Golf: The fundamentals of movement

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Movement is a skill and skill is the key component to strength.  If you learn to move well, you will build functional strength.  If you spend time trying to get stronger and ignore movement, you will likely get functionally weaker and be prone to hurting yourself.

Golf is a game about finely controlled movement and cognitive management; two things that elude and frustrate people their whole lives, which is why golf can be so addictive.  How a person approaches a golf game reflects a lot about their personality and their physical body, and both factors tend to contribute to their consistency, power, form and ultimately the number on the scorecard after 18 holes.  It also has a lot to do with how sore they may be during or after a round.

Rotation is the obvious movement pattern that golfers need to master, but it is only one of three movement planes that exist in the golf swing and it is by far the most complex.  It is a mistake to try and address anything to do with rotation until you learn how to move in the forward-back and side-to-side planes first.  I tell my clients that they need to earn the right to rotate by first learning to squat properly and load their legs well.  You would be surprised just how poorly most people bend or squat down, but it is a key part of the address position in a golf swing.

Step 1: Learn where your hips actually are (see video playlist at bottom of post):

-    4 Point Neutral Spine Video

-    4 Point Rock backs Video

In order for your trunk to be able to rotate properly, you need the muscles in your back to be reasonably relaxed because they need to lengthen as your body turns.  The way most people bend or squat ends up creating way too much tension in their back and butt to allow them to freely rotate their trunk.  You need to learn how to bend over slightly using your legs and abs while maintaining a neutral spine.  Neutral means a gentle S-curve, not trying to stay vertical.

Step 2: The address position: learn to bend using your legs and NOT your back

-    Kneeling Squats video

-    How to Stand video

-    Standing squats video

-    The address position video

Once you can stand and bend more effectively, the goal is to create more awareness of leg loading.  By that I mean how to stack your hip on your knee and your knee on your foot to support your body in a balanced manner as you move.  

This is where most swing flaws are created…

guys tend to compensate for lack of hip flexibility with hip slides and reverse pivots while women just tend to lose power by not using their legs in the swing.  Learning to move laterally in a slight squat will expose leg tightness or weakness and teach you how to use your feet, knees and hips together.  The lateral movement in the golf swing is minimal but important.  You need to learn how to create strong, stable leg loading in your back swing and free movement leg loading in your follow through.

Step 3: Become aware of your foot, knee hip connection

-    Foot as a tripod video

-    Speed skater video

-    Squat + lateral movement video

Now that you can squat and load your legs you have to discover your trunk.  The first step is to understand that your trunk and your shoulders are two separate things.  Your rotation movement should come from your trunk and not your arms.  Most people are fantastic at cheating to make up for their physical restrictions.  Tightness in you trunk typically results in too much hip or arm movement during the swing.  Your ability to rotate has a lot to do with your general posture and how you breathe.  Learn about how you hold yourself then sit down and try to dissociate your trunk from your pelvis and your neck, it is harder than you may think.

Step 4: Learn the role of posture, breathing and dissociation

-    Everything your mother taught you about posture is WRONG

-    Rib Shimmy Video

-    Breathing as an exercise video

-    Seated trunk rotation video

Standing up and putting it all together can be a lot of things to think about at first, but if you break it down into parts, the golf swing is just a coordinated series of biomechanics that can be repeated.  If you understand each component in your body, you will understand your swing and the swing flaws that you just can't seem to get rid of.  When the exercises get closer and closer to resembling a golf swing, it is important to not use a club or even your arms and think biomechanics, not golf because the old patterns will be strongly engrained and want to take over.

Step 5: Putting it all together: trunk rotation, coil and the lead hip

-    The address position

-    Standing rotation

-    The backswing: trunk rotation and leg loading

-    The down swing &follow through: lead hip rotation and weight transfer

Once you can figure out the biomechanics in your golf swing it is time to start using your arms again and even put a club in your hands, but beware, your old habits will be lurking.  Your job is to focus on the movement patterns described above and then work on keeping your arms connected to your trunk as you rotate.  Staying connected can be challenging due to physical restrictions in your body, specifically your lats, your chest, your trunk and your hips.  Doing movement control exercises and some targeted stretching can make all the golf movements that much easier.  Just stretching alone will do almost nothing for you, but if you work on improving the movement patterns and add some stretching to that you will start to see some changes.

Step 6: Golf specific exercises for posture and flexibility

-    Passive chest stretch video

-    4 Point rocks video

-    Reaching up 11video

-    Lat stretch video

-    Air bench press video

-    Standing trunk rotation

-    Standing hip rotation (coming soon; still editing)

You will find that a golf professional can teach you all the technical aspects of the game, but will be confined by what your body allows him to teach you.  If you spend some time learning about your general posture and how you sit, stand, breath and walk all day affects your flexibility and your golf game, your golf pro will have more to work with when it comes time for lessons.

Core strengthening programs can be helpful tools to improve your game and your general fitness level, but remember that strength is a skill and that attempting to add strength to poor movement patterns may just take you backwards in the long run.

If pain and tightness continue to be limiting factors for you and you think you have tried everything please read this post about IMS (intramuscular stimulation).  It can work wonders with stiff, old hips and bodies that haven't moved well in a while.

Please take your time and work through the video progressions of movement in this post.  It is a lot of information, but the videos demonstrate the right and wrong ways to do something.  Just practice, learn and create awareness and you will start to see the results.  If you have any questions about videos or this post please leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer them for you.

Hope this helps!

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