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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 his unique brand of golf fitness services. Nick is also a GravityFit Brand Ambassador. He is working with them to help spread their innovative message throughout the golf world and into other sports.

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Instruction

Stickney: The deadly double-cross

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OK. Here we go. Number 17 at Punta Mita. Water all down the left side. OK. Aim right and hit a slight draw—been hitting the ball wonderfully all day, scoring conditions are perfect—I’m ready to make a birdie!

Over the ball. Check my alignments—good! Last look—where we want the ball to end up—good! No swing thoughts—great! Go!

Ball begins on the line I wanted—so far so good—apex perfect. Oh no! Now it’s not drawing! In fact, it’s fading! Crap! There’s out of bounds right! Don’t hit the path…

BOING! Gone. UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG! The dreaded “double-cross.”

Why does this seem to happen to all of us from time to time (only when there is a problem on one side we’re trying to avoid?) The answer is simply one of three things normally

  • Not committed
  • Poor pivot
  • Faulty grip pressure

Not Committed

This one is simple: Anytime you have conflicting thoughts over the ball and you are unsure of what to do next, step back and regroup! Easy sounding right? Not at all! This take a ton of self-discipline and awareness to actually notice the signs and make the choice to stop yourself in the middle of your routine. If you can, you are one of the few.

Not being committed comes in the physical, mental, and emotional forms. Regardless of which you are fighting on the tee in this situation, it’s best to stop and regroup. If you do not, a double-cross and double bogey can be lurking!

Poor Pivot

Whenever you have doubts about your ability to pull off a shot mechanically the first thing to go is your control of the “pivot” which is how you twist and turn and displace weight. The pivot, per “The Golfing Machine,” controls things like rhythm, balance, the head, the club shaft, etc. so if you “stall out or outrace yourself” then your ball can go anywhere. Usually, when you have trouble that you are trying to avoid, you will tend to slow down in efforts to try and guide the ball—when this happens you will hang back and either hold on or flip it through impact, and this will cause you to lose control of the clubhead and clubface. No bueno!

Faulty Grip Pressure

As stated above, you will find non-commitment in one of three forms, and normally when you have emotional or physical issues your grip pressure will spike. Anytime you have a grip on the club that’s in death-mode, you will find that having any type of normal or consistent release is impossible. When your release becomes an issue so will your ball’s flight. Try your best to relax and let things happen without trying to force them; squeezing the grip too hard can only make things worse.

Now that we know what the issues tend to be, what can we do besides step back? Your goal is to swing the club, just like you do every other time, as normally as possible. The fewer “thoughts” you have, the better. Usually, if you try to stay aggressive, you’ll have a better chance of having the ball land on grass. Try it and you’ll surprise yourself!

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Instruction

TXG: 8 handicap fairway wood & hybrid fitting

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Finishing the full bag fitting for our Mizuno contest winner by dialing in a fairway wood and hybrid!

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Instruction

6 reasons why golfers struggle with back pain: Part 2

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others.

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

Following on from Part 1 of this article, we examine reasons 4, 5 and 6 for why golfers suffer from low back pain.

Reason 4: Weak Core Muscles

Before we make start making exercise recommendations for this complicated area of the body, it’s worth asking—what is the core exactly? There is considerable debate about this often misunderstood region. Back pain expert Professor Stuart McGill, explains it as follows:

‘The core is composed of the lumbar spine, the muscles of the abdominal wall, the back extensors, and quadratus lumborum. Also included are the multijoint muscles, namely, latissimus dorsi and psoas that pass through the core, linking it to the pelvis, legs, shoulders, and arms. Given the anatomic and biomechanical synergy with the pelvis, the gluteal muscles may also be considered to be essential components as primary power generators’

In a golf context, there is a common myth that the core muscles are our main source of power in the swing. In reality, the main role of the core is to provide stiffness and stable support for force/power transfer from our legs to our upper body

If we can create stiffness and stability in our core, we can help protect our spine and surrounding structures from unnecessary strain whilst also improving swing efficiency—pretty sweet combo!

Due to a combination of perpetual sitting, poor posture and other detrimental lifestyle factors, our cores tend to lose this ability to provide stiffness and stability. We can combat and correct this with a solid core conditioning program. Below are examples of some of our favorite exercises.

Dead Bug with Fitball – the combination of squeezing the fitball whilst extending arm and leg delivers all sorts of great stimulus for the core muscles.

Bird Dog – great for glute, core and back strength

Pallof Press – fantastic anti-rotation exercise. Good for strengthening the core whilst using the ground efficiently

Reason 5 – Not Warming up Properly/Not Warming up at All!

As we’ve explained above, mechanical back pain arises from too much stress and strain placed on the back. During the game of golf, we treat our spines terribly—expecting them to twist, turn and contort with the aim of producing decent golf shots!

If we don’t prepare our bodies for an activity like golf and just go out cold, we significantly increase the chances for strain and stress being placed on the lumbar area.

I’m sure many of you have had the experience of throwing a ball or a stick hard without warming up, and received a nasty sharp pain in your shoulder. Now, if you were to warm up before doing that; stretching your shoulder, making a few practice throws etc, you’d likely avoid strain altogether. Same goes for the low back and the golf swing – without a decent warm-up, there’s every possibility of a strain when trying to rip driver down the first!

By incorporating a warm-up into your pre-golf routine, you can significantly reduce the risk for injury AND help avoid that card wrecking double-double start! As a side bonus, warming up regularly can help your general health, fitness, and wellbeing too.

We know that most amateurs don’t warm up; a study done by Fradkin et. al showed that around 70 percent of amateur golfers seldom warm-up, with only 3.8% reporting warming up on every occasion!

A decent warm isn’t hard and doesn’t have to take ages to complete; research shows that a warm-up of 10-20 minutes is sufficient. In the video below, Marnus gives a thorough guide to a solid warm up sequence.

Reason 6 – Swing Faults

Let’s not forget the golf swing. One of the most common reasons I see golfers struggle with low back pain is that they are unable to “get to their lead side” and “get stuck” on the downswing. This causes the aforementioned excessive side bend and rotation from the low back, which we need to avoid! 

“Getting stuck” on the trail side

Now we aren’t golf coaches and therefore don’t deliver swing advice. However, there are some fundamental movement patterns that most golfers could benefit from practicing. In the videos below, one of our favorite body orientated swing coaches, Richard Woodhouse, is using one of our favorite training tools, the GravityFit TPro, to help teach an efficient movement pattern. The aim is to develop a strong connection between arms and body, using the hips and thorax to rotate, thereby helping to avoid “getting stuck.”

Summary

The absolute best practice for a healthy golfing lower back is working with a golf swing instructor and also a health/fitness professional that understands the body and swing connection. As a team, they would be able to identify and improve your individual swing faults, movement pattern dysfunctions, range of motion deficiencies, muscle weakness, imbalances, and alignment issues.

If you don’t have access to such expertise locally, you may want to check out the online services offered by Marnus and Nick here:

Marnus – https://www.marnusmarais.com

Nick – https://www.golffitpro.net/

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