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NFL Quarterback gets a lesson in athletic posture

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A quarterback in the NFL and a PGA Tour level player face a similar challenge. Although golfers aren’t dodging a blitz, players from both sports can create dynamics that alter performance and results without the player knowing consciously that something changed.

When I was a rookie Tour Pro, my coach was working with fellow Tour Pro Rick Fehr. He asked Rick why his setup was so deep in knee flex and leaned on his lead leg. Rick replied with a shrug of the shoulders. My coach then asked a great question, “Have you been playing in a lot of wind on tour lately?” Rick nodded in affirmation and revealed how he was moved to unconsciously alter his setup simply by the weather.

Recently, at the Strano Golf Academy in Florida, I taught an athlete in a similar situation. Retired several years from playing as a quarterback in the NFL, this past Heisman Trophy winner still looks like he could suit up and take some snaps. The former quarterback also possesses a passion for the game of golf, and came to me seeking improvement in areas in which he wasn’t seeing the results he wanted.

One of the keys to a good golf swing, or any physical movement, and it doesn’t matter if you are a PGA Tour winner, a Heisman winning NFL quarterback, or the backyard pickup game all star – athleticism in your set up is vital to success.

Using the technology on hand at the academy, I had him hit a few shots with a 7 iron. The FlightScope-BodiTrak read the pressure movements of his feet from setup through the finish, while the Flightscope X2 tracked all his club and ball data, giving me a full “MRI” of his swing. Below are the screenshots that I was able to show him:

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BodiTrak Pressure Mat readings showing lots of pressure to the left foot 60/40.

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Flightscope screen readings showing ball speed, distance and height numbers as slow, short and low.

Once we finished reviewing the data and discussing the results, we got down to business to make him a better golfer. The first thing I did was get him in a position he was comfortable with as an elite athlete and quarterback; I had him get “under center” for me, pretending to take a snap, something he has done repeatedly throughout his life. He fell perfectly into equal pressure on both feet; similarly to if I stood talking to someone in casual conversation.

The images you see below show him before and after the adjustment. Before shows him in his normal golf posture, then him pretending to take a snap “under center,” using his golf stance. After shows him taking his position “under center,” then setting up the ball with a club using the football stance. This allowed him to visualize what mistakes he was making with his stance, and gave him the ability to make the proper adjustments to launch the ball higher.

                     Before                                                 After

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The changes in ball flight, distance, and speed were dramatic and instantaneous. He was able to use his athleticism again to access the speed and power that were blocked by his previous setup. All the compensations he made to get the ball in the air went away and his launch conditions were greatly improved. When I showed him the Flightscope data after the new changes,  his eyes lit up:

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  • Ball height went up from 53 ft to 91 ft (tour average)
  • Ball Speed increased from 105 mph to 126 mph (which is a huge improvement)
  • Distance overall jumped from 142 yards to 172 yards (equal to a three club increase)

To say he was pleased with his improvements would be an understatement. With an upcoming golf fundraiser that he was hosting, we needed to get his game to a level that would allow him to lead his golf team like he led his football teams in past competitions.

An important lesson to take from this is that good athletic setup pressures are all the same no matter the sport. The foot pressure of receiving a serve in tennis flows through basketball (guarding the player), baseball (ready position in the field), football (under center) and into golf (foot pressure at setup). The player, at any level of the game, has to be in an athletic position to move the stick they are swinging or make an athletic move to start any action. When your goal is to move the shaft/stick with as much speed as possible and still produce accuracy, then you need to be in a position where you can access your athletic ability.

Rob Strano is the Director of Instruction at the Strano Golf Academy in Destin, FL and a Flightscope Advisory Board Member. To learn more visit his website: www.stranogolf.com

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: NFL Quarterback gets a lesson in athletic posture | Spacetimeandi.com

  2. Alex

    Aug 15, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Generally good article and a solid point, but you don’t explain what changes you made.

    From what I can glean, the main two are that (1) you set him up with his spine angle slightly away from the target rather than towards it, and (2) you had him bend from the hips rather than from the waist.

    The spine angle change is big because it allows him to rotate his shoulders freely without leaning into the target (aka two way miss slice/hook city).

    The hips/waist change straightened out his back (no longer rounded) and encourages a full hip turn with a relatively constant spine angle (when in conjunction with change (1)).

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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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