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Why your desk job is ruining your golf swing

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I imagine that most of you reading this are doing so while sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer. If you’re not, there’s a good chance that you spend considerable amount of time in that position. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, mixed with our heavy use of computers and wireless devices, has made this position more common than it should be.

Bad posture

Maybe you’re aware that your seated posture can and should be improved, but what you may not know is that it has numerous effects that will carry into your golf posture and your golf swing.

They include:

  • Forward hip tilt: Also know as anterior pelvic tilt, it’s associated with tight hip flexors, which are a group of muscles on the front of your hips that pull the knee upward. Tight hip flexors can prevent the glutes (butt muscles) from firing and cause them to become weak. Strong glutes are essential to hip stability in the golf swing, as stable hips provide a platform to turn against in the golf swing and eliminate things such as slide and sway. The glutes are a major factor in developing power in the golf swing, too. If you want to hit it a long way you need strong glutes! Inactive or weak glutes also force the hamstring muscles to become overworked and excessively tight. If you have tight hamstrings, the root cause may be tight hip flexors and/or anterior pelvic tilt.
  • Hunched upper back and forward shoulder posture: Sitting hunched over a computer screen forces chest muscles to tighten, which can cause excessive curvature of the upper back (thoracic spine) and postural muscles in the upper back to weaken and loosen. The thoracic spine (T-Spine) also becomes stuck in flexion, and the ability to extend and rotate the T-spine becomes lessened. Limited T-spine mobility will radically reduce the amount of shoulder turn you are able to make, and ultimately the power you are able to create in your the golf swing.
  • Weak anterior core. Core strength is essential for efficient power transfer and maintaining good posture in the swing. The weaker your core is, the more difficult power transfer and good posture becomes.
  • Forward cervical spine position: Although the head stays still during the golf swing, the shoulders rotate, so golfers experience large degrees of cervical rotation both the left and right in the golf swing. Similar to a rounded upper back posture, a “forward head position” limits your ability to rotate at the cervical spine. Consequently, this limits shoulder turn or causes you to lose posture in order to complete a full backswing. Further, a forward cervical spin position can also cause the posture muscles in the upper back to shut off. Who knew your neck was so important in the golf swing?

So, what can you do about it?

Movements in the gym are used and repeated to improve postural issues, which occur over time. Since any repetitive movement will affect posture, however, you need to be sure you are selecting the right movements and performing them in a proper manner. If you don’t, you won’t be getting the full benefits of postural correction. And if you use the wrong exercises, they can even feed into your postural deficiencies.

Here a my top 5 strategies to help you correct that posture

1. Get back to neutral alignment of the spine with appropriate mobility exercises.

The Exercise: Get into a half-kneeling position with hand outstretched in front of you touching a wall. Make sure your front foot and back knee are not too close together or too far apart. Grab hold of your back ankle with your free hand, keeping your head and spine in neutral alignment with your core engaged and rock back and forth. You should feel a stretch in the hip flexor of the leg you are holding.

The Exercise: Lie with your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor and flatten out your lower back so it is in contact with the floor. Keep it there throughout the movement. With your chin tucked and core engaged, raise your arms overhead. Next, slowly pull your elbows down toward your sides, keeping them in contact with the ground. When you can no longer keep contact with the floor or your lower back arches off the floor, push back up again. 

2. Develop more thoracic extension.

The Exercise: Lying on the floor with your upper back on the foam roller, perform five crunch-like movements on the roller, trying to curl your back around the roller more and more with each rep. Then move slightly down so the roller is higher up on your spine and repeat. Move the roller up the spine two or three more times until you reach a point just below the base of the neck, and repeat the process at each new position. 

3. Improve anterior core strength

Exercises that promote anterior core strength and don’t involve spinal flexion are your best bet. The deadbug is my absolute favorite here. There are so many variations, and it does a nice job of teaching the hip disassociation we need in the golf swing, too.

The Exercise: Lie on your back and raise your arms and legs so your arms and upper leg form right angles to the spine. You will feel the lower back flatten to be in contact with the floor when you do this. Lower the arm and opposite leg, exhaling as you do so. Make sure to stay in neutral spine (i.e. don’t let lower back arch as you lengthen). 

4. Program twice as many pulling exercises (think rows and chin-ups) as pushing exercises (bench press, shoulder press and dips).

Most people (particularly men) do the opposite; heading to the gym to do way too many sets of bench presses and bicep curls. This further compound the effects of sitting all day. A 2:1 pull-to-push ratio will redress the back strength issues this often creates and help re-adjust shoulder positioning.

Further, the upper back is also somewhat of a complex structure comprised of a number of different muscle groups, including the rhomboids, serratus anterior and lower traps that often times need to be activated with more specific work. The face pull is my favorite way to hit these often neglected muscles. See the video below.

5. Get strong glutes!

The single-leg glute bridge is a nice way to feel glute activation and build some glute max strength when you start adding external load. Make sure you feel the glute doing the majority of the work, however, and not the hamstring.

The Exercise: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor with your knees and feet together. Extend one leg from the knee and lift the pelvis off the floor, fully extending the hips until your body forms a straight line. Try to feel the contraction in the glute as much as possible, rather than the hamstring. Shoot for a percentage of 80 percent glute and 20 percent hamstring as a goal. Just touching your hamstrings or your glutes can serve as great reminder as to where you need to feel the movement and where you shouldn’t be feeling it. 

Lateral band walks primarily work the glute medius, the muscle primarily responsible for resisting hip rotation, and a therefore great for developing stability.

The Exercise: Keeping the shoulder blades retracted (think about pulling them down and back), chin tucked and core engaged, step to one side. Make sure to not over-step, as this will result in loss of balance on the toe of the landing foot, turning it too far out and reducing glute engagement.

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Nick is a TPI certified strength coach with a passion for getting golfers stronger and moving better. Through Stronger Golf he uses unique, research based training methods to create stronger, faster, more athletic golfers. Golfers who are more coachable, achieve higher levels of skill mastery, play injury free, and for longer as a result of improved physical fitness.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. christian

    Sep 20, 2015 at 12:15 am

    “Most people (particularly men) do the opposite; heading to the gym to do way too many sets of bench presses and bicep curls”
    It’s just that biceps curls IS a pulling exercise, and not a pushing one.

    • Nick Buchan

      Sep 25, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Christian, technically bicep curls are a pulling exercises yes but it only works the biceps not the lats or muscles of the upper back, nor does it give the benefits of scapular retraction and improving shoulder posture that are important with pulling exercises so for this reason I don’t count it as a pulling exercise when balancing pushing and pulling ratios. Additionally the standing position, with weight out in front, most bicep curl from and insertion of the bicep means they tend to negatively affect shoulder position in a similar way to pressing exercises. If you want to do curls, may i suggest doing incline bench curls as these negate many of the problems with standing curls.
      Thanks for reading,
      Nick

  2. Large chris

    Sep 18, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Great article, but seriously please don’t start doing foam roller movements etc in the squat rack as per the video above. Just find an empty floor and wall space. Be considerate.

    • Nick Buchan

      Sep 18, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Haha totally agree Chris! In my defence it was a quite day and very early in the morning, you can get away with it when there are only two people in the gym!

  3. Craig

    Sep 17, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Nick, great article and interesting for biomechanics/physical therapy lovers. Under the forward hip tilt section wouldn’t tight hip flexor create lengthened and weak hamstrings? Lower crossed syndrome would have tight hip flexors and tight back extensors with weak/lengthened hip extensors and weak core. Just wanted your thoughts, thanks!

    • Nick Buchan

      Sep 18, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Craig, The reciprocal inhibition effect of the hip flexors does effect the strength of all hip extensors yes, so hamstrings, glutes, abductors, etc, but I find most peoples biggest problem in this regard is weak glutes. You are correct that tight hip flexors pull the pelvis into anterior tilt and as such the distance between the origin and insertion of the hamstring (basically the knee and the hip) is greater so from an anatomical point of view the hamstring has been lengthened. However this lengthening means the hamstring is effectively slightly stretched already so when you try and lengthen it further, by hip flexion, the hamstring will feel tight, despite technically being lengthened! Most people who complain of tight hamstring it is probably actually anterior tilt and tight hip flexors that are the problem rather than the length of the hamstring. Not sure I’ve explained that all that well but hope it makes sense!? Thanks for the question!

  4. Scott

    Sep 17, 2015 at 9:27 am

    the videos really help. thanks for the article!

  5. Nick Buchan

    Sep 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for the comments guys! Appreciate it!

  6. Nick Randall

    Sep 15, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Nice article Nick – love your work!

  7. Golfraven

    Sep 15, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Great article. I like the home excersised or those that don’t require further equipment. I might get a mat for my office space and do some of those during working office hours. Currently I stand away from my desk regurlarly and do either putting or swing excercisea but guess this is not helping my core muscles. would be great to see some excercises you can actually perform at the desk or office chair.

  8. Tim

    Sep 15, 2015 at 8:52 am

    great piece – I have just been given many of these exercises by my fitness trainer and physio to counter many of these issues from sitting at a computer all day.

    So far they are helping but given I spend 10 hours a day at the computer and only about 30mins doing the exercises not sure if its enough to really help.

  9. Nathan

    Sep 15, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Yep, certainly need more of this!

  10. Tanner

    Sep 15, 2015 at 6:36 am

    Like the short vids

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Faults & Fixes: Losing height in your swing

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In this week’s Fault and Fixes Series, we are going to examine the issues that come with losing your height during the swing and its effect on your low point as well as your extension through and beyond impact.

When a professional player swings, there is usually very little downward motion through the ball. Some is OK, but if you look at this amateur player you will see too much. When the head drops downward too much something, has to give and it’s usually the shortening of the swing arc. This will cause issues with the release of the club.

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Dangers of overspeed training revealed: What to do and what not to do

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Speed: a key factor to more money on tour. The key component sought after by many amateur golfers to lower their scores. The focus of many infographics on social media this past PGA Tour season. A lot of people say speed matters more than putting when it comes to keeping your tour card and making millions.  

Overspeed Training: the focus on tons of training aids as a result of the buzz the pursuit of speed has created. The “holy grail” for the aging senior golfer to extend their years on the course. The “must do” training thousands of junior golfers think will bring them closer to playing college golf and beyond.  

Unfortunately, overspeed training is the most misunderstood and improperly implemented training tool I see used for speed in the industry. Based on the over 50 phone calls I’ve fielded from golfers around the world who have injured themselves trying it, it is leading to more overuse injuries in a sport where we certainly don’t need any help creating more than we already have. Luckily, these injuries are 100 percent preventable if you follow the few steps outlined below.

Don’t let your rush to swing faster get you hurt. Take five minutes to read on and see what the industry has not been forthcoming with until now.  

Understanding how to increase your speed safely and with as little work possible is the path to longevity without injury. If you could train 75 percent less (to the tune of about 8,000 fewer reps a year) and still see statistically comparable results, would you rather that? 

I would.

Would it make sense to you that swinging 8,000 times fewer (low volume protocols versus high volume protocols) would probably decrease your risk of overuse injuries (the most common injury for golfers)?  

I think so.

But I’ll let you draw your own conclusions after you finish reading.   

Your Challenge

Your biggest challenge is that the answer to more speed for you is not the same as it is for your friends. It differs depending on many factors, but there are four main ones that you can start with. Those four are 

  1. Your equipment
  2. Your technical prowess
  3. Your joint mobility at your rotary centers (neck, shoulders, spine, and hips) 
  4. Your ability to physically produce power  

If you are not totally clear on these, I’d recommend checking out the earlier article I wrote for GolfWRX titled Swing speed: How do you compare? Go through the testing as outlined and you’ll know the answer to these four areas in five minutes.

Basically, you have the potential to pick up speed by optimizing your equipment (ie. find the right shaft, etc), optimizing the technical element of your swing for optimal performance (ie. launch angles, etc) or by optimizing your body for the golf swing. Understanding how to best gain speed without putting your body at risk both in the short and long term is what 95 percent of golfers have no idea about. It is the single biggest opportunity golfers have to make lasting improvements to not only their golf game but their overall health.

Are You a Ticking Time Bomb?

In my earlier article (link above), I described three main categories when it came to physical factors. Step one is to determine what category you are in.

The first option is that you might be swinging faster than your body is able to control. In this case, you are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in injury. We all know that friend who just has a year-round membership to the local physio or chiro because they are always hurt. If this is you, DO NOT try overspeed training, it will only make your visits to the physio or chiro more frequent. There are much better areas to spend your time on.

The second situation might be the rare, sought-after balanced golfer. You might have great mobility in the four main rotary centers (hips, spine, shoulders, and neck) and your swing speed matches your physical power output abilities. It should be noted that based on our mobility research of almost 1,000 golfers, 75 percent of golfers over the age of 40 don’t have full rotary mobility in at least one of the four centers. When you age past 50, that 75 percent now applies to at least two rotary centers. Hence why “the balanced golfer” category is elusive to most golfers.

The final option is the sexy, exciting one; the “more RPMs under the hood” golfer. This is the one where overspeed training is your fountain of youth and you can pick up 10, 15, even 20 yards in a matter of weeks. You might have more RPM’s under your hood right now. Being in this category means you physically are able to produce way more power athletically than you are doing in your golf swing currently.  

The Good News

The “more RPMs under the hood” golfer describes over 50 percent of amateur golfers. Most of you sit at work and don’t train your body to move at maximal speeds outside of when you swing the golf club. The number of adults and senior golfers who train maximal speed at the gym, run sprints and train with plyometrics (correctly) is under five percent.

Why is this good news?

Because if you don’t move fast at any point in your life other than on the golf course right now, doing pretty much anything fast repetitively will make you faster. For instance, you can jump up and down three times before you hit a drive and your speed will increase by 2-3 mph (6-9 yards) just from that according to a research study.

This means that for the average amateur, adult golfer in this category, picking up 5-8 mph (12- 20-plus yards) almost immediately (it won’t stick unless you keep training in though) is incredibly simple.

The Bad News & The Fine Print

Remember earlier when I mentioned you needed to “also have full mobility in the four main rotary centers” and that “75 percent of adults over the age of 50 lack mobility in at least two rotary centers?” 

That’s the bad news.

Most golfers will get faster by simply swinging as hard as they can. Unfortunately, most golfers also will get hurt swinging maximally repeatedly because they have to compensate for the lack of rotational mobility in those rotary centers. 

This should be a big bold disclaimer, but is often not. This is the fine print no one tells you about. This is where the rubber meets the road and the sexiness of overspeed training crashes and burns into the traffic jam of joints that don’t move well for most amateur golfers.  

Your Solution

The first step to your solution is to make sure you have full rotational mobility and figure out what category of golfer your body puts you in. As a thanks for being a WRX reader, here is a special link to the entire assessment tool for free. 

After you determine if you have the mobility to do overspeed training safely and you know if you are even in the category that would make it worthwhile, the second and final step is to figure out how many swings you need to do.

How Many Swings are too Many?

Concisely, you don’t need more than 30 swings two times per week. Anything more than that is unnecessary based on the available research.  

As you digest all of the research on overspeed training, it is clear that the fastest swing speeds tend to occur with the stronger and more powerful players. This means that first, you need to become strong and be able to generate power through intelligent workout plans to maximize performance, longevity and reduce injury likelihood. From here, overspeed training can become an amazing tool to layer on top of a strong foundation and implement at different times during the year.

To be clear, based on the two randomized overspeed studies that Par4Success completed and my experience of training thousands of golfers, it is my opinion that overspeed training works in both high volume (100s of swings per session) and low volume protocol (30 swings per session) formats exactly the same. With this being the case, why would you want to swing 8,000 more times if you don’t have to? 

The research shows statistically no difference in speed gained by golfers between high-volume overspeed protocols compared to low volume ones. Because of this, in my opinion, high volume protocols are unnecessary and place golfers at unnecessary risk for overuse injury. This is especially true when they are carried out in the absence of a customized strength and conditioning program for golf.     

Rest Matters

In order to combat low-quality reps and maximize results with fewer swings, it is necessary to take rest breaks of 2-3 minutes after every 10 swings. Anything less is not enough to allow the energy systems to recover and diminishes your returns on your effort. If these rests are not adhered to, you will fatigue quickly, negatively impacting quality and increasing your risk of injury.  

Rest time is another reason why low volume protocols are preferable to high volume ones. To take the necessary rests, a high volume protocol would take more than an hour to complete. With the lower volume protocols you can still keep the work time to 10 minutes.   

The Low Volume Overspeed Protocol

You can see the full protocol in the full study reports here. It is critical you pass the first step first, however before implementing either protocol, and it is strongly recommended not to do the overspeed protocol without a solid golf performance plan in place as well in order to maximize results and reduce risk of injury.

This is just the first version of this protocol as we are currently looking at the possibility of eliminating kneeling as well as some other variables that are showing promising in our ongoing research. Be sure to check back often for updates!

Commonly asked questions about overspeed training…

Once initial adaptations have occurred, is there any merit to overspeed training long term?  

None of the studies that I was able to find discussed longitudinal improvements or causation of those improvements. This is the hardest type of research to do which speaks to the lack of evidence. No one actually knows the answer to these questions. Anyone saying they do is guessing.

Do the initial gains of overspeed training outperform those of traditional strength and conditioning?  

There appears to be a bigger jump with the addition of overspeed training than solely strength and conditioning, by almost threefold.  In 6 and 8 weeks respectively, the average gain was just around 3 mph, which is three times the average gain for adult golfers over a 12 weeks period with just traditional strength and conditioning. 

Can we use overspeed training as a substitute for traditional strength and conditioning?

No. Emphatically no. It would be irresponsible to use overspeed in isolation to train golfers for increased speed. First off, increasing how fast someone can swing without making sure they have the strength to control that speed is a means to set someone up for injury and failure. Secondly, if they are appropriate and you increase someone’s speed, you also need to increase their strength as well so that it keeps up with the demands the new speed is putting on their body.   

Are long term results (1 year+) optimized if overspeed training is combined with traditional strength and conditioning vs in isolation or not at all?  

It would appear, based off our longitudinal programs that using overspeed training periodized in conjunction with an athlete-specific strength and conditioning program and sport-specific training (ie. technical lessons, equipment, etc—not medicine ball throws or cable chops) in a periodized yearly plan maximizes results year to year.  

In order to keep decreases in club speed to no more than three-to-five percent during the competitive season (as is the normal amount in our data), it is imperative to keep golfers engaged in an in-season strength and conditioning program focused on maximal force and power outputs. By minimizing this in-season loss, it assures that we see gains year over year.  

It is unclear if overspeed training in conjunction with strength and conditioning during the season further decreases this standard loss due to nervous system fatigue, but this would be a great area for future research.  

What sort of frequency, protocols or volume should one utilize for maximal benefit and minimal risk of injury?  

Most of the studies that I was able to find specifically on swinging looked at about 100 swings three times per (baseball). The Superspeed protocols which are the most popular in the golf world, follow a similar volume recommendation after an initial ramp up period. It is a concern, especially with untrained individuals, that adding more than 11,000 maximal effort swings over the course of year might increase risk for injury due to the incredible increase in load. Especially for the amatuer golfer who only plays on the weekends and does not engage in a strength and conditioning program, this is a significant volume increase from their baseline.

The Par4Success studies in 2018-19 found no significant difference in swing speed gains between high volume protocols and a lower volume protocol which required only 30 swings, 2x/week but required a 2 minute rest between every 10 swings.

More studies beyond these two need to be done looking at this, but it would be my recommendation, specifically in golf, not to engage in the high volume protocols as it does not appear to increase speed gains while also increasing load on the athlete significantly.  

Do any potential gains of overspeed training outperform the traditional methods that are proven to transfer to sport?

It does not appear that overspeed training is superior to any one training method, but rather a tool to use in conjunction with other proven methods. The key here is to assess yourself and look to implement this type of training when mobility is not an issue and the physical ability to produce power is higher than the ability to generate club speed. In the right scenario, overspeed training can be a game-changing tool. In the wrong scenario, it can be a nail in a golfer’s coffin.

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Faults and Fixes: Arms too far behind body at the top

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In this week’s Faults and Fixes, we’ll look at the issue of the older player getting the arms too far behind the body at the top. When this happens, the clubhead speed is compromised, and the ability to create height, spin, and distance is diminished. For older players, Brandel Chamblee has the right idea by wanting the left heel to raise and the arms to work themselves into a more upright position.

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