Golf Fitness Self-Assessment by www.yourgolffitnesscoach.com

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Before I design any golfer’s fitness program, I perform a complete orthopedic and functional assessment and a swing analysis to determine the golfer’s needs in comparison to the demands of the sport of golf itself.

This establishes the golfer’s fitness priorities.  Those aspects of their training program that will have the greatest impact on their performance.  In other words, it helps establish a plan of action.

To attempt to improve performance without some direction or a plan is a crap-shoot.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and actually do something to help your game.  Maybe you won’t.

The following assessment is just a small part of what I do during my assessment process.  You can use it to get an idea as to where you stand in comparison to the demands of the game of golf.

POSTURE TEST

Every golf book I’ve ever read talks about the importance of posture.  I’ve yet to find one that effectively explains how to measure it.  You can use this test.

Stand with your back against a wall and your feet about 12 inches from the base of the wall.  Place one hand in the small of your back and press your low back against your hand.  If your posture is normal, your buttocks, upper back, and the back of your head will be in contact with the wall.  Your head should remain level.  If you have to lean it back to make contact with the wall, you’re cheating the test (shame on you for cheating).  The inability to make these contacts, especially the inability to make contact with the back of your head, is usually an indication that you have too much curve in the thoracic spine (upper back), a forward head position, or a combination of both.  Failure on this test will typically limit your ability to rotate your spine sufficiently for an unrestricted golf swing.

SEATED ROTATION TEST

Golf is all about rotation.  Here’s a quick test for your spinal rotation.

Hold a golf club or broomstick behind your shoulders while in a seated position.  This position limits the influence of shoulder range of motion, which often substitutes for spine rotation.  Turn the torso first to the right and then to the left as far as you can comfortably.  Do not shift your weight from one hip to the other, as this will give you an inaccurate result.  For an unrestricted golf swing, you need about 60 degrees of rotation in the spine.  Make sure to keep your eyes focused straight ahead as the cervical spine (neck) counter-rotates during the golf swing.  A restriction in spine rotation means that you must compensate somewhere else to gain full turn in your golf swing.  This will result in overuse of the shoulders or a swing fault such as excessive rotation of the pelvis, straightening of the trailing knee, or increased side bending of the spine.  Each of these can result in injury and pain.

SHOULDER ROTATION TEST

An unrestricted golf swing requires full internal and external rotation of the shoulder.  Here’s a quick test for external shoulder rotation.

Lie on your back and place one hand in the small of your back as you did for the posture test and press the lower back down on your hand.  This prevents cheating the test by increasing the spinal curves.  Lay your arm on the floor perpendicular from the body with the elbow bent to 90 degrees.  Rotate the shoulder backward and attempt to lay your forearm on the floor.  If you can’t lay the forearm flat on the floor, external rotation is restricted.  This will restrict your backswing on your trailing side arm and restrict follow-through on the lead side arm.

Here’s a quick test for internal shoulder rotation.

Assume the same starting position as you did for the external rotation test.  This time attempt to lay the forearm on floor by rotating the shoulder forward.  Normal internal rotation of the shoulder is 80 degrees.  So the arm should rest just above the floor for normal rotation.  Limited internal rotation of the lead arm will restrict your backswing and limited internal rotation of your trailing arm will restrict follow-through.

HAMSTRING TEST

The hamstrings attach to the pelvis (you’re actually sitting on the attachment).  Tight hamstrings can restrict your ability to assume proper pelvic and lumbar posture in your address.  Here’s an easy test.

Lay on your back with your hand in the small of your back.  This will prevent your back from substituting for tightness in your hamstrings.  With the knee straight, raise the leg from the floor to your best height without straining.  You’ll need to raise the leg about 70 degrees from the floor for an unrestricted golf swing.

THOMAS TEST

This is a test for the hip flexors.  Tight hip flexors (more specifically a tight psoas muscle) will limit hip extension and hip internal rotation.  They can also restrict spinal movement.  Here’s the test.

Lie on your back and pull one knee to your chest with the other leg straight.  In a negative test, the straight leg will rest flat on the floor.  In a positive test (showing tightness), the straight leg will be raised from the floor. 

This is a very important test as tight hip flexors are a common limitation for golfers who also do a great deal of sitting as part of their daily job.  Tight hip flexors will restrict hip extension, which also limits follow-through.  More importantly, they will restrict hip internal rotation in the backswing.  Limited internal rotation of the hip in the backswing prevents adequate loading of your powerful hip muscles.  This creates a power drain and reduces club head speed resulting in shorter drive distances.

HIP INTERNAL ROTATION

This tests hip internal rotation directly.  By doing it in a seated position, we eliminate the influence of the hip flexors.

In a seated position and keeping the weight evenly distributed on both buttocks, rotate the hip so that the lower turns outward.  Normal hip internal rotation is about 35 degrees.  Limited internal rotation of the hip in the backswing prevents adequate loading of your powerful hip muscles, which creates a power drain and reduces club head speed resulting in shorter drive distances.

ABDOMINAL STRENGTH

This is a simple test for your abdominal strength and coordination.

Lay on your back with your hip bent to 90 degrees and feet off the floor.  Place one hand in the small of your back and press the lower back firmly down on your hand.  Slowly lower your feet to the floor without reducing the pressure on your hand. 

If you are unable to lower your feet without reducing pressure on your hand, your hip flexors are dominant in the movement. This means that the abdominal muscles are most likely too weak to dissipate forces away from the spine or to generate optimal force during the golf swing.

How’d you do?  If you couldn’t pass all the tests with flying colors, you may have some work do to.  Everyone can improve his or her flexibility and strength.  Addressing your weak points will eliminate swing faults, improve performance, and prevent injuries.

FYI...If you're considering hiring a fitness professional to guide you in your quest to improve your golf game, be sure that your complete assessment includes proper orthopedic testing and swing analysis.  Both are necessary for a totally accurate exercise prescription. www.yourgolffitnesscoach.com


Submitted by DMorgan on Sat, 03/25/2006 - 5:01pm.

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