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A good swing starts with a strong foothold

A good swing starts with a strong foothold

A good golf swing starts with a strong base of support (hips, pelvis and lumbar spine). A highly conditioned base of support will provide stability during the swing and allow forces to be efficiently transferred from the legs through the hips to the upper body for optimal power and control. A strong foundation helps protect the joints and other supporting tissues against the strong compressive, shearing and twisting forces that occur during the golf swing. Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that predispose the golfer to developing poor postural patterns and muscle imbalances, resulting in a weak base of support.

For most of our young lives, we were stuck in school, hunched over our desks. We finish school and start our careers. Many of us now spend too much time in our cars or sitting in poorly designed chairs hunched over our computers. Over time, we are conditioned to have tight hip flexors and lazy posture. Poor posture and muscle imbalances reduce the efficiency of the musculoskeletal system and disrupt communication in the neuromuscular system. Short, tight muscles show a lower activation threshold, meaning they are activated at times when they should be less active or inactive. Over-activation of dominant muscles results in decreased neural control of their opposing muscles. Simply put, “when one muscle becomes tight and overactive, its opposite muscle becomes slack and lazy.” Tight dominant hip flexors create weak and lazy hip extensors (gluteals) and cause a chain reaction of dysfunction.

Tight hip flexors pull the pelvis into a forward tilt, resulting in excessive curvature of the lumbar spine. As a result, the muscles of the abdominal wall lengthen and weaken, while the muscles of the lumbar spine become short and tight. This pattern also causes disturbances in our body’s lateral stabilization system. The hip abductors (muscles that move the legs away from the center of the body) along with their opposite adductors (muscles that move the legs toward the center of the body) work to stabilize the pelvis during lateral movement. The ineffectiveness of this lateral stabilization system hinders coordination and prevents proper weight shifting in the golf swing. So what we’re left with are weak hip extensors (gluteal muscles) that can’t drive the hips through the swing, dominant hip flexors that don’t allow the hips to open up to allow full rotation, tight dorsiflexors that are forced to do the work of weak hip extensors but are too tight to make a full rotation and lack the coordination needed to make consistently good contact with the ball. To make matters worse, most golfers spend hours on the driving range reinforcing and reinforcing this dysfunctional pattern. Is it any wonder the average golf score hasn’t dropped in decades?

To break this pattern of dysfunction and build a strong foundation of support, we must first establish coordinated muscle activation between the deeply stabilizing abdominal muscles, hip flexors and extensors, hip abductors and adductors, and spinal flexors, extensors, and rotators. This is achieved by activating and strengthening weak and inhibited muscles and stretching tight and dominant muscles. Once these muscles are retrained and coordinated muscle firing is established, we can work to build optimal strength and power.

The first step in this process is the development of the deep abdominal and pelvic musculature. This is done by mastering the abdominal brace. Abdominal crunches differ from traditional ab training, which encourages a “tummy bulge,” also known as a “pull-up” maneuver. With the “pull” maneuver, we are told to pull or pull the navel toward the spine. Research shows that pull-ups actually decrease abdominal activation and decrease lumbar pelvic and hip stability. The abdominal crunch is an isometric contraction of the abdominal muscles, meaning that the abdominal muscles are neither pulled nor pushed. This maneuver should be the first step of any exercise as it is the foundation of lumbar, pelvic and hip stabilization. The following exercise will allow you to master this movement and transform the lower abdominal wall and allow the deep pelvic stabilizers to engage effectively.

Abdominal brace

o Lie in a supine position (on your back) with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

o Tighten your abs by tightening your abs as if you were going to get punched in the stomach.

o Return to relaxed position and repeat.


o Control Movement is the key. While performing these exercises, be strictly NOT to allow the use of the legs (hip flexors and/or gluteal muscles) while contracting the abs. The only muscles that shorten are the abdominal wall; place your hands on the navel to feel this isolated contraction

o There should be no tension in the neck or shoulders.

Don’t limit the abdominal brace to exercise. Practicing the brace with any activity (sitting, walking, driving, golfing, etc.) will help you develop the endurance your abs need to maintain a strong base of support as well as a strong back.

A study presented by researchers at the 51st annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine found that golfers who possess strong hamstrings have lower handicaps and longer driving distances than those with weak hamstrings. This makes sense because the hip and pelvic muscles play a major role in stabilizing the body and transferring forces from the lower body through the upper body and arms during the golf swing. The ability of the hip extensors (gluteal and hamstrings) and lumbar extensors to work together also allows the body to respond to and counteract the rapid rotational forces of the golf swing. The problem here, as we’ve already discussed, is that many golfers have inhibited hip extensors and tight and dominant lumbar flexors. Under the best of circumstances, our spines were not designed to swing a golf club. Now we compound the problem many times over by forcing our back muscles to do the work of our hip extensors to drive the swing. The spinal muscles do not have the size or strength to do this, hence the huge incidence of overuse injuries and lower back pain among golfers. So what we need to do is let our lumbar extensors drop quite a bit to allow the hip extensors to do their work.

The Bird Dog exercise progression effectively helps develop spinal stabilization, coordination and strength. The key to this type of exercise is to learn and then maintain a “neutral” spine. Neutral doesn’t mean straight, it means allowing the natural curves to be present. This is imperative for the spine to function properly and for movement to occur in a stress-free manner. A golf club placed along the length of the spine is an excellent cue that allows the golfer to feel the correct position of the spine and make the necessary adjustments. The shaft of the club should only be in contact with three points; the base of the head, the center of the back and the center of the pelvis. Indented spaces should be seen on the neck and lower back.

Dog 1

o Get on your hands and knees with a golf club across your spine; make sure the bar only contacts 3 points (head-middle back-pelvis).

o Brace your abs and slowly lift one arm and the opposite knee just off the floor (no more than 1/4 inch). Hold for five to ten seconds.

o Return to starting position and alternate sides.


o The step must remain in contact with all 3 contact points (head, mid back, pelvis).

Once you master Dog 1, you can move on to the next progression. Dog 2 adds the components of hip extension and shoulder flexion. This exercise is extremely effective in restoring the efficiency of the extensor chain (hip, lumbar and cervical extensors).

Dog II

o Get on your hands and knees with a golf club across your spine; make sure the bar only contacts 3 points (head-middle back-pelvis).

o Tighten your abs, slowly extend one arm (thumbs up) straight in front of you and the opposite leg behind you.

o Hold for five to ten seconds and repeat on the opposite side.


o The step must remain in contact with all 3 contact points (head, mid back, pelvis).

o Do not allow your hips to rotate.

The key with Dog 2 is to not allow the lumbar extensors to engage during this movement. Once you’ve mastered Dog 2, you can further challenge the hip extensors by adding the bridge exercise. The bridge adds body weight resistance to the hip extension movement and further challenges (and strengthens) the deep stabilizers or the lumbar-pelvic-femoral complex.

The bridge

o Lie on your back with your arms at your sides.

o Tighten your abs and squeeze your glutes (buttocks), then lift your hips into a bridge position. Pause and return to starting position.


o Your feet should remain flat.

o This movement is initiated by the hips, not the spinal extensor muscle; no pressure should be felt in the lower back.

o Maintain the contraction of the abdominal and gluteal muscles throughout the movement.

It’s important to implement a good stretching program to lengthen tight muscles while strengthening your core. In addition to the hip flexors and lumbar extensors already mentioned, other areas that are commonly strained among golfers include the hamstrings, neck, scapular levators (upper trapezius and levator scapulae), and shoulder internal rotators. A qualified strength and conditioning or golf fitness professional can provide you with a postural and biomechanical analysis that can provide a more detailed picture of your specific areas of need. Improving your base of support will add distance and control to your game and help prevent, reduce and possibly eliminate golf-related pain and injury.

#good #swing #starts #strong #foothold

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