2 February 2006

Fitness For Golf - where the East meets West

Every week we hear about the amazing accomplishments of athletes in all sports. In addition we often also hear about the physical program they attribute to there success or the diet and so on. Now think about that with golf and you will see that recently the trend that has existed with all other sports for years is making it way very quickly into the game of Golf.

Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie are few that come to mind. Each of these golfers acknowledges the importance of conditioning for golf. Then there is Mr. Smith, Miss Jones and Mrs. Brown - who are they you ask? Well they are average golfers who along with the greats like Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and many other professionals still competing that had, have and will encounter body issues brought about from the game of golf.

It is a great game- some say the best. However when you encounter and injury, this great game takes a back seat as you rest and endeavor to recover Or then there is always the question in the back of your mind, why can I not simply get better or master a part of the technique to perform that shot or skill you saw on the golf channel.

I have been very fortunate over the years to meet and work with some great professionals in sport. People who when you meet them you realize bring a whole new dimension to the meaning enjoyment along with a duty of care and forseability that provides complete security and satisfaction knowing you actually are in good hands..

In this issue we talk with Jeff Libengood, the COO and designer of East West Fitness in Tokyo (www.ewfitness.com). We get the insight to playing better golf through proper conditioning, avoiding and preventing the injuries that occur as a result of golf both on and off the course. We have combined also our collective knowledge to give an insight into what physical effort is required to make a golf swing and ultimately you enjoy the game of golf.

The Body & Swing system sets the standard for golf conditioning. It is very scientific and specific but in no way does it replace the Golf Pro. Conversely, the fitness pro works with the golf pro to identify swing faults and the mechanical causes of those faults. I.e., pelvic restrictions, shoulder girdle dysfunction, cervical rotation tightness, etc. The Body & Swing golf conditioning is based upon the principles of body assessments, corrective & functional exercise, and human biomechanics. The total focus is designed to restore balance, length, strength and coordination of movement patterns specific to golf by correcting weaknesses, imbalances and restrictions by segmentally identifying then correcting problems and integrating the whole body in movements (which is one reason why machine training is no good...machines isolate muscle function).

A Golf Biomechanic works in concert with the Golf Pro to advance the golfer to his or her maximum potential by creating the best swing from the best conditioned strengthened and flexible body possible. The Body & Swing System is in-depth, progressive, and complete that when done as a program will definitely lower your score by increasing overall distance off the tee, strength from fairway to green, consistency in short game control and feel. The science behind it exacts stretching, strengthening and conditioning specifically for golf.

We analyze the stance, swing phase and follow through from a musculoskeletal & biomechanical standpoint and identify restrictions, faults and/or dysfunctions in the body. Through observation combined with specialized video capture and software analysis, defining the causes of pushed, pulled, sliced, hooked, solid or not solid golf shots forms the basis for developing and instructional program that is not only in swing but also what you also do outside performing a golf swing in order to improve.

It is important to note that in many case golfers are aware of there swing faults and whether it be through the use of visual training aids or verbal commands presented in a lesson that you will endevour to improve. However at some point it is important to acknowledge that in order to play better golf you will need a body that allows you to function according to the standards you set mentally.

Following the swing evaluation, the client then undergoes a complete body evaluation to verify the findings and to confirm the exact cause of the problems or perhaps discover more faults. For example, lack of proper rotation forces the arms to become over involved, thus leading to a shoulder impingement syndrome from repetitive stress. The person then goes to the doctor for shoulder pain when the root of the pain may be rotation dysfunction in the low back, instability of the lumbo-sacral junction or a dysfunctional sacro-iliac joint ( the sacroiliac joint lies next to the spine and connects the sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) with the pelvis (iliac crest) ) that is preventing rotation. Or, there could be asymmetrical tightness of the musculature such as unbalanced oblique musculature, which will cause rotation restrictions. Yet still, there could be a lack of core static stability strength, which will not allow a golfer to hold the address position without movement (which will cause the golfer to hit fat or thin). So, is it really the shoulder? No! To 'self-correct' all these faults, the golfer continually changes stances and grips or, in worst cases buys new equipment. This does nothing to address the actual problem (swing fault). It only tries to address the symptom. This is where professionals in this area ( www.ewfitness.com) play a very important role.

But, why condition for golf? Golf is a highly athletic sport! But it's also the only sport where the individual does no conditioning to prepare. Without a comprehensive understanding of the science of strength and conditioning, the golfer who tries to train for golf will read a book or look for a local personal trainer who is probably versed in bodybuilding routines or machine work. This kind of training may make the golfer walk better from hole to hole but no improvement in the game! Golf requires great strength, flexibility and power. Yep, power!

Here's the formula:
  • Greater Strength = Greater Force
  • Force = Mass x Acceleration
  • Acceleration = Power
  • Power = Clubhead Speed

    Power has to be generated to get a fast club head speed. Here are some key points to consider.
    • A golfer swings a club at 100 + miles ( 160 kmph) per hour translating to 3000° - 5000° of rotation speed (compared to a professional baseball pitchers shoulder that rotates at up to 5000°)
    • The entire golf swing from take back to follow through takes 1.5 seconds.
    • It takes 0.3 of a second from the top of the back swing to impact
    • Amateur golfers achieve approximately 90% of their peak muscle activity when driving a golf ball. This force is equivalent to walking in the gym and lifting a weight so heavy you can only lift it for four repetitions, yet a golfer swings the club with this much force between 30-40 times during eighteen holescall on a unconditioned body. This kind of force makes golf as ballistic as martial arts, rugby and even field hockey! ! No wonder there are so many golfers with aches and pains
    • Golfers are at their lowest athletic potential (a basketball player is at 98% of his)
    • Females suffer 5:1 over males from a rotation problem in the sacro-iliac joint.
    • Most Golf Professionals do not fix the problem, they compensate for it !!
    During the swing, the spine undergoes every imaginable movementcextension, flexion, rotation and side bending and it does this at very high speeds. The body is designed so that the musculature absorbs the impacts. But if it is unstable and deconditioned, what do you think absorbs all that force? Yesclow back, spine and joints. This is VERY unhealthy. Look at these stats:

    " At any one time, there are; 30% of the Pros playing injured; " 54% of the men and 45% of the women have low back pain and 24% and 27% respectively have elbow injuries. " Those who play golf and participate in another sport are 40% more likely to develop low back pain than those who play just golf

    The problem isn't with your club. The inconsistency is in your swing; perhaps an inability to maintain static posture at address, lack of integrated functional strength and dynamic stability during the swing, pulling your head off the ball due to tight levator scapula musculature ( the muscle that marry's the head to the shoulder blade), restricted spinal rotation, low back pain or a very poorly conditioned core that forces continual readjustment, etc. Your spine wasn't built to absorb these forces or blows, your musculature was. The musculature needs to act as a force generator, stabilizer and shock absorber. With any problem, each time you swing, the brain must find a way to compensate to protect what's wrong. This is why swing path constantly changes and you end up feeling pain in the low back, shoulders, elbows or wrists.

    Our training programs aren't a body building program. There are no bench presses, etc. This is a phased, specific and integrated strength, flexibility and conditioning program preceded by a musculoskeletal assessment specifically for the sport of golf. At no point in the entire golf swing is any one muscle isolated. Consequently, training as such will only confuse the brains movement patterns. Therefore, your training should be void of isolated movements. It should consist of a scientific approach that facilitates static and dynamic stability, flexibility and neuromuscular integration and restoration of perfect posture. So let's build that strength and club head speed so you will 'have the power'!

    For more information see the website www.ewfitness.com, email Jeff Libengood with any questions you have pertaining to your golf and overall health and fitness.

    Paul Jones, 2 February 2006

  • Previous Columns
  • Golf Course Realty, Australia
  • The Asian Golf Tour
  • Winter golf - Golf in Japan's South
  • MACAU- gambling is not the only game in town
  • Learning to Practice
  • Making Sure The Club Fits

  • Young Guns of Golf

  • Tracking the Tiger

  • Flying west in winter with Bird Golf

  • Getting off the beach and on the links in China

  • Good body shape equals good golf

  • About Paul
    Paul Jones is the current Director of Education for Accordia Golf here in Japan. A AAA Australian PGA professional Paul has been involved in all facets of the sport and hospitality industry for the past 15 years.

    Paul has worked on all major professional golf tours around the world for the past 10 years with leading players and instructors in the development of the game.

    Contact Paul »