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Have you been screened?

by   |   January 21, 2013
Shuan Webb

Have you ever worked with a golf instructor on improving your swing, and no matter how hard you tried and regardless of how many lessons you took, you just couldn’t seem to make the change that your instructor was recommending?

For example, your instructor mentioned that you needed to turn your upper body 90 degrees to the target line on the backswing, and no matter what you did you could not coax your body to get into that particular position. You grunted, gritted your teeth and contorted yourself but you still could not get there? I think many of us have been there, including me.

I went through this same situation when I was working on my game around 12 years ago with one of the top instructors in the world at the time. He had came to the conclusion that the reason I was prone to hitting the snap hook with my driver was because my hips were not rotating through impact. He said they were sliding, and he was 100 percent correct.  I could see it and he could see it, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get my pelvis and lower body to rotate through impact correctly. After much frustration and many untimely hooks, I went in search for my own answers as to why I could not make this move. It was at this time I began by learning more about the body and its connection to the golf swing.

The more I read and learned about this subject, the more I started to feel that my problems were likely caused by a problem with my body, not my technique. To confirm my feelings, I sought out a fitness professional who specialized in dealing with golfers. This led me to a local trainer in my area who was TPI certified. After a quick warm-up and a number of physical screens, I waited with anticipation as the trainer assessed my results. I’ll never forget the next thing that came out of his mouth: “Your hips are shot…they don’t work. The reason you are unable to rotate through impact is that internal rotation of your left hip is extremely limited.”

You cannot imagine the relief that I felt knowing this information. Instead of being upset that I had a physical restriction, I was actually happy that I now had a reason why I struggled so much with my turn through impact.

The trainer gave me some stretches and a dynamic warm up to attack my problem areas and sent me on my way. I immediately went to work on the stretches and within a week started to feel like my left hip mobility was improving. The next week I went for a lesson and my instructor (and myself) were both shocked to see the pelvis moving and rotating through impact in a much improved manner.

“You got it!” he said with excitement. “Those drills I gave you are working great.”

When I explained to him that the stretches I had been doing had made it much easier for me to rotate, he dismissed it and and was ready to move on to the next “problem” in my swing…I was ready to move on to a new instructor.

Because of my experience, when I began my teaching career I made it my mission to understand the body and how it relates to the swing. I knew that I could help many more golfers reach their potential by not only better understanding the origin of many swing faults, but also by reducing injury potential.

That was over 10 years ago. From that point forward, I immersed myself with TPI, as they were and still are now at the forefront of this aspect of the industry. The knowledge I have gained from them and other sources that are focused on the body/swing connection has allowed me to make faster improvements in my students’ games and also understand what they can and cannot do with their swings.

When a student first comes to me for a lesson or coaching, I will not work with him or her until I physically assess them. I sometimes get perplexed looks from them when I tell them this, but 100 percent of the time they thank me for taking the time to understand them more and creating a custom plan based on what their body can physically do.

For example, let’s say the student comes to me complaining about an over-the-top swing plane. One of the main causes of this particular swing fault is that the student has an inability to separate or disassociate his or her lower body from the upper body during the transition of the swing. Once I give them exercises and stretches that improve separation, along with swing drills and motor skills training, the swing changes happen much quicker. Instead of a “Band-Aid” fix, I have given them a swing pattern improvement that will last.

So what exactly is a TPI movement screen? It  is a comprehensive head to toe appraisal of movement patterns related to golf. The assessment identifies movement deficiencies that are highly correlated to the most common golf swing flaws.

By using the movement screen, I am able to quickly identify breakdowns in one’s level of mobility, stability, flexibility, strength and power. This information can then be utilized to determine if physical dysfunctions are impeding the golf swing. I use this information to build a swing for the student that is most efficient them based on what they can physically do.

The basic screens are as follows:

  • Pelvic tilt
  • Pelvic Rotation
  • Torso Rotation
  • Overhead deep squat
  • Toe Touch
  • Lying Bridge
  • Seated Rotation
  • 90/90 Shoulder Rotation
  • Lower Quarter Rotation
  • Lat Test
  • Single Leg Balance

The other important aspect of the screen is that it ultimately identifies issues in the Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement. This important principle indicates that efficient movement in golf swing requires the body to operate in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable body segments.

If this pattern of mobile joints and stable body segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns and losses in swing efficiency will occur. In addition, the ability to execute each phase of the golf swing, generate speed and transfer this speed to the golf club will be impeded.

Once the physical screens have been completed the next step is selecting the appropriate exercises along with swing drills and movement preparation to develop the required movement patterns in the swing.

Once the student begins working on his training/exercise program and also implements the prescribed swing drills for changing motor patterns (if necessary) it’s astounding how fast the improvement in ball-striking takes place.

So how can I as an instructor try to help a student with his swing without even knowing what his body can do? I liken this to golf instructor malpractice.

If your instructor starts making changes to your swing right away without first giving you even the most basic physical screen and asking questions about injuries, you may want to consider seeking out a TPI physical trainer to fill this void in your training program.

If you do not have a golf fitness professional in your area, please feel free to contact me. On a limited basis, I have a remote physical screening program whereby I can guide you to understanding if you have physical issues/limitations that may be holding you back and also design a custom training program for you.

I know that once you better understand what your body can and cannot do in a golf swing and you have a plan to attack your physical limitations, you will be on your way to playing your best (injury-free) golf. Now go have some fun.

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17 Comments

  1. David Stafford

    February 23, 2013 at 12:09 am

    Shaun: Always enjoy your articles. THEY MAKE SENSE. Very educational for us average Joes. Keep up the good work.

  2. Alice Kahl

    February 11, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Shaun: Great article re: TPI screening. As a TPI-certified Level 3 Medical Professional, I also highly recommend checking in with a medical person on your team, especially if there is pain/stiffness or any history of injury (golf-related or otherwise). We can help mobilize soft tissue and joints to help increase ROM (range of motion), so the golfer can then be trained in a new motor pattern. See my related post: “The TEAM approach to maximizing your golf potential”

  3. Chad

    January 31, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Really good read. I am just starting to get into “golf” fitness myself with a lot of flexibility and rotational exercises. I have not been screened, but it sounds like I should.

  4. Jeff

    January 23, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I am 57 and have a 2 hdcp and am concerned about my loss of distance from my lack of flexibility from years of babying my back that has effected my back and hips . Trying to rotate is getting tougher every year and am very interested in your assessment and stetching tools . I live in central Ohio and have time to strech and workout before our season begins . Im not sure if there is a TPI center for screening anywhere in my area . Any advice would be appreciated . Thanks

    • CTEagle

      January 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      You can find a list of TPI trainers at mytpi.com.

    • Shaun Webb

      January 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Jeff,

      Shoot me an email and i’ll help you figure out what you need.

  5. CTEagle

    January 22, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Great post. I just started working with TPI trainers earlier this winter and so far the results have been encouraging. Like you I suffer from poor internal hip rotation, among some other things.

    I wanted to ask your thoughts on stretching. I was told stretching is actually harmful, and that a lack of mobility is from weak muscles, not tight muscles, so the correct fix is strengthening the muscles. Are there competing schools of though? Thanks.

    • Shaun Webb

      January 24, 2013 at 7:30 am

      Here’s a great article from Roger Fredericks (a TPI Advisory Board Member) that helps explains why a proper flexibility program is important. Hope this helps clear up the confusion for you.

      http://www.mytpi.com/mytpi05/Fitness/article.asp?id=644

      • pablo

        January 31, 2013 at 5:56 pm

        that linked article has this sentence and it sounds incorrect based on the context of the article:

        “I’ve never seen a person gain more flexibility by going on a “proper” flexibility program than they did from a weight training program – PERIOD!”

  6. Jesse

    January 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    As someone who is in their early 50′s and after having some serious back issues I cannot stress enough how important it is to do stretching and flexibility exercises.

    Everyone should work on their flexibility and get some type of exercise in at least 3 times a week. Not only will your body thank you, your golf game will as well.

    • Shaun Webb

      January 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      Well said

  7. Marty

    January 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Best article I’ve read on here in a while. Nice job!

    • Shaun Webb

      January 22, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks for the kind words Marty

  8. Will

    January 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Shaun, thanks for the post. I’m looking to get back into the gym and wanted to build a “golf focus” workout / stretching routine. How do I start building that out? Any suggestions on resources for workouts and stretches? I’d love to find a good book on the subject.

    • Shaun Webb

      January 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Send me your info from the contact form on my website and I’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible. I have the PGA show this week so it may be a couple days before you hear back from me.

  9. Shaun Webb

    January 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks!

  10. Troy Vayanos

    January 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Great Post Shaun,

    Performing regular stretching and mobility exercises for golf is really important. I’m certain all the touring professionals work on these on a regular basis. This ensures they are able to get their body into the right positions to perform their optimum golf swing.

    It should be no different for amateur golfers who often don’t realise their problems could be related to lack of body movement and flexibility.

    I think the best decision you made was changing coaches … good work!

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