Golf Fitness and Mobility Requirements of the Golf Swing

The phrases “flexibility”, “range of motion”, and “rotation” coincide with execution of the golf swing. In general these terms refer to physical requirements required to perform the athletic actions associated with the golf swing. The amateur player quite often refers to needing to be flexible (or lack thereof when unable to execute the golf swing) to position the body correctly at address, create rotation around a fixed spine angle, make a full shoulder turn, etc.

Man Performing A Golf Swing.

The reality is the body requires more than what we describe as “flexibility” to execute the golf swing. What the strength and conditioning professional is truly looking to develop is mobility.

Q: Sean, you state mobility rather than flexibility is what you are looking to develop for the golf swing, please explain.

A:  Mobility is a combination of both joint range of motion and flexibility. Joint range of motion concerns itself with the actual articular structure of the joint (i.e. skeletal structures), and flexibility has to do with the extensibility of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) surrounding the joint. To better understand the relationship of joint range of motion and flexibility let’s define both.

Flexibility can be defined as the optimal extensibility of all soft tissues surrounding a joint to allow for full range of motion. (Michael Clark, Director: National Academy of Sports Medicine) If certain muscles are “tight” or ligaments become “un-pliable” the ability for a joint to move through multiple ranges of motion may be hindered. For example, the golf swing requires the hip to be mobile in order to execute correctly. If the surrounding soft tissues (ligaments, muscles, tendons) are “tight” the hip will be immobile and unable to operate through the ranges of motion required too execute the golf swing correctly.

In addition to flexibility, range of motion is the second component of mobility. Mobility as stated above is the combination of normal joint range of motion and proper extensibility of the surrounding soft tissues. Range of motion is simply the number of degrees a joint should be able to flex, extend, or rotate. For example, the elbow joint is considered a hinge joint that only flexes and extends. The elbow joint should flex or extend a certain number of degrees. Limitations in the degrees of flexion and extension would be considered a limited range of motion in relation to the elbow joint.

Q: What do you personally see as the most common limitations to mobility in the everyday golfer?

A: The common physical dysfunction relative to mobility for the amateur player typically centers on soft tissue extensibility. The lack of extensibility in the soft tissue results in joint restrictions thus limiting a joint’s intended range of motion. The result of such a situation is limited mobility causing an inability of the golfer to execute the physical requirements of the golf swing in an efficient manner.

Q: When the above situation results, a golfer not having the mobility to perform the golf swing, what typically happens?

A: As we stated above mobility limitations first and foremost impede the golfer in executing the golf swing in an efficient manner, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Mobility restrictions are a “slippery slope” causing a myriad of dysfunctions.

On the golf swing side of the equation, when the body is unable to execute the athletic actions of the golf swing, compensatory patterns will develop in attempt to overcome these physical dysfunctions. The compensation patterns will lead to less than optimal speed development, less efficient ball striking, a golf swing relying on timing, and overall less consistency.

Over time these compensation patterns will lead to the development of swing faults which we all know cause difficulty in the golf game from tee to green.

Outside of the “on the course” issues, we must also be aware of the physical issues resulting from mobility limitations. Recognize the body is a very smart machine and when asked to perform a movement pattern (golf swing included) it will find a way to complete the movement regardless of limitations within the kinetic chain. The way it finds to complete the movement pattern at hand will be less efficient resulting in the body asking certain joints to perform activities that they are not intended to perform.

Let me explain with a common issue found in the golfing population. The golf swing requires the hips to be mobile and move through their intended range of motion. We will often see golfers with limited hip mobility. That being said, the body will recruit another joint to execute the rotary requirements of the golf swing if the hips are limited. The body will typically turn to the lumbar spine (region of the spine located just above the hips) to perform the rotational movements of the swing when the hips are limited.

The problem with this situation is the lumbar spine is not intended from a physiological perspective to rotate through a large range of motion. Over time if the golfer continues to ask the lumbar spine to rotate it will eventually become injured. A common injury in the sport of golf linked to a lack of mobility.

Q: That all makes sense, and please tell me what joints of the body must be mobile to execute the golf swing?

A: To answer this question we can turn to the Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement Principle. This principle was first noted by physical therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle, and popularized in the sport of golf by Dr. Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute. This principle states efficient movement within the kinetic chain of the human body occurs in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable segments. If this pattern of mobile joints and stable segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns will occur, and compensations in these movement patterns will be the result.

Let me break out the pattern so we have a model to reference:

  • Mobility-Stability Pattern of Human Movement
  • Foot                                                     Stable
  • Ankle                                                   Mobile
  • Knee                                                    Stable
  • Hip                                                       Mobile
  • Pelvis/Sacral/Lumbar Spine          Stable
  • Thoracic Spine                                   Mobile
  • Scapula-Thoracic                              Stable
  • Gleno-Humeral/Shoulder              Mobile
  • Elbow                                                  Stable
  • Wrist                                                   Mobile
  • Cervical Spine                                   Mobile

As you can see from the above table the human body “feet to fingertips” operates in an alternating pattern of a mobile joint followed by a stable joint throughout the entire kinetic chain (i.e. body). It is obvious joints such as the elbow and knee are not rod like pieces of iron that do not flex or extend, but rather these joints are stable in terms of limited degrees of motion. For example, the knee joint does not rotate in 360 degrees of motion as does the hip or shoulder, rather it operates essentially in one plane of motion flexing and extending. As a result this joint is considered a stable joint where as the hip, shoulder, and ankle require large ranges of motion for human movement to occur efficiently.

Relative to the golf swing the mobility/stability pattern of human movement allows for the creation and transfer of energy through the kinetic chain from “feet to fingertips” into the golf

About Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness trainers in the world today. He travels the PGA Tour regularly working with Tour professionals most notably 3-Time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson. Sean has been involved in the production of numerous golf fitness videos and books including Performance Golf Fitness, Golf Fitness Over Fifty, Junior Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Stronger Arms and Upper Body. Additionally, he has been a presenter at numerous educational seminars including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.

 

Figure Four Golf Fitness Exercise

Hip mobility is a necessity in order to execute the rotary components of the golf swing in the backswing and downswing phases. In order to create rotation around the an imaginary axis often referred to the spine angle requires internal and external rotation from the hip complex.

Improves Your Golf: Hip Mobility

Target Area: Piriformis Muscle

Why Its Important: The hips are required to move through a large ranges of both internal and external rotation in the execution of the rotary components of the swing. In order execute these requirements of the golf swing the internal and external rotators of the hip must be pliable and extensible.

The Common Problem: Limitations in the external and internal rotation of the hip due to limited muscular extensibility will limit the ability of the golfer to rotate efficiently in the golf swing. The result of these limitations are compensatory patterns, swing faults, and recruitment of the lumbar spine to initiate and complete rotation.

Solution: A golfer with limited external rotation in the hips can employ soft tissue extensibility modalities in the forms of self-myofascial release, static, active, and dynamic flexibility to develop improved external hip rotation. Over time the utilization of these golf fitness exercises can improve one’s hip mobility thus allowing improved rotation in the golf swing.

Figure Four Piriformis Stretch

Physio-Ball Piriformis Stretch

Set Up:

  •  Lay on the ground, feet on top of the physio-ball
  •  Knees bent at 90 degrees

 

Action:

  • Slowly place the outside of your right ankle on the upper thigh of the left leg
  • Grasp the right ankle with your left hand and place the right hand on the inside of the right knee
  • Simultaneously pull with the left hand and press with the right hand until a stretch is felt in the right hip or glute
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg

 

About Sean Cochran Golf Fitness Trainer:  Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world today. He travels the Tour regularly working with PGA Professionals, most notably three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson. He has been involved in the production of numerous golf fitness videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Golf Fitness Over Fifty, and Junior Golf Fitness. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the Titleist Performance Institute.

 

 

Physio-Ball Forearm Rollout Golf Fitness Exercise

The development of segmental stability in the core of the body is integral in the execution of a proficient golf swing. The core is a reference to an anatomical region of the body from just above the knees to slightly below the chest. It includes all the structures on the anterior, posterior, and lateral portions of the kinetic chain. Muscle groups found within the core are the abdominals, lower back, obliques, and glutes.

Improves Your Golf: Core Strength and Segmental Stability

Target Area: Core Musculature

Why Its Important: The core can be termed the “engine of the swing” as this anatomical region of the body is integral in the generation of speed, maintenance of postural positions required in the swing, and the transfer of speed through the body.

The Common Problem: Weakness of the core musculature will lead to poor segmental stabilization in this segment of the kinetic chain. A lack of segmental stability will create difficulties on executing requirements in the golf swing such as rotating around a fixed axis, creating separation, and the development of an X-Factor. These limitations will typically lead to the development of compensatory patterns in an attempt to overcome these weaknesses.

Solution: Poor segmental stability within the core can be corrected with the implementation of golf fitness exercises developing strength and endurance. These golf exercises over time will increase the comprehensive strength and endurance within the core musculature, allowing the golfer to stabilize the core during the execution of the golf swing.

Physio-Ball Forearm Saws

Physio-Ball Forearm Saws

Setup:

  • Place both forearms on top of the ball with the elbow directly under your shoulders
  • Position the body in a standard plank position with the feet together, back flat, and core contracted

 

Action:

  • Slowly roll the forearms forward on the ball
  • Roll the forearms outward as far as possible while maintaining a plank position
  • Return to the starting position of the exercise and repeat for 10-15 repetitions

 

About Sean Cochran Golf Fitness Trainer:  Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world today. He travels the Tour regularly working with PGA Professionals, most notably three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson. He has been involved in the production of numerous golf fitness videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Golf Fitness Over Fifty, and Junior Golf Fitness. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the Titleist Performance Institute.

 

 

 

Hip Mobility and Core Stability for the Golf Swing

“The Hips and Core are major components on the physical side of the equation of the golf swing. Developing the required levels of joint mobility and stabilization strength are integral for the golfer to execute a proficient golf swing. Limitations in either of these physical components can easily impede one’s ability execute a competent golf swing.” – Sean Cochran

Core

Q: Sean, in your opening statement you stated the importance of the hips and core relative to the golf swing, please explain?

A: The execution of the golf swing is a “feet to fingertips” athletic action where the entire kinetic chain is utilized. In order for the kinetic chain to perform the required movement patterns of the golf requires certain levels of joint mobility and segmental stabilization. If certain joints are limited in terms of mobility or certain segments of the body are “weak”, executing an efficient swing without compensatory patterns will be very difficult.

The hips are an integral joint in the golf swing relative to the rotary components of the swing. That being said, if limitations are present in terms of mobility the body will compensate in an attempt to perform the required rotary actions of the golf swing.

The core which is a reference to an anatomical area of the body basically from just above to slightly below the chest entailing all of the soft tissue structures on the anterior, posterior, and lateral aspects of the body.

The core is a segment of the body requiring high levels of muscular strength and endurance in order to stabilize the kinetic chain through the athletic actions associated with the golf swing. If the core musculature is unable to stabilize the kinetic chain and execute the athletic actions of the swing, compensatory patterns will most likely develop.

Q: Sean, what do you see as the most problematic problems with the hips relative to the golf swing?

A: Typically, if limitations exist in the hips it tends to gravitate towards limitations in either internal, external rotation or both. Recognize, executing the rotary components of the golf swing in both the backswing and downswing require large degrees of both internal and external rotation in the hips.

Limited internal and external rotation will reduce the ability of the golfer execute the rotational components of the golf swing. One of two situations will typically arise when this is the case. Number one would be the golfer not rotating in the backswing or downswing. This will result the development of compensatory actions such as a slide or sway causing a loss of speed and potential swing plane issues.

Secondly, and more harmful on the physical side of the equation, the golfer will recruit the lumbar region of the lower back to compensate and create rotation in the golf swing. The unfortunate side of this situation is the lumbar region of the lower back is not intended to rotate to a large degree. That being said, continuing to ask the lumbar region to create rotation in the golf swing will eventually lead to injury.

Q: It is very apparent from you answer above the importance hip mobility plays in the golf swing. Now tell me about the core and where golfers get off track?

A: The core as we discussed previously is an anatomical section of the kinetic chain. It is responsible for maintaining postural positions within the golf swing, initiate movement patterns and generate swing speeds. If the core is weak or muscles are inhibited, the ability to execute these requirements of the swing will be limited. These limitations can easily lead to the development of swing faults such as a flat shoulder plane, over the top move, or lifting of the club in the back swing.

All of which will cause limitations in speed development, consistent ball striking, and ball flight. Basically, we can see the core is integral component of the golf swing which does require a specified level of conditioning to execute the requirements of the golf swing.

Q: Knowing the importance of the hips and core in the golf swing what do you recommend the amateur golfer do to address these areas?

A: The simple answer is to address these areas of the body with a series of mobility and strength training exercises. The implementation of this type of training over time can improve and develop the required levels of mobility and stability needed to execute the athletic actions of the golf swing.

Outside of the implementation of mobility and strength training exercises it is imperative the golfer be provided with instruction of the correct type of mobility and strength training exercises for golf. For example, relative to the development of stabilization within the core certain exercises are better for the golfer than others. Secondly, a progression in terms of exercises is best to develop the core correctly and provide the golfer with the greatest benefit from their training.

This is where it is best for the golfer to seek out a professional with experience in golf fitness training. Such experience will provide the golfer with the guidance to implement of training program conducive to their sport.

About Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness trainers in the world today. He travels the PGA Tour regularly working with Tour professionals most notably 3-Time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson. Sean has been involved in the production of numerous golf fitness videos and books including Performance Golf Fitness, Golf Fitness Over Fifty, Junior Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Stronger Arms and Upper Body. Additionally, he has been a presenter at numerous educational seminars including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.

 

Openers Golf Fitness Exercise

Upper body and thoracic spine mobility are key components of executing a proficient golf swing. The thoracic spine is a section of the spine located between the shoulder blades of the upper. The T-Spine (thoracic spine) is a mobile section of the spine allowing for rotary actions of the upper body to occur.

  • Improves Your Golf: Upper body mobility
  • Target Area: Thoracic Spine

 

Why Its Important: Execution of the golf swing where rotation occurs around an imaginary axis require both upper and lower body mobility. In addition the creation of separation between the upper and lower body requires both of these anatomical sections of the body to independently rotate. The thoracic spine is a key component of this ability to create rotation within the upper body and execute these aforementioned requirements of the golf swing.

The Common Problem: Limitations in terms of thoracic spine mobility will most likely impede the golfer from performing the rotary requirements of the golf swing. This will lead to an inability to create separation, limit the ability to create an X-Factor, and lead to the development of swing faults in an attempt to overcome this physical dysfunction.

Solution: A golfer with limited T-Spine mobility can address the situation with the implementation of corrective golf fitness exercises to improve mobility within this section of the upper body. The result of such golf exercises over time is the improvement of one’s T-Spine mobility. This can lead greater efficiency in executing the rotary requirements of the golf swing.

Openers

Openers 2

Set Up:

  • Position the left hip in contact with the floor and bend both knees to 90 degrees
  • Place the right knee directly on top of the left knee
  • Extend arms straight positioning the left arm of the floor
  • Place the right arm on top of the left arm

 

Action:

  • Slowly raise the right arm off the left and begin to rotate your shoulder
  • Continue to raise and rotate the right arm until it is on the right side of the body
  • Attempt to rotate to a position where the right arm is resting on the floor
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat in the opposite direction

 

About Sean Cochran Golf Fitness Trainer:  Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world today. He travels the Tour regularly working with PGA Professionals, most notably three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson. He has been involved in the production of numerous golf fitness videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Golf Fitness Over Fifty, and Junior Golf Fitness. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the Titleist Performance Institute.

 

 

 

The Golf Channel – July 2013

Phil Mickelson’s Resiliency Brings More Major Glory
By Rex Hoggard

“The amount of preparation he has put into every aspect of his game at this point in his career is phenomenal,” said Sean Cochran, Mickelson’s trainer. “Since 2010, it’s been a progression. Not a week goes by that he doesn’t work.”  - Sean Cochran

Read More 

 

Sports Illustrated Now – June 2013

Expert Golf Trainer Sean Cochran
With Maggie Gray

“The goal of a strength and conditioning program for the tour player is to develop the body around the golf swing. This type of training incorporates a comprehensive training program of flexibility exercises, core training, strength development, and speed training.” - Sean Cochran

Read More 

 

Philadelphia Daily News – June 2013

Golfer Fitness at the Fore-Front
By Kimberly Garrison

“Everyone can benefit from learning the particular strength and flexibility exercises they’ll need to improve and execute their golf swing and overall game,” – Sean Cochran

Read More

 

The Golf Channel – March 2013

Bring It On
By Rex Hoggard

“I noticed since 2010 (the year Mickelson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis) he’s been much more conscientious to eat healthy,” said Sean Cochran, Mickelson’s longtime trainer, “ And this off-season he’s been much more dedicated to his workout program.” – Sean Cochran

Read More

 

The Golf Channel – June 2012

Golf Fitness Studio Making Impact at US Open
By Rex Hoggard

“This is the first time we’ve had our hands on so many amateurs and we are able to let them know how important the physical side of golf is…The public has realized there is a physical aspect to the golf swing.”- Sean Cochran

Read More

 

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