Thursday, June 26, 2014

Flying Right Elbow!

Written by: Dr. Benjamin D. Turner, PT, DPT, CSCS, FAFS, FMR, NG360 Golf Performance Specialist 

Middle aged male golfer came in to see me awhile back complaining of consistent problems hitting a “banana” slice.  His ball flight started out to the left and came all the way back across the fairway to the right, almost to the point of rolling perpendicular to the intended path.  

After assessment, we identified a clear problem.  He looked a lot like this:

It’s pretty obvious that something is going on with this guy’s right arm during the backswing.  From this position, the swing plane is going to be much too steep and while our golfer is working so hard to keep the clubface closed, the real problem is an outside in swing path, creating the banana slice.  

But why has he chosen to swing this way?  Excellent question!!

In the case of my client, we found that his right shoulder was very limited in the motion of external rotation.  

Because he could not achieve the above motion, his body chose to compensate by bringing the elbow away from the trunk into the funky position you see in the first picture.  

Well, how do we fix it?

We could concentrate really hard on trying to keep out elbow tight to our trunk, even pinching a headcover or glove there.  But does this fix our problem?  It’s inauthentic and may cause us to compensate elsewhere.  Ever feel like you are constantly fixing one issue, only to have another come popping up?  Perfect example.  

What we need to do is obvious:
1.) INCREASE THE SHOULDER EXTERNAL ROTATION!!  We need to do this in an authentic way
2.) Create motor memory so that when we hit the course, we don’t have to think about it.  It just happens naturally.
The deltoid is a common restrictor of external rotation.  Lets hit this piece with our lacrosse ball to free up the tissue.

Roll the ball through the deltoid tissue, hunting for the tight spots.  Tenderness is OK, sharp pains need to be avoided. 2 minutes.
Now lets perform a functional soft tissue mobilization. 
Start lying on your back with the lacrosse ball in the posterior shoulder musculature.  You can put the ball wherever you want, but we are looking for tight, sticky, restricted tissue here.

Allow your hand to drop back toward the ground.  Keep your elbow at a 90 degree bend!!  If you straighten your elbow, you are losing the position we are trying to mobilize.  You can also gradually bring your elbow closer to your body to put it closer to the position we are actually going to be using during our swing.  You know the drill: 2 minutes.
Now that we have mobilized our tissue, lets stretch it.
In the above starting position, keep the elbows together and spread the hands apart as far as comfortably possible.

Bring your body down, stretching the posterior (back) part of the shoulder.

Return to the starting position, then push your right hand out to the side.

Return to the starting position, then push your hands forward and down.  Spend 2 minutes performing this series of exercises.

Next, lets create a more authentic stretch.

Place your forearm against a door frame.  Keeping your elbow nice and tight to your body, step through the door and create a stretch.  You can turn your body away from your hand, shift your pelvis in different directions, and really do whatever you want to create more motion in this position.  2 minutes.

Lastly, lets create a movement pattern that we will use during our golf game.


Starting in the above position, rotate your trunk to the right, keeping your elbow flexed and tight to the trunk.  Perform 10-20x.

BOOM!  Freed up right shoulder external rotation.  Obviously, I did not start with a large limitation here, but this is somewhat close to the desired result.  Notice how this allows me to turn my body better as well as load up the right hip more.  Not only will this create more power, but also more consistency because the club stays on plane.  
AFTER:                                                            BEFORE:
This mobility program should make it much easier for the golfer to avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with a flying right elbow.

As always, hit 'em long, hit 'em straight, and transform your body to optimize your game!

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