Don't Forget the Neck when Improving Spine Rotation

When it comes to the golf swing, we all know how important thoracic spine (T-Spine) rotation is for both performance and injury prevention. When it comes to the entire upper body, however, there’s another joint that is often overlooked can limit your ability to swing the golf club.

As surprising as it may sound, your neck can be the limiting factor to your swing. You might be thinking, “my head doesn’t move when I swing the club, I’m staring at the ball the entire time.”

As we rotate our spine in one direction, we move into cervical spine (C-Spine) rotation in the opposite direction.  Let’s use a right-handed golfer as an example.

As a golfer rotates into his backswing, he creates T-Spine rotation to the right.  Since the head remains still, looking at the ball, our neck is rotated towards the left at the top of the backswing.  If cervical rotation is restricted actively, this can be detrimental to the amount in which you can rotate your T-Spine, potentially throwing off your swing.

Here is the average player’s cervical spine mobility utilized during their golf swing on the PGA TOUR.  These numbers were taken directly from the TPI Medical 2 Certification.

  • 73 degrees of left-sided rotation

  • 64 degrees of right-sided rotation

  • 47 degrees of flexion

  • 25 degrees of both left and right side bending

Here’s a simple screen from the Titleist Performance Institute to test if you have ample cervical spine mobility for the golf swing:

After performing the screen on yourself, these are some of the factors you want to keep in mind to determine whether you have adequate range of motion or not:

  • Normal range is the ability to touch your chin to mid-collarbone on both sides without pain.

  • While performing the test, make sure your mouth remains closed at all times.  Opening your mouth to get your chin to touch your chest is considered a compensation.

  • Pain is abnormal and should be addressed if present.

Let’s take a recent example from Joe Gambino, one of the co-founders of Par Four Performance, to better understand this lesson.

Joe has a history of neck stiffness and limited mobility throughout his cervical spine. In the past, he hasn’t had the opportunity to hit as many golf balls as he’d like, but the volume of swings has increased over the past six months.  

As he continued to play, Joe started to develop neck pain when moving into right cervical rotation and flexion, which are two movements required in the downswing.

Roughly two weeks ago, his neck pain continued to amplify with each swing he took. The pain has been lingering since and he’s just starting to feel better. Joe hasn’t been able to hit balls in the meantime, and is probably going to be sidelines for another week or two.

The moral of this story is - don’t be like Joe. We hope he’s learned his lesson, and is listening to his body to make sure his neck doesn’t flare up again in the future. Address your limitations now, so you can stay on the course and not miss time due to injury.

Now, how should you train the neck intelligently? The exercises listed below are a great starting point to help you address and neck limitations you might be dealing with.

Shoulder Engaged Neck CARs

Chin Tucks

Sphinx with Cervical Rotation

Band Pull Aparts

Want to learn how to better assess yourself, and decrease the likelihood of injury through mobility training?  Fill out the form below to learn more about our Virtual Kinstretch Classes or Online Training Program.








Building a Better Warm-Up for Success

Whether you’re preparing for 18 or a heavy lower body day in the weight room, the way you warm-up can dictate how the rest of your session unfolds. If you’re somebody that performs a stretch or two before taking some hacks on the driving range, or goes for a 5-minute run on the treadmill before squatting, you’re missing out on the important qualities a good warm-up can provide you.

Below, we’ve laid out four principles that are considered in every single warm-up prescribed through our programming. While the exercises used may change depending on the individual, these four rocks are always covered to ensure an optimal warm-up.

Elevate Core Temperature and Heart Rate
When it comes to preparing a warm-up series, our goal is to prime the body for the demands that it will be asked during a training session or competitive event. It’s never a good idea to hop into a demanding physical activity without some type of preparation.

In our case, we’ll prescribe 8 to 10 drills that will start with low-level movements and gradually progress to high-intensity motions. This is typically initiated with a couple of ground-based drills, followed by Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) for joints that will be used during the session, and capped off with more dynamic, multi-joint movements.

Regardless of your physical endeavors, it’s not ideal to jump into it ice cold. Move around, allow your joints to provide more degrees of freedom and good things will happen.

Address Movement Deficiencies to Improve Range of Motion
Our assessment process provides us with a ton of information in regards to the physical capabilities of each client we work with. It allows us to determine their strengths and weaknesses with movement, while giving us a strong foundation for how to attack their deficiencies.

We always look at the flexibility and mobility of individuals at each joint to determine the appropriate exercise selection for them. If you don’t understand the difference between flexibility and mobility, check out last week’s post.

The limitations we see through our evaluations allow us to create daily routines that fit the mobility goals of each person we work with individually. If you’re somebody that struggles with hip flexion, for example, we’re going to hammer movements that improve hip flexion consistently until it improves.

Your warm-up should challenge you, but also improve the motions you should excel in based on the demands of your activities.

Provide Movement in all Three Planes of Motion
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the body moves through three planes of motion - sagittal (linear), frontal (lateral), and transverse (rotational). The video below provides a better understanding of each plane of motion.

It’s important to train all three planes of motion because your joints are exposed to all three on a daily basis. This triplanar nature of each joint within your body requires consistent stimulation every single day in order to maintain ranges of motion down the road. This is another reason why regular CARs practice is something we preach to everybody we work with.

Create Context for Movements that will be Performed after the Warm-Up
Your training session should be composed of different squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling, and carrying movements. Pushes and pulls are upper body movements, squatting and hinging are lower body movements, and loaded carries should be performed every single training session. Your training should dictate what your warm-up looks like.

On a day where you’re squatting, it’s ideal to execute drills that will address the hips, ankles, and spine, which are the primary joints that require adequate range of motion to squat pain-free. On a day where you’re deadlifiting, hip hinging within your warm-up is a good idea. If you’re golfing, incorporate some type of low-level rotational movements prior to your round to feel looser once you step into the first tee box.

With all of these factors in mind, this is an example of what a Par Four Performance warm-up might look like.

Regardless of the approach you take, the four big rocks above will better prepare you for your sessions that anything else. If you take them into consideration the next time you plan on hitting a heavy deadlift or the range, you’ll move and feel great going in every time.

Looking to get more specific with your warm-ups and training? Check out this link to learn more or drop us a line below to get started today!

Do You Really Know What Mobility Is?

The terminology used within the fitness industry can be quite confusing for anyone that isn’t a personal trainer, strength coach, or physical therapist. Words like mobility, stability, and power are thrown around often without a firm definition that coincides. This can make it difficult when trying to weed through the copious amounts of information out there.

Here are some commonly used terms with their definitions, which will help you understand how they differentiate from one another:

Flexibility is defined as the ability of muscles or muscle groups to lengthen passively. An easy way to picture this is to imagine somebody lifting one of your legs to stretch your hamstrings. The person is adding an external resistance to your body that is aiding you into the stretch.

Mobility is the ability of a joint to move through a range of motion.  When comparing this with flexibility, this is the ability of the neuromuscular system moving the joint from point A to point B without any external assistance.

Strength is most often described as the maximum amount of force you can exert against an external force. On the Titleist Performance Institute, strength is described as the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.

We all want to develop strength, but how do we know if the work we’re doing in the gym actually is actually carrying over to the golf course? Like golf, our body is subjected to varying amounts of internal and external forces throughout everyday life. The ability to control our body and withstand these forces are essential for joint health and longevity with any physical activities you pursue.

Strength is important when discussing the differences between mobility and flexibility? Why? Mobility and strength go hand-in-hand, and we firmly believe you can’t have one without the other.

Not sold on this concept yet? Here’s a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

The study compared the results of a 16-week long flexibility and strength training program. The participants trained 3 times weekly, and they tested to see what the impact was on flexibility in women. It was concluded that both the strength and flexibility programs were responsible for improving overall flexibility.

If strength training can help us maintain or improve our flexibility levels, it indicates that mobility is more than passively moving a joint through space. Mobility is a complex training characteristic that is determined not just by our flexibility, but our ability to create stability as well.

Take a look at this strength curve, which shows you the amount of force that can be exerted along the range of motion continuum of a joint.

The graph depicts a phenomenon that happens at every joint in the body. On the far left of the chart, you can see the force capabilities of a joint in it’s fully lengthened position. Notice how the joint significantly weaker than a joint positioned in it’s middle of the range.  

The far right portion of this chart shows the strength of a shortened range of motion joint. Again, you’ll realize how the joint is weaker at a shorter range than it is at mid-range.

This is important because to understand our bodies are most vulnerable to injury near end ranges of motion. This is where training end-ranges of joints will allow us to build both strength and mobility over time.

By strengthening and better controlling our outer ranges of motion, we can make the above bell curve longer. A longer bell curve means that we have access to more range of motion we can control. More controllable range of motion equates to more resilient joints and a decreased likelihood of injury.

How can we improve our personal bell curves? Simple. It all comes down to force application.

If a force acting on the body is greater than the forces the body can produce, injury will occur. If you were hit by a truck, the forces acting on the body would be much higher than the muscles, ligaments, and bones can handle, which is why we tend to see broken bones with this type of injury.

If a force acting on the body is less than or equal to what the body can produce, tissue damage will not occur. A prime example of this would be rolling your ankle playing basketball, but not severe enough where pain and swelling are present afterwards. The forces acting on the joint were not high enough to cause injury, but if it were higher than the tissues capacity, you would have sprained your ankle.

To conclude, if we strengthen end-ranges of motion and increase force production in these ranges, our body will be able to absorb forces in these end-ranges where most individuals are prone to injury due to lack of training experience.

This is what we preach to all of our Online Coaching clients and Virutal Kinstretch members. Our mission is to mitigate injury as much as we possibly can with everybody that works with us. You can’t prevent all injury, it’s impossible to prepare your body for every scenario where injury is possible. However, by consistently training joints in controlled positions where they’re prone to injury in a dynamic environment, we’re improving the likelihood of avoiding injury.

Interested in learning more? Try our Kinstretch classes for just $0.99 for your first two weeks and start changing the way you move today!

Have questions? Drop a line below and we’ll be happy to reach out to you!





How Fitness Can Improve Your Yardage

With every consultation we perform, there’s one thing all golfers want as a result of their training: improved driving distance from the tee box. Longer shots are attractive, there’s no doubt about that. Longer shots lead to shorter lies, which hopefully lead to better scores. 

Most recreational golfers think that training is just to improve overall health. While this is true, you can see dramatic improvements in your performance if you take the right approach to your time in the gym.

If we want to drive the ball further, we need to figure out what might be limiting your distance. Without addressing swing mechanics, here are two factors that might be preventing the extra yardage you’re looking for.

You’re Not Strong Enough

Strength is one of the key foundations to hitting a golf ball longer. If you’re not strong, there’s a good chance you aren’t hitting 300-yard drives down the fairway. Being able to produce force throughout the entire kinetic chain is the determining factor whether or not your yardage improves or not.

Now, you don’t have to be a 600-pound deadlifter to be a good golfer. At some point, there’s a threshold of maximal strength that will carry over into your ability to exert force in the swing. This is why you’ll never see an elite-level powerlifter smoke a ball off the tee.

You’re Not Powerful Enough

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “what’s the difference between being strong and being powerful?”

The words strength and power aren’t synonymous, believe it or not. Strength, in a weight room setting, is your ability to move a certain amount of weight with an exercise. Power is how fast you're able to move the weight at hand. To keep it simple, power is determined by how quickly you can move an external resistance. If you train movements slowly, you can’t expect improvements in velocity with any athletic endeavor.

To take this a step further, you also have to understand that power is plane-specific. There are three planes of movement: sagittal (linear), frontal (lateral), and transverse (rotational). The golf swing occurs in the transverse plane, which means we have to train transverse-focused movements to see carryover.

While sprints, jumps, and Olympic lifts, are great for power development, they’re not necessarily going to improve your golf swing. Similar to the powerlifter comparison before, an Olympic sprinter’s power output isn’t going to translate into a rotational movement. Rotational movements at high velocities will be your best bet if you’re looking for a more powerful swing.

It’s important to be strong and powerful in all three planes of motion, regardless of what sports you play. We don’t suggest you just focus on one plane while neglecting the other two. A healthy balance of all three will help improve your general physical preparation, while just a handful of sport-specific drills will be the icing on the cake for the skill you're trying to improve.

Here’s what a training session might look like for one of our golfers:

A1.) Rotational Medicine Ball Scoop Toss 3x5/side
A2.) Honest Hip CARs 3x3/side

B1.) Trap Bar Deadlift 4x5
B2.) Yoga Push-Up 3x8
B3.) Plank w/ Arm March 3x6/side

C1.) KB Goblet Lateral Lunge 3x8/side
C2.) Wide-Stance Anti-Rotation Cable Chop 3x8/side
C3.) DB 3-Point Row 3x8/side

D1.) DB Farmers Walk 3x40 yards
D2.) Prone Shoulder End-Range Lift-Offs 3x(3x10 seconds)/side

Here's another example of a superset we use regularly with great success.

You’ll notice that the above program has a variety of different movements. As I mentioned earlier, we don’t just focus on rotational movements with our training. Our mission is to get stronger with fundamental movements that coincide with our rotational work. The stronger our movement foundation is, the more opportunities we have to improve power output with our medicine ball training and golf swing.

Interested in taking your golf fitness to the next level? Leave us a message below to get involved with our online coaching program!

Why Every Golfer Needs Better Mobility

When we look at the joint by joint approach to movement, we see that our body alternates between joints that need more stability and mobility. Mobility and stability are necessary for all joints, but certain joint articulations will be more stability-focused, while others are mobility-focused.

  Joint by Joint Approach by Mike Boyle and Gray Cook

Joint by Joint Approach by Mike Boyle and Gray Cook

By understanding the joint by joint approach, we’re better able to train our body to maintain optimal function with whatever physical activities we partake in. Think of each joint segment as members of a football team. If the hips are tight and don’t do their job well, a surrounding joint will have to pick up the slack and of the limited joint. Similar to a player on a football team that is working too hard, fatigue kicks in faster and there’s a higher risk of injury as the game goes on.

This is an everyday example of the middle age golfer with tight hips that tries to play pain-free golf on the weekends. The lower back or knees have to work overcome the lack of hip motion to swing a golf club, carry groceries, or any other type of physical exertion. The end result over time? Pain.

Golf is a game of high repetition and high force that’s executed within the same plane of motion with each and every swing. We ask our bodies to rotate at high velocities hundreds of times in an attempt to drive a little white ball as far as we can.

images.jpg

When our mobility becomes restricted, we ask our body to work harder to do this.  Lack of shoulder, hip, or ankle mobility can all cause increased forces to act on the spine, increasing your risk of injury.

Now, this might not have high implications on tomorrow’s round of golf. When we talk about taking hundreds of swings over the course of the next decade, however, these implications can be detrimental to your daily quality of life. The injury statistics are staggeringly high to backup this point.  8 out of 10 people (not specific to golfers) will suffer a bout of low back pain at some point in their lives. With low back pain being the most prevalent injury in golf, something has to change.

By creating and learning how to control those motions, we can inherently improve our joint health and make our bodies more resilient to the forces we place on it. This can be done through various mobility drills, good massage therapy, and strength training through full ranges of motion. It’s not difficult to improve the way you move, it just takes consistency.

Not sure where to start? Sign up for our newsletter below so you can learn tips and tricks for staying on the course later in life!


 

Three Considerations all Golfers Should Keep in Mind

We come across golfers all the time that don't understand the importance of strength training and how it correlates with their performance on the course. While training by itself won't help you make the Tour, there are some principles we consider when programming for all of our golfers, regardless of skill level. When you start training with intent and a goal in mind, the better off your life and golf game will be down the road.

1.) Rotation in one direction repetitively without addressing the opposite side will lead to irritation or injury over time.

As a human being, you weren’t designed to play the sport of golf. Constant movement variability is important to living a pain-free life full of exploration of different ranges of motion. While we all love golf, unfortunately, the golf swing doesn’t provide a whole lot of variability from stroke to stroke. Yes, you use different clubs and play at different angles depending on the course, but you’re still trying to repeat your mechanics everytime you address the ball.

We recommend that all the golfers we work with perform Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) on a daily basis. CARs are a bodyweight movement that you should perform on a daily basis to help maintain your joint ranges of motion. We also use them as an assessment tool to help you determine where you’re limited with ranges of motion. Once limitations are exposed, we like to use other modalities of the Functional Range Conditioning and Kinstretch systems. However, everything always starts with CARs.

While CARs are a staple in our programming, we also use explosive rotational medicine ball drills to help develop power in the swing. In-season, we tend to focus on implementing more medicine ball throws on your non-dominant side. While this volume won’t equal the amount of swings you take on the course, the goal is to minimize imbalances the swing creates to the best of our ability.

2.) In one way or another, almost every joint of the body is involved in your swing.

You might think of the golf swing as a hip and shoulder movement, but there’s a lot more that really goes into each rep you take. The Titleist Performance Institute assesses all their golfers with a 16 test evaluation. The tests address the pelvis, shoulder, spine, ankle, wrist, neck, and forearm through different mobility and stability protocols. Each of these tests correlate with different swing characteristics that might be present in your swing. While your ankle mobility might not be a major concern for you, it can be the reason your extending early through your downswing. The smallest hinges swing the biggest doors in our minds.

3.) Your training should have a healthy mixture of general physical preparation (GPP) and specific physical preparation (SPP).

GPP movements are the big rocks of all the programs we prescribe to our clientele. Whether you’re a golfer or financial advisor that spends their lives seated, you’re performing some type of push, pull, hinge, squat, and carry exercise in our programming. Dan John introduced us to these fundamental movements to structure a program around years ago and it hasn’t changed since.

If you can’t execute a hip hinge well, you probably can’t perform a rotational medicine ball scoop toss well. This is an example of a GPP drill that goes hand-in-hand with an SPP drill. If you don’t excel at level one, you’re not going to have a great success with more difficult progressions. Being brilliant at the basics is one of our most important mottos for training.

There's much more that goes into our programming than what we've laid out above. Injury history, round frequency, movement capacity, and individualized goals are all things that we keep in mind when tailoring the optimal program.

Interested in working with us? Drop a line below to connect with us and we'll be happy to figure out the best plan of attack for you.

Three Awesome Mobility Drills That Will Make You a Pain-Free Golfer

With spring and nice weather right around the corner here in the Northeast, it's important to start considering how you're preparing for your rounds. Far too often, people reach out to us about the pain they deal with after a day on the greens. It simply doesn't have to be this way.

Below, we've laid out three of our favorites that will help you move and feel better than you have in years. While the drills listed below are great for almost all individuals we work with, we highly recommend conducting an assessment with a credible fitness professional, whether in-person or online. Having a program tailored to yourself after thorough screening of your limitations and goals will always trump any program you find online or in a magazine.

With that being said, here are three drills that will help you focus primarily on your hips and spine.

1. Cat Camel

We are huge fans of Cat Camel because you should be able to control spinal movement in all three planes of motion: sagittal (forward/backward), frontal (side-to-side), and transverse (rotational). We've come to realize that if you can't control spinal movement in the sagittal plane by simply flexing and extending the spine, you probably can't own it when rotating or side bending.

This is why Cat Camel shows up in virtually all of our programming. It's helped us improve our back health and many others we work with as well. Learn how to move the spine into flexion and extension under control, and good things happen.

2. 90/90 Hip Transfers

Like Cat Camel, almost all of our clients execute 90/90 Hip Transfers on a daily basis. We joke around with Kinstretch practice by using the phrase "Every Damn Day". However, if you want healthy joints, you really do need to move them throughout their full range of motion every damn day.

We love 90/90 transfers to compliment our daily Controlled Articular Rotation (CARs) routine because when done properly, both the hips and spine have to work hard against gravity. Voluntary muscular contraction in this position makes it challenging to move the hips slowly while maintaining an upright torso.

The goal should be to keep the two knees as far apart as possible throughout the movement. This makes the transfer much more difficult to execute. We highly recommend using hand support if you have never performed 90/90 transfers before.

3. Honest Hip CARs

Honest Hip CARs make it extremely easy to assess whether or not you compensate true hip mobility with movement at other joints. By "gluing" one leg to the rack, you'll be able to realize how much range of motion you own with the working hip. The feedback makes it easy to ensure that you're not cheating during your rotations as well.

These are three drills we practice daily and prescribe all the time. If you're interested in learning more about our Online Coaching Program or our Virtual Kinstretch Group, check out the links or shoot us an email below.

Name *
Name
I am interested in learning more about your Online Coaching and/or Virtual Kinstretch program(s).

Are the Exercises You’re Performing Helping or Hurting You?

Golfers are always looking for the best exercises that will add yards to their drives, improve their posture and increase their shoulder turn. These days it’s not hard to find golf fitness tips in magazines, on the internet and even on the weekly television broadcast.

The question we must ask is whether or not these exercises are right for you?

Many assume that if an exercise they see a Tour player performing, it must be the secret they need towards improving their game. During the US Open, I saw a few videos on social media showing exercises used by some of the players including Justin Thomas and champion Brooks Koepka. I even had clients send me the videos asking for my opinion.

Each and every exercise has it’s place. The most important factor you must understand is whether or not they’re given to the right person for the right reason. Here are some factors I consider when writing workout programs for my clients. You should also use these considerations when trying to improve your overall fitness and golf game as well.

Anytime I start with a new client, there are 3 things I’m going to want to know about.  

  1. What is their injury/medical history?  

  2. How long have they been training consistently?  

  3. What are their goals?  

When choosing exercises for your program, keep in mind your medical history, injuries and surgeries you may have had in the past alongside any pain you may be experiencing now. Certain medical conditions may dictate the frequency, intensity and/or duration for a safe training program. Previous injuries may result in avoiding or modifying certain movements, like spinal loading or overhead pressing, for example. Similarly, pain is a message from the body telling you that it doesn’t feel “safe” in its current environment.  It’s in your best interest to modify painful movements until the body is ready for them again.

Like a well built house, a good workout program is built on a solid foundation.

By the time most players reach the Tour, they have been training consistently for many years. This allows them to safely do advanced variations of a surplus of exercises. If you’re new to fitness, or haven’t been training as consistently as you like, it would be best for you to focus on basics like proper form, breathing, creating tension, and proper separation of the body’s extremities. This will allow you to safely progress to more advanced exercises and result in even more benefit from them when properly prescribed.

Exercises should be a part of your program to improve a specific aspect of your ability to move and perform. Ask yourself, what are your goals?  Do you want to hit the ball farther? Is flexibility at the top of your list? Maybe you want to lose weight and improve your body compsition?

Choose the right exercises to help you move closer to your goals every day. Professional players often have specific goals and choose exercises intelligently in order to reach them. If you’re not sure where to start, I would recommend choosing exercises that help you move well without pain, increase flexibility, strength and power and improve aerobic capacity.

After gathering this background information, the next thing I’ll do is a movement assessment.  There are tons of different assessments out there that help uncover a ton of information. I’m a big fan of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), and I also like watching clients perform common movements that I would like them to train.

There are several specific movements that I am going to want to train in almost every program I prescribe in order to improve overall golf technique. These movements include squatting, hinging, pushing and pulling, along with the ability to disassociate the upper and lower body, and rotation of the hips and torso.

Once I’ve done a movement assessment, I can determine where to place each and every one of my golfers on my personal exercise continuum. For each movement you train, you should have a series of progressions and regressions to fit each client. In each program, for example, I would like everybody to perform some type of hip-dominant exercise. For some clients that may be a toe touch progression and for others, it may be a single arm kettlebell swing. Professional golfers are some of the best movers in the world and have several hours per day to focus on their training. If you don’t have this luxury, make sure your exercise choices match your ability to move safely and effectively.

Exercise selection should reinforce the good movements players have in their swing or the changes they are trying to make. This is where it becomes extremely important to consult with the player’s instructor. Many traditional exercises train the body primarily in the sagittal (forwards and backwards) plane.  However, what I hear from most teachers that I work with, is that players need a better ability to control lateral movement and produce more rotational movement.  Knowing this, for most clients, I need to program exercises that help them improve outside of the sagittal plane we just mentioned.

Ask yourself, what swing changes are you trying to make? Professional players are often trying to make very specific changes to their swing. Make sure the exercises you choose match the deficiencies you’re addressing within your game.

Most golfers know that they can improve their ability to play by working on their body in the gym.  The best players in the world take their fitness seriously. For me, it’s always fun to see what exercises they perform and the carryover it might have on the course.

Remember, you need to ask yourself whether those exercises are the right fit for your workout program. By answering the questions above and gathering some information, we can make that decision and build a workout program that allows us to play at our absolute best!