Because the golf swing is one of the most unnatural, complex, and explosive movements in sport, you must prepare your body to perform this powerful athletic action as successfully and safely as possible. Better joint flexibility lets you swing in a fluid manner through a full range of movement. Greater muscular strength provides more striking force to drive the ball farther. Enhanced balance and coordination are the keys to control and will help you place each shot closer to your target area. Taken together, these fitness factors can make a big difference in your golf performance, playing satisfaction, and game scores.
The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham, Alabama, breaks down the golf swing into five separate biomechanical phases or positions that are useful for designing a sport-specific program for golf:
Chris Welch, president of Human Performance Technologies of Jupiter, Florida, uses his program and software package - the Biolink System - to analyze the golf swing using body segments (hips, trunk, shoulders, and arms) organized into functional links (hips-trunk, trunk-shoulders, and shoulders-arms). The main purpose of the Biolink System is to determine specific forces and power outputs during the swing phases and how these factors relate to optimal club head speed.The analysis allows you to determine objectively how your power might be leaking away.
The forces that act on the segmental components of the spine vary from individual to individual, depending on skill level and physiological factors. Preexisting conditions of the spine, such as degenerative joint disease, postural imbalance, or degenerative disc disease, will change the way swinging forces are distributed. Of course, if the physical demands exceed tissue function or recovery capabilities, the result will be a breakdown of the joint structure. Normal forces that occur to thespine during the golf swing are as follows:
|Anterior and posterior sliding forces between the segments (shear forces)|
|Lateral bending forces between the segments|
|Twisting (torsional) forces between the segments|
|Compressive forces between the segments|
Recent research at the New Jersey School of Medicine has found that professional golfers demonstrate less sliding, lateral bending, and twisting forces than amateur golfers. Compressive forces were approximately eight times body weight for both groups. Neuromuscular firing of the trunk muscles revealed that professionals use less effort while performing the trunk coiling and uncoiling process. In addition, the sequence of neuromuscular firing was different between the groups.These findings suggest that the lower-handicapped golfers have more efficient swing patterns than higher-handicapped golfers. The key in explaining the way that these spinal segments and muscular forces are decreased in the better golfer might lie in how well each individual is able to pass momentum from one segment of the body to another.This efficient passing of momentum, commonly referred to as kinetic linking, can be improved through training. By increasing muscle strength, while at the same time improving joint flexibility, balance, and coordination, you will develop more efficient and effective summation of momentum. This basically translates into increased club head speed at impact, which results in longer drives.
Kinesiologically, much of the work on golf swing analysis has been performed at the biomechanics laboratory at Tenent Medical Center in Englewood, California. Most of this work has been done under the supervision of sports medicine pioneer physician Frank lobe. The analyses show that there is little activity of the trunk muscles during the backswing and relatively high and constant activity in these muscles throughout the remainder of the swing.
These results demonstrate the importance of the trunk musculature throughout the golfer's entire performance enhancement, preventive,and rehabilitative program. Studies of the shoulder demonstrated that the rotator cuff muscles acted predominantly at the end ranges ofmotion. The internal shoulder rotators were activated during acceleration and the front shoulder muscles were activated during the swing and follow-through movements. The middle and rear shoulder muscleson the lead arm were extremely active to stabilize the shoulder girdlethroughout the swing. More important, peak muscle activity of the hipand knee during the golf swing was recorded before the peak muscle activity of the trunk and shoulders region. This substantiates the importance of the sequential actions of the different components of the body for generating power.
To obtain the greatest benefit from proper sequencing of swinging actions, you must have strong leg, thigh, and hip muscles to generate driving power. These lower-body forces then must be transferred through well-conditioned midsection muscles to the upper body. Strong chest, back, and shoulder muscles permit greater acceleration of the club, while maintaining control through trained arms and forearms.There is perhaps no single action in sport that requires more overal lmuscular strength, joint flexibility, and movement coordination than aperfectly executed golf swing.