MAINTAIN SWING WIDTH FOR GREATER DISTANCE

Bob Forman, MS Exercise Physiology
Certified Golf Fitness Instructor, Author, Speaker

One of the common mechanical breakdowns I see in many golfers is a shortening of the swing arc in the backswing.  As a result of this fault, the ability to generate power in the downswing is diminished and distance is often negatively impacted.  Two of the physical requirements for a wide swing include a mobile thoracic spine (mid-back) and adequate strength in the triceps. 

It’s often, if you watch golf, that you hear commentators talk about “good extension,” especially when they are analyzing someone’s swing.  This reference is to the golfer’s ability to lengthen the takeaway and reach back with the hands and club in the initial phase of the backswing.  Maintaining that distance or swing arc throughout the backswing (photo left) is an essential mechanical component for generating more clubhead speed.

Many golfers, however, due to physical restrictions can’t maintain that width as they strive to make that good, power shoulder turn often emphasized in popular golf publications.  What typically occurs is a breakdown of the arms at the elbows bringing the hands in closer to the body (photo right).  This action, often times undetected by the golfer, shortens the swing path and distance the clubhead will travel.  The unwelcomed outcome is a loss of distance.      

Mobility in the thoracic spine (T-spine) is imperative if you want to make a good upper body turn in the backswing.  Muscle tightness in this area, which is very common, will limit the range of motion and more than likely result in a limited backswing.  In order to get the club back further, golfers will either have to lean their upper bodies back toward the target, known as reverse spine, or bend the arms at the elbows.   

A very real second concern of a tight mid-back is low back pain.  The T-spine is where rotation should occur in the body.  The higher up the 12 vertebrae you go in the thoracic spine, the more rotation.  If range of motion is restricted in this region, the lumbar spine (lower back) will be recruited to help.  The lumbar spine, however, is designed more for stability and actually only has about 5 degrees of movement in the transverse (rotational) plane.  If recruited, the repeated rotation may very well strain the lower back.      

To address muscle tightness in the T-spine, a focus on mobility must take place.  First, get an assessment to see if indeed there is tightness to the mid-back.  Any TPI certified instructor can detect this for you.  If there is, determine to what degree, if it’s unilateral or bilateral and develop a game plan to target and correct the deficiency. 

Two exercises that target the T-spine area are the Shoulder Roll on Stability Ball and Thoracic Rotation . 

To perform the Shoulder Roll, kneel behind a stability ball with hands together, resting on ball.  Slowly roll your hands and arms down the ball and out to the right, rotating the upper body as you reach as far as comfort permits.  Hold for a 10 to 15-second count and then return to the starting position.  Repeat toward the left.  Continue to alternate sides 3 to 5x and remember to breathe normally.

When done on a regular basis, and that training factor cannot be overstated, these exercises will increase range of motion in the upper body and allow for a more efficient turn in the golf swing.  It will also alleviate the need to recruit the lower back in helping with the shoulder turn.  That will significantly ease the stress to the back.  Less stress equates to less injury and a healthier golf game.

For the Thoracic Rotation, begin on all fours with one hand behind your head and hips settled back toward your heels.  Rotate the upper trunk downward till a gentle stretch is felt in the mid-back area and then slowly raise extended elbow up and back as far as comfort permits.  Continue to smoothly and slowly raise and lower the elbow 10 – 15 times and then repeat to other side.  Breathe normally throughout.

Tricep weakness may also contribute to the arms breaking down in the backswing.  There are numerous exercises to strengthen the triceps and here is one you can do anywhere with an exercise tube or band.   Standing in a strided position, place one end of the tube or band under your back right foot and hold the other end with your right hand.  Support your right elbow with your left hand up by your ear.  Slowly extend your right arm up till nearly straight (do not lock elbow), and then slowly return to starting position.  Perform 15 to 20x and then repeat with the left arm.  Exhale on your effort (when your arm is extending).

Make sure you’re firmly standing on the tube or band as you don’t want it to slip from under you as you’re performing the exercise.  Also, maintain a flat lower back.  If you need to, pull your belly button into your spine (known as the vacuum exercise) as you’re performing the exercise.  That will help to prevent you from arching your back.

Maintaining width throughout the backswing will help you generate more clubhead speed and get you further down the fairway.   Correcting the common physical deficiencies that usually accompany the breaking down of the arms and swing arc will help you achieve that good extension throughout.  It will also help you avoid the dreaded reverse spine and reduce the potential for lower back discomfort.        

EXERCISE OF THE MONTH

Static Hamstring Stretch

 One of the main factors for low back discomfort is tight hamstrings, which can also affect hip mobility in the golf swing.

 

 

Check with your physician before starting any type of exercise program.

IMPROVE YOUR GAME

GOLF FITNESS
ASSESSMENT & TRAINING


A quality, customized golf fitness program will. . .
  • Enhance swing efficiency
  • Increase distance
  • Improve playing performance and satisfaction
  • Identify and correct golf-specific injury triggers

    All for much less than what another brand new driver that's going to "fix my game" would cost
     
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The golf exercises are going great.  I am hitting the ball the best I have ever hit it.  My back pain has gone away also. 
 
David R. 

more testimonials

HOST A WORKSHOP

If your Club or organization would like to host an informative golf fitness workshop, contact Bob at bob@golfitcarolina.com or 336-509-4610.

Bob came to my club and did a hour long session on the basics of his teaching and philosophy of fitness and how it relates to the golf swing and its performance.  My members thoroughly enjoyed the hour and wanted more.  I was impressed with his content and explanation.  My members were floored with his Q&A and his personal adaptation to their issues.  I was impressed with his interaction with attendants of the seminar.  If you are looking for someone to integrate your fitness program with the golf program, Bob is the guy to do it!  We will be booking Bob to come back to our club next spring.
Shannon Howell, PGA Head Golf Professional
Country Club of Sapphire Valley, Sapphire Valley, NC


"Bob Forman was fabulous!  He is a great presenter who shared some extremely valuable information related to how anatomical deficiencies such as: poor posture, flexibility, and balance impact our golf swing.  He not only shared what they are and how they impact the swing, but also demonstrated exercises to help correct them."
Ellen Gregory
EWGA-Wilmington, NC chapter

“Westchester is one of the Country’s largest private clubs with a membership that has high expectations for service and performance.  Bob Forman’s seminar on golf specific fitness and flexibility was extremely well received and motivated many of my members to begin a program of evaluation, exercise and follow-ups.  I highly recommend Bob for his knowledge, energy , and ability to connect with amateurs concerning golf fitness.” 
John Kennedy, Director of Golf
Westchester CC, 
Harrison, NY

Bob has a fantastic ability to understand and combine his expertise of the physical complexities of the human body with the PGA Professional’s trained eye with respect to the complexities of the golf swing.  Bob offers a refreshing angle that most amateur and professional golfers can understand and embrace.  Many times, a golfer will have physical limitations that prevents him or her from moving the way the PGA Professional is trying to instruct.  Bob can take the golfer’s weakest physical traits and focus a training program to better overcome those obstacles and allow the golfers to ultimately improve their swing. 
Dennis Nicholl, PGA Head Golf Professional
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

IMPROVE YOUR GAME

Functional Golf Fitness Training is a comprehensive player improvement resource for golfers of all ages and levels, teaching professionals and coaches.  
A great manual for golf teams as well.  

Dedicated chapters on:
- how to identify and correct the common physical deficiencies most golfers have that are impacting their swing and injury potential
- over 40 golf-specific exercises and drills

- preventing/alleviating the #1 injury in golf, low back injury
- how to fix the more common swing faults

Amazon reviews:

"Very clear explanations of causes and fixes for main physical deficiencies affecting golfers. Easy to follow instructions. While other books may give a whole laundry list of exercises that end up not being used, Forman has selected a few for each issue and puts together a program that doesn't take long to do"

"This book not only tells you what to do but also why you need to do and what results you can expect.
I have every book in print about golf fitness and this book is by far the best."


Available in print at TheBookPatch

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or as an ebook on Amazon

Go to
http://www.amazon.com/Functional-Golf-Fitness-Training-ebook/dp/B00FH88Q0Q

SWING FAULT PHYSIOLOGY

Swing mechanics are often influenced by physical deficiencies in the golfer's body.  Below are some of the more common swing faults, their physical causes and how to correct.

GOLF POSTURE

S-POSTURE AND LOW BACK PAIN

EARLY EXTENSION

SWAY & SLIDE

REVERSE SPINE

While correcting the deficiencies, you also need to rewire the brain-body connection in order to break out of the inefficient swing pattern.  

REWIRE THE BAD SWING HABIT

RADIO / PODCASTS

 

 

November 11, 2017
The top 10 fitness must haves for better golf.  Click on the pic and then "podcast."  
My segment starts at 1:10:30.

 
June 22, 2017
(go to 1:10:00 into the show)
golf posture, muscle imbalance, improving distance, stretching, hydration, Tiger and specialization, Rory and weight lifting



March 14, 2015
(go to 1:08:00 into the show)
fitness vs. golf fitness, strength training and slowing down the aging process, C and S-postures 


scroll down to 9/9/2013
(go to 23:15 into the show)
back injury