Unlocking Your Swing Installment 6: Early Extension

A successful golf swing requires excellent body control. Control over your body allows for accuracy at ball strike while providing power. Doesn't sound like a bad combination if you plan on landing in the fairways.

However, limited motion and/or stability along the kinetic chain could cause us to lose posture. This leads to loss of power and more golf balls ending up on the wrong fairway.

Early extension is a common golf characteristic that is characterized by our hips moving closer to the ball during the down swing.  As the hips move forward it cause the upper body to lift up. This false sense of dissociation leads to poor ball striking and limits your ability to create power with the lower half.

Alongside lack of power comes frequent blocks or shanks. When your ball lands on the fairway next to the one you are playing, early extension may be the culprit. While early extension could be the result of poor ball address or clubs that are too long, your mobility is the common culprit we see.

  • If your lead leg lacks internal rotation, you won't be able to fully rotate during the downswing. This forces you into early extension in order to bring the club face to the ball.
     
  • Thoracic rotation limitations, or poor disassociation between the trunk and hips will prevent you from maintaining posture throughout the swing. Trust us, it's frustrating when you can't figure out why you slice each shot you take from the tee box.
     
  • Lack of hip strength and core stability can also cause you to change your posture throughout your swing as you compensate to generate power throughout the swing.
     
  • Finally, the inability to reach overhead without compensation will cause you to early extend. This forces you to change your posture in order to get to the top of your back swing. 

If you suffer from any of these mobility limitations, we have your needs covered.  The videos below give you insight on how to improve your movement quality. The better you move, the better you'll be able to swing the golf club.

When it comes to hip restrictions and the inability to dissociate the spine from the hips, here are three great drills that cover all of your basis towards correcting these issues:

If your early extension problems are more stability-driven, anti-rotation chops are a great way to better develop strength and stability at both the core and pelvis. Here's a video that breaks down two of our go-to variations.

When all else fails, early extension habits could simply come down to bad swing mechanics. Stay tuned in the near future, where Adam Kolloff will explain how to correct early extension when practicing on the range!

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 5: Fix Your Grip

The way you grip the golf club can dictate whether you're landing in the fairway or searching for your ball in the deep rough courtesy of a nasty slice.

This week, we'd like to discuss the quite often overlooked positioning of your hands at ball address. In the video below, Adam Kolloff, Director of Instruction at the Jim McLean Golf School at Liberty National, provides us with insight on proper grip as well as a quick drill to assess whether your positioning is correct or not.

While grip technique is going to help improve your performance on the greens, it's important to improve your wrist strength and mobility. You don't want to put a ton of work into lowering your handicap, just to have a bad divot or tree root injury your wrist at contact. To combat this, you should be implementing wrist Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) into you daily movement agenda. Wrist CARs can be performed anywhere, take no more than two minutes to complete numerous reps, and will help solidify any range of motion gains you will see over time. 

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 4: Sway

The next installment of the Unlocking Your Swing series comes from our good friend Kirk Adams, the Head Performance Coach at Golf & Body NYC. Kirk, who works with golfers of all levels, has provided us with the reasons why you might sway during the golf swing and some great drills to correct issues you might be having. Check it out!

Everyone wants to hit the ball farther.  Longer drives off the tee means hitting shorter irons onto greens. shorter irons mean tighter approach shots.  Tighter approach shots mean more made birdie putts and you’re collecting the most money in your foursome at the end of the round!

One of the most common swing faults we see limiting golfer’s distance is excessive lateral movement away from the target in the backswing.  This excessive movement is called sway and it’s bad for your handicap.

Better players, even Tour pros, can get away with some lateral movement in their backswing. In fact, some movement of weight and pressure towards the trail leg is beneficial. However, for your average player, excessive movement can cause several problems. Sway moves the player’s center of pressure too far towards the trail leg, which causes a poor pressure shift to the lead side in the downswing. This can lower club head speed and steepen your angle of attack which with a driver, will cause you to lose distance.  It can also create an inefficient swing sequence and an out-to-in club path leading to the dreaded slice.

Sway can be caused by several factors. Poor technique, injury and ball position can all cause excessive lateral movement in the backswing. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the potential physical causes. The first is poor right hip internal rotation (for a right handed player). If a player is not able to rotate into their right hip as they take the club to the top of the swing, because of joint or muscular restriction, lateral motion is going to dominate. Limited hip internal rotation is one of the most common things I seen when screening golfers. If you feel hip rotation is causing your sway, there are several ways you can work to improve it. I would start with some directed stretching and soft tissue work and add the following exercises to your workout:

Sway can also be caused by the inability to create separation between your upper and lower body in the backswing.  Proper separation makes it easier for the lower body to laterally stabilize while making your shoulder turn.  Players who have a hard time creating separation often have limited spinal mobility and a loss of flexibility in the large muscles of the upper back.  This is another common limitation I see in the players I work with.  Here are two of my favorite exercises to increase your ability to rotate and create separation in your backswing.

The last potential physical cause of sway is a lack of strength and stability in your gluteal musculature (your butt).  Both the glute maximus and medius are responsible for stabilizing the pelvis and preventing lateral movement when aggressively loading into your backswing.

There are a lot of great exercises for these muscles, but for golf, it’s important to challenge them laterally similarly to the challenges they face in the golf swing.  Try adding these exercises to your workout to strengthen your hips and eliminate distance stealing lateral movement.

As you improve on the drills I've provided above, you can then start to incorporate further golf-specific exercises that Frank provides in the video below. Remember, it's important to own your movements in a controlled setting prior to attempting the more dynamic movements he provides.

About the Contributor

Hey guys, thanks for reading!  I'm Kirk.

I am the Head Performance Coach at Golf & Body NYC. My goal is to help my clients play better and enjoy the game for a lifetime.  Prior to that, I was a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Penn State University where, along with volleyball and soccer, I worked with the men's and women's golf teams.

Like you, I want to be healthy, strong, look good at the beach and play great golf.  Along the way, however, there's been aches and pains, missed workouts, and bad rounds.  So I've dedicated myself to learning as much about golf, fitness and nutrition as I can.  I want to be a little better tomorrow than I am today and this is where I want to share with you what I learn.

I want to know how can I help you be healthier, stronger, and play the best golf of your life. To learn more, follow me on Instagram and e-mail me your questions.  I'll see you on the first tee!

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The Movements You Should Perform Everyday - Part II

Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs), as we know from last week's post, are staples in our daily routines. They train our joints throughout their full range of motion and help us feel better overtime. To piggy back that, I'd (Joe) like to tell a story about my own personal experience with CARs.

Last April, after completing one of my sessions, I felt an odd twinge in my lower back. I decided to do some stretching to try and alleviate my symptoms. However, this exacerbated the pain and made it worse than it previously was. I thought to myself "let's call it a day and see how it is later," and left.

Then something bad happened.

Each step I took my pain got progressively worse.  This continued until I was barely able to stand or bend forward. I was struggling, and needed help.

After deadling with this pain for a month, I took the Functional Range Release (FR) course, hosted by Dr. Andreo Spina. Through this course, I learned many valuable tools, including CARs. This revelation allowed me to create a daily routine for mobility training that compliments the physical activity that I do, whether it be training or sports.

After a few months of consistently doing CARs and training my mobility restrictions, I was finally pain-free. Along with this, I was also able to touch my toes effortlessly. As silly as that sounds, it's something I haven't been able to do consistently in years.

Now that I was feeling better, I slowly began lifting weights again. While continue my daily routine, I built my strength capacity to the point where I was able to deadlift 300-pounds again (the primary exercise that brought on my lower back pain).  

Now don't get me wrong, I still deal with the occasional flare-up and injury. However, they tend to happen in a predictable fashion with two main culprits being responsible. 

  • When I get lazy with my mobility work, the stiffness and pain I used to deal with likes to rear its ugly head.
  • When I push myself too hard in the gym past the appropriate dosage needed to achieve an adaptation.

These setbacks always reminds me that I need to train my mobility with more intent. Believe it or not, every time I get back on the wagon, my back always feels better.  

Moral of the story? Whether injured or not, it's in your best interest to train mobility seriously. Weight training is great, but it's not the only answer to feeling better. Our bodies are designed to move often. Your body will surely let you know if you've been abusing it for too long, trust me.

This week's video breaks down the second half of the daily CARs routine I practice. Check it out below!

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 3: Slide

Over the past two weeks, we've broken down the static swing characteristics that could be present in your golf swing. You can read those here: S-Posture and C-Posture. Today's post features an awesome collaboration with Adam Kolloff, Director of Instruction at the Jim McLean Golf School at Liberty National, who helps break down what a slide is and how it can alter your swing. Enjoy!

A common mistake in the golf swing is sliding on the downswing. The slide characteristic usually occurs when you haven't learned how to rotate efficiently with the lower half. Today, I'd like to break down how I diagnose and correct sliding, which I see in most golf swings.

While analyzing swings, I often check how far the lead hip travels laterally prior to impact, which helps me assess whether or not the golfer is sliding. The following clip will demonstrate a swing without slide and a golf swing with slide. Focus closely on the lead hip at ball impact with both swings. When the lead hip travels to the outside of the foot prior to impact, that's a slide.

When sliding, we create a false sense of rotation. When we compensate with lateral movement, the result can lead to fat or thin shots, heel contact, pushes, and hooks.

There are several ways to improve a slide. To start, you should focus on proper balance prior to rotation with the lower body on the downswing. In the video below, I break down three of my go-to drills to help eliminate the slide in my clients swings.

Here's a recap of each drill and the key points that you should be concentrating on:

1.) Feet Together

Start off with a narrow stance (about one club head width apart) and practice 3/4 shots without losing balance. This will be challenging at first for those of you that slide, because you won't be able to maintain balance at ball strike and follow through. You should practice this drill until you can consistently maintain balance through the finish.

2.) Static Hip Rotation

Setup to the golf ball and rotate your hips as much as you can while keeping the club head behind the ball. It's important to understand that you're not moving your club in this drill, just the hips. This drill will help you feel the lower body rotate independently of your upper body. The more rotation you can feel, the better. Remember, we're looking for rotation, not lateral movement.

3.) Slam the Heel

Swing the club back and lift the lead heel in the backswing. On the downswing, focus on driving that same heel into the ground and rotating through the lead hip. This will help you firm up the front side, forcing rotation through the hips. Golfers that slide typically do not understand how to do this. Continue to practice this drill until you can consistently create a firm left side after impact. 

Another way we can improve our ability to avoid sliding is through medicine ball drills in the weight room. Two of the best ways to create context for proper hip rotation are through Split Stance Anti-Rotation Medicine Ball Scoop Tosses and Medicine Ball Scoop Tosses, which you can see in the video below.

Keep in mind, there might be situations where these drills will not fix your slide. In these cases, you might have a mobility restriction that needs to be addressed. While your best option is to seek out an evaluation to assess your movement capacity, here are two drills that you can perform to help improve your current limitations over time. Keep in mind that these are not quick fixes and have to be performed consistently to really make a true change.

About the Contributor

Hey there, I'm Adam. I am a class A PGA Professional that teaches full time as the Director of Instruction at the Jim McLean Golf School located at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, NJ. I was recently selected by Golf Digest as one of America's Best Young Teachers. Prior to moving to New Jersey, I lived in Miami and worked under Jim McLean at Trump National Doral for 3 years. In 2015, I published a book with Jim McLean called The Ultimate Guide to Trackman Swing Analysis. It’s been widely used by golf professionals across the U.S. and around the world. Teaching is not just my job, it's my passion! Here's the link to my Instagram and website, where I post drills that can help you improve your golf swing.

AK Bio Pic.jpg

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The Movements You Should Perform EveryDay - Part I

We hate to sound like Debbie Downers, but there's a major discrepancy in our current lifestyle habits versus the way we were meant to live.  Think about this for a second.

In the morning we sit down to eat breakfast and have our morning cup of coffee. Afterwards, we sit on our commute to work. Once you get to work, you're at your desk for another eight hours in a seated position. When heading home, you're sitting again. Finally, you finish your day off by lounging on the couch and relaxing after a long day. Without recognizing it, you've been sitting on your butt the entire day, and start blaming your genetics and age for the back pain you've been dealing with for years. Does this sound familiar?

We usually exercise a handful of days weekly for roughly an hour and deem that enough to combat all the stress we place on our body.  Overtime, we have aches and pains, and start blaming our genetics or age for the reason your back is sore when you wake up every morning.

We firmly believe that you should be moving your joints through their entire range of motion daily. We do this through what's deemed a Controlled Articular Rotation (CARs) routine. The health benefits behind CARs are:

  • Maintenance of joint health and range of motion.
  • Developing awareness about how to increase control of each joint.
  • They serve as a self-assessment tool to help you understand your current joint restrictions.  
  • Time-efficiency is key. It takes no more than ten minutes to complete your total body CARs routine.

This week, we're breaking down half of the daily CARs routine, starting with the upper body. We guarantee that you'll be amazed at the improvements you can make in a short period of time just by moving a joint through it's full range of motion. Whether you have limited shoulder mobility, or an achy wrist, consistent practice of your CARs can dramatically improve any limitations that might be present.

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 2: C-Posture

In last week's installment of Unlocking Your Swing, we discussed S-Posture and the impact it potentially has on your golf swing. Arching your back excessively in the golf swing isn't good for long-term durability. It's also important to avoid rounding the back, which we deem C-Posture. The picture below depicts the two postures that we're trying to avoid at all costs.

To quickly review, here are the main reasons why golf posture could make or break your swing.

  • Posture is static, therefore it's easy to manipulate. 
  • The golf swing requires a stable and strong hip hinge, which allows you to express optimal accuracy and power.  If you can't get into a solid hinge, your golf posture is already facing compensation to some degree.
  • Poor posture will inhibit spinal rotation, making it much tougher to maintain good dynamic mechanics throughout the swing. This will be detrimental to your performance and joint health overtime.

C-Posture is defined as both the shoulders and upper back (thoracic spine) slumped forward at address. There is a significant curve from the tailbone to the back of the neck, which resembles the letter "C".

With C-Posture, there are two primary limitations, restricted thoracic spine mobility and poor posterior weight shift of the hips. Both of these limitations prevent the upper back from extending when setting up, which directly lead to this rounded posture.

The lack of thoracic spine mobility will significantly limit rotation, making it difficult to have a solid backswing. The absence of adequate range of motion will impact your ability to hit the ball accurately and decrease your driving distance... not exactly ideal if you're trying to take your game to the next level.

Below are four great drills that will help improve your ability to extend the upper back, which will help keep a more upright torso during your swing. If you have trouble "feeling" these exercises, you simply cannot control motion at your thoracic spine, and/or scapula.

Thoracic spine mobilization drills

Row Variations for Improved Posture

While rowing variations might not necessarily improve thoracic mobility directly, they're a great drill that will teach optimal torso position. If the torso is in a less-than-optimal position, the scapula can't move across the rib cage properly. The landmine row also closely resembles optimal golf posture, which helps create an "aha" moment for folks stuck in C-Posture.

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 1 - S-Posture

With sports, there are positions an athlete needs to get into in order to increase their chances for success. Whether it's a free throw ritual or your posture in the tee box, the way you set-up can make all the difference.

The easiest change you can make to your golf swing is your posture.  There are no moving parts which means more control of your position in space. As we always preach with strength training: if you start in a bad position, you can't finish in a good one.

The golf swing requires a stable and strong hip hinge, which allows you to express optimal accuracy and power.  If you can't get into a solid hinge, your golf posture is already facing some type of compensation pattern. Not only will your swing suffer, but overtime your body will take a beating as well. It's important that we focus on set-up in order to avoid bad spinal positioning. 

When it comes to posture, they're are two faults that we come across as swing or fitness coaches. These swing characteristics are deemed S-Posture and C-Posture. In both stances, performance is hindered and you're more exposed to injury due to shear or compressive forces placed on the spine.

S-Posture, as described by the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) is characterized by too much arch in the player's low back at set-up. Here are a few of the factors that could be causing this orientation in a golfer's stance:

  • Lack of awareness of where the hips and spine are in space.
  • Poor hip mobility forcing the spine to extend in order to get into an upright position.
  • Weakness of the core and glutes, causing inability to control the spine in the hinge.
  • Poor control of the spine and the inability to disassociate the pelvis from the spine.

Having excessive curvature of the back in extension puts stress on the muscles of the lower back, especially when torque is applied as rapidly as it is in the golf swing. It might not bother you at the moment, but after a boatload of repetition, this could lead to some pretty painful swings and everyday discomfort if not addressed.

Here are a few of our go-to movements that will help create context for your golf swing and setting up with the optimal posture based off your anatomy.

Plank with Full Exhale & Trap Bar Deadlift

Pelvic Tilts From Hinge Position

The lumbar spine (lower back) should flex and extend with relative ease. This segmental motion helps with absorbing forces and is necessary to keeping the joints of the spine healthy.

While we need to absorb these forces, you need to access anterior pelvic tilting (arching your back) and posterior tilting (rounding your lower back) throughout the golf swing. 

Technique:

  • Set-up in your 7-iron golf posture and place a bar/pole against your chest. 
  • Once in position, start by arching your lower back as much as you can. Then round your lower back as far as you can through pain free ranges of motion.
  • Repeat this for 6-10 reps.

Cook Hip Lift

The Cook Hip Lift is one of our favorite drills for improving hip extension. Proper glute and core activation and strength is needed in order to control your trunk during the golf swing. 

Technique:

  • Start by bringing one knee as far into your chest as possible.
  • Place the other foot on the floor with the knee bent at 90 degrees.
  • Push your leg into the floor and lift both hips off the floor as high as you can without losing the angle of the opposite hip.

While these might feel awkward initially, repetition of all four movements above will help you create better awareness as to where you are in space. All four will in one way or another help improve your initial golf posture, fighting off the bad habits that come along with swing characteristics like S-Posture.

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