Press-Republican

January 22, 2013

Three foundations to a consistent golf swing

TED SANTANIELLO, Fit Bits
Press-Republican

---- — Golf is an amazing sport. 

For most, it’s the thrill of driving the ball straight down the fairway or sinking that impossible putt on a tricky green. 

For me and other fitness professionals, it’s an appreciation for the sheer difficulty of aligning and training the body to hit the ball perfectly every time. The biomechanics of a golf swing are complicated — that’s why it interests me so much. 

What I’ve learned from helping golfers move more effectively during their swing is that there are three basic movements or skills that need be mastered first before progressing to the swing itself.  

PROPER POSTURE

Many people, not just golfers, tend to have a slouched posture. Correcting this is of the utmost importance in order to swing a club efficiently. 

The reason we tend to slouch is often due to the chronic sitting position that many of us are used to assuming. It takes considerably less effort to slouch, but it places much more stress on our joints and ligaments. 

By lifting the chest up, you will create better spinal alignment and therefore be able to transfer more power through your body safely. To practice, get down on your hands and knees and let your spine sag between your hips and shoulders, creating a valley. You should feel your abdominals relax and your back muscles turn on. 

Now do the opposite — arch your back upward. Contract your abdominals when doing this. Do this 10 to 20 times to really feel the difference. 

Next, stand up and try the same motion with your spine. Round your spine first (bad posture), then arch your back slightly and point your chest upward. The key to a good golf swing is to find the neutral spine between these two extremes. 

Many people are so adapted to a rounded spine that they have a hard time lifting the chest up. This is a good exercise to “find” your neutral spine and improve postural awareness.

BEND RIGHT

The second skill that must be mastered is bending properly at the hips.

Your spine is generally made to stay in a static position (not bending), while the hips do most of the moving. The test here is to bend forward while standing, without rounding your back. 

To practice this, take a broomstick and hold it against your back. Get the back of your head, your upper back and the back of your hips to touch the stick all at the same time. 

Once this is done, bend forward at the hips without losing contact. This may be extremely hard to do for some but is worth practicing. 

Many golfers will swing the club while their spine is bent, causing extreme stress on the vertebral disks. By maintaining spinal alignment, you will be much less likely to injure yourself, as well as stay more consistent.  

SEPARATION

The last movement that is crucial to an effective golf swing involves separating your upper and lower body. This is not to be taken literally, of course, but you should be able to rotate your upper torso without rotating your hips. 

Many who can’t do this can end up with knee pain due to the fact that while they are winding up on the loaded leg, they are not able to keep a solid base support. This causes misalignment of the joints below the hips and can cause injury and energy leaks. 

A mirror is the best tool to use to learn this drill. 

Watching your reflection, try turning your hips without turning your shoulders and vice versa. By learning how to do this, you will be engaging many of the stabilizer muscles of the hips and core, making your swing more successful later on.

As many of you know, the golf swing is a very complex movement. Like sports such as javelin, olympic lifting, and hockey, golf requires years of experience to truly master.

The most important part of learning a sport such as golf is to learn it right the first time. Seeking professional assistance initially is a must if you want to avoid injury through trial and error and avoid having to retrain bad habits that were picked up trying it on your own.

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LAST WORDS FOR NOW

To all of you who have read my articles over the years, I thank you for your continued interest and gratitude. I hope that I have truly assisted those who have been searching for some extra help in the fitness and wellness world.

Unfortunately, this article will be my last for now, as I am returning to school to work toward my master's degree.

John Vasile, one of my good friends and colleagues at the Wellness Center at PARC, will be continuing to write the Fit Bits columns. Please offer him the same support and encouragement that everyone has given me. Yours in health, Theodore Santaniello, BA, CSCS