When it comes to performance training, movement really is our foundation. If we have acceptable ranges of motion at our joints, our strength and conditioning exercises will become more effective. We’ll be able to produce more force and improve injury resilience. In turn, they’ll help reinforce appropriate mobility, too.
Mobility is a confusing topic for many amateur golfers, however, as many spend a lot of time doing static stretches without any improvement. Why? Many of us think we have a hardware problem when we’re really suffering from a software problem. This is a concept both Grey Cook and Charlie Weingroff have talked about at length, but to give you a brief rundown.
- Hardware: This is a dysfunction that is truly a mobility issue. It may be stemming from degenerative joints, hereditary issues, tight/stiff muscles, fascial restrictions, etc. In short, think bone, joint, muscle or tissue in general.
- Software: The limitation stems from stability and/or motor control issue. Soft limitations aren’t there due to a structural limitation; they’re present because you don’t have the strength, neuromuscular control, or stability to do the task. Think stability, motor control or weakness.
This is where a good assessment and a good team is vital. If you have a true hardware limitation, you will be better off seeing a good physical therapist or someone that can do manual therapy. That said, I am willing to wager that the vast majority of your tight hamstrings, lower backs, shoulders, etc, are actually software issues.
With that in mind, as a strength coach, I am always looking for ways to help my clients quickly overcome software issues so we can improve movement and do a better job improving performance measures like strength and power as a result. We can use various drills and techniques to help improve a pattern or integrate newfound physical capabilities into that pattern.
One of the most effective ways I have found to do this is using Kinaesthetic feedback. It’s a bit of a double whammy effect, too, as many of these drills create instant improvements to a pattern while still allowing movements to be loaded. This reinforces the pattern while giving us a strength training effect at the same time! That’s the sort of time efficiency that pays off hugely in a high skill game like golf, where my job is to give a player the physical tools they need as quickly and effectively as possible so they can get out of the gym and back to practicing the sport.
Exercise 1: Quadruped Hip Extension with Lumbar Feedback
As Dan John says, everyone who sits all day needs three things: hip flexor stretches, thoracic-spine mobility, and rotary stability. Bird-dog and quadruped hip extension drills are our typical interventions for rotary stability with the quadruped hip extension on elbows being the most basic progression we use at Stronger Golf.
Unfortunately, it is also one of the most commonly butchered exercises I see. Fortunately, simply placing a foam roller, water bottle or yoga block on the lumbar spine can solve can solve that.
- Position a yoga block (or similar) on your lumbar spine and get back flat to it
- In the video below, we have also placed a tennis/lacrosse ball behind the knee, which you must keep in place throughout. This keeps the knee bent, thereby limiting the hamstrings involvement in the exercise.
Many people do this exercise poorly because they view it as a range of motion exercise — extending at the lower back in order to get the moving leg higher. The purpose of the exercise is not to increase the range of motion, but to demonstrate a stable low back position in the presence of hip extension. You should aim to stay as stable as possible at the low back. Keep your back in contact with that yoga block/roller throughout the movement and don’t extend the hip beyond your capacity to do so.
Exercise 2: RNT (Reactive Neuro-Muscular Training) Squats
RNT is a great technique to “feed the mistake” (as Grey Cook says) and create activation in muscles to clean up a pattern instantly. The idea is to set up a band or similar equipment to pull you further into the mistake. This works really well for things like preventing knee valgus in split-squats and squats and can also be used to aid thoracic extension, overhead reaching and hip hinging.
One of the most common squat defects is having the knees cave in during the squat, often due to poor glute function. Simply adding a mini-band looped around the leg, just below the knee, will create an RNT effect, engaging those glutes and forcing the knees out. This instantly cleans up a poor squat pattern more often than not.
Exercise 3: Kettlebell Deadlift to Wall
Gravity Fit has a range of tools I have recently begun using that enable me to create kinaesthetic feedback for my clients in a much greater range of environments/ exercises. One such exercise I really like to use it in is the hip hinge, a foundational movement vital to preventing back pain — particularly for golfers where it is how we get into a good golf posture.
A dowel of a stick held with three points of contact is the traditional way of teaching this pattern using kinesthetic feedback, however, this has limitations. It is hard to teach an individual to create the tension necessary for loading the hinge in the deadlift patterns that are so vital for creating strength and power in the posterior chain and increasing clubhead speed. With the Gravity Fit Thoracic-Pro/T-Sense, we can fill that gap between hip hinge as a movement pattern and a loaded exercise much more quickly and easily.
- Put TPro/TSensa on as directed (if using TPro, just don’t grip handles)
- Make sure you can feel pressure on all paddles
- Push butt back to touch the wall while still maintaining pressure with the paddles
- Lower arms while still maintaining pressure on the outside paddles
- Bend knees as much as needed to get down to the bell
- Grasp bell and stand straight up
- Lower by pushing the butt back to the wall
- Maintain pressure on paddles
Exercise 4: Half-Kneeling T-Spine Rotation
Another great use for the TPro is teaching a good thoraco-scapular position/relationship. As a result of modern sedentary lives, many individuals struggle with proper positional awareness and motor control of the thoracic spine and scapular. This often limits the upper extremity movement, shoulder external rotation, and flexion that are key for both the golf swing and improving strength in key exercises such as the chin-up.
- Put TPro on as directed
- Set up in a half-kneeling position with a straight line between the shoulders, hips, and knee of the back leg
- Make sure you can feel pressure on the spikes in middle and paddles on either side
- Take a step backward with one leg and lower yourself into a reverse lunge position
- From there, simply rotate to one side then the other making sure to keep the chin tucked and pressure on the three paddles throughout
- The half-kneeling position helps teach disassociation between upper and lower body while the T-Pro keeps the core engaged and the neutral scapular/shoulder position vital to good rotation.
The patterns above represent some of the most fundamental human movement patterns that you need a firm handle on if you are going to reduce injury risk, increase strength and power or improve performance on the course. Indeed, they form the basis of tools like the FMS. Whether you struggle with mobility in these patterns or simply want a way to clean up a movement so you can load that pattern more effectively, I recommend you give these drills a go.
If we can quickly and easily sort motor control issues and perfect patterns, your mobility will likely improve much quicker than it ever has, you will be more resilient to injury and your power output will probably improve as well. This improved movement capacity means you’ll be more able to make technical changes in your swing as well, giving you a much wider variety of exercise you can safely and effectively do in the gym, further improving your force output capabilities and further reinforcing mobility.
The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2
In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
An open letter to golf
I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.
It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.
On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.
This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.
As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.
I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.
When you are able to return in full, I will be here.
Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)
The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact
One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.
As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.
I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.
So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.
So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.
I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.
I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.
If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.
[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]
It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.
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