Functional Training Alone CAN Change Your Swing

Looking to work on your swing, but not sure where to start? Here’s a few simple steps and adjustments that alone can change your swing.

Posture

The ability to properly address the ball is paramount to a great swing. Avoiding both “C” and “S” posture can be mastered by simply being aware of your body position.  Functional training draws awareness to your movement from the torso to the hip and shoulder joints out to the limbs. With this sequence in check movements that were once difficult to control become much less frustrating. Having your hips in position to allow for great thoracic spine rotation in the takeaway and backswing (separation) will lead to them being in an optimal position to rotate toward the ball during the downswing and through the ball during impact.

Another element of posture is head and shoulder position. Often in our desk-bound society golfers will round their upper back leading to slouched shoulders and a forward head posture. Over the course of 18 holes, this poor posture will quickly add up, not to mention the hours of practicing, working, driving and living in this position. Functional training will lead to awareness of where you are tight, weak and overstretched. Working to target these areas leads to a stronger, healthier upper back allowing for more powerful drives and more consistency on the course. Imagine swinging without any discomfort throughout an entire golf practice, round, or weekend, this is why functional training in a no brainer not only for the golfer but really anyone looking to achieve a higher level of performance.

Separation

We have already spoken of the importance of thoracic spine rotation and its relationship to proper hip position, but to dig deeper let's look at what might be holding you back.

Under-rotating

This could be due to tightness through the muscle and fascia, to help this process we always start our training with an element of soft tissue work, including foam rolling, stick massage, and lacrosse ball rolling. These modalities will help to relax the tension developed in the muscles and allow the central nervous system to calm down and transition into free-flowing activities.  Sitting in a chair all day or just working in general often leads to tension, whether that be in your mind or body it's all connected, so soft tissue work is a welcome transition for the body before golfing or training.

Under-rotating could also be due to lacking familiarity with the position. Simply becoming familiar with exercises that challenge t-spine rotation will lead to greater rotation in the swing because the body will begin to adapt to the positions being introduced.

Over-rotating

Often this could be due to a lack of awareness. The K-Vest is a great tool to identify exactly how far you rotate in the backswing. Once this position is identified we use core strengthening drills and repetition of rotating with proper posture to establish this improved position.   

Balance

Balance is crucial to any sport that involves a transition from quiet and smooth to rapid and powerful. Think about the load of baseball swing quiet and ready into a quick hip turn as the bat head travels to the ball, with no balance the batter cannot successfully drive his back foot into the dirt and propel the bat forward from the ground up. The same is true in the golf swing, no balance in the takeaway could lead to any number of swing faults as the club comes back to the ball. Balance begins from the very moment you approach the ball. Breathing in check, target selected giving you the proper depth perception, feet in place, addressed and ready to swing. All of these factors are taken into account during functional training. Moving your body through space requires a baseline of balance and every layer added creates more need.  A coach can add speed, weight, instability and more to the basic movement to challenge your balance, this demand requires you to quickly become more stable from your torso and outward to your limbs.

Power

Power has been a constant theme throughout this article.  It is one of those things that you know it when you see it, kinda like the red Corvette in a parking lot full of Toyotas. The benefits of power in a golf swing are obvious but it is a moot point without one thing, ankle mobility. Ankle mobility is often associated with the sagittal plane only, think squatting and sprinting, but the ankle also moves rotationally.  The ability to drive through the foot and get up on your big toe and you drive your hips through the golf ball is crucial to being efficient with the power you have available. Functional training is awesome for developing power because it takes training back to the most elemental movements. Can you activate big muscle groups like your glutes, abs, and upper back muscles? Can you move properly from your shoulders and hips? Once the answers to these questions are yes you are on track to move efficiently and make every rep in training worth so much more. We start training from the feet up, making sure every joint is being used properly to make you the best possible athlete and human you can be.

These simple steps can really improve your swing in a variety of ways. Focusing on power, balance, separation and posture alone will help you see results.


Keith Suttle