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Improving “The Sway” in Your Swing

By Michael K Butler B.A.; P.T.A.; CSCS*D; RSCC*D NMT
Exercise and stretching should be a regular part of your golf game.

Golf makes many physical demands on the body. We therefore need to spend the necessary time conditioning ourselves so that we can play 18 holes day after day and not worry about pulling a muscle or incurring an even more severe injury.

One of the top five problems that many golfers experience is sway, meaning they don’t rotate their hips or trunk during the backswing, so they end up having excessive lateral motion of their lower body. If you have this problem, you might experience reduced power, reduced speed in the lower body, and postural instability.

When a sway issue is suspected, a common test performed by the golf fitness professional is to test the mobility of the ankle. If the ankle has limited eversion (the inability to stay on the inside of the foot) during the backswing, this will most likely identify the problem. Science has shown that all athletic moves start from the ground up. If there is lack of flexibility in one joint such as the ankle, there might be a stability issue either above or below that. As golf fitness professionals we are trained to look and test all the joints from the ankle all the way up to the neck, to see if there is a problem somewhere else before we can make a diagnosis of the problem joints.

The next issue to look at is hip mobility, which is easy to test, but not so easy to treat in isolation. A lack of trail leg internal rotation can cause a definite sway issue during the backswing. In other words, if you can’t keep both feet planted on the ground when you are going through the backswing, the hip cannot fully rotate, causing a disruption in the chain and therefore causing issues with the swing.

Weak glutes and over used hamstrings can cause a poor lower body base and can lead to sway. Because most Americans sit for a good portion of the day, their glutes are already shut off, so when they play golf, they wonder why they can’t hit the ball with authority or accuracy. Sound familiar? Teaching yourself how to activate your glutes while relaxing your hamstrings is key. Try lying on your back on a flat surface, straighten out your legs, then place one hand under each butt cheek. See if you can contract your glutes into your hands without tightening your hamstrings. When you achieve this lying down, then try to do it while standing.

Sway is easily identifiable and from a physical standpoint, there are corrective stretches and/or exercises to address the issue. If you are serious about your golf game, then I highly recommend making exercise and stretching part of your pre-game warm-up.

Michael is co-owner of Kinetix Health and Performance in Palm Desert. He holds a state license as a physical therapist assistant, national certifications of distinction through the NSCA as a strength and conditioning coach, Poliquin International state coach and as a Full Body Active Release Techniques Practitioner. He can be reached at (760) 200.1719 or at michael@kinetixcenter.com.

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