Originally published February 25, 2004
All those years your mother told you to sit up straight and hold your head high…. little did you know that she was actually preparing you for your golf stance! Posture, the position or arrangement of the body and its limbs (1), is essential for organizing the eyes, arms and legs around the spine as the brain and body prepare for and execute motion. Good posture indicates that the bones support the structure and the muscles provide the movement (2). Here is where the dialogue occurs between the brain, nerves and all the muscles in the body as it prepares for and executes the golf swing.
Muscles exhibit two types of functions, mostly phasic and mostly tonic. Phasic muscles are primarily responsible for movement. They react much like turning on and off a light switch. For example, your brain sends the message “kick” to your leg via the nerves and muscles. As a result your quadriceps extend the knee and the foot kicks. After the movement is over the muscle returns to rest. The brain and nervous system turn the muscle on, action, completion, muscle off.
Tonic muscles are primarily responsible for posture and behave as if they were attached to a dimmer switch. They balance against the gravitational forces that try to alter the position of the body and its limbs (3). For example, when you sit down the dimmer switch is set on low with few nerves sending impulses to the muscles. When you stand up the muscles need to increase their activity and the nerves turn the switch up that measured amount. If someone tried to knock you over these muscles would be fully functioning with the switch turned up to high but returning to moderate once the acting force ended. Each moment the switch adjusts up or down depending upon the amount of activity required of the nerves and muscles.
Now lets take your address position. You eye up your shot, set your feet, soften your knees, bend at the hips, extend your arms, align your head and fix your eyes on your ball. This is static strength and stability(4). Gravity is trying to pull your stationary body toward the ground and your nervous system turns up your dimmer switch to counter act the pull and hold your position.
Meanwhile your brain is processing where the shot needs to go and where all your body parts are in relationship to the spine and performing that task. These skills are the preparatory movements and mental set (5). The eyes have reported 270 yards, slight dog leg left to the hole. The brain reports 250 yards maximum if I call on all the speed in the nerves and all the synergistic power in the muscles. The arms and hands report back the grip and club face angle while the feet and legs report the stance to the brain.
The ego exclaims, “lets go for it!” and you let rip. These skills include the back swing, force producing movement and recovery (6). You have just asked your limbs and joints to revolve around your simultaneously rotating spine in a perfectly balanced arc. This is dynamic strength and stability (7), light switch on, swing, light switch off.
So what happened to the shot? Did it go exactly where you wanted it to go? Congratulations! You were able to hold your address position and move your limbs and joints around your rotating spine, calling on the exact amount of muscular activity and joint motion in perfect neuromuscular synergy. This is optimal static and dynamic strength and stability working in perfect harmony.
Did the shot veer from where you expected it to go? If the answer is “yes” then you have a skill deficiency in your mental set, back swing, force production, or recovery related to static stability, dynamic stability or both.
Most golfers falter the second they step up and address the ball.
Work, habits, injury and pain all reprogram the neuromuscular activity which then changes optimal static and dynamic posture. Activating the same muscles over and over again, whether phasic or tonic, creates imbalance. The always used muscles become short, tight and weak restricting movement and altering joint structure by changing the position of the bones. The little used long, loose and weak muscles are stretch beyond their abilities to effectively create movement or support the structure of the joint during activity or rest.
Phasic muscles, once controlled by the light switch, may be neurologically reprogrammed to have a dimmer switch to help the long, loose, and weak muscles do their job. This robs the body of endurance and power as the amount of muscle fibers available for on-off contractions designed to create movement are now rerouted to the dimmer switch of activity as needed. Tonic muscles whose dimmer switch is always set on low eventually turn off believing they are no longer needed. Tonic muscles whose dimmer switch is always set on high lose the ability to modulate and remain on high.
How did your posture look when you addressed the ball and hit the shot that went awry? Was your head thrust forward, shoulders pulled in toward your sternum with your upper back hunched? Was your low back flat or excessively arched with your knees pulled in toward each other and your weight resting on the arch of your foot? Could you draw a straight line from head to tail allowing for a slight arch at the neck and low back or would the line start low at the back of the head, kink and raise up to touch the mid-back, and then divert sharply downward again reaching between the hip bones for the sacrum?
The key to rectifying the above description lies a corrective exercise program. First you must determine which of your muscles are short, tight, weak and which are long, loose and weak (8). Then begin your corrective exercise program by stretching the short, tight and weak muscles and strengthening the long, loose and weak muscles. For example, performing a lunge stretch to lengthen short, tight hip flexor muscles at the hip joint. If you need assistance a knowledgeable practitioner can evaluate and measure the length and tension relationship between your muscles and prescribe stretches.
Next you need to determine which joints, including the spine, that have limited, excessive or normal range of motion (9). The second step in your program is to perform mobilizations to restore the joints that are limited in their motion and exercises to strengthen muscles surrounding the joints that have excessive motion. For example, juxtaposing your shoulders and hips while lying on a foam roller to improve rotation at the spine. This evaluation, with measurements and exercise recommendations, is also included in a skilled practitioner’s assessment. In cases of injury a licensed connective tissue massage therapist may be needed to mobilize the tissue around the joint.
Finally you need to evaluate the quality of your movement. The golf swing should be fluid with each muscle activating at the appropriate time and in the exact measure. It should not be choppy or segmented with some muscles firing excessively while others sleep during the movement. The third step in your program is to perform integrative strength and power exercises designed to reprogram the brain and neurological system to communicate optimally with the muscles (10). These exercises combine multiple movements in all directions. For example, combining a squat with a reverse chop to improve the hip and shoulder coordination during the fore and back swing or throwing a medicine ball over your shoulder.
Static and dynamic posture/strength and integrative movements are learned skills that require practice prior to mastery. The greater the skill development, the easier the action (11) and the more precise the ball flight.
Article courtesy of Elizabeth Howzen Kais, M.Ed of Florida Golf Conditioning
1. Web Definition, www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn
2. Feldenkrais, Moshe, Awareness Through Movement, Harper Collins, 1990, p. 68.
3. Feldenkrais, Moshe, Awareness Through Movement, Harper Collins, 1990, p. 70.
4. Chek, Paul, The Golf Biomechanic’s Manual, The C.H.E.K Institute, 2001, p.86.
5. Carr, Gerry, Mechanics of Sport, Human Kinetics, 1997, p. 136.
6. Carr, Gerry, Mechanics of Sport, Human Kinetics, 1997, p. 136.
7. Chek, Paul, The Golf Biomechanic’s Manual, The C.H.E.K Institute, 2001, p.86.
8. The C.H.E.K Institute, Lecture, Level 1 Certification notes, September, 2002.
9. The C.H.E.K Institute, Lecture, Level 1 Certification notes, September, 2002.
10. The C.H.E.K Institute, Lecture, Level 1 Certification notes, September, 2002.
11. Feldenkrais, Moshe, Awareness Through Movement, Harper Collins, 1990, p. 87