core, let us define it. The core can be defined as an anatomical area of the body. The core is include...(related: Golf)
A Good Swing Starts With A Strong Base Of Support
A good golf swing starts with a strong base of support (hips, pelvis and lumbar spine). A highly conditioned base of support will provide stability throughout the swing and allow forces to be effectively transferred from the legs through the hips to the u...(related: Golf)
This Aint Golf! Its Cricket!
Go on, admit it, you have never read an article on cricket before, right? But wait, this aint no ordinary cricket, this is the Ashes! The Ashes? Yes, the series between England and Australia that dates back to the 1870's. The two old foes locked in combat in England throughout the summer.Australia, world number one, world champions, such a wonderful side that have lauded it over world cricket since the demise o...(related: Golf)
All Time Greatest Club Breaking Events In History? And The Winner Is?..
Two both famous and infamous golfers known for their tempers and club throwing exploits on the golf course, were battling head to head and coming into the final round of the tournament. The entire golfing world was looking on. As ...(related: Golf)
A Lower Body Golf Swing Can Generate Maximum Power
The perfect lower body golf swing involves the legs to a very large extent and it is therefore true to say that exercise that conditions these parts of the body will have a positive impact on the quality of the golf swing.This truth is obvious when you take a closer look at the golf swing. During the backswing, the feet, knee and hamstring muscles are extremely important. The rest of the golf swing movement will usually require a lot of participation of the hip and lower back.Thus no good golf exercise program designed to improve the golf swing will avoid the lower back. In fact some golfers are puzzled at first when they see some of the golf specific exercises which concentrate on the hamstring and lower parts of the body. They may initially feel that too much emphasis is being placed on this lowe...(related: Golf)
Success In Golf And Meditation - The Same Skills?
When we say to people that you need the same skills to be a successful golfer as you do meditator it usually raises a huge laugh. Golf and meditation are miles apart. Some often suggest that in hitting the perfect Golf shot you need to be in a focussed meditative state, but that's as far as it gets.What do you think?I know. You think we're crazy. But let's look at the evidence. Let's just look at what's needed to be a successful medi...(related: Golf)
Perform Better Golf Right In Your Home
To perform better golf, you need to take a different approach. I have seen and heard time after time how much money golfers will spend in hopes to perform better golf. But according to statistics, the average USGA Handicap hasn't gone down in over 30 years!I have researched the golf improvement mark...(related: Golf)
Create A Gift Basket For A Golfer Lover!
The choice of what gift to give your family and friends can often be a difficult one. One of the best gifts that you can give is a gift basket. A gift basket is that one present that comes in many shapes, themes and of course, price ranges. A gift basket is easy and fun to make.The diversity of gift baskets is never-ending. You can give a weekend pack gift basket or a relaxing gift basket (required after a weekend away playing golf) or a simple basket with balls and tees. The type of gift basket you choose and create is only limited by your imagination.Here is a simple basket that you can easily create yourself for that special "Golf Mad Person...(related: Golf)
Golf Swing Simulators
Are you looking for a way to play golf during the sweltering days of some or the extreme cold days of winter? Try out one of the golf swing simulators that are on the marker nowadays. These simulators give a player a realistic and accurate simulation of a golf game or a driving range trip. The full swing golf simulator can help with golf instruction, club fitting, and can be an entertainment source. The simulator can measure the horizontal and vertical launch angles, speed, spin, and total distance that t...(related: Golf)
Fitness For Golf Is The Key To Rejuvenating Your Golf Game
Fitness for golf is prevalent at every level. You hear about it all the time on the television and even teaching pros are talking more about the importance of fitness for golf.The reason being is the belief that your 'physical limitations' are keeping you from optimal swing mechanics, power, distance and accuracy.For the aging golfer this is most prevalent.Without a golf-specific exercise program, it is virtually imp...(related: Golf)
Effective Golf Fitness Equipment
Golf fitness equipment is designed to help a golfer build strength in certain muscles so as to improve their golf game and lower their scores.The problem is that there are so many different golf fitness equipment in the market these days that it is difficult to identify the really effective ones and the duds or inappropriate ones. The situation is hardly helped by the fact that clever market...(related: Golf)
How Fitness Has Changed The Face Of The Pga Tour
Professional golfers on the tour today are approaching fitness as they never have before. PGA players look to fitness for many of its benefits. Fitness can improve their game through gains in strength, flexibility, and stamina. They can prevent or minimize injuries. Playing golf is not only a recreation for PGA players, it is their job. Their financial success depends on tournament results. Therefore, they must not only maintain a superb golf game, but a fit body as well.There are few players on tour who have not have revamped their fitness training techniques or...(related: Golf)