Tyler here with a golf fitness question and answer segment that you might enjoy.
Here was the recent email that we received regarding the golf fitness demands of a good backswing.
My name is ____and I am an assistant golf pro in Phoenix and I am having minor issues with my golf swing and I believe they both have to do with fitness/flexibility. I constantly work on posture and I am an avid weight lifter. My two issues are, one, when i get to the top of my backswing i notice two things. One, my head actually drops (dips) a few inches during my backswing. I have studied pro swings and noticed that most will actually move a little away from the ball and then, on the down swing they swat (like tiger) or drive towards the ball. However, with my position I have to come out of my posture, which causes issues. The second problems I feel is related to the first. I can’t get my hand high at the top of my swing. They are not flat, but definitely not in the position like Tiger or Ernie. I think I developed that dip thinking that if I could turn under the ball more then i can get my hands higher, but both moves just suck. What can you recommend?
Well, thanks for the Golf Fitness question. Let me see what I can do. I’m sure you are not alone with your problem of losing posture at the top of the swing. I normally only change a back swing position if it is directly influencing the poor move on the downswing, in this case it appears to be. The most likely issue facing you is that you probably have developed tight lats. As a weight lifter, I’m sure you know how important lat strength is, but for golfers an even bigger factor is lat flexibility. The lat connects the arm to the the pelvis and is highly involved in rotation and in elevating the arm height in the back swing. To test if your lats are tight, stand with your entire back up against a wall or door and try to raise your arms straight up over your shoulders. If you cannot touch the wall with your thumbs while keeping your lower back up against the wall and keeping your arms straight then you most likely have tight lats and this will influence your golf swing.
Usually the golfer with tight lats will keep the left shoulder closer to the left hip by dipping the head down (and sometimes toward the ball) in an attempt to make a larger swing than the body will allow. We have a saying in golf fitness, “shorten your swing or lengthen your lats.” Now, because the lat connects on the upper arm, when it is tight it can also limit the amount of arm height you can achieve.
So assuming you have tight lats here are a few things you can do.
1. Foam roll your lats to remove trigger points
2. Perform lat stretches such as twisted lat stretch found in our free program.
3. Perform core activation exercises.
I have found that often times tight lats will not resolve themselves until you start integrating your abs into movements. Often the lats are overworked because of their ability to act as a core stabilizer in lieu of the deep core.
One final thought. I am not in the business of telling people what to enjoy, but I do like to educate – and you need to know that bench press (any form), pull ups, lat pull downs and any other internal rotation exercise can make your tight lat situation harder to correct. The shoulder external rotators (primarily infraspinatus) are very small compared to the size of the internal rotators (chest and lat). If you constantly stress the internal rotators in the gym it will be very tough to get the flexibility (turn and arm height) that you are looking for.
The top of the back swing only needs to be managed so that it doesn’t lead to problems on the downswing. Good luck golfers and keep sending us those questions.
Twice this week, high school students came back to my gym after working out on their own this winter. They both complained of hitting the ball worse this week than they did in the fall – which in the DC area was the first good golf weather week this year. They had hit plenty of golf balls to keep their swings sharp. They did hit off of mats and not grass, but why would a swing get progressively worse while working out? One was shanking the ball, the other was hitting lots of fat shots – but both of them were frustrated and confused.
I did my normal quarterly assessment to see what kind of physical changes had taken place and what we need to do to get the ready for summer tournaments. In both cases, I found a decreased amount of shoulder movement – specifically in external range of motion. I questioned each of them individually to find out what exercises they were doing the last couple months. Each of them confessed to working out with a friend – non golfers of course – who was trying to bulk up and did lots of chest exercises.
Yes, the chest is an important muscle group in the golf swing, but arbitrarily strengthening any one area – they way they did – is a bad idea. As a result, we are going to have to do some work to undo what was done and regain shoulder motion. A tight right shoulder for a right handed golfer can cause the club to release too soon (can cause contact problems – specifically fat shots) or cause the golfer to side bend too much to compensate for the shoulder (can cause shanks – a lot of shanks for better players).
If you are going to do isolation exercises, do glute exercises. Hip hikers and bridges are great isolation exercises that will actually help your golf swing – you can find links at www.mytpi.com.
I know that a big chest is cool in high school, but elite golfers just say no to the bench and so should you.