The golf swing requires flexibility, strength, and power to execute correctly. Unfortunately for many golfers the aging process lessens these physical components integral to the golf swing. One process by which the senior player can help rectify the misgivings of “father time” is through the implementation of golf fitness exercises.
Prior to discussing the benefits of golf fitness training let us first take a look at the biomechanics and physical requirements of the golf swing. Over the past decade Great strides and increased data based on the biomechanics of the golf swing have occurred, providing the golfing community with great insight into the kinematics, neuromuscular firing patterns, and physical requirements of the golf swing.
Leaders in the data capture on the biomechanics of the golf swing in recent years have been the Titleist Performance Institute headed by Dr. Greg Rose, Advanced Motion Measurements directed by Dr. Phil Cheetham, and the American Sports Medicine Institute founded by Dr. James Andrews.
Through research by these companies we have learned a vast amount of information about the correlation between the biomechanics of the golf swing and the human body. We now know how golfers generate speed (i.e. power), transfer energy through the body to the club, what physical requirements are needed within the body to execute the golf swing, and ultimately what a biomechanically efficient golf swing looks like.
The goal of the golf swing is to strike the golf ball achieving maximum distance with a high level of accuracy. Through biomechanical studies of the swing, a model has been developed to determine the efficiency at which this occurs within the human body. This model is referred to as the kinematic sequence of the golf swing. (Rose Greg, Titleist Performance Institute Manual, 10) The kinematic sequence allows a viewer to look at how efficiently and effectively a golfer generates speed, transfers speed through the body, and where in the golf swing a golfer may lack the physical or biomechanical requirements to execute the swing with the greatest amount of efficiency possible.
Studies on the biomechanics of the swing and development of the kinematic sequence has provided the following key points about the golf swing. According to Dr. Greg Rose of TPI, the kinematic sequence indicates the following points:
- All great ball strikers have an identical sequence of generating speed and transferring energy through the kinetic chain (i.e. body) to the club. This sequence is as follows: lower body first, torso second, lead arm third, and club last. This sequence occurs within the downswing. Any deviation within this sequencing will cause a loss of speed and a decrease in the transfer of energy. For example, the lower body will begin the downswing, followed by the torso, lead arm, and completed when the clubface impacts the golf ball. If the torso were to precede the lower body in this sequence, the generation of speed and the transfer of energy would be compromised.
- Each segment of the body (lower body, torso, lead arm) builds upon the previous segment thus increasing speed as it moves up the kinetic chain to the club. For example, speed generated from the lower body is transferred to the torso, where the speed is increased from the recruitment of the torso, and then again transferred to the lead arm where speed is again increased.
- Each segment of the kinetic chain (i.e. lower body, torso, lead arm) slows down after the energy is transferred to the next segment as it is accelerating further. For example, once the lower body transfers the speed it has developed to the torso, the lower body must slow down for an efficient transfer of this energy to occur as well as for the kinematic sequence to remain intact.
Understanding the kinematic sequence is imperative to the development of a biomechanically sound golf swing. The information provided by the kinematic sequence allows us to determine where a golfer generates speed within the swing, what if any segments of the body are limiting the transfer of energy in the golf swing, and what areas of the body or swing require attention for improvement within the golfer’s swing.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the biomechanics of the swing, let’s discuss the swing’s physical requirements. Executing the biomechanics of the swing requires the development of certain physical entities within the body. We must also be aware the aging process negates these same physical qualities.
For example, a common physical limitation occurring as we get older is diminished flexibility. Basically, the muscles of your body become less flexible as we get older, reducing the ranges of motion our body can move through. The swing requires your body to move through large ranges of motion thus requiring flexibility. As a result, flexibility is one of the physical qualities required of the golf swing.
In general, I like to call these physical qualities the “five physical pillars” of the swing. They are: Flexibility, balance, postural strength, endurance, and power. The cohesive combination of these physical parameters creates the foundation for the development of proper mechanics.
To improve performance, remove physical years from the body, and prevent injury in your game, it is necessary to develop the “five physical pillars” of the swing. Additionally, the golfer must address them in order. Beginning with flexibility, moving onto to balance, and completing the sequence with power training. Following this suggested progression allows for the proper synthesis of developing the body in relation to the biomechanics of the swing.
Again, the goal of your golf fitness program is to reverse the aging process. This is accomplished through the development of the “five physical pillars” of your body. Taking a quick look at flexibility which is just one of the “five physical pillars” of the swing we can understand how golf exercises benefit the senior player and how to go about implementing golf fitness exercises into your golf swing improvement program.
The execution of the golf swing requires the golfer to draw the club through a large range of motion. In order to perform this efficiently and effectively, certain levels of flexibility are required. If the golfer is lacking the flexibility to execute the golf swing correctly, compensations in the biomechanics of the swing will occur.
For example, many golfers have “tight” hamstrings. Tightness in the hamstrings often results in lower back pain in addition to problems with posture in the golf swing. If you are an individual who suffers from hamstring tightness, executing an efficient swing could be extremely difficult. First off, it will be difficult for you to place the body in the correct address position. Secondly, the lower back pain caused by the tight hamstrings will make the swing very uncomfortable, and finally, rotation in the backswing can be limited. You can see from this example how flexibility issues can cause problems with the golf swing and the importance of flexibility to the improvement of your golf game.
Flexibility can be defined as extensibility of all soft tissues in the body, allowing for the proper range of motion around all joints. We are aware the aging process decreases the flexibility parameters of the human body, resulting in a reduction in the range of motion around joints, extensibility within the soft tissues, and neural atrophy, all of which deter in the execution of an efficient golf swing. In order to counteract the effect of the aging process in regards to mobility and joint range of motion, the senior player can implement a series of flexibility exercises.
The results of such a program will be the improvement in your ability to move through the ranges of motion required by the golf swing, a decrease in the risk of injury, increases in the efficiency at which you execute the swing, and improvement in the recovery process.
As we can see from this article the swing requires certain levels of flexibility, balance, strength, and power to execute in a manner in which the kinematic sequence remains intact. This allows for speed to be generated and transferred efficiently to the golf club. Unfortunately for the senior player limitations begin to occur in the physical parameters required of the golf swing due to the aging process. A step which the senior golfer can take to address the physical requirements of the swing is the implementation of a golf fitness program. This type of program incorporates a series of golf exercises to the develop the required levels of flexibility, balance, strength, and power needed to execute a efficient and effective swing.
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