Swing Fault Discussion
Ok, so there’s a lot to unpack
here, but I think this is a teachable moment so at the risk of writing a book, here goes. I think were looking at the same things, and I think were talking about the same things, sort of, but not. I watched the second video you sent, the audio is cutting in and out, so I got about half of what you said but I think I got the gist.
I wanted to start by disclosing a few parameters here. When I work with athletes, its not if they get it. Its my job to make sure they get it. Its also my job to recognize when they aren’t getting it. Then I have to change my approach. We’ve all fallen in love with technology and data and to some degree we base so much of what we do on what Tiger is doing, or Justin is doing, or Rory, or Phil is doing. Those are outliers. I’ve spent decades working with some of the best athletes on the planet from multiple sports. That’s not reality. Comparing them to the average guy, or gal at the country club…those or totally separate sports. Like ice hockey and badminton. Its a disservice and we have to stop doing this. Its negligent and irresponsible.
So as a yardstick I would expect that your answer to my question would be in terms I can understand. I defer to the teaching pro as being the golf expert and I would expect that you be able to frame your responses in terms I can understand. If I’m a paying client with a question you would want to answer it in such a way that not only answered my question but left me thinking that you were a trusted source. That’s just good coaching. Dazzling me with technical brilliance rarely dazzles. It just leaves people confused. Again I suggest the yardstick, if you cant explain it to a 5 year old you don’t know it. I asked the following question, ” In terms of swing faults, do you primarily see them as faulty movement/motor control patterns, or do you consider them caused by physical limitations, or both?”
You kind of answered my question, but not really and I’m making an assumption here, but I assume…..which is where we get into trouble isn’t it? You stated its never a physical limitation. Lets start there. Physical limitations exist. Can we agree on that? If the answer is no then there isn’t much farther to go with the conversation. But if you’re saying they don’t exist, or that they have no affect on the swing then golf must be the only sport in the world where this is true. This would be the special snowflake syndrome I spoke of. I also think there are a lot of “professionals” that are scared of innovation, scared of losing business and clients and that fear regulates their point of view and their openness to many things. Are you saying physical limitations don’t exist? Or that they don’t affect the swing? Physical limitations absolutely affect all movement. Unless golf occurs in some alternate universe devoid of all the rules of gravity and bio-mechanics, anatomy and physiology.
Maybe this is semantics, or maybe were just really close here to reaching an understanding. That’s the goal right? At least from my end. I gain zero by being contentious with teaching pros. The problem with the internet is this. If we were face to face and you could show me what you’re looking at and we could have a discussion about it, we could probably get to the heart of the matter in 5 minutes. That’s just good business. Finding common ground with other professionals and clients is good for business. Can we agree on that?
Lets reverse engineer this. Can we agree that swing faults exist? Again I make assumptions that we are in agreement on that. As a “golf fitness guy” how do I identify swing faults? Let’s say I have a client come to me to improve their golf via fitness. The first thing I do is find out what teaching pro they are working with. Its my goal to ask the coach the following. 1. what are you currently working on with the client? 2. what areas do you think we should be working on in the gym? 3. what swing faults or swing characteristics does the client exhibit? I’m huge on professional courtesy so I always try to start there. It also behooves me to take advantage of the expert who happens to look at and diagnose golf swings for a living. How I handle my relationship with the teaching pro is really important to the success of the client. There are some presuppositions here. I’ve had teaching pros happy to work with me and appreciating being considered and consulted. I’ve had teaching pros who don’t believe in golf fitness and aren’t thrilled about their client working with someone like me. Either way, the goal is always to build bridges. I’ve had many a relationship that started hostile and I was able to turn it by being professional and respectful.
I perform a series of assessments that among other things are designed to identify swing faults. My relationship with teaching pros and the trust I currently enjoy started here. I do assessments. I then explain what I believe to be the swing characteristics of the client having never seen them swing a club. How would I know this if I haven’t seen them swing? The systems either work or they don’t and we stand by our systems, don’t we?
Part of the assessments I perform is to identify and classify physical limitations. For simplicity sake lets say limitations fall into two categories. 1. There are physical limitations in tissues and joints that prevent the expression of a movement. 2. I can passively put the client into a position to express a movement. They have the joints, the tissues, the range of motion to perform a specific movement or position, they just cant express it (ie, lack of motor control/motor patterning-stability)
What I think I hear you saying is this. If I said client X has this certain physical limitation and he is physically incapable of performing a specific movement, what I think you’re saying is, with a couple minor adjustments in position, voila…the client can perform the movement, so the client is in fact physically capable of expressing the movement.
Now what I got in between the segments where the audio cutting in and out, is that you’ve come across certain conclusions from a lot of observation and a large cross section. I get that. You said you had many examples to illustrate your position, and I don’t doubt that. This is where I think we get close to being on the same page. For the sake of this discussion lets say that we had 50 of your clients all lined up and we looked at them one after the other together. You show me what you’re seeing, I show you what I’m seeing, we realize we aren’t so far apart and the magic happens. We start by saying, what swing faults does the client possess? None because you’re a great coach and you’ve eliminated all the swing faults. Touche. Seriously, lets say we look at the 50 clients and I assessed them a percentage would not have physical limitations corresponding to their swing faults. Because not all swing faults are caused by physical limitations. If you’re defining physical limitations as not including stability/motor control-motor patterning) Some people do. But lets not devolve to semantics.
For the sake of this conversation lets say 25 out of 50 did not have identifiable physical limitations. Again a cross section. If we looked at 1000 clients (maybe you have that much data-anything less some would argue as anecdotal) ) the numbers could be much different than 50/50. 25 clients had physical limitations. You’re saying physical limitations dont cause swing faults. I don’t know how you could possibly say that unless you’re so entrenched in a position, or whatever system you use that you are willing to say anything. Lets say a client is exhibiting x swing fault. You make a couple minor adjustments and voila. No more swing faults. You’ve done this over and over for years. That’s your experience, and you have the data set to prove it.
Listen, your job, and your expertise is to do this very thing. If you didnt have a work around for every bum shoulder or knee or hip that you’ve dealt with over the years, you wouldn’t have given many lessons. I think we can agree on that. The socio-economics of our sport dictate, that unless were talking about tour pros, the majority of our clients that have the disposable time and money to pursue golf are generally at least over 40, a period physiologically where the body starts to decline. 40% have herniated discs, low testosterone, etc etc. That’s science. To refute that is a position that points to an agenda.
My question to you is as follows. What is the cost of doing business for these simple little adjustments to knees and hips you’re making? I’ve seen this over and over for decades across multiple sports and its the same story. Nobody gives a crap about the cost of doing business until the bill comes. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If it don’t hurt its all good. Nothing could be further from the truth. I defer to you as the golf teaching pro because that is your expertise but you absolutely must defer to medical professionals when it relates to injuries, unless you are totally arrogant and close minded to anything other than whatever philosophy or system you adhere to. If you say there is no cost you’re being willfully naive. If you are aware that there is a cost than there is a compelling case to be working on those limitations while you’re working on the swing.
Let me say I was at least 15 years into a career working with athletes of all sports before I ever looked at golf and I didnt abandon all that experience or insight to take on the dogma or a position represented by a system, whether its 3 letters on a ball or 3 words that rhyme with smack and jilt (we’re being transparent right?).
Case in point. I’ve worked with a 65 year old scratch golfer. Who is on his way to a knee replacement. Some-time ten years ago or so a teaching pro told him to externally rotate his right foot on his trail leg to increase rotation in his backswing. Problem solved right? A simple lesson in anatomy and biomechanics reveals why this is a problem. Firstly leg me say that there are a lot of factors going on here. A very kyphotic spine (an executive..no surprise there). A spine in flexion doesnt like to rotate. Its expressly designed not to rotate in flexion. Limited mobility in the hips and ankles. Lets rotate the foot which opens up the backswing. No problem right? Now for over a decade, every time the client initiates his downswing hes driving all that force downward and laterally through his medial knee. A sort of dynamic and ballistic valgus collapse. If you had to guess what his knee looked like….bony changes (understatement) to the medial knee. Would it surprise you to know that hes underpowered in his swing. That’s what happens when you externally rotate the foot. You dump power. If you argue that than again golf must be a special snowflake. Would you care to guess what his follow through and finish looks like? When you open up rotation in the backswing you limit rotation into the finish. Only way to get around that is a loss of posture. A trade off I guess.
You’ve seen the sign placed in the window of the barber across the street from the shop that gives 5$ haircuts. Google it. It reads “I fix 5$ haircuts.”
This is where it gets fun. How transparent do we care to be here? Do you care about the long term longevity of your clients? Do we care because we care about them, their goals, and their happiness in an altruistic sense? Or do we care about the revenue we generate if we’re good enough to have client for over a decade or more? Its easy not to worry about things that live somewhere out there, across the horizon. Not my job, not my problem right? A bird in the hand right?
If you’ve coached long enough, you look back and realize you’ve made mistakes. Some small, some egregious. Either way, if you have the same approach, the same philosophy and methodology you started with then you suck. If you’re good enough to be successful you reach a point that you’re not threatened and you”re open to anything that is going to help your clients get better and achieve their goal. Which is to play more and better golf for as long as possible.
What I got from what you sent me is as follows, spotty audio not withstanding. You took a client through a series of swings that got progressively better as you made various adjustments and the fault eventually disappeared. Is that because the client was warmed up, thus better prepared? Logic would dictate that give or take, you would get the same result with 25 clients. Another 25 that would not work at all.
What I got from your video is that you are adept at getting your client to perform whatever it is you’re asking in short order. You wouldn’t be any good if you couldn’t do that. My question is, is that enough? Are you open to knowing what you don’t know? I’m fully appreciative that I don’t know what I don’t know which is why I asked the question. In this case does the ends justify the means? You’re job is to teach golf, not be a physical therapist. OK. Will you concede that most people over 40 (who can afford our services) or poorly prepared for any physical activity, let alone a sports as dynamic and demanding as golf? Do you believe its your job to protect clients from themselves?
There is no normalized range of motion that exists outside of anatomy and physical therapy text books. There are huge data sets that suggest the top pros in the world exhibit certain ranges, and the chances of anyone playing at an elite level lacking those physical characteristics are slim to none. I’ve spent 2 1/2 decades as a professional therapist working at the highest levels of sport and I can tell you that there are no normalized ranges. I am uniquely qualified to make that statement. In fact what I consistently see in the best world class athletes is sub-optimal ranges and presentations and yet somehow they perform at an elite level, in spite of this. I saw NFL athletes with the worst foot and ankle mechanics hands down, and all the presentations that would chip away at performance and yet somehow they perform at an elite level in spite of all this. Because they are special. You cant duplicate it and we get into trouble really fast when we use that yardstick on mortals.
Maybe I missed something with the spotty audio. I regularly use motor control fixes with clients, after I rule out mobility restrictions. This is a universal law of bio-mechanics that crosses all sports. Pain alters motor control. Stability fixes don’t work in the presence of mobility/tissue extensibility dysfunctions. That is also universal law of biomechanics. If you disagree with that its because you have a vested interest in disagreeing with what is universally recognized across all sports. The laws of biomechanics, anatomy and physiology don’t change with the sport. Our positions reveal our agendas.
I say this with the greatest measure of respect. I don’t know you personally, but our discourse to this point has been courteous and professional and for that I thank you. You’re willingness to take your valuable time to engage in a discourse says a lot about you. It also warrants respect and some effort to understand your uniquely qualified view. I don’t spend enough time networking outside my area to know who the players are but I take it on good authority that you know you’re stuff. We would probably have a great time having a beer and talking shop. In any and all interactions we have the opportunity to create allies or adversaries. The older I get the more I realize that you can never have enough allies and most of my enemies are imagined. If I missed the premise of your point, I apologize and ask for further clarification. Maybe a skype or zoom?
I think teaching pros have a legit gripe. There are way too many folks out there holding themselves up as “golf fitness” experts who are doing a terrible job and pissing off the teaching pros. I just spoke on this at the PGA show. So few people even understand what fitness is so is it any wonder by the time we come around to golf fitness, the waters get really muddy? This is a problem and I’m sympathetic to teaching pros. The reputation of the golf trainer is not great and in many cases it’s deserved. Its a real problem. Too many experts doing a terrible job. Including the 3 letters under the ball folks. They share a similar problem with another organization we all know and love. The PGA. Meeting the minimum standard to become a PGA teaching pro is just an entrance to the dance. It doesn’t guarantee greatness or even competence. I wish the standards were higher but I accept that all I can do is keep my side of the street clean and improve my corner of the world, one interaction at a time. Greatness is earned over time. There are levels to this game and maybe these organizations could do a better job at educating the consumer on the disparity in skill and knowledge between the levels.
I like to do SWOT analysis. For every strength there is a weakness, for every threat there is an opportunity. There is a lot of work to be done, and like it or not, were in it together. I try to do my part to foster bridges wherever I can. I wonder, if I was in your area, and sought you out as a resource to refer clients to, would we be able to find a common ground where we could work together for the greater good of our clients? Could we forge a working relationship despite any technical differences in methodologies. Id like to think so.
Breaking Down Power in the Golf Swing-Part 2
In Part One of the series we explained the physics behind power and its relationship to strength. We addressed some of the confusion surrounding power development in the golf swing and the necessary continuum required initially to lay a foundation for power. We identified the four major power sources in the golf swing and touched on the kinematic sequence.
The kinematic sequence refers to the various segments of the body involved in a particular movement, how they store and release energy, and what timing, sequence and tempo occurs among the segments as the movement is being performed.
Each sport has its own unique and specialized movements, and each movement has a unique kinematic sequence. In golf we have isolated four distinct segments in the kinetic sequence. Hips (lower body), torso, arms and club. Think of the four major power sources (vertical thrust power, rotational power, wrist release power and opposite side power) and their relationship to the segments and the kinematic sequence.
When we take the club back we are loading the hips and lower body and creating a coiling effect around the trail leg. This ability to load the hips and coil like a spring is the trademark of a powerful swing.
Additionally, the best players in the world are able to create tremendous separation with precise sequencing between the segments during the swing.
What is separation? Think of a whip. The characteristic quality of a whip is the acceleration and deceleration of overlapping segments..the sum of which is a tremendous storing and releasing of energy. The first segment accelerates rapidly until it is stretched to its maximum distance in relation to the adjoining segment. As the first segment slows, the next adjoining segment is sling-shotted forward, at a great velocity, to catch up to the first segment.
This then puts the second segment the maximum distance from the third segment, which in turn is catapulted forward. This storing and releasing of energy, and the precise timing and sequence that each segment accelerates and decelerates is the kinematic sequence.
Another excellent analogy would look like this. Four sprinters are lined up in blocks. They have a rubber band attached at the waist, connecting them to the next sprinter in line. The gun goes off, but only the first sprinter takes off. When the first sprinter reaches the limit of his rubber band, plus the little extra stretch of the band, the second sprinter will be sling-shotted out of the blocks, and so on, and so on.
In the golf swing, the back-swing creates a loading of the hips and a coiling around the trail leg, as well as a weight shift. In the downswing the hips initiate the movement. The lagging of the torso behind the hips, the arms behind the torso and the club behind the arms is the separation and subsequent whip effect that creates power in the swing, as well as the weight shift from trail to lead leg that occurs at impact and follow through.
Its a fundamental misunderstanding of strength and power in the golf swing to think that going to the gym and lifting haphazardly, without a specific strategy and an understanding of golf bio-mechanics and kinematics will produce power (and with it distance) in the golf swing.
Even focusing on primarily lower body movements to strengthen the lower body can be misguided. Being strong in the lower body is a pre-requisite to being powerful, but an inability to properly load the hips in dynamic ranges and movements means that you are unable to access strength in such a way as to be impactful in relation to the swing. You must load to explode.
Specifically, referring back to P=F+V, can you load the hips, do you have the prerequisite strength,as well as mobility and stability to not only load but produce force, and can you use that strength dynamically and explosively to produce velocity? Power equals force times velocity.
The ability to load and coil the hips and lower body is vital to producing power and why vertical thrust is the number one power source in the golf swing. Show me an athlete swinging speed implements to improve club-head speed and my first response is to say, “let me see you squat and lunge.” Can you load your hips and ankles? Do you have an understanding of balance and weight distribution?
Now let me see you hop and jump. Jumping is accessing the vertical thrust power that is the primary power source of the golf swing. If you cant jump, than you cant load your hips, you cant sequence the loading and unloading of the kinematic chain. If you cant land then you lack the requisite decelerators required to control explosion.
Can you carioca? Specifically, can you move your upper and lower body independent of each-other. If you cant separate and move the different segments of your body in a coordinated fashion and independent of each-other then you cant coil and release energy.
What is the interaction, weight distribution and balance of the feet in relation to the ground? If you have poor awareness of the position of your feet in relation to your body and the ground, and you aren’t balanced well over your feet as you move, then you will be off balance in your weight shift and the power you generate in your hips will be displaced and bleed out everywhere other than through the ball.
If you lack the ankles knees and hips to do any and all of these things (your joints are painful and stiff and incapable of performing any of these movements without pain)….chances are you’re missing out on a big slice of your potential power.
All of these factors must be considered as prerequisites to power. In many cases people are having a hard time keeping up with the demands of the swing they already possess. The cost of doing business is high. Pain, stiffness and in general being under-powered. Because they lack many of the fundamental considerations listed above, not only are they under-performing, but the cost is often manifested in injuries.
As a coach, fitness and medical professional, its my job to make sure that we maintain what we have before we ask for more. Longevity trumps performance gains. Asking people to own what they already have before we try to stack more on top is intelligent and sustainable.
All things being equal, with all the above considerations taken into account, is it any wonder people are really confused about what constitutes golf fitness? If you aren’t even clear about the path to fitness, how can we ever hope to tread the hollowed ground of performance?
Stay Tuned for Part 3 of Developing Power in the Golf Swing-Part 3
Coach Don Stanley is a TPI Certified Fitness, Medical, Juniors and Power Certified Professional. Don is a professional strength and performance coach and licensed manual therapist.
Breaking Down Power in the Golf Swing
Power! When it comes to golf, power is king. We all want it. When we hear people chirp chippy little sayings like, “drive for show, put for dough”, we agree. Mostly as an excuse or a means to let ourselves off the hook, but secretly, deep down, power is the thing we covet most.
Power is the number one reason golfers take to the gym. Who doesn’t want to drive the ball farther, and to accomplish that we need to smack the hell out of that little white sphere. Power is the order of the day. It is by far the most popular reason I hear when someone comes looking for a “golf fitness” program. After 2 1/2 decades as a fitness professional I can attest that the majority of the general public is totally confused about what constitutes fitness, so it’s no wonder that “golf fitness” is somewhat ambiguous. By the time we get to something as specific as power development in the golf swing, is it any wonder people are totally lost?
So let’s shed some light on this shall we? Power is actually a specific term that comes from physics. FxV=P. Force times Velocity equals Power. Force is the ability to perform work. In calculus terms, power is the derivative of work with respect to time. If work is done faster, power is higher. If work is done slower, power is smaller.
Since work is force times displacement (W=FxD), and velocity is displacement over time (v=d/t), power equals force times velocity: P = FxV. More power is seen when the system is both strong in force and fast in velocity.
In layman’s terms, power is the ability to apply a force, to overcome a resistance, in this case a golf swing, as quickly as possible.
In a recent meeting I attended with a handful of top industry experts, I posed the question regarding a lot of popular implements designed to improve swing speed (ie. increase the velocity portion of the equation). Over-speed training as it’s called, is not new. It’s protocols are common in sports like track and baseball. My question was, did the golf experts agree that to increase velocity you would also need to, for many practical purposes, increase force/work production?
As a strength and performance coach we are always developing athletes along continuums. Being strong is a precursor to being powerful. Its not only quite impossible to be powerful without being strong, but trying to move explosively or rapidly without an underlying foundation of strength greatly increases the likelihood of injury.
It was agreed among the panel that even the mighty golf swing must adhere to the principles of physics regarding velocity (club head speed), which is a result of power, which is a result of the ability to produce force, which is a result of strength. It was roundly agreed that the best way to improve club head speed is to increase strength, then power.
Which brings us right back to where we started. What is golf fitness and how can we achieve the elusive power we seek? My personal definition of fitness has evolved over 25 plus years. It’s varied greatly at times, depending on my interests and pursuits. To date the best definition I can provide for fitness is this. Fitness is a state of readiness. Ready for what? In the case of golf, going to a gym and performing the same exercise routines that 85% of the general public does, (bodybuilding-esque) prepares you for something, but certainly not golf.
There are 4 major power sources in the golf swing. Vertical thrust power, Rotational power, wrist release power and opposite side power. The best golfers in the world are able to connect all four power sources into one continuous dynamic movement that is the golf swing. The way these elements come together (timing/sequence) is referred to as the kinematic sequence.
Individually, each power source must have the requisite underpinnings of strength. Then each source must be linked precisely and sequentially together, the culmination of timing, tempo, balance and force, to create a maximum concert of violence and efficiency that is the golf swing.
Part 2 of the article will address the number one power source and its vital role in bringing clarity to what is golf fitness, and how to produce power in the golf swing.
Coach Don Stanley is a TPI Certified Fitness, Medical, Juniors and Power Certified Professional. Don is a professional strength and performance coach and licensed manual therapist.
It’s a fundamental question that bears examination. What is fitness? If you ask 20 people you’re likely to get 20 different answers. Or 100. Fitness is…… It’s strength, speed, power, grace, mental toughness, athletic ability….the list is infinite.
Some time ago I heard fitness described in this way….fitness is a state of readiness. That really stuck with me. It’s appropriate. But it precludes the next obvious question. Well then, ready for what? The what is highly contextual. One of the biggest problems I see in fitness today is the misapplication of context. If you could break down all the various exercises, techniques and methodologies and loosely call them tools….the key to success in fitness is having the right tool, for the right person, for the right job, at the right time.
In this case, you could have the very best, most technologically advanced hammer in the world, but if the currently application calls for a drill, or a wrench, then the hammer is of little use, and quite possibly detrimental to the cause or goal intended. Without a careful application process, the best tools get misused in the wrong context, and the results are marginal at best, and disastrous at the worst.
Research and scientific validation have become a prominent force in strength and conditioning, as well as rehabilitation. Sound principles backed by science have increasingly become the norm. Whats puzzling is the lack of scientific principles in the application of methods. A particular methodology may be well backed by research, but if the application of a methodology is random, or misapplied, the science matters little.
To be clear, when we have a well tested method or technique, but choose to apply it randomly or broadly to a large cross-section of clients, with diverse and wide-ranging goals, capabilities and limitations, the results become spurious at best.
Too often we co-opt or misappropriate “tools” without the context or parameters the tool was intended for. It’s important that if we intend to “be ready”, that we employ a careful process to decide which tool, for what job, deployed at the right time to achieve the desired result.
In Fitness, context is everything…….more to come
Don Stanley CFSC LMT MA57524