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Performance Training: 4 exercises to fix your mobility “software” problem

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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.

  1. Position a yoga block (or similar) on your lumbar spine and get back flat to it
  2. 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.

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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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. xcxcxc

    Sep 26, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    😮

    • walter

      Sep 26, 2018 at 11:44 pm

      These exercises would destroy 99% of all golfers worldwide!

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Opinion & Analysis

A different perspective

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play a round with two of the greens keepers at a local golf course and it was a fascinating experience. It gave me a chance to get a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to make a golf course great.

Many of us play at public courses, and sometimes its luck of the draw if the course we are at is in good condition. In my case, if I find a course that is well maintained and taken care of, I make it a regular stop. In this case, I was at Ridgeview Ranch in Plano Texas and it is a great public course and I play here at least once a month.

The two guys I played with were Tony Arellano and Jose Marguez. Both were great guys to share a round with. Tony shared what it’s like to make sure that all the greens are maintained properly and watered correctly. He showed me where there were some issues with one of the greens that I would never have noticed. We talked about how the invasion of Poa annua grass forces his guys to pull it out by hand with a tool that is smaller than a divot repair tool. It became clear to me that as a golf community, we need to lift up the people that do this labor-intensive work and thank them for all they do. Ridgeview Ranch is without a doubt one of the better public courses in my area, and it is because of the hard work these men do that keeps it this way.

As we watched the Masters tournament a few weeks ago we were awestruck by the awesome beauty of Augusta National and in my case I believe that is what heaven looks like. I think we take that kind of beauty for granted and forget the massive amount of time and hard work that go into making a golf course look good. These people have to deal with all of the different factors that Mother Nature throws at them and be prepared for anything. In addition to that, they also have to make sure the watering system is maintained as well as all of their equipment.

I have played at other courses in the DFW area that have a terrible staff and a superintendent that either don’t care about the course or don’t know how to stop it from falling apart. The course won’t spend the money to go get the right people that will take pride in their work. Some of these places will charge you more than $80 per round, and when you get to the first green that has dry spots that are without any grass you feel like you have been ripped off.

We all love this game not because it’s easy but because it’s a challenge and being good at it takes a ton of effort. We also love it because it gives us a chance to hang out with friends and family and enjoy time outside in the sun– hopefully without cell phone interruptions and other distractions of our modern day. We spend a ton of money on green fees, equipment and sometimes travel. We want to get what we pay for and we want to have a great course to spend the day at.

I wanted to write this article to thank all of those men and women that start work in the early hours of the day and work through the hottest stretches of the summer to keep our golf courses in great shape. They are people that never get the credit they deserve and we should always thank them whenever possible. Tony and Jose are just two examples of the people who work so hard for all of us. Ridgeview Ranch is lucky to have these two men who not only work hard but were fantastic representatives of their course. So next time you are out there and you see these people working hard, maybe stop and say thank you let them know what they do really makes a difference.

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5 most common golf injuries (and how to deal with them)

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You might not think about golf as a physically intensive game, but that doesn’t change the fact it is still a sport. And as with every sport, there’s a possibility you’ll sustain an injury while playing golf. Here’s a list of the five most common injuries you might sustain when playing the game, along with tips on how to deal with them in the best way possible so you heal quickly.

Sunburn

While not directly an injury, it’s paramount to talk about sunburns when talking about golf. A typical golf game is played outside in the open field, and it lasts for around four hours. This makes it extremely likely you’ll get sunburnt, especially if your skin is susceptible to it.

That’s why you should be quite careful when you play golf

Apply sunscreen every hour – since you’re moving around quite a lot on a golf course, sunscreen won’t last as long as it normally does.

Wear a golf hat – aside from making you look like a professional, the hat will provide additional protection for your face.

If you’re extra sensitive to the sun, you should check the weather and plan games when the weather is overcast.

Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint. This group are the main muscles responsible for swing movements in your arms. It’s no surprise then that in golf, where the main activity consists of swinging your arms, there’s a real chance this muscle group might sustain an injury.

To avoid injuries to this group, it’s imperative you practice the correct form of swinging the club. Before playing, you should also consider some stretching.

If you get an injury, however, you can recover faster by following RICE:

Rest: resting is extremely important for recovery. After an injury, the muscles are extremely vulnerable to further injury, and that’s why you should immediately stop playing and try to get some rest.

Ice: applying ice to the injured area during the first day or two can help. It reduces inflammation and relaxes the muscles.

Compress: bandage the rotator cuff group muscle and compress the muscles. This speeds up the muscle healing process.

Elevate: elevate the muscles above your heart to help achieve better circulation of blood and minimize fluids from gathering.

Wrist Injuries

Wrist tendons can sustain injuries when playing golf. Especially if you enjoy playing with a heavy club, it can put some strain on the wrist and cause wrist tendonitis, which is characterized by inflammation and irritation.

You should start by putting your wrist in a splint or a cast – it is necessary to immobilize your wrist to facilitate healing.

Anti-inflammatory medicine can relieve some of the pain and swelling you’ll have to deal with during the healing process. While it might not help your wrist heal much quicker, it’ll increase your comfort.

A professional hand therapist knows about the complexities of the wrist and the hand and can help you heal quicker by inspecting and treating your hands.

Back Pain

A golf game is long, sometimes taking up to 6 hours. This long a period of standing upright, walking, swinging clubs, etc. can put stress on your back, especially in people who aren’t used to a lot of physical activities:

If you feel like you’re not up for it, you should take a break mid-game and then continue after a decent rest. A golf game doesn’t have any particular time constraints, so it should be simple to agree to a short break.

If you don’t, consider renting a golf cart, it makes movement much easier. If that’s not possible, you can always buy a pushcart, which you can easily store all the equipment in. Take a look at golf push cart reviews to know which of them best suits your needs.

Better posture – a good posture distributes physical strain throughout your body and not only on your back, which means a good posture will prevent back pain and help you deal with it better during a game.

Golfer’s Elbow

Medically known as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow occurs due to strain on the tendons connecting the elbow and forearm. It can also occur if you overuse and over-exhaust the muscles in your forearm that allow you to grip and rotate your arm:

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the way to go to alleviate the most severe symptoms of the injury at the beginning.

Lift the club properly, and if you think there’s a mismatch between your wrist and the weight of the club, you should get a lighter one.

Learn when you’ve reached your limit. Don’t overexert yourself – when you know your elbow is starting to cause you problems, take a short break!

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Podcasts

TG2: Our PGA picks were spot on…and Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball

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Rob picked Brooks to win the PGA and hit the nail on the head, while Knudson’s DJ pick was pretty close. Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball and we talk about some new clubs that are going to be tested in the next couple days.

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

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