Buying a new set of clubs, finding the perfect pair of shoes for the course, or seeking out instruction from a golf pro are just a few of the things golfers do when looking to improve their performance. Although all of these things are beneficial to sharpening your skills on the course, many golfers overlook one important aspect: balance and stability
Balance and stability are critical components for almost every sport or activity. Without them, our movements are uncoordinated, less powerful and less consistent, and the likelihood of producing an injury increases significantly. If you are a right-handed golfer, you will load your back leg on the back swing and finish by shifting your weight to your left leg on the down swing, requiring adequate balance and proprioception to execute a smooth and efficient transition from right to left. Proprioception is the awareness of your limbs in space; without this awareness balance will quickly deteriorate.
If you are not sure how good your balance is, you may complete a short test. Start by lifting your arms away from your sides, making a “T.” Next, lift one leg off the ground making your thigh parallel to the floor and close your eyes. Count how long you can maintain this stance without losing your balance or wildly flailing your arms. A time of 20 seconds or less is a good indicator that your balance needs improvement.
Now that you know where your balance stands, how do you improve it? The answer is often much more than simply performing the test over and over until your time improves. Instead, you need to look at your overall mobility first. If your ankles are locked up, if you have tight hamstrings, or if your hips are stiff, this reduces proprioception to your surroundings. This makes that road map in your brain less accurate and fuzzy, and some movements uncoordinated or limited. To see if mobility is the culprit for your poor balance, you will perform three test; a toe touch, deep squat, and ankle dorsiflexion test. Although there are many other screenings that can be used, these three have the biggest correlation to golf performance.
- Toe Touch Test: The toe touch will test your hamstring extensibility. To complete this test, simply bend forward and try to touch your toes with minimal knee bend.
- Deep Squat Test: Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Standing upright, reach your arms straight up to the ceiling and squat as low as you can, without letting your arms fall forward. With adequate mobility, you should be able to touch the back of your legs to your calves at the bottom of the squat position.
- Ankle Dorsiflexion Test: If you are unable to perform the deep squat to the aforementioned standards, your ankles may be the limiting factor. To see if this is the case, get into a half kneeling position (on one knee) with your left knee on the floor and right foot and knee against a wall. Once in that position, move your right foot away from the wall until your right fist can fit between your toes and the wall, creating a four-inch space. Try touching the wall with your right knee without letting your heel lift off the floor. Switch legs and perform the same test. If you can touch the wall with your knee without your heel lifting, you have adequate ankle mobility.
If you were not able to complete one or all of theses tests successfully, then lack of mobility is most likely the cause of your poor balance. The remedy is soft tissue work, stretching and learning to move through a full range of motion.
If you were able to complete the three tests without issue, then your balance or lack there of may be a stability issue, which will require a different approach, such as balance beam walking. Balance beam walking may sound like an Olympic sport, but it can be done on a 2x4 in your own yard. This requires you to simply walk on the beam, placing one foot in front of the other and touching heel to toe. If you are unable to perform this, hold on to a wooden dowel or walking stick in each hand and use them for assistance as you walk up and down the board. The added stability will provide enough security so that you can eventually walk without assistance. At that point, try placing a penny on the board and bending over to pick it up without losing balance or falling. Balance walking can be incorporated on its own or in between sets when working out at the gym.
Balance and mobility are huge factors as you work to improve your golf game. The best instruction and equipment will not matter if the major limiting factor in your game is your own body. Visit Wilmington Performance Lab located at 3305 Burnt Mill Drive to complete a free golf fitness assessment with a TPI Fitness Professional and begin improving your overall golf game today.
Chris McAbee is the founder and co-owner of Wilmington Performance Lab, a state-of-the-art personal training facility that offers a full range of services including nutritional counseling and corporate wellness. Wilmington Performance Lab was founded on the belief that personal training is not only about making physical improvements, but also building long lasting, quality relationships with partners you can trust. For more information, visit http://wilmingtonperformancelab.com/ or call 910- 399-5441.