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Wednesday's with WVPT

January 18th, 2017

Author: Ryan Hubbard
Balance and Golf: How Lower Extremity Injuries Affect Our Swing

The golf swing requires many different variables to come together at the right time in order for you to hit the ball square on the club face and out onto the short grass.  The big things that come to mind for most of us are strength, coordination, and mindset.  One of the most important aspects of the golf swing that can sometimes be lost in the mix is balance.  It takes an incredible amount of balance in order to be stable on your feet and weight shift while swinging a club at 90+ mph. Not to mention holding a finish in which 81-142% (Okuda et al. 2010) of your weight is on your lead leg at impact while tracking a 1.68 inch ball hundreds of yards ahead of you (See to the right: Adam Scott).  Let’s take a step back, when is the last time you tried to balance just on one leg?
A major component of my golf program that I use with my clients is proprioceptive work.  Our balance system is made up of three parts: Vision, Vestibular System in the inner ear, and Proprioception.  Proprioception is just a big word meaning the connection of our brain and our joints so our brain knows where our joints are in space.  This connection begins with receptors, known as mechanoreceptors, that are located in all our body’s tissues.  These receptors respond to differences in pressure and stretch as our bodies move dynamically.  Through various nerve types our joints are able to communicate with our central nervous system and keep us balanced.  If that wasn’t complicated enough, we also have postural reflexes that help our body maintain an upright position (think of when your doctor hits your knee tendon with a hammer).
When we have a lower body injury, let’s just say an ankle sprain, the ankle will be swollen and painful.  This causes us to walk with a limp with altered joint mechanics.  In effect, our receptors that we rely on become suppressed and uncoordinated.  I see a lot of clients after an injury complain of altered balance more than pain, which leads me to incorporate more of these balance principles earlier in my programs.
What is the good news with all this?  In this scenario, balance in trainable, assuming your eyes and ears are in good health!  There are many ways to challenge balance and for many of us, we can achieve the appropriate difficulty with just a flat surface.  As we get more advanced those joint receptors can be challenged even further with unstable surfaces.  For example, we have Red Sox third basemen Pablo Sandoval pictured here, an individual who has been scrutinized during his time with the team due to his nutrition/training habits.  Since his shoulder surgery he has been very active on social media this off season displaying his training program.
It might seem silly taking batting practice standing on this equipment (we call them BOSU balls), but I can see the practicality of what his trainer is trying to do.  If he can master the weight shift and making contact standing on those unstable surfaces, it may translate into even better weight distribution on stable ground.  Now, having said that I do not encourage trying to swing a golf club while standing on surfaces like these in your backyard.  But, simply balancing on unstable surfaces as a golf related exercise can translate into improved balance in your swing when going out on the course.
Here are some simple balance activities that you can incorporate into your daily routine or in conjunction with a resistance training program.  Remember, safety comes first and make sure to have something near you to hold onto for safety if needed.
  1. Heel-Toe standing

Stand in front of a chair, table or counter top for support. Then place the heel of one foot so that it is touching the toes of the other foot. Maintain your balance in this position.  Hold 3 times for 30 seconds and switch legs.  Close your eyes to make more challenging.
  1. Single leg balance

Stand on one leg and maintain your balance.  Hold three times for 30 seconds and then switch legs.  Close your eyes or stand on a pillow to make more challenging.
      3) Lateral bounding with Hold (you may have to copy and paste the url into your browser)
      4) Single leg golf posture with turns
If you are experiencing any pain or looking to improve your sports-related fitness after an injury please contact us at (603)335-4700 or email me directly at, we look forward to hearing from you!