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Using gravity to train your posture and golf swing

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In this article, I’m going to talk about an exercise modality and tools created by a company called Gravity Fit. I have been incorporating their techniques, combined with more traditional strength and conditioning movements, more and more often into my day-to-day training of golfers. The reason I’m using it more frequently is that I keep seeing golfers of all levels improve their awareness, movement quality and stability at a much faster rate than when I was using previous techniques, and the exercise modality and tools are now more accessible for the average club golfer than ever.

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Essentially, the principle of Gravity Fit is that if we simulate and even ramp up the effect of gravity on our bodies, while aiming for perfect postural control and joint stability in our movements, then we can make our body extremely posturally strong and stable while dramatically reducing our risk of injury. In theory, this means having more control in our golf swing, too.

The science behind this working model of using gravity to make us stronger and more stable can get technical very quickly. From space research, we now know that we have a specialized “sensory-feedback” system related to gravity that can also influence the way we optimize the golf swing. Gravity sensory information is specifically related to how the sensation of gravity is picked up by receptors in joint structures and leads to an increase in tone or springiness of the muscles of the trunk working more statically to provide proximal stability or a firm and flexible anchor for whole body movement.

stack-1For those of you without formal qualifications in anatomy/physiology, what this essentially means is that we have a whole bunch of deep stabilizer muscles that are located close to the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. They respond to gravity and/or a simulated gravity that comes from a closed-chain exercise (think of the squat, push up, or overhead press as examples). Gravity Fit proposes that we don’t get enough of this stimulus as increasingly sedentary beings, and that sports like golf don’t really help either. Golf is an open-chain movement and provides very little of the closed-chain compressive load to which those deep stabilizer muscles respond so well.

The Gravity Fit system of exercise progressively increases the sensory effect of gravity based on a standardized exercise model, and incorporates this science into an upright, whole body training program using custom-designed pieces of equipment. I’m going to show you one example using each piece of kit that addresses the different postural, stability, and movement quality needs in three different golfers.

Example 1: Using Audio Feedback to Train the Core

This example features a piece of equipment called the Core Awareness Belt. As you can see in the image below, this is a belt that circles the lumbar area with a pressure sensor in line with the belly button. The genius of this design is the sensor picks up small changes in abdominal pressure that are a dead giveaway as to whether you are using the muscles of you lumbar core effectively. Basically, when the lumbar core isn’t working properly, it pushes outward and the Telme Buzzer emits a beeping noise, giving instant feedback to both the user and the trainer.

Cab-with-telme-resized

Below is a video of a young Australian golfer who has traditionally struggled with control in his lumbar core, which can negatively affect how he moves during the golf swing. In the video, he is aiming to rotate into his backswing while keeping the buzzer quiet. We established with his coach that if his lumbar core is working properly then the quality of the initial part of his backswing improves, which has massive consequences for how his body moves in the rest of swing.

What you can see (as well as his very impressive golf tan) is that he is doing a pretty good job with this drill, but it took a fair bit of work to get him to this stage. At one point he was getting very frustrated with the buzzer noise going off almost continually until he started to master the activation in increasingly complex movements.

Example 2: Proving Kinesthetic Feedback to Train the Scapula and Upper Spine

This example features a piece of equipment called the Thoracic Pro. It provides feedback to the upper spine and shoulder blades through touch. The pressure from the green spikes tell you if your spine is in the correct position and the paddles on the side give awareness of your shoulder blades.

Tpro-resizedIn this example, we have a player who is a big unit: very strong and athletic. He has a tendency to lose his thoracic (upper back) curve and get a very straight spine (those thoracic extensors taking over), often losing control of his scapulae (shoulder blades), too. This is less than ideal for a player who is looking to match up his arm and body movements better in his swing.

The picture below shows our man doing a classic closed-chain exercise — the push up — using the Thoracic Pro and the Core Awareness Belt. The aim is to keep the spikes in the middle of the back-bow connected to the spine and the scapulae connected to the paddles, while also keeping the buzzer on the Core Awareness Belt nice and quiet. This brings in a whole new element of challenge and focus to an exercise that would otherwise be very easy for this player.

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Example 3: Sorting Out a Grumpy Lower Back

This example actually features myself (I just about scrape into the category of being a golfer) and my low back giving me a bit of bother. Upping the amount of practice, lifting heavy and neglecting my posture at work had left me with a tight and sore low back that wasn’t really responding to self massage using a spiky ball or foam roller. I decided it was time to back off the lifts for a few days and start using the Gravity Cap twice a day. In the images below you can see me demonstrating the exercise combo I used, basically just standing, walking and knee lifts, which looks so simple… but there is some hidden magic in the application of the Gravity Cap.

Cap 1

Cap 2Essentially the Gravity Cap gives me the cue to stand tall, drawing the spine out of the pelvis, feeling as though I’m lengthening my spine. What is actually happening? The increased gravity stimulus delivered by the band pressure on the crown of the skull, combined with my feeling of standing tall, is firing up the gravity muscles (stabilizer) close to my spine. Having these muscles more active then allows the tight superficial movement muscles in the low back to calm down and let go of their death grip on my spine.

Cap-resizedThese three examples are just some of the ways in which it’s possible to use the Gravity Fit training tools and techniques to help golfers train their posture and quality of movement in the golf swing. To take a look at Gravity Fit’s stuff yourself click here, or alternatively stick with GolfWRX to see how featured writer Kane Cochran used it to improve his game.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

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    Sep 27, 2016 at 10:43 am

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The Gear Dive: Discussing the drivers of 2020 with Bryan LaRoche

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with his good buddy Bryan LaRoche. They chat on life and do a deep dive into the drivers of 2020.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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