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Opinion & Analysis

Using gravity to train your posture and golf swing

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In this article, I’m going to talk about an exercise modality and tools created by a company called Gravity Fit. I have been incorporating their techniques, combined with more traditional strength and conditioning movements, more and more often into my day-to-day training of golfers. The reason I’m using it more frequently is that I keep seeing golfers of all levels improve their awareness, movement quality and stability at a much faster rate than when I was using previous techniques, and the exercise modality and tools are now more accessible for the average club golfer than ever.

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Essentially, the principle of Gravity Fit is that if we simulate and even ramp up the effect of gravity on our bodies, while aiming for perfect postural control and joint stability in our movements, then we can make our body extremely posturally strong and stable while dramatically reducing our risk of injury. In theory, this means having more control in our golf swing, too.

The science behind this working model of using gravity to make us stronger and more stable can get technical very quickly. From space research, we now know that we have a specialized “sensory-feedback” system related to gravity that can also influence the way we optimize the golf swing. Gravity sensory information is specifically related to how the sensation of gravity is picked up by receptors in joint structures and leads to an increase in tone or springiness of the muscles of the trunk working more statically to provide proximal stability or a firm and flexible anchor for whole body movement.

stack-1For those of you without formal qualifications in anatomy/physiology, what this essentially means is that we have a whole bunch of deep stabilizer muscles that are located close to the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. They respond to gravity and/or a simulated gravity that comes from a closed-chain exercise (think of the squat, push up, or overhead press as examples). Gravity Fit proposes that we don’t get enough of this stimulus as increasingly sedentary beings, and that sports like golf don’t really help either. Golf is an open-chain movement and provides very little of the closed-chain compressive load to which those deep stabilizer muscles respond so well.

The Gravity Fit system of exercise progressively increases the sensory effect of gravity based on a standardized exercise model, and incorporates this science into an upright, whole body training program using custom-designed pieces of equipment. I’m going to show you one example using each piece of kit that addresses the different postural, stability, and movement quality needs in three different golfers.

Example 1: Using Audio Feedback to Train the Core

This example features a piece of equipment called the Core Awareness Belt. As you can see in the image below, this is a belt that circles the lumbar area with a pressure sensor in line with the belly button. The genius of this design is the sensor picks up small changes in abdominal pressure that are a dead giveaway as to whether you are using the muscles of you lumbar core effectively. Basically, when the lumbar core isn’t working properly, it pushes outward and the Telme Buzzer emits a beeping noise, giving instant feedback to both the user and the trainer.

Cab-with-telme-resized

Below is a video of a young Australian golfer who has traditionally struggled with control in his lumbar core, which can negatively affect how he moves during the golf swing. In the video, he is aiming to rotate into his backswing while keeping the buzzer quiet. We established with his coach that if his lumbar core is working properly then the quality of the initial part of his backswing improves, which has massive consequences for how his body moves in the rest of swing.

What you can see (as well as his very impressive golf tan) is that he is doing a pretty good job with this drill, but it took a fair bit of work to get him to this stage. At one point he was getting very frustrated with the buzzer noise going off almost continually until he started to master the activation in increasingly complex movements.

Example 2: Proving Kinesthetic Feedback to Train the Scapula and Upper Spine

This example features a piece of equipment called the Thoracic Pro. It provides feedback to the upper spine and shoulder blades through touch. The pressure from the green spikes tell you if your spine is in the correct position and the paddles on the side give awareness of your shoulder blades.

Tpro-resizedIn this example, we have a player who is a big unit: very strong and athletic. He has a tendency to lose his thoracic (upper back) curve and get a very straight spine (those thoracic extensors taking over), often losing control of his scapulae (shoulder blades), too. This is less than ideal for a player who is looking to match up his arm and body movements better in his swing.

The picture below shows our man doing a classic closed-chain exercise — the push up — using the Thoracic Pro and the Core Awareness Belt. The aim is to keep the spikes in the middle of the back-bow connected to the spine and the scapulae connected to the paddles, while also keeping the buzzer on the Core Awareness Belt nice and quiet. This brings in a whole new element of challenge and focus to an exercise that would otherwise be very easy for this player.

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Example 3: Sorting Out a Grumpy Lower Back

This example actually features myself (I just about scrape into the category of being a golfer) and my low back giving me a bit of bother. Upping the amount of practice, lifting heavy and neglecting my posture at work had left me with a tight and sore low back that wasn’t really responding to self massage using a spiky ball or foam roller. I decided it was time to back off the lifts for a few days and start using the Gravity Cap twice a day. In the images below you can see me demonstrating the exercise combo I used, basically just standing, walking and knee lifts, which looks so simple… but there is some hidden magic in the application of the Gravity Cap.

Cap 1

Cap 2Essentially the Gravity Cap gives me the cue to stand tall, drawing the spine out of the pelvis, feeling as though I’m lengthening my spine. What is actually happening? The increased gravity stimulus delivered by the band pressure on the crown of the skull, combined with my feeling of standing tall, is firing up the gravity muscles (stabilizer) close to my spine. Having these muscles more active then allows the tight superficial movement muscles in the low back to calm down and let go of their death grip on my spine.

Cap-resizedThese three examples are just some of the ways in which it’s possible to use the Gravity Fit training tools and techniques to help golfers train their posture and quality of movement in the golf swing. To take a look at Gravity Fit’s stuff yourself click here, or alternatively stick with GolfWRX to see how featured writer Kane Cochran used it to improve his game.

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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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    Sep 27, 2016 at 10:43 am

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: What you CAN learn from tour pros

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I have frequently noted how the game the PGA Tour players play is, in most ways, a whole different game than we “mere mortal” recreational golfers play. They hit their drivers miles it seems. Their short games are borderline miraculous. And they get to play from perfect bunkers and putt on perfect greens every single week. And it lets them beat most courses into submission with scores of 20-plus under par.

The rest of us do not have their strength, of course, nor do we have the time to develop short game skills even close to theirs. And our greens are not the perfect surfaces they enjoy, nor do we have caddies, green-reading books, etc. So, we battle mightily to shoot our best scores, whether that be in the 70s, 90s, or higher.

There is no question that most PGA Tour players are high-level athletes, who train daily for both body strength and flexibility, as well as the specific skills to make a golf ball do what they intend it to. But even with all that, it is amazing how bad they can hit it sometimes and how mediocre (for them) the majority of their shots really are — or at least they were this week.

Watching the Wells Fargo event this weekend, you could really see how their games are – relatively speaking – very much like ours on a week-to-week basis.

What really stood out for me as I watched some of this event was so few shots that were awe-inspiring and so many that were really terrible. Rory even put his win in jeopardy with a horrible drive on the 18th, but a very smart decision and a functional recovery saved him. (The advantage of being able to muscle an 8-iron 195 yards out of deep rough and a tough lie is not to be slighted).

Of course, every one of these guys knocks the flag down with approach shots occasionally, if not frequently, but on a longer and tougher golf course, relative mediocrity was good enough to win.

If we can set these guys’ power differences aside, I think we all can learn from watching and seeing that even these players hit “big uglies” with amazing frequency. And that the “meat” of their tee-to-green games is keeping it in play when they face the occasional really tough golf course like Quail Hollow. Do you realize less than 20 of the best players in the world beat par for those 72 holes?

It has long been said that golf is a game of misses, and the player who “misses best” is likely to be “in the hunt” more often than not, and will win his or her share. That old idiom is as true for those of us trying to break 100 or 90 or 80 as it is for the guys trying to win on the PGA Tour each week.

Our “big numbers” happen for the same reasons as theirs do – a simply terrible shot or two at the wrong time. But because we do not have anywhere near their short game and recovery skills, we just do not “get away with” our big misses as frequently as they do.

So, what can you take away from that observation? I suggest this.

Play within your own reliable strength profile and skill set. Play for your average or typical shot, not your very best, whether that is a drive, approach shot, or short game recovery. And don’t expect a great shot to follow a bad one.
If, no, when you hit the “big miss,” accept that this hole can get away from you and turn into a double or worse, regroup, and stop the bleeding, so you can go on to the next hole.

We can be pretty darn sure Rory McIlroy was not thinking bogey on the 18th tee but changed his objective on the hole once he saw the lie his poor drive had found. It only took a bogey to secure his win, so that became a very acceptable outcome.

There’s a lesson for all of us in that.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Horses for Courses – Rory McIlroy rides the Rors to another Quail Hollow win

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Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Rory McIlroy wins at Quail Hollow. The new father broke his winless streak at a familiar course on Mother’s Day. McIlroy has been pretty vocal about how he is able to feed off the crowd and plays his best golf with an audience. Last week provided a familiar setting in a venue he has won twice before and a strong crowd, giving McIlroy just what he needed to break through and win again. A phenomenal feat given that, not long ago, he seemed completely lost, chasing distance based on Bryson DeChambeau’s unorthodox-but-effective progress. McIlroy is typically a player who separates himself from the field as a premier driver of the golf ball, however this week it was his consistency across all areas that won the tournament.

Using the Strokes Gained Stacked view from V1 Game shows that Rory actually gained the most strokes for the week in putting. Not typically known as a phenomenal putter, something about those Quail Hollow greens speaks to McIlroy where he finished the week third in strokes gained: putting (red above). He also hit his irons fairly well, gaining more than 3.6 strokes for the week on a typical PGA Tour field. Probably the most surprising category for McIlroy was actually driving, where he gained just 1.3 strokes for the week and finished 18th in the field. While McIlroy is typically more accurate with the driver, in this case, he sprayed the ball. Strokes gained: driving takes into account distance, accuracy, and the lie into which you hit the ball. McIlroy’s driving distance was still elite, finishing second in the field and averaging more than 325 yards as measured . However, when he missed, he missed in bad spots. McIlroy drove into recovery situations multiple times, causing lay-ups and punch-outs. He also drove into several bunkers causing difficult mid-range bunker shots. So, while driving distance is a quick way to add strokes gained, you have to avoid poor lies to take advantage and, unfortunately, McIlroy hurt himself there. This was particularly apparent on the 72nd hole where he pull-hooked a 3-wood into the hazard and almost cost himself the tournament.

It’s rare that a player wins a tour event without a truly standout category, but McIlroy won this week by being proficient in each category with a consistent performance. From a strokes gained perspective, he leaned on his putting, but even then, he had four three-putts on the week and left some room for improvement. He gained strokes from most distances but struggled on the long ones and from 16-20 feet. Overall, we saw good progress for McIlroy to putt as well as he did on the week.

McIlroy also had a good week with his irons, routinely giving himself opportunities to convert birdies where he tied for seventh-most in the field. When he did miss with his irons, he tended to miss short from most distances. His proximity to the hole was quite good, averaging below 30 feet from most distance buckets. That is surely a recipe to win.

When you add it all up, McIlroy showed little weakness last week. He was proficient in each category and relied on solid decision-making and routine pars while others made mistakes on the weekend. Sometimes, there is no need to be flashy, even for the best in the world. It was good to see McIlroy rejoin the winner’s circle and hopefully pull himself out from what has been a bit of a slump. Golf is better when McIlroy is winning.

If you want to build a consistent game like Rors, V1 Game can help you understand your weaknesses and get started on a journey to better golf. Download in the app store for free today.

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Fujikura MC Putter shaft review and cheap Amazon grips!

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Fujikura’s new MC Putter shafts are PACKED with technology that you wouldn’t expect in a putter shaft. Graphite, metal, and rubber are fused together for an extremely consistent and great feeling putter shaft. Three models to fit any putter stroke out there!

Grips are in short supply right now, and there are some very cheap options on Amazon. I bought some with Prime delivery, and they aren’t as good as you would think.

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