Monday, September 22, 2008

Baseline Evaluation

Today I performed an initial “screening” to determine different areas of restriction that currently exist in my golf swing. The test was designed by Pete Draovitch and Ralph Simpson, who wrote “Complete Conditioning for Golf.” The evaluation assesses components of flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination. So basically, today is the day I officially start this whole process, determining my physical golfing deficiencies and customizing a work-out plan to improve these areas before I start focusing exclusively on my golf game.

It’s go-time bitches.

I would be interested to hear some feedback on people who try these tests alongside me, just to see how common or uncommon my results are. After you read through this list, performing the actual assessment for yourself should only take 10-15 minutes.

Cardio-respiratory Endurance

In the book, they say that you should be able to walk 1 mile in 16 minutes or 2 miles in 34 minutes. Now, I’m not a hardcore runner by any stretch, but after all of the caddying I’ve done and my regular running routine of 1.5-2 miles 3 days a week, I think I’m alright in this category.


Hip Mobility – Perform a squat with your legs shoulder-width apart and your feet flat on the floor. When you reach your lowest point in the squat, see if one hip is higher than the other.

When I performed this, it was hard to tell, but if anything, I felt like my right hip was slightly higher than my left.

Upper-Back Mobility – Perform another squat, this time holding a golf club over your head using both arms (I used a long-iron for comfort). During the squat, pull your arms back as far as they will go, and notate your limit (the easiest way to tell is if you check the position in relation to your ear). After you’ve found the farthest point, take a quick breather, and then sit up against a wall (without the club this time), making sure your lower back is flat against the wall. Perform the same exercise, and see how far you can bring your arms back towards the wall. If you are unable to achieve the same result, then your upper-back should be targeted in training.

For me, I was able to achieve the same result both times. It was, however, a little tricky to get my lower back flat against the wall. Hope my spine isn’t screwed up.

Upper-Back (Ribcage) Rotation – Hold a long-iron against your upper back, keeping your shoulder-blades squeezed together. As you lean with your butt up against a counter top or bench, turn to the right and turn to the left to see the angle you are able to create relative to the countertop (or whatever you’re leaning against). This means, that if you are able to turn so that the club is perpendicular to the counter (which I hope that isn’t the case, because then you belong in a circus), that would be 90 degrees. When performing this test, 45-55 degrees is preferable. In addition, try to get a sense if one side feels tighter than the other.

I noticed more tightness in my left side, as I turned right (which would be my backswing). For me, turning right only yielded 30-40 degrees, and turning left was normal, around 45-55 degrees. I guess that makes sense, as a follow-thru is more or less a ballistic stretch for your entire body…and I do like to rip it from time to time.

Weight-Bearing Lower Body Rotation – This is very similar to the last test, except now you’re holding the iron against your chest with both hands, keeping your shoulder-blades pinched together as much as possible. Now, however, you’re focusing on turning your navel only, first to the right, and then to the left. Now you’re noticing what angle you can achieve with your hips relative to the club you’re holding. In this case, a 45-degree angle is preferable.

While I could achieve the range of motion necessary, I definitely felt that my hips were a little stiff. It’s not like I WANT to have hips that’ll fire to 90 degrees (unless of course I want to swing like Camilo Villegas, for all those who watched the BMW and saw his swing in slow-motion), but I think they need to be a little looser nonetheless.

Non-weight Bearing Rotation – This one is going to be difficult to describe without using pictures, so I think I’ll use a weird example to see if I can bring these images into your head. Alright, say you’re sitting in a chair, and your arch-rival comes by and pushes you to the ground (don’t worry about him/her, cause you’re going to kick his/her ass on the golf course anyway). Strangely enough, when you hit the ground, you maintain the same posture you had while sitting erect in a chair. So, in other words, you’re lying on your side, looking like you’re sitting in a chair. Now take your free hand and use it to pull your knees a little past 90 degrees (towards your chest), while keeping your back straight. Now with this exercise, try to move your “top shoulder” towards the floor by rotating your upper body, stopping at the first “barrier of movement.” I had a hard time figuring out what this meant until I did the exercise. What this means is, if you’re trying like a maniac to get that shoulder really close to the floor and you feel a strain in your lower back, you’ve gone too far. The first barrier of movement is when you stop moving your shoulder comfortably to the floor. Tour players get to 1-2 inches from the floor, and the recommended distance is 3-4 inches. Perform this test on both sides.

I was able to get within the recommended range. This test, however, does not make any sense to me yet. I mean, I look like I’m in the fetal position and I just want to hit the crap out of the ball. That’s not very manly.

Strength and Stability

Abdominal Strength – Perform a squat with your back flat against a wall. So basically, it’s like you’re sitting in a chair, but there’s no chair. Now raise one foot (only slightly…like 4-6 inches), then the other for 2 seconds each. If you are unable to do this without moving your back away from the wall, you need to strengthen your abs.

Now, I could DO this…I swear…but again, I had a hard time keeping my back flat against the wall. Not sure if I have an abdominal weakness or just a strange skeletal structure.

Abdominal Endurance – This book is obsessed with this whole “chair” image, because here it comes again: this is where you’re trying to hold a sit-up for as long as you possibly can. Now, unless you have someone holding your feet, you’re going to have to wedge your feet underneath a couch or a heavy chair to do this. Remember that chair image? Flat back, 90 degrees with the legs? That’s what the sit-up position should look like.

Bottom line: I went 10 seconds before I went, “Okay, I’m freakin’ done.”

Lower-Back Endurance – To be perfectly honest, I was unable to do this exercise. The main reason was because my apartment isn’t a gym, and I didn’t have a big enough table or a partner to help me with this. This exercise is the mirror image (kind of…if you’re in a fun-house) of the last test, except this time you’re testing your lower back. You’re supposed to lay face down on a table with your upper body hanging off the end (obviously, this is where I needed a partner to hold my feet). You cross your arms over your chest, and see how long you can hold that position with good posture before your body goes limp like a…deflated balloon. Any-hoo…if anyone out there has the ability to do this test, go for it. The main thing is that your Abdominal Endurance time and your Lower-Back Endurance time should be just about equal, or there’s an imbalance in your “musculature,” and you should work on that deficiency to bring them up to being equal.

Lateral Torso Endurance – Get into a side-bridge position—meaning you’re holding your body up on one elbow and keeping the rest of your body as straight as possible—and stagger your feet so that the “top foot” is in front of the other. Place your free hand on the opposite shoulder, and see how long you can hold this position with good posture. After timing yourself on both sides, add the times together, and see how they relate to your lower back endurance test. If you figure out the ratio (in seconds) to be .75 or greater, you have an imbalance in these muscles.

Alright, first off, I was not able to compute this ratio because I could not perform the Lower-Back Endurance test. Secondly, just to go over this “ratio” again, this means that your muscles are imbalanced if you’re able to hold each side-bridge position long enough so that the total time for both sides is equal to your lower back endurance time. At first, I was confused, because I figured hey, the longer you can hold this “side-bridge” position, the better off you are, right? Well, I guess what they’re trying to say is that your lower back should always be stronger than the muscles you utilize doing a side-bridge. At any rate, when I performed this test, I was able to hold the right side for 12 seconds, and the left side for 15 seconds. Obviously, being a right-hander, my right-side isn’t utilized as much as my left during the swing. But again, both sides have to be balanced to help avoid over-compensation or injury in the future.

Push-up Test – We all knew it was coming. Push-ups are a great exercise for your golf swing. I’ve heard that since high school. According to the chart they provided, men from ages 20-29 should be able to do 22-28 push-ups on average before they stop and need a break for…oh I don’t know…5 hours?

Somehow, I was able to do 30, which put me in the “above average section.” The “excellent” ranking was if you were able to do more than 36. To get a look at a chart for comparison, click here. Now bear in mind, this is not the same chart found in this book. It does, however, give you a basic idea of where you stand.

Static Balance Test – This was the most annoying test of all. Technically, golfers should be able to do this for at least 10 seconds. That is the minimum. Standing on one foot with your hands on your hips, raise your free foot to just below the knee of the supporting leg and raise your heel. You have 3 consecutive attempts with each foot to record your best time.

My best time for my right foot was 8 seconds, and my best time for my left was 7 seconds. Apparently I have balance issues. And honestly, I’m not surprised. Balance has been something that has plagued me over the years. If anything, I tend to fall forward after my follow-thru. I guess I need to start working on that.

Thank you for sticking with me. The preceding tests constituted a “baseline” evaluation. The book also has a second evaluation, which you need a partner for because you need to notate specific things like spine alignment and overall posture. I might share that test in a later post, as that is more of an “in-depth” assessment. But for now, these tests should give me a good of my limitations and areas of restriction. Knowing this information will make it much easier to determine what exercises I need to focus on in order to obtain a balanced golf-swing.

Alright. Rock-on.

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