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Focus your warm-up on your weaknesses—an LPGA Tour example

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This article is co-authored with Anne-Lise Bidou.

Anne-Lise is a French physiotherapist (trained in Australia), working on the LPGA Tour. Her current stable of players includes Hannah Green, Lizette Salas, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Mel Reid, Maria Fassi, Madelene Sagstrom, Mariah Stackhouse, Alena Sharp, Ashleigh Buhai, Laura Gonzalez Escallon and Tiffany Chan.

You can follow Anne-Lise and her life/work on tour: Instagram and Facebook

Golf warm-ups are often generic, vague, and lacklustre when they should be specific, targeted, and performed with intent. It’s the last opportunity you get before playing to get your body moving well, so why not make the most of it?

In this article, we present an example warm-up from Mariah Stackhouse, former Stanford star and emerging LPGA Tour player. Like many recreational golfers, Mariah’s warm-up used to be quite random, with no specific goals or direction and as a result, was rarely performed with much consistency.

When she started seeing Anne-Lise at the start of the 2019 LPGA Tour season, there were a few physical priorities that needed to be addressed:

  • General pain in upper back/neck
  • Pain in lower back when playing or practicing a lot
  • Mobility issues at the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder joints
  • Instability around the core/low back and scapular/upper back
  • History of left wrist pain

Throughout the 2019 season, whilst focusing on reducing pain and increasing mobility and stability, Mariah’s physical abilities have significantly improved. She no longer suffers from upper-back/neck or low back pain, demonstrated when she played a pain-free stretch of 7 weeks in a row in the middle of summer! 

Mariah recording her best finish on the LPGA Tour – T5 at the ShopRite Classic

As Anne-Lise’s combination of treatment and gym work with Mariah started to yield results, a natural progression was to incorporate some of the exercises into a structured warm-up routine. It made sense to ensure the negative physical tendencies didn’t creep into her golf swing and performance when it mattered most.

Mariah kicks off her warm-up with some basic movement preparation that includes mobility exercises using a foam roller and spiky ball to release the muscles that typically get tight (quads, QL/back extensors, pecs, and calves) and some dynamic stretches targeting the hips, thoracic spine, shoulder, wrist, and ankle. 

What follows are examples of the additional specific warm-up exercises that have been incorporated into her routine, along with the reasons for their inclusion relative to the physical priorities outlined above.

Warm-up Exercise 1: Posture Set with Crab Walks

In order to activate Mariah’s glute muscles (“king in the golf swing” according to Lance Gill) she does a crab walk with mini-band around the knee, combined with posture setting and a scapular (shoulder blade) stability exercise. The GravityFit TPro provides load and stimulus for her shoulder stabilizers as she pushes out against the yellow tubing, whilst making small circles. The part sitting on her upper back is called the backbow, providing awareness and feedback on Mariah’s posture.

Warm-up Exercise 2: Trunk Rotation

The trunk rotation with TPro focuses on upper/lower body dissociation; a very useful movement pattern in the golf swing. This an area that Mariah has focused a lot of effort on, partly due to the relevance to her backswing movement. She knows that an optimal take-away, with good arm-body connection, will set her in a good position from which she can make her ideal move into the downswing. 

 Warm-up Exercise 3: Single Leg Trunk Rotation

This exercise challenges Mariah’s ability to balance whilst rotating; another key focus for her. From a more general perspective, working on proprioception helps to improve neuromuscular function, helping to maximise her movement coordination and energy transfer. 

Warm-up Exercise 4: Backswing

One of the last things Mariah does before heading to the range is to practice a full backswing movement with the TPro. Again, for feedback on posture and shoulder position, whilst also pushing out against the yellow tubing with the aim of maintaining the width in her lead arm.

Additional Reasons for including the TPro in Mariah’s warm-up

Mariah tends to overuse her upper trap, neck and pec muscles to stabilize her head, spine, and shoulders. The TPro is useful due to the constant feedback on posture, along with stimulus to her activate her scapular stabilizers and core muscles (allowing upper trap, neck and pec muscles to relax).

Due to some previous wrist injury, the use of the TPro has also been very effective in preparing the muscles around her hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. 

Takeaway

You might want to consider adding a few specific movement preparation exercises to your pre-round routine. The self-massage and stretching will help ensure good range of movement, but switching on the right muscles and rehearsing your desired movement patterns could really help you find your swing earlier in the day!

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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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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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Fix early extension: 3 exercises to get your a** in gear

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It’s pretty common knowledge that “early extension” is a problem for golfers everywhere, but how does it affect your body and your game? And what can you do to fix it?

First, let’s look at early extension in its most simple form as a physical issue rather than a technical issue.

During the swing, we are asking our body to not only create force, but also resist a number of different forces created by the aggressive rotational pattern we call a golf swing. The problem comes down to each player’s unique dysfunction which will likely include bad posture, weak glutes or a locked out thoracic spine for example.

So when we then ask the body to rotate, maintain spine angle, get the left arm higher, pressure the ground, turn our hips to the target (to name a few) a lot of mobility, strength and efficiency are required to do all of this well.

And not everyone, well actually very few of us, has the full capability to do all of this optimally during the swing. The modern lifestyle has a lot to do with it, but so does physiology and it has been shown that tour players as well as everyday golfers suffer from varying levels of dysfunction but can ultimately get by relative to learned patterns and skill development.

But for the majority of players early extension leads to one or more of the following swing faults:

  • Loss of spine angle/posture. During the swing, a player will ‘stand up’ coming out of their original and desired spine angle, this alters the path and the plane of the club.
  • “Humping” the ball. Johnny Wunder’s preferred term for the forward and undesirable movement of the lower body closer to the ball.

Lack of rotation during the swing occurs due to the shift in the center of gravity caused by the loss of posture as your body does its best to just stay upright at all.

Ultimately, early extension leaves us “stuck” with the club too far behind us and nowhere to go—cue massive high push fade or slice going two fairways over (we’ve all been there) or a flippy hook as your body backs up and your hands do whatever they can to square it up.

Not only is this not a good thing if you want to hit a fairway, it’s also a really bad way to treat your body in general.

As a general rule, your body works as a system to create stability and mobility simultaneously allowing us to move, create force, etc. When we can’t maintain a stable core and spinal position or force is being transferred to an area that shouldn’t be dealing with it, we get issues. Likely, this starts with discomfort, possibly leading to prolonged pain, and eventually injury.

The body has a whole lot to deal with when you play golf, so it’s a good idea to start putting in the work to help it out. Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, but you’ll also likely play better too!

So we have three simple exercises for you here that you can do at home, or anywhere else, that will help you with the following elements

  • Posture
  • Core strength
  • Glute function
  • Thoracic mobility
  • Asymmetrical balance
  • Ground force development

#1: Forward lunge with rotation

  1. Standing tall, core engaged with a club in front of your chest, take a reasonable step forward.
  2. Stabilize your lead knee over your front foot and allow your trail knee to move down towards the ground, trying to keep it just above the surface.
  3. Maintaining your spine angle, rotate OVER your lead leg (chest faces the lead side) with the club at arm’s length in front of your torso keeping your eyes facing straight forwards.
  4. Rotate back to center, again with great control, and then step back to your original standing position.
  5. Repeat on other leg.

#2: Bird dog

  1. Get down on all fours again focusing on a quality, neutral spine position.
  2. Extend your left arm forward and your right leg backward.
  3. Control your breathing and core control throughout as we test balance, stability and core activation.
  4. Hold briefly at the top of each rep and return to start position.
  5. Repeat with right arm and left leg, alternating each rep.
  6. If this is difficult, start by working arms and legs individually, only life 1 arm OR 1 leg at a time but still work around the whole body.

#3: Jumping squat

  1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, eyes fixed forward.
  2. Engage your squat by sending your knees forwards and out to create pressure and torque, whilst sending your hips down and back.
  3. Squat down as far as possible whilst maintaining a neutral spine, active core and heels on the ground.
  4. As you naturally come out of the squat, push the ground away using your whole foot, creating as much speed and force as possible as you jump in the air.
  5. Land with excellent control and deceleration, reset and repeat.

Got 10 minutes? Sample workout

3 Rounds

  1. 10 Forward Lunge with Rotation (5 each leg)
  2. 10 Bird Dog (5 Each side or 5 each limb if working individually)
  3. 5 Jumping Squats
  4. 1 Minute Rest

If you can take the time to make this a part of your routine, even just two or three times per week, you will start to see benefits all round!

It would also be a perfect pre-game warm-up!

And one thing you can do technically? Flare your lead foot to the target at address. A huge majority of players already do this and with good reason. You don’t have to alter your alignment, rather keep the heel in its fixed position but point your toes more to the target. This will basically give you a free 20 or 30 degrees additional lead hip rotation with no real side-effects. Good deal.

This is a great place to start when trying to get rid of the dreaded early extension, and if you commit to implementing these simple changes you can play way better golf and at least as importantly, feel great doing it.

 

To take your golf performance to new levels with fitness, nutrition, recovery, and technical work, check out everything we do on any of the following platforms.

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