Thursday, March 24, 2016

Balance & Stability Training for Golfers

I don't always blog about running!  Below is a blog post I wrote for the Mashpee Fitness Center. To see the original, visit the Mashpee Fitness blog.

Balance is the ability to maintain center of gravity when external forces are placed on it. 

Stability is the ability of any system to remain unchanged or aligned in the presence of change or outside forces. 

In golf, one must have good balance to maintain posture while moving through the golf swing and remain stable on uneven surfaces or even in windy situations.  The golf swing is a complex movement pattern combining mobility and stability.  It requires the ankles, hips and spine to be mobile while your feet, knees and pelvis must be stable.  You can create stability by combining balance, strength, and muscle endurance. 

As a Certified Burdenko Method instructor, we learn the six essential qualities of life and sport are balance, coordination, flexibility, endurance, speed and strength.  We must start at the bottom of the pyramid and master balance, coordination and flexibility before moving on to developing endurance, speed and strength.  While many people feel that balance and stability training is more appropriate for a senior exercise program, it is very important to work on balance to maintain postural alignment and control while developing power in younger athletes.

Why is balance so important in golf?

Just like Burdenko, balance is the first fundamental in golf.  You must maintain posture throughout your swing while at the same time generating speed/power and stretching/contracting adjacent segments.  You a need to be able to load on the back leg before transitioning into the downswing.  Better balance means better control of the club which means better accuracy.  Maintaining balance and posture throughout the entire swing will also help with consistency.  Isn’t that what we all strive for?

You must also consider the surfaces you are playing on.  Golf courses are typically not flat!  You may be hitting on a hill, one foot in a bunker, or even strange foot positions to avoid trees or other obstacles.  It’s important to stay on your feet and practicing your balance can help.

How do you test balance?

We test balance with TPI’s Single Leg Balance Test.  According to TPI, “It highlights any ankle mobility or proprioceptive imbalance from left to right as well as overall stability in the core.”

Do not attempt this test without a Certified TPI Professional.  The Single Leg Balance Test begins by standing with your arms by your sides.  Lift one leg to 90 degrees so that your thigh is parallel to the ground.  When you’re stable and feel balanced, close your eyes.  How long can you maintain balance?  Any movement or repositioning of the leg/foot would be considered a loss of balance.   

The PGA Tour standard is at least 25 seconds on each foot with your eyes closed.

What can I do to improve my balance?

There are a variety of exercises you can do to improve your balance.  Balance starts to decline when we reach a certain age so it’s important to keep working on your balance every day.

Here are 3 balance exercises to try:

1.  Half Roll Tandem Stance
-Begin by standing with both feet on a half roll with one foot in front of the other.
-Maintain balance as long as you can then repeat with the leg in front.
-You can also challenge yourself by closing your eyes.

2.  Half Roll Leg Swings
-Begin by standing with one foot on a half roll.
-Swing your leg forwards and backwards.
-Keep your back straight and add in your arms swinging opposite arm/leg.
-You can also challenge yourself by closing your eyes.

3.  Single Leg Stance with Torso Turns
-Begin in golf posture.
-Cross your arms and lift one leg off the ground.
-Practice maintaining balance and lower body stability while rotating your torso side to side. Remember: slow and controlled!

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