Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why do some people hit the ball farther than others?

Here are the leaders in driving distance in 2014

1Morgan Hoffmann 318.5
2Brooks Koepka 317.3
3Peter Uihlein 315.9
T4Charlie Beljan312.4
T4Jimmy Walker 312.4

Morgan Hoffman: 6'0", 180lbs
Brooks Koepka: 6'0", 186 lbs
Peter Uihlein: 6'1", 190 lbs
Charlie Beljan: 6'4", 215 lbs
Jimmy Walker: 6'2", 180lbs

Aside from Beljan, these are not huge guys.  

2014 Mr. Olympia Winners
Branch Warren: 5' 7", 250 lbs
Victor Martinez: 5' 9", 245 lbs
Fred Smalls: 5'7", 245 lbs
Shawn Rhoden: 5'10", 240 lbs

I see some stark differences in body type here.  The longest hitting golfers on tour are tall, slim guys.  But if they aren't powering the ball with muscle, then how do they do it?  Furthermore, how can we modify our training to help we normal people hit the ball as far as we can?  It seems fairly clear that training like a body builder is not the way to get long off the tee.

I believe one answer is FASCIA.  If you don't know what fascia is, don't worry.  Most folks don't.  Up until very recently, even scientists pretty much wrote fascia off as an inert covering of the more important muscular tissue and hacked it off in cadaveric dissections to get really clean looking musculature.

Fascia is a connective tissue made up of densely packed collagen fibers, water, and proteins that covers and invests inside all tissues.  Here is a really well written article about fascia and why it is important:

This can all be a bit dense.  So let's do something a bit more active.  Take your hand and place it on your chest.  Now without lifting your palm off of your chest, hit yourself as hard as you can with your index finger.  Now, use your other hand to pull your index finger back and then let it go and hit yourself with it.  Which one created more force?

Easy.  The second one.  By a huge margin.  You were able to create an audible thump!  Why is this?  Did we somehow develop a massively stronger index finger in 5 seconds?

No.  You were able to create more range of motion when you used your other hand to pull your finger back.  Force = mass x acceleration.  Acceleration = velocity/time.  More range of motion allowed for more change in velocity (increased acceleration), and thereby increased the amount of force produced.  This explains why being a muscle bound weight lifter would be detrimental to playing the game of golf well.

However!  The increase in range of motion was pretty dang small.  How do we account for the very large increase in force production?

The answer is:  we loaded our fascia.  By stretching the finger back, the fascia was stretched, creating potential energy.  We do this in the golf swing as we wind up into the back swing.  

If you watch a slow motion clip of a Tour Pro and you look closely, you can see the hips start the downswing while the hands are still loading up into the backswing.

This stretches the fascia even further, creating an incredible amount of potential energy that is translated into acceleration and therefore massive amounts of force.  

Well how do I get ball mashing fascia?  We need to train the sensory receptors in our fascia, the proprioceptors.  Prioprioceptors basically tell the brain what is happening in the body.  If we train specific movements over time, the body creates motor patterns and can effortlessly repeat these patterns when called upon to do so.  How does Ray Charles play a piano he can't see?  He has rockin' proprioception.  His brain knows where the keys are in relation to his fingers: no sight necessary.  

This means we need to train specifically.  If we bench press or squat or curl or do rows, we aren't loading our fascia in a way that it will remember when we go to hit the ball.  We need to prepare and then repetitively load the fascia in a way that will translate to the golf swing.  
Here are some examples of Fascial Mobilization:

Fascial Mobilization

Having trouble with upper and lower body dissociation?  This exercise is a great way to mobilize your abdominal fascia and increase your spinal range of motion.

Place a firm ball under your torso to one side of your belly button.  Roll your abdominals over the ball, looking for tension 

Open up your lats and improve your torso rotation by rolling side to side on a foam roller.




After some fascial mobilization, now we need to create memory!

In half kneeling, reach across your chest to actively stimulate your fascia.

We can stabilize our upper body and drive our lower body to the left to create lower body acceleration.

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

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