You’ve probably heard some variation of this before, “Before you start playing golf, get some lessons so you don’t develop any bad habits”. It ends up taking much longer to unlearn the bad habits and then retrain new habits. During the transition period from bad to good habits, old nerve patterns will need to atrophy while the new nerve pathways are being built up. This will result in a time period where the nerves for both techniques are competing for dominance. This leads to neurological confusion, hybrid techniques, muscular patterns shifting back and forth, lack of focus…..lower scores. In the best of circumstances, the neurological transition can take many months. It is not uncommon for the ‘bad nerve pathways’ to interfere permanently.
How else does this same concept translate into your golf training program?
- Before you train for power & speed, make sure your technique is perfect.
- Before you train for technique, make sure your functional movements are very good. (i.e. Do you have normal ranges of motion and strength for each whole body movement?)
- Before you do functional exercises, make sure your individual components work correctly. (i.e. check each muscle, ligament, nerve, artery for proper function.
Let’s look at each phase of golf development in more detail.
Power & Speed Training – So many of the patients I see come in because golfing causes them pain. Typically, they are hitting too hard for where their technique or body development is. Frequently in these patients, they will have problems with their technique or muscle strength will be imbalanced around some joint causing abnormal mechanics.
Technique Training – This is where so many of the golf instructional videos and courses focus. How to use your whole body for big shots, how to move your arms, what is the sequence of body movements? Much of this effort will be wasted if there are physical limitations. The golfer who has restricted neck rotation or shoulder mobility will have to modify their technique to adapt to this physical limitation. Learning a modified technique that will have to be entrained a second time after the person has corrected the physical restriction.
Functional Movement Training – Another less frequent problem I see is with golfer who are trying to do the right thing and add a physical training program to their golf development regimen. In principle, this is a fantastic thing to do and usually results in superior results to those who do not include a physical training program at all. Most commonly, the type of physical training program used involves ‘functional movement’ types of coordination, strength or speed training. Note – ‘functional movement’ type of training involves exercises which use the whole body or major sections of the body. i.e. Trunk twisting, lateral jumping, shoulder exercises, etc. This is contrasted to ‘individual component’ type of training which focuses on a single muscle or body tissue.
The difficulty with doing functional training before correcting any individual tissue faults first has a few issues. Let’s take the example of someone doing functional training for range of motion. Lets say they are not improving as fast as other people in their group. Many times this lack of progress will be interpreted as assuming hat they are just not a flexible person and give up trying to improve. Many times, the reason for the lack of progress with functional training is that there is a ‘weak link’ in the kinetic chain that is holding back progress. For example, one muscle out of 20 that are involved with a functional activity may have sustained an injury in the past. Even though all the other muscles in that kinetic chain are capable of achieving greater results, progress is held back by this one tight muscle.
If you try to improve the overall functional capability of the person using broad-based, functional movement types of stretches, the weak link contracted muscle does not make much progress. Too little attention is focused on bringing the weak link up to the level of the other components in the chain. You may improve overall flexibility in that activity with persistent attention, but all to often, these results are achieved by overstretching some muscles while your weak link remain contracted. This gives you imbalanced movement, less power and sub-optimal performance.
Another issue with doing functional training before optimizing the individual components can be described by this example. Let’s say that 5 muscles are involved in a functional movement but one of them is too strong. The other muscles will have to adapt their vectors of pull to compensate for the over strong partner. If at some point in the future the muscles are brought to matching strength, all of the muscles will need to be retrained.
All of this can be summed up with the following sequence of training phases for optimal results:
I.C.T.E (Ice tea)
- I ndividual component training
- C omplete body training
- T echnique training
- E xtent training (for speed or power)