How to Help Golfers Improve Scores, Boost Performance, and Prevent Injuries
The key is to understand biomechanics of body rotation.
Professional golfers and amateur enthusiasts alike want to avoid injuries and improve their game. Fortunately, both goals are inherently linked: Staying injury-free enables golfers to train at a high level and to practice and compete regularly, which ultimately lets them hone their skills and elevate their performance.
Golf Biomechanics Basics
To help your golfing clients avoid injury and boost their level of play, you need to understand how two key myofascial systems—the posterior oblique system and the anterior oblique system—affect the golf swing. Here’s a quick look:
Posterior Oblique System
The posterior oblique system consists of muscles, fascia and connective tissue that run diagonally across the back of the torso and hips. Its primary muscles are the gluteus maximus and latissimus dorsi (see top left picture on page 26). Although the glutes and lats are on the torso and hips, the functional effect of the posterior oblique system extends much farther, owing to the attachment of the gluteus maximus (via the iliotibial band) below the knee and the attachment of the latissimus dorsi to the top of the arm (i.e., the humerus) (Golding & Golding 2003).
This contralateral, or cross-body, myofascial system enables a golfer to create power and force to hit the ball farther while reducing stress and averting potential injury to bony structures in the knees, hips, lower back, shoulders and arms (Chek 1994; Myers 2008).
The major function of the posterior oblique system is to assist with rotational movements. For example, when a right-handed player takes a backswing, the shoulders, arms, pelvis and torso rotate clockwise (when viewed from above) to activate this system (see top right picture on page 26) (Chasan 2002).
As these upper-body structures move into the backswing, the right foot holds firm to stabilize the lower body. However, to enable the torso to effectively rotate clockwise during the backswing, the right hip must be able to freely rotate internally in the hip socket. This mobility of the hip joint ensures that the feet remain fairly stable, creating a balanced platform while the torso rotates powerfully to achieve a full backswing (Chasan 2002).
Internal rotation of the hip/leg also enables the gluteus maximus to lengthen under tension like a stretched rubber band. The stored tension is then released to create a forceful strike at the ball during contact (Price & Bratcher 2010). Similarly, the latissimus dorsi is loaded with potential energy during a backswing when the arm moves up and away from the torso as it rotates. During the follow-through, the latissimus dorsi releases this energy (i.e., the muscle contracts) to produce power as the arm is pulled down toward the left-hand side of the body.
These rotational movements of the hip and spine ensure that the muscles of the posterior oblique system work effectively to minimize stress to joints, reducing potential for injury. The muscles also help to build coiled strength for an effective and efficient golf swing (Chasan 2002). Furthermore, they reduce injury risk after the ball is struck: The left gluteus maximus muscle and right latissimus dorsi muscle work together to decelerate the club head and slow down the counterclockwise rotation of the spine and shoulders during follow-through (Price & Bratcher 2010).
Anterior Oblique Movements
Golf swings also rely on the anterior oblique system’s adductor muscles and contralateral external obliques (Chek 1992). Like the muscles of the posterior oblique system, these tissues work in a cross-body fashion during a golf swing. The
anterior oblique system attaches to the upper and lower leg (adductors) and travels upward and diagonally across the pelvis and torso, where it attaches to the rib cage (internal obliques) on the opposite side (Myers 2008)
When a right-handed golfer takes a backswing, the left hip/leg externally rotates as the pelvis, spine and shoulders rotate clockwise (when viewed from above). As the pelvis and torso move away from the left leg, the left adductor group of muscles and right external oblique muscles lengthen under tension (see below, right). The tautness that this creates in the myofascial system reduces potential for injury to the hips, sacroiliac joint, spine, rib cage and shoulder girdle during the backswing. Releasing this tension produces a forceful downward rotation to let the golfer hit the ball farther (Bradley 2013). Once the ball is struck, the right adductors and left external obliques (on the other side of the body) lengthen to decelerate overall stress to the skeleton.
Understanding how the posterior and anterior oblique systems function, and how they directly affect the body, can help you design corrective exercise strategies to reduce the risk of injury. It will also enable you to create performance enhancement programs that exploit these two powerful systems to build strength and power in a golfer’s swing.
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