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How increasing mobility can help your golf swing

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How do you increase consistency and accuracy through mobility?

OK, you are doing the lessons, you have great clubs and you are engaging in golf fitness; the trinity of going low for a round of golf. But if you miss one of the most important keys to unlocking the ability to utilize all of this hard work, then your back to square one. So what are the keys that unlock your potential?

The primary foundational key is “mobility.” One of the biggest problems that I see before a round of golf is that most golfers jump out of the car and go straight to the range hitting balls at 100 percent full speed. Better yet, they’re running late so it’s off to the first tee box in hopes of hitting it straight down the pipeline. But what they end up with is a block, pull, slice or hook. But rarely in the fairway with the distance they want.

Then, following a first-hole double-bogey, the golfer proclaims “I’m just warming up.”

Mobility is a foundational key that unlocks the potential for consistency, accuracy and distance. Performing movement patterns centered on joints that are designed to be mobile, you will able to move efficiently, or as we commonly say, “get through the ball.”

You will be able to maximize your full potential because you’ll have full range of motion. If the range of motion is limited, then you start to compensate and use other parts of the body to do the work that its not intended to do. Hence wayward shots and possibly injury.

To locate those mobile joints, we will refer to the joint-by-joint approach of the mobility-stability chart in figure A.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 1.57.55 PM

As we can see, the mobile sites are Ankle, Hips, T-Spine, Neck, Shoulder and Wrist. When these sites have limited range of motion, we will compromise and start to use the stable sites to perform mobility work. This is how we get the injuries in the knees, lower back, upper back and the elbow. When the mobile joints have the capacity to move within a full range of motion, the stability joints can do their job, resulting in consistency and accuracy.

Mobility is the foundation that needs to occur first to increase improvement.

“Mobility before stability, stability before movement, movement before strength,” says Gray Cook, Titleist Performance Institute Advisor and founder of Functional Movement Systems.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 1.58.08 PM

To understand mobility during a golf swing, we need to understand the range of motion needed to be efficient. Utilizing TPI screening, we have the required ranges needed.

  • Ankle: Plantar flexion (pointing toes down) 0-50 degrees, Dorsiflexion (pointing toes up) 0-20. This will allow an efficient lateral push from trail to forward foot with feet planted firmly on ground at impact.
  • Hips: Rotate greater than or equal to 45 degrees in both directions. This will provide good spine mobility, as well as the ability to generate speed and separation between lower body and upper body.
  • Torso: Shoulders that can rotate freely without hips moving, provides proper sequencing in the backswing to generate good separation and coil.
  • Neck: Head rotates 90 degrees left and right and can lower so that chin touches mid-collar bone, which creates good neck mobility. This allows the ability to control head movement in backswing and downswing.
  • Shoulders: Arm can rotate backwards more than 90 degrees when standing, and in golf posture. Good shoulder mobility allows the golfer to create proper arm positions at top of swing and follow through.
  • Wrist hinge: Can hinge up 20 degrees. Can hinge down 30 Degrees. Good wrist mobility is necessary for setting wrists in backswing and releasing wrists for power in downswing.

The average golfer has limited range of motion. This range is limited even more so because of inactivity and large amounts of time dedicated to sitting behind desks hunched over a computer. So when you go straight to full speed, hitting golf balls with limited mobility, you then breakdown the primary key to the foundation. Thus, compensation occurs and inconsistency becomes a factor during your round. As we look back at the pyramid, we can see that lack of mobility creates instability, which causes an uncontrolled movement and final it destroys the skill that we worked so hard to get. This is that day when you ask yourself, “what happened to my swing? I was hitting great the other day.”

During the season, spend more time on mobility movements to increase improvement. Here are a few exercises that you can do on a daily basis to help increase your range of motion.

Medicine Ball mobility: http://youtu.be/8jM3OA6v-TY

TRX Mobility: http://youtu.be/YRbUFwHTh6I

You can also visit this link for more exercises on mobility: http://www.golfperformancefitness.com/golf-fitness-professionals

Also, utilize this mobility warm up prior to hitting balls or play for 5-10 min. to increase range of motion. http://youtu.be/3sLMjjGQYds

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Dave is the owner of Pro Fitness Golf Performance in Walled Lake, Mich. He's certified Level 2 Titleist Performance Golf Fitness instructor, K-Vest 3D-TPI biomechanics specialist and a certified USA weightlifting Instructor. He's also a Wilson Golf Advisory Staff Member. As a specialist and leading provider of golf-performance conditioning, Davis takes pride in offering golf biomechanics assessments and strength and conditioning training. His philosophy focusing on two things: the uniqueness of each individual and creating a functional training environment that will be conducive and productive to enhance a positive change. He is dedicated to serving the needs of his customers each and every day. Website: www.pgfperformance.com Email: dave@pgfperformance.com

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Pingback: Golf Mastery from Your Body’s 6 Mobile Zones - Golf Slot Machine

  2. Pingback: Golf Mastery from Your Body’s 6 Mobile Zones

  3. Louis

    Aug 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Dave,
    thanks for info. All tips are needed for this newbie. Looking forward to hitting the links.

  4. P Davis

    Aug 17, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    i agree with K Sanford. good article

  5. K. Sanford

    Aug 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Very informative article. i now have a better understanding of how the LPGA Pros create distance and accuracy. When watching them swing, they have great mobility and stability.

  6. Jack

    Aug 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I agree 100%. The chart showing the pyramid from mobility to skills is very useful to show how a golfers skill level would breakdown when one of the chains in the pyramid breaks.

  7. DR D

    Aug 15, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    very interesting and good article

  8. mike

    Aug 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    if mobility is the foundation, where does stability fit in? i thought stability was the foundation.

    • Dave

      Aug 15, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      Good question Mike. The answer will come in the next installment to this series with the next article on stability. So stay tune. Thanks

  9. Henry Lee

    Aug 15, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Dave’s article has been a life saver for me. He takes the obvious and makes it practical and useful. Where have you been hiding Dave? Keep up the good work in order to continue making a difference!!!!

  10. sam

    Aug 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    This is great information that all golfers can really apply. This will definitely stop the back injury that are so common. Keep it coming. Great article.

  11. Dr. Troy

    Aug 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Ive been trying to get my buddy to understand this principle for over a year and yet he wont listen…Stubborn as hell…Good article!

  12. Joel

    Aug 15, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Great article. Right to the point

  13. RAT

    Aug 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Great idea , like it ..

  14. Sherman

    Aug 14, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    It’s amazing to see McILROY swing with control. But now I understand why. Thanks for the information. The videos are great as well. Will incorporate the exercises in my fitness program

  15. Pingback: How increasing mobility can help your golf swing | Spacetimeandi.com

  16. Yrrdead

    Aug 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Nice article , will have this bookmarked.

  17. Pingback: Increasing Your Mobility can Help Improve Your Golf Swing - I'd Rather Be Golfing

  18. jeff

    Aug 14, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    This really helped me to understand that I need to use my lower body to start and create speed not my upper body. Thanks

  19. Morris

    Aug 14, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Great article. Keep them coming. Very informative

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Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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