This article is co-written with Zach Parker. Zach is the former director of golf at the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate golf academies. Zach is a golf coach, an expert in skill acquisition, and he has years of experience setting up effective training scenarios for golfers of varying abilities. 

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed in detail how and why we should shift our focus from practicing to training. Specifically, making training more “game like” by incorporating the following three principles

 

  • Spacing – adding time between training or learning tasks. Not hitting ball after ball with no break!
  • Variability – mixing up the tasks, combining driving with chipping for example
  • Challenge Point – making sure that you are firstly trying to achieve or complete a task, and secondly that the task is set an appropriate difficulty for you

For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

This is with the aim of avoiding the following frustrations that occur when training is performed poorly

  • Grinding on the putting green but not improving
  • Being unable to transfer performance from putting green to course
  • Finding practice boring
  • Plateaus in performance

In Part 1 we covered long game, and in Part 2 it’s time to address putting. Training this crucial part of the game is often overlooked and almost always performed poorly with very little intent. On course, we never hit putts from the same distance (unless you’re in the habit of missing two footers!), yet when practicing its common to repeatedly hit putts from the same place. Our length of stroke, reaction to speed and slope and time between putts are constantly changing on course, so it would make sense to replicate that in our training right?

In the practice circuit below we have incorporated spacing by leaving large gaps between putts, variability by mixing up the tasks and challenge point by introducing hurdle tasks that must be completed before moving on to the next station.

 

Station 1

Learning task: Three rehearsals with a specific focus, in this case, using the GravityFit TPro to bring awareness to posture and arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must make putt from 6 feet, downhill,  left to right-to-left break.

Station 2

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus; in this case posture for eye-line and using bands for arm-body connection.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30-40 feet, uphill. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

Station 3

Learning task: Three rehearsals with specific TPro focus again.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 20-30  ft, right to left break. Add drawback to five feet for more difficulty.

 

You can either have a go at this circuit or create your own. There are no set rules, just make sure to include a mixture of tasks (variability) that are appropriate to your level of ability (challenge Point) with plenty of time between repetitions (spacing).

For more information on the featured GravityFit equipment, click here

This article is co-written with Jenna Peanasky, Strength and Conditioning Coach at Iowa State University. Jenna has been working with the Cyclones mens and womens golf teams for the past 4 seasons.

One of the best things about being a support staff member with golf is that the sport has embraced the holistic approach of training and sees that to improve your golf game means taking care of your body. Staying healthy is crucial, and staying on top of your physical training by addressing weaknesses and improving upon strengths is key to a long successful career throughout college and beyond. Gone are the days when the strength coach simply writes a program that everyone blindly follows, now programs are individualised to fit the exact needs of the sport and the athlete.

The physical attributes required to play good golf are widely debated, and rightly so when such a vast array of body types have been successful in the sport over the years. Outlined below are what we as trainers working with elite (PGA Tour) and sub-elite (college) golfing athletes, consider to be most important factors in training college golfers:

Posture

Posture is such a significant piece in the golf swing from start to finish, which is why it is such an important aspect in our training. In all aspects of our training we focus on having awareness of where our body is in space and making sure our athletes are able to maintain posture throughout their movements without unnecessary compensations. A key contributor to that approach in the past couple of years has been introducing the GravityFit equipment to our gym and pre golf warm ups. It’s specifically designed to bring awareness to posture and train endurance in the muscles responsible for holding us in good form.

Using the GravityFit TPro to train golf set up and movement patterns

Common postural tendencies for golfers are to go into an excessively rounded set up position, known as C-posture; or to have an exaggerated arch in the low back, known as S-posture. I have found that if a golfer carries these tendencies in their golf setup, they also appear in the gym. We aim to be right in between these postures and maintain a neutral spinal curve. One area of posture that sometimes gets overlooked is head position. All of the time a college golfer spends studying, reading, or sitting on their phone promotes a forward carry of the head, so when in the gym we aim to avoid this at all times and bring awareness to an upright tall posture through the head and neck.

Movement Efficiency & Mobility

Before adding weight to exercises, we make sure the athlete has solid technique whilst performing a wide variety of gym movements. We can start by asking, “Does the athlete have the ability to squat, hinge, lunge, push and pull correctly?” Starting at the feet, we look for a stable base and a strong connection with the ground during movement. Can the athlete maintain a strong connection or is there instability? Everything we do starts from the feet, therefore instability here may cause issues up the chain. Next we move to the hips, does the athlete have the ability to hinge and maintain their posture effectively? Can they create separation between their lower body and upper body? The ability to hinge and disassociate the upper and lower body are key elements in the golf swing so it is important that our athletes have the awareness and ability to perform these movements in the gym extremely well.

Post session mobility work is a non-negotiable!

Movement efficiency and mobility go hand in hand. Knowing the difference between an athlete having a restriction due to a lack of mobility, or if the inability to perform a movement comes from a lack of skill and/or understanding is important. We strive to look at the body holistically and evaluate movement at the ankle, hip, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and shoulders. Using a collaborative approach with coaches, athletic training staff, physical therapists, and massage therapists allows us to all have a better understanding of each athlete and their individual needs. Communicating with the entire staff allows us to make sure that we are all on the same page to help our athletes improve as a whole.

Jeremiah Hales has provided an invaluable service as a consulting physical therapist to the Iowa State golf programs. Jeremiah conducts his custom design golf specific physical assessments on the players twice a year. The screenings provides very in-depth and specific information about the player’s stability, posture, mobility and movement efficiency. That information is like gold for the coaching and fitness staff, it helps us prioritise gym workouts, technical training and practice set up for the player.

Hinging effectively whilst maintaining posture, again using GravityFit equipment

Core Stability & Glute Strength

Back injuries are one of the most common issues among golfers. Our goal is to address this from the start by making sure we have stability through the entire core. Golf is a very rotational sport, so our core work focuses predominantly on anti-extension, anti-flexion and anti-rotation. At specific times of year we may incorporate some rotational work, but since these athletes are getting this every day at practice, we benefit more from strengthening the core through stability and creating a rock solid pillar.

The ability to properly activate the glutes is also extremely important. Proper glute firing ensures that the body reduces compensation and minimizes stress on the back. I have seen athletes present with glutes that do not activate well, yet they appear extremely strong through their gym movements. These athletes are compensating and not performing these movements optimally for sport. Once we address these compensations and the athlete learns to properly activate their glutes, they are much stronger than before and put themselves in a better position to avoid injury.

Strength & Power

Golfers must create, transfer and absorb their own force, which can put a lot of stress on the body. Developing strength is like putting on the armour to help protect the body against injury. Moving in all planes of movement and focusing on developing a strong posterior chain is very important. A well rounded program includes a wide variety of movements, including squats, hinges, single leg movements, pushes, pulls, carries, and core exercises. Varying these and incorporating them throughout the year at different intensities and volumes have given us exceptional results in keeping our athletes strong, powerful, and healthy.

Having a strong foundation of strength is the key to developing power. Once a base of strength has been set we work to translate this into power in different planes of movement by increasing the rate of force production. We do this by using various approaches including jumps, medicine ball throw variations, and using accommodating resistance such as chains and bands. Just like the varying types of movements we use for strength work, we vary our methods based on the time of year and individual needs of each player.

Approach to training

Having a collaborative approach with all members of the staff allows us to look at each athlete from various perspectives to ensure we aren’t missing anything. We have the coach explaining what they are working on in their swing, we have the athletic trainer and physical therapist performing evaluations and prescribing individualised exercises to improve weaknesses. We also have a massage therapist who sees the players regularly to address any soft tissue issues or restrictions. Then there is the strength coach who will write a training program that will help each student-athlete become the best version of themselves through improving in the key areas detailed above. By working with every member of the staff and taking a holistic and collaborative approach we can all work together and share information to create a better program and plan for each student-athlete.

Click here for more information on the featured GravityFit Equipment

This article is co-written with Zach Parker. Zach is the former director of golf at the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate golf academies. Zach is a golf coach, an expert in skill acquisition, and he has years of experience setting up effective training scenarios for golfers of varying abilities. 

The act of working on your golf game is often referred to as practice. This is a problem, however, because the word “practice” infers repetition or rehearsal. But golf is a sport that has a constantly changing playing surface, varying conditions and mixed skill requirements. So, if we use the traditional practice model of hitting the same shot over and over again, then we have a complete mismatch between our training and the requirements of the sport. This can lead to the following frustrations

  • Grinding on the range but not improving
  • Being unable to transfer performance on range to course
  • Finding practice boring
  • Plateaus in performance

These annoyances can lead to overall disappointment at underperforming and falling short of expectations developed in practice sessions. The most likely root cause of this issue is having no structure and the wrong context to your training, mistakenly focusing on repeating the same shot over and over again. 

So let’s try shifting our approach and aim to train and not simply practice. By introducing these three key principles to your training, we can not only get better at golf, but do so a way that is more efficient and more fun too! For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

Spacing

Dr. Robert Bjorks suggests that the theory of spacing dates back centuries and simply means taking some time between training or learning tasks. By spacing things out the learner is forced to try and recall what was learned in the previous session, which makes that original learning stronger. The act of remembering strengthens the retrieval process, meaning it is more accessible in the future and easier to bring about.

Variability

Performing the same task over and over can allow you to appear to have “learned” the skill however we know that this is simply a false sense of competency (good on the range, but not on the course). Therefore if you’re truly looking to “learn” the new skill or desired movement pattern you need to introduce variability to the learning environment.

Challenge Point

Challenge point theory is a relatively new concept championed by Dr. Mark Guadagnoli and Dr. Tim Lee. The central idea of this theory is to create training sessions that are appropriate for the learner. A large emphasis is placed on matching up the difficulty of the practice task to the skill level of the golfer.

Guadagnoli and Lee present the idea that a beginner golfer with a low level of skill is better off spending time on practice tasks that are easier, and in a blocked style. Whilst golfers with a higher level of skill are better off spending time in practice tasks that are slightly harder, and in an interleaved style.

Challenge point needs to reflect the ability of the individual

Practical Example

In this example we have a college golfer aiming to incorporate a particular technical move into his golf swing. He is using a GravityFit TPro to help with feedback and learning. But instead of simply bashing balls using the TPro, he has been set up with a series of stations. The stations are divided into learning and completion tasks and incorporate the principles of Spacing, Variability and Challenge Point.

The aim is to work through three stations. If at any point the completion task is failed, then the participant must return back to the start at station one.

Station 1

Learning task: Three balls with a specific focus (in this case technical), performing two or three rehearsals to increase understanding of the desired pattern.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 35-45 feet, right-to-left break

Station 2

Learning task: Perform posture drills with the TPro, followed by one learning trial (hitting a shot) where the focus in on re-creating the feelings from the TPro exercise.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30 feet, uphill

Station 3

Learning task: Transfer previous technical feels to a target focus, aiming for two out of three balls landing inside the proximity target.

Completion task: Must make an 8-10 footer.

You can either have a go at this circuit or create your own. There are no set rules, just make sure to include a mixture of tasks (Variability) that are appropriate to your level of ability (Challenge Point) with plenty of time between repetitions (Spacing).

For more information on the featured GravityFit equipment, click here

 

Introducing Zach Parker

Who Is Zach?

Zach has joined GravityFit after a illustrious career in golf coaching, most notably setting up and managing coach development programs at both the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate Golf Academies. He was instrumental in helping both of those businesses develop from scratch into thriving and successful enterprises.

Zach will continue to coach his elite junior and college players whilst managing GravityFit’s golf related content creation, sales and marketing for the North America region.

You can expect lots of interesting content upcoming, Zach is very passionate about using GravityFit equipment to elicit change in golfer’s movement patterns and ball striking outcomes!

To get to know Zach a little better, we asked him some questions about his background and interests:

 

How did you get started in golf?

My grandmother was extremely passionate about the game and cultivated my love for the sport at an early age. 

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Don’t judge people by their words, judge them by their actions.

What is your favourite home-cooked meal?

Lasagna

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in every season. I grew up on a lake in the mountains and yearn to provide the same opportunity for my daughter.

Is there anything you are addicted to? Or can’t live without?

Relationships

Favourite quote?

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Favourite sport besides golf?

As a fan, it would be football but as far as my hobbies go it would be impossible to name only one – surfing, wakeboarding, skiing and hiking.

Cam Smith has made a lot of progress from when we first started working together. Not only is he now top 50 in the world, he has progressed from a scrawny teen into a well rounded golf athlete. Aged 16 he was weak, tight, had some alarming postural adaptations from golf and was in pain and discomfort in a number of areas.

I would like to share with you what I consider to be the 5 areas that the competitive club golfer can learn from Cam’s approach to physical preparation. If implemented properly these will not help your golf but benefit your long-term musculo-skeletal health too.

Cam’s approach is particularly relatable and applicable to the club golfer because he isn’t the biggest guy, or the most gifted athlete, or the hardest worker. Cam likes to keep things simple and use practice and training approaches that can be completed in a short amount of time with the minimum of fuss (leaving more time for messing around on the range apparently!)

 

A selection from Cam’s large repertoire of comedy golf swings

 

1) Stick to the Plan

Cam doesn’t wander from the prescribed plan; this is for 3 main reasons. Firstly he wants to avoid the excessive post exercise soreness that prohibits him from practicing and performing effectively. Sticking to familiar exercises and loads helps ensure this. Secondly, performing the same exercises allows him time to get familiar and comfortable with the technique, ensuring absolute best form and resultant outcome. Lastly, golf is a tough mental sport especially at the very elite level. Being able to go into the gym and carry out a familiar routine means that there is no excess mental energy being used up unnecessarily.

How you can apply this – find a good training program and stick to it. Only change up exercises when performance isn’t a priority (e.g. off season).

 

Banded back squats have been a staple for off season training, great for power development.

 

2) Warm Up Consistently

Cam recognizes the importance of warming up properly to not only prevent injury, but also help ensure he is moving correctly. His 15-minute routine of self-massage, stretch and posture setting is quite literally a daily habit. Pre tournament rounds, it’s also a great time to get his head in the right place and start mentally preparing for the upcoming challenge. The equipment used is a vibrating foam roller and massage ball (both made by hyperice) and the GravityFit TPro.

How you can apply this – Get yourself some basic warm up equipment, identify the key areas to release / stretch / activate and allocate 15 minutes before you play to go through the routine.

 

Cam warming up at the Bay Hill Invitational, 2017

 

3) Train for Specific Power

The keys to hitting the ball a long way are widely considered to be combination of vertical thrust and rotational speed. Since 2015 we have focused specifically on training these areas through jump variations along with rotating against resistance. The jump variations progress from small drop jumps to squat jumps with 20kg to trap bar jumps with as much as 60kg. The rotational speed approach doesn’t change much, normally working with a strong resistance band that challenges Cam to try to move at the same speed he swings driver. This contributed to Cam placing 3rd on tour for distance gained from 2016 – 2017 season.

We use an accelerometer to quantify progress and drive intent by measuring speed, jump height and power output. If you are tech minded and like your training easily quantified then check out the Push Band by Train With Push.

How you can apply this – incorporate basic jump movements into your gym sessions along with some fast rotational work against resistance bands. Just remember to work on your landing mechanics (land soft) to minimise the risk of injury and work up slowly to top speeds for the rotations.

 

Cam working hard on his rotational speed (push band on his arm) 

 

4) Train Posture and Stability

To my knowledge, GravityFit make the only equipment designed to specifically train the deep muscle system responsible for holding posture and stabilising joints. The combination of axial load and immediate feedback system means Cam is always aware of when he is in good posture and what that feels like. We combine using the equipment with simple movements that challenge the ability to maintain balance and posture. This forms part of daily routine that can be done around the house, in the gym and on the range.

How you can apply this – Start training your posture and deep muscle system, preferably using GravityFit equipment and exercises. Your joints and golf swing will thank you for it.

 

Cam is aiming to absorb the landing load softly whilst maintaining stability in spine and shoulders

 

5) Know When to Rest

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. This makes it the ideal time to reduce the intensity and volume of gym work, focusing on posture, speed and mobility. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps, sets and load whilst still focusing on great technique.

How you can apply this – moderate your training load to suit your performance needs. Try doing the heavy stuff earlier in the week, leaving your fresher for the weekend.

Cam making the most of the massage chair in the locker room at CIMB Classic, 2016

 

My recommendations might seem pretty simple, and with good reason; golf is a complex, frustrating and often confusing game. I believe that golfer’s training should be straight forward, easy to implement and repeatable. In the is un-predictable sport, some consistency around physical preparation can go a long way to minimizing variability in performance.

Make your way around the immaculate hard and clay courts at KDV Sport and you will hear three words ringing out again and again from coaches – “Base Balance Posture”. These 3 words encapsulate the philosophy of Ben Pyne, KDV’s Head Coach of Tennis.

“During my time coaching in the Tennis Australia program, I saw the same 3 traits across all of the best players. They had a wide stance with weight on the balls of their feet, always seemed to stay in balance and had great upright posture. You can see that demonstrated at the highest level; Federer is the ultimate example of a player that has perfected Base, Balance and Posture. Roger has had a phenomenal career, consistently performing at the highest level with so few injuries or physical issues. I think that his mastery of Base Balance Posture is one of the main reasons for that.”

Ben, having developed 49 National Champions, many of whom are now making their way on both the ATP and WTA tours, knows a thing or two about working with emerging tennis athletes. For him, Base Balance Posture is about much more than just winning points:

“Once players get the concept and really ingrain it as an automatic part of their game, you see their hitting technique clean up, they become more mobile around the court and dramatically reduce their risk of injury.”

“Our main objective as a tennis academy is obviously to get the best possible tournament performances from our athletes. However we do not have an ‘at all costs’ approach to this; just as important is the goal of developing tennis players that are injury free, move well and possess great technique. This will help ensure a lifetime of enjoyment in the game, whether or not they end up playing for a living.”

 

Below is Ben’s breakdown of the three components:

Base

“This is very simple, essentially we look to establish a wide stance, around 2 shoulders width apart. This forms an athletic stance from which we can move in either direction. Two of the key physical attributes that contribute to the ability to do this are leg / hip strength and ankle stability. To help develop these we work closely with our onsite gym staff, headed up by Ryan Gambin.”

Balance

“Again we look for a simple yet effective strategy; weight on the balls of the feet along with staying low, ideally maintaining even angles at the ankle, knee and hip in order to achieve this. This means the athlete can move to the ball in the most efficient way and be prepared and in position for the next shot. When base and balance are properly established we see the head staying between the feet and the athlete rarely over balancing or finding themselves out of position.”

Posture

“We have recently started working with GravityFit, an Australian company that specialise in the training of posture, spine and joint stability. They have invented several pieces of equipment, 2 of which we use on a regular basis; the TPro and TSensa. These devices give awareness of upper back posture and shoulder blade position whilst providing light resistance to help strengthen the muscles around the shoulder. I find this absolutely key in achieving a solid technique that doesn’t place too much strain on the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

It’s a very effective way of ensuring the athletes are in good posture, which is actually very tricky to coach. So using devices that take care of that feedback is so valuable”.

 

In summary, Base Balance Posture is absolutely fundamental to the teaching philosophy of the coaches at KDV because once mastered, it helps the athletes to achieve better technique and movement whilst preventing injury.

For more information on KDV Tennis check out www.kdvsport.com/tennis/tennis-academy/

To see how GravityFit are working with tennis coaches and players, take a look at https://gravityfit.com/tennisdrills1/

 

The spine has to handle a lot of load in the sport of tennis. Moving laterally whilst striking rotationally in order to move the ball forward means the spine has to cope with significant torque and shearing forces. Add to this the very high number of reps and frequent flexion / extension of all 3 spinal curves, and it’s no wonder that the incidence of injury to tennis player’s backs is high.

In my experience working as a physical therapist with both elite and recreational tennis players in the New York area and around the world, including 3 seasons on the WTA, I’ve seen and treated a host of different spinal injuries. Below I’ve detailed some of the most common breakdowns along with my approach to fixing them and more importantly, preventing repeat injury.

A key component of my process is using a science based training system called GravityFit. The exercises and equipment is the product of revolutionary space research conducted by GravityFit with NASA, amongst others. It’s a very different approach to injury prevention that really addresses the cause and not the symptom of the breakdown. To my knowledge I’m the only practitioner in the world using the system to specifically treat and prevent tennis related injuries, and it’s for that reason that I would like to give you an insight to how and why I use it.

 

Injury Area No.1 – Facet Joint

This is commonly aggravated by the extension component of serve (think arching the back). When there is a weak core, the bones on either side of the vertebrae crash into another and the joints get inflamed and sometimes fractured rendering the area almost completely dysfunctional.

Equipment – GravityFit Core Awareness Belt and Gravity Cap

Technique – Teaching posture, walking under load, training correct hinging and extending movement patterns. Building up endurance in core and deep postural muscles.

 

Applying gentle yet effective load to the spine through the elastic tubing on the Gravity Cap. Core awareness belt giving audio feedback on whether the core is working effectively

 

Injury Area No.2 – Intervertebral Disc

The uncontrolled flexion and extension patterns I mentioned aboe, especially when combined with poor hip flexibility and clumsy, heavy-footed movement makes discs susceptible to annular tears and bulges.

Equipment – GravityFit Core Awareness Belt and Gravity Cap

Technique – Teaching posture, training core control and building endurance, training correct hinging and extending movement patterns. Training improved movement through better footwork. Training the deep postural muscles in the spine that support the discs to absorb compression from the Gravity Cap is especially important.

 

Challenging the ability to hold great posture and spinal ability with lunge and hinge variatons. Always being kept accountable by the Core Awareness Belt

 

Injury Area No.3 – Muscle tears

Sudden changes of direction at high speed from hitting make the abdominals and intercostals (rib muscles) susceptible to tears. This is an unavoidable part of the game and the better you become, the harder you will hit. So it’s really important to strengthen these muscles and the associated joints.

Equipment – GravityFit TPro

Technique – Building stability and strength in mid/upper spine. Strengthening the muscles in the shoulder girdle. Improving upper back and shoulder posture. Moving in to multidirectional training under compressive load.

 

Receiving feedback on spine and shoulder posture under gentle load from the elastic tubing on the TPro.

 

Expecting to go from sedentary lifestyles to charging around the court injury and pain free, with nothing to help us prepare for the spinal load is fanciful at best. I think that it’s more important than ever that we train and treat the spine through gradual and consistent strengthening exercises. Since using the GravityFit tools and exercise techniques, I have been able to correct and prevent injury to tennis playing spines in a much faster and more effective way.

 

Renuka Pinto is an internationally trained and traveled physical therapist with over a decade of experience in sports medicine and manual therapy, working at the highest levels of tennis and cricket.

The nature of tennis as a sport exposes players to the risk of trauma based injury such sprained ligaments and strained muscles, especially around the ankle and knee. Rapidly changing directions, accelerating and decelerating on hard surfaces will always produce a few lower limb injuries. However, many of the upper body injuries related to overuse and instability are most certainly preventable.

In my experience working as a physical therapist with both elite and recreational tennis players in the New York area and around the world, including 3 seasons on the WTA, I’ve seen and treated a host of different upper limb injuries. Below I’ve detailed some of the most common breakdowns at the Shoulder, Elbow and Wrist, along with my approach to fixing them and more importantly, preventing repeat injury.

A key component of my process is using a science based training system called GravityFit. The exercises and equipment is the product of revolutionary space research conducted by GravityFit with NASA, amongst others. It’s a very different approach to injury prevention that really addresses the cause and not the symptom of the breakdown. To my knowledge I’m the only practitioner in the world using the system to specifically treat and prevent tennis related injuries, and it’s for that reason that I would like to give you an insight to how and why I use it.

Essentially I look to train the deep muscle system, which stabilizes the spine and key joints, allowing for more controlled movement and less strain on the joint structures themselves.

 

Shoulder

 Most of the problems I see around the shoulder are rotator cuff and labral tears.

This is mainly due to poor technique relating to the whipping motion of the racket head when speed is generated by high torque of the glenohumeral joint (ball and socket of shoulder).

This can be avoided by improved scapula (shoulder blade) stability at the start of the stroke and body rotation during ball contact. If the muscles around the scapula can’t provide stability to the shoulder then the slack has to be taken up by the rotator cuff muscles in particular. They are left doing a job that they aren’t designed for and will eventually wear out, resulting in pain and injury.

Equipment – GravityFit TPro

Technique – Developing more stability around the scapula through changing the motor patterning using postural feedback and applying appropriate load.

 

Receiving feedback on spine and shoulder posture under gentle load from the elastic tubing on the TPro.

 

Elbow 

The elbow joint is the victim caught between the cross fire of torquing forces generated by the shoulder and wrist joints, largely due to its lack of ability to rotate. Ligament injuries are common due to increased forces on a mistimed ball or from aiming to imparting spin. They are especially common during clay court season due to the slower ball and higher bounce.

Equipment – GravityFit TPro

Technique – Again the preventative solution here is to stabilize the scapula and strengthen the rotator cuff, using the TPro once more!

 

 

 

Different press and hold variations for the key stabilizers of the shoulder with constant postural feedback

 

Wrist

These injuries tend to occur in both hands due to manipulation of the racket head when trying to finding angles and lines, disguising shots or imparting spin. On the dominant forehand arm, we see mainly capsular tears or tendinitis due to overload. On the backhand its usually shear forces that injures the tendons and/or cartilage. Key reasons for the manipulation of the wrist and ensuing injuries both is lack of rotation resulting from weakness and loss of resting curve in the thoracic spine (upper back). If we can strengthen the upper back, it can both stabilize and rotate more efficiently.

Equipment – GravityFit TPro

Technique – This time I use the TPro for a slightly different purpose; establishing neutral curve of thoracic spine which improves range and quality of rotation whilst provides the opportunity to strengthen the deep muscles.

 

Advanced press variations (complexity and load), training dynamic rotation through thoracic spine.

 

In summary, the common injuries I see in the upper body can be largely prevented through improving posture and strengthening the muscles surrounding the scapula and thoracic spine (shoulder blade and upper back). This has the benefit of removing strain from the shoulder, elbow and wrist through reducing torque and improving technique. GravityFit is by far the most effective method I use to achieve this, largely because this is the exact task they were designed for!

 

Renuka Pinto is an internationally trained and traveled physical therapist with over a decade of experience in sports medicine and manual therapy, working at the highest levels of tennis and cricket.

This article is written by Nick Buchan, he owns and runs Stronger Golf in London, U.K.

When it comes to performance training, movement really is our foundation. If we have acceptable ranges of motion at our joints, our strength and conditioning exercises will become more effective – we’ll be able to produce more force and improve injury resilience – in turn they’ll help reinforce appropriate mobility too.

However, mobility is a confusing topic for many amateur golfers, with many clocking up a lot of time doing static stretches, not seeing any improvements and not knowing why.

The problem?

Many of us think we have a hardware problem when we’re really suffering from a software problem.

This is concept both Grey Cook and Charlie Weingroff have talked about at length, but to give you a brief run down:

Hardware – This is a dysfunction that is truly a mobility issue.  It may be stemming from degenerative joints, hereditary issues, tight/stiff muscles, fascial restrictions, etc. In short, think bone, joint, muscle or tissue in general.

Software – The limitation stems from stability and/or motor control issue.  Soft limitations aren’t there due to a structural limitation; they’re there because you don’t have the strength, neuromuscular control, or stability to do the task. Think stability, motor control or weakness.

 

This is where a good assessment is vital, and a good team – if you have a true hardware limitation you will be best off seeing a good Physical therapist or someone that can do manual therapy. That said, I am willing to wager that the vast majority of your tight hamstrings, lower backs, shoulders, etc, are actually software issues.

With that in mind, as a strength coach, I am always looking for ways to help my clients quickly overcome software issues, so we can improve movement and do a better job improving performance measures like strength and power as a result.

We can use various drills and techniques to help improve a pattern or integrate newfound physical capabilities into that pattern, but one of the most effective I have found is using Kinaesthetic feedback.

It’s a bit of a double whammy effect too, as many of these drills create instant improvements to a pattern whilst still allowing movements to be loaded – this reinforces the pattern whilst gives us a strength training effect at the same time!

That’s the sort of time efficiency that pays off hugely in a high skill game like golf, where my job is to give a player the physical tools they need as quickly and effectively as possible so they can get out of the gym and practicing the sport.

 

Exercise 1 – Quadruped hip extension with lumbar feedback:

 

As Dan John says everyone who sits all day needs 3 things – hip flexor stretches, t-spine mobility and rotary stability. Bird-dog and quadruped hip extension drills are our typical interventions for rotary stability – with the quadruped hip extension on elbows being the most basic progression we use at Stronger Golf.

Unfortunately it is also one of the most commonly butchered exercises I see. Fortunately simply placing a foam roller, water bottle or yoga block on the lumbar spine can solve can solve that!

  • Position yoga block on lumbar spine and get back flat to it
  • Here we have also placed a tennis/ lacrosse ball behind the knee, which you must keep in place throughout – this keeps the knee bent, thereby limiting the hamstrings involvement in the exercise.

Many people do this exercise poorly because they view it as a range of motion exercise – extending at the lower back in order to get the moving leg higher. The purpose of the exercise is not however to increase range of motion but to demonstrate a stable low back position in the presence of hip extension. You should aim to stay as stable as possible at the low back – Keep you back in contact with that yoga block/ roller throughout the movement and don’t extend the hip beyond your capacity to do so.

 

 

 

Exercise 2 – RNT (Reactive neuro-muscular training) squats:

 

RNT is a great technique to ‘feed the mistake’ as Grey Cook says and create activation in muscles to clean up a pattern instantly. The idea is to set up a band or similar equipment to pull you further into the mistake. This works really well for things like preventing knee valgus in split-squats and squats and can also be used to aid thoracic extension, overhead reaching and hip hinging.

One of the most common squat defects is having the knees cave in during the squat, often due to poor glute function. Simply adding a mini-band looped around the leg, just below the knee, will create an RNT effect, engaging those glutes and forcing the knees out. This instantly cleans up a poor squat pattern more often than not.

 

 

Exercise 3 – Kettlebell deadlift to wall with Gravity Fit TPro/ TSensa:

 

Gravity Fit have a range of tools I have recently begun using that enable me to create kinaesthetic feedback for my clients in a much greater range of environments/ exercises. One such exercise I really like to use it in is the hip hinge.

The hip hinge is a foundational movement vital to preventing back pain, particularly for golfers where it is how we get into a good golf posture.

A dowel of stick held with three points of contact is the traditional way of teaching this pattern using kinaesthetic feedback, however this has limitations, not least it is hard to teach an individual to create the tension necessary for loading the hinge in the deadlift patterns that are so vital for creating strength and power in the posterior chain and increasing clubhead speed. With the Gravity Fit Thoracic-pro/ T-sense we can fill that gap between hip hinge as a movement pattern and a loaded exercise much more quickly and easily.

– Put TPro/ TSensa on as directed (if using TPro, just don’t grip handles)

– Make sure you can feel pressure on all paddles

– Push butt back to touch the wall whilst still maintaining pressure with the paddles

– Lower arms whilst still maintaining pressure on the outside paddles

– Bend knees as much as needed to get down to the bell

– Grasp bell and stand straight up

– Lower by pushing the butt back to the wall

– Maintain pressure on paddles

 

 

Exercise 4 – Half-kneeling T-spine rotation with TPro

 

Another great use for the TPro is teaching good thoraco-scapular position/ relationship. As a result of modern sedentary lives many individuals struggle with proper positional awareness and motor control of the thoracic spine and scapular. This is often limits upper extremity movement, shoulder external rotation and flexion for example, that is key for both the golf swing and improving strength in key exercises such as the chin-up.

– Put TPro on as directed

– Set-up in a half-kneeling position with a straight line between the shoulders, hips and knee of the back leg

– Make sure you can feel pressure on the spikes in middle and paddles on either side

– Take a step backwards with one leg and lower yourself into a reverse lunge position

– From there simply rotate to one side then the other making sure to keep the chin tucked and pressure on the three paddles throughout

–  The half-kneeling position helps teach disassociation between upper and lower body, whilst the t-pro keeps the core engaged and the neutral scapular/ shoulder position vital to good rotation.

 

 

The patterns above represent some of the most fundamental human movement patterns that you need a firm handle on if you are going to reduce injury risk, increase strength and power or improve performance on the course – indeed, they form the basis of tools like the FMS. Whether you struggle with mobility in these patterns or simply want a way to clean up a movement so you can load that pattern more effectively I recommend you give these drills a go.

If we can quickly and easily sort motor control issues and perfect patterns, your mobility will likely improve much quicker than it ever has, you will be more resilient to injury and your power output will probably improve as well.

This improved movement capacity means your more able to make technical changes in your swing as well as giving you a much wider variety of exercise you can safely and effectively do in the gym, further improving your force output capabilities and further reinforcing mobility.

 

For more information on Nick’s excellent resource for online training, check out is Stronger Golf website

Check out the featured GravityFit equipment here

This article is co-authored with Tony Meyer. Tony is a Golf Australia National Coach and head of high performance for Golf Queensland. He specializes in skill acquisition and movement pattern training.

Nick Randall: Gym work in the winter off-season is great. There’s lots of opportunity to hit the weight room and work on mobility, conditioning, and other physical attributes that regular competitive golf makes it hard to focus on. Being mostly confined to the indoors is also a great chance to work on your swing via training movement patterns.

Improving your movement efficiency and making a positive change can be tricky when trying to play golf. Breaking down old patterns and building new ones is largely incongruent with being target focused and practicing to play for score. That’s why the colder months are the ideal time to separate movement patterns from on-course outcome and really focus on the quality of movement and ingraining better habits. When it comes around to competitive golf season again, everything will be less conscious and more automatic, allowing you to focus on scoring… as opposed to swinging.

 

While coaching at the Australian Institute of Sport golf program, despite favorable year-round weather for golf, my friend Tony Meyer would regularly take squad members into a netted indoor area to make significant changes to their movement patterns.

Tony Meyer: I found that they tended to react to ball flight and direction too much on the range. The players would unconsciously adapt their movement patterns to make the ball do what they wanted, even if it was the exact opposite of what we were trying to achieve for long-term progress. If you remove the outcome, the player can become totally focused on changing the pattern. This also helps with buy-in or compliance with the change.

The worst thing that can happen is for a player to be shown a new movement pattern only to initially see the ball going sideways as a result. Belief in the process of change goes out of the window and regression to old movement patterns is the inevitable result. Getting real-time feedback on the quality of movement is also very important, and it can really help speed up the learning process of a new swing pattern. I like to use training tools and constraints that give the player a strong of idea of how they are supposed to move. It gives them a chance to work it out for themselves without the need for verbal or visual instructions from the coach. I’ve found this to be a very effective way to learn, even if it does involve me saying a lot less in my lessons!

In the Golf Australia and Golf Queensland programs, one of the most popular pieces of feedback equipment we use is the GravityFit TPro. It gives that real-time feedback that’s so effective in training posture and movement patterns relating the individual and their swing habits.

Nick Randall: Based on the recommendations from Tony, I have put together a collection of exercises using the GravityFit TPro in a video below that you can use to train your movement patterns. They are safe, easy to lean, require only one piece of equipment, and can easily be done at home. These exercises are very popular with the PGA Tour pros I train, and they form an important part of their daily exercise routine.

 

For more information on GravityFit and its application to training golf movement patterns, click here.