Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cut Your Swing In Half

When I worked as a golf professional, one of the best ways that I discovered to diagnose a player's swing problem was this: make them hit balls using one-armed swings. Here's what I did and how you can use the method to help your shot outcomes.

After warming up on the driving range, hit about 10 shots regularly with an 8 iron to get a feel for how you are swinging that day. Then, take your non-dominant hand off of the club and put it in your pocket. Take a few practice swings using only your dominant hand. Make full swings at about half speed being sure to maintain proper form. Now hit 5 shots using only the one arm and note the results. Now repeat with the opposite arm only. Your drill is over at this point.

Why this works: The body is a set of pully mechanisms. In most cases, a player's poor shot outcomes can be traced to one side of the body or the other. The pully system simply is not working congruently. If one side of the body is working properly and the other side is not, you will see the results immediately. When one side has a dysfunction, it can't perform the necessary functions to carry out the intended shot pattern.

More than likely one side will yield better results than the other. You should be able to isolate the major swing problems to the problematic side of your body, and this side will be the focus of your practice. If you practice with the problematic side with little or no results, see a golf professional to work with your swing mechanics and/or your chiropractor to assess biomechanics. This drill has been a huge success in helping players overcome shot inconsistency. Let me know how it works for you!

Nathan Williams

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Preparations for the Golfer

It's snowing outside and you are unable to get to the course. I realize that some live in climates far away from snow (Florida, for example), but the snow (or cold) is a reality for a lot of us. So what can the golfer do during the winter season in order to prepare for the upcoming golf season? I'll offer two suggestions:

1) Maintain proper biomechanical function

-This can be accomplished by implementing a stretching program that focuses on legs, back, shoulders, and neck. Doing this can prevent an early injury that can hinder the rest of your season or longer. And/or visit a chiropractor to verify that your joints are functioning normally.

2) Exercise your mind

-Mental exercise is at least as important as physical exercise for most efforts in life and golf is certainly no exception. Try playing your favorite course (local or Augusta National) completely in your mind. Try envisioning sights, sounds, smells, and most importantly see yourself making perfect swings with great outcomes. You don't need to play the entire course at one time - this would take four hours! Take about ten minutes at lunch to play one hole. This can also work as an effective stress reliever!

-Nathan Williams

Monday, February 8, 2010

Correct Motion Can Be Your Key

How can functional motion improve your golf game? The answer is simple: if the joints of the body function appropriately, the golfer is allowed to move in optimal ranges of motion. For most players, some joints in the body don't move in full motion. When joints fail to function properly, other joints must make up the difference. Much the same as a team of workers, if a few workers are sitting down on the job, the other workers must make up the difference. The overburdened workers will become tired and production will decline. This is the same scenario that is present in the skeletal system of most golfers. When a few joints in the body 'sit down on the job', others are forced to pick up the slack. This dysfunction can cause a decrease in production and an increase in pain. My advice:

1) Begin a stretching program. This can allow the muscles to reorient themselves to bones. Some slight stretching is ok to do before you play, but it is most important AFTER you play. When you reach the trunk of your car following the round, use it to do some leg and low back stretches.

2) Use a golf-specific exercise program. By increasing the functional strength of golf-specific muscles, the player can protect the skeletal system and it's components. These can be found online if you feel comfortable, or obtained by a personal trainer, physical therapist, or chiropractor.

3) Visit a chiropractor. Chiropractors are trained to locate and treat dysfunction of joints in the body. By normalizing the overall function of joints, better performance and lower levels of pain can be expected.

-Nathan Williams

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Importance of core muscular strength in shot outcome

We've all seen it...the overweight guy who hits a huge slice. How many overweight players do you know that hit a draw? Is it possible? Sure it is, it's just not very common. Why is that? Well, in short, players with weak core strength rely on hand speed and swing plane to compensate for dysfunction in the swing. If these compensations are not correct or enough, that player will hit at least a fade and in most cases, a slice. I contend that while swing mechanics are obviously the key to shot production, biomechanics directly influence swing mechanics. Without proper biomechanics, swing mechanics must compensate for the biomechanical inadequacies. As the driver of a car with a twisted frame must continually make corrections to maintain the course of travel, the golfer with a dysfunctional frame must make similar corrections to maintain the clubhead's course of travel. The human frame is of utmost importance in determining swing mechanics and the core musculature is of utmost importance in determining the functionality of the human frame. It is the core that stabilizes and straightens the spine. Additionally, stronger core musculature can help prevent injury during the strenuous act of the golf swing.

The muscles that make up the 'core' are usually thought to be the abs and maybe the low back erectors. Actually, the core is made up of most muscles in the trunk, so the body minus the arms and legs. This includes rectus and transversus abdominals, external and internal obliques, multifidi, quadratus lumborum groups, pelvic floor muscles, hip flexors, hip extensors (glutes), and least thought of...the diaphragm. According to other sources, there are more muscles that make up the core but this list is sufficient for our purposes. Basically, the core is a list of muscles that surround the spine and stablize the body in virtually all ranges of motion. With weak core muscles, the golfer subjects himself to increased stress on intrinsic structures such as spinal disks and facet joints. But even if no injury is realized by the golfer, weak core muscles can cause a loss of ability to rotate through the ball effectively.

When a player starts his swing, an increasing amount of resistance is created around the trunk. The stronger the core muscles, the more resistance is created (the rubberband effect). With strong muscles, the muscles do the work during the unwind phase through simple rebound, but with a weak core, the energy must be created by a lateral shift, increased foot movement (happy feet), and/or increased hand/arm movements resulting in inconsistency and an increased risk of overuse injury (golfer's elbow or aka medial epicondylitis). When these factors are considered, it is reasonable to conclude that players with weak core muscles subject themselves to a higher risk of injury and poor shot outcomes.

It is best to consult your doctor before beginning an exercise routine. See a doctor knowledgeable in functional rehab to see the best results (i.e. chiro, physiatrist or maybe even a pt).

The best exercise to begin with is a side plank. Start out laying on your side, bend your knees, and push up on your arm stabilizing yourself on your elbow. *make sure your back is straight during this exercise!
Hold for 10 seconds and do 3 sets 2 times a day. Then repeat on the other side. As you progress with your ability, try the exercise with your legs extended and try holding it for 15-20 seconds.

More exercises can be done, but this will get you started. Let me know if you have any questions.

-Nathan Williams

Monday, February 1, 2010

Any Questions? Just ask...

If you have any specific questions about performance funcionality as it pertains to golf, feel free to ask.

Fitness is key

Golfers routinely spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year on new equipment, professional lessons, range balls, and greens fees. This money is spent for a number of reasons (recreation, family past-time, stress reliever, means to a college scholarship, etc), but at the root of every player's motivation is a drive to improve. As mentioned earlier, purchases made in relation to golf each year are many, but one factor is usually over-looked when it comes to performance improvement - the human body. Physical function cannot be overexaggerated in terms of breaking past the player's stalled performance. With few exceptions, major breakthroughs in equipment do not occur each year. Even lessons from a top-professional tend to level out in terms of R.O.I. over time. How long have you been stuck at your current level of performance despite 'improved' equipmennt and expensive lessons? If you are like most, the asnwer is "a while". You have upgraded your equipment and spent money on lessons, but what has not changed? The answer to that question could be the key to your improvement. For most in the above described situation, the answer could be physical function. If your physical function does not improve, chances are all the newest equipment in the world will not make a difference. The Functional Golfer is about providing useful information to the golfer in an effort to improve overall physical function that results in improved performance on and off the golf course. If there are particular questions you may have, please ask. I intend to provide useful tips and advice that will allow the golfer to proceed in their individual goals. Thanks for reading and check back often for updates.

-Nathan Williams