Balance and the Golf Swing - Pinnacle Physical Therapy

Balance and the Golf Swing

The sport of golf is unique in that it involves one of the most complex movements of the human body. Mastery of the golf swing requires balance, flexibility, strength, power, coordination, rhythm, and stability. When determining the objectivity of these characteristics, we can look at golfers of varying skill levels. Very proficient golfers have characteristics that are different from recreational golfers. Studies have compared these differences. One particular study looked at 257 healthy male golfers.1 In this study, they compared the characteristics of different skill levels; the skill levels they compared were <0 handicap, 1-9, and 10-20. What they found regarding balance in particular was that very efficient golfers, < 0 HC showed much better single leg stance balance during certain conditions tested on a Kisler force plate at a frequency of 100 Hz. This device allowed researchers to introduce a certain force and see how the golfer reacted. That data is then collected and compared across the different groups.

Why is balance important in the golf swing? 

Technology today is allowing researchers and golfers to determine how the ground is utilized during the golf swing. Have you ever seen a long-drive player hit a golf ball? They leave the ground! Pieces of equipment like the Boditrack allow us to see the weight transfer during the golf swing’s different components. We are finding that as the club is being taken away, in this instance for a right-handed golfer, there is a center of pressure shift onto the trail right leg, which peaks at the top of the backswing. The pelvis then starts to turn as we come into the downswing.  There is a rather quick transition of weight onto the lead leg. This center of pressure shift requires balance to keep the body within its support base. When you think about how quickly the golf swing happens, controlling all the moving parts and momentum created along with the weight shifting is critical. This all takes balance! 

I utilize this technology to train a golfer on how to react to the ground and also to cue them how to work on balance movement control.

How does the body balance?

There are three main systems involved in balance. The first is your visual system. Your eyes take in information sent to the brain through the optic nerve. The brain interprets this information and the brain sends commands down the spinal cord to tell your body what to do. The inner ear functions in a similar way. There is a fluid that moves in your inner ears. Surrounding certain parts of where that fluid flows are hairs. According to how those hairs react to the movement of the fluid, information is once again sent to the master controller, the brain. Our last system that aids in our balance in our joints. Our joints have certain cells that react to changes in pressure, stretch, or their environment to send signals to the brain for the brain to interpret. The brain will then send signals back down to tell your body to fire a muscle or step to avoid a fall. 

Can balance improve? 

One particular study2 looked at balance as one of the variables they tested to look for improvement. In this study, which was conducted over 8 weeks, there were statistically significant changes in the patient’s balance after completing the training. The training did encompass more than just balance work but also included flexibility work, strength work to the upper and lower body, and some aerobic exercise. Numerous other studies show how training and challenging the various systems that help with balance will improve a person’s ability to prevent falls due to a loss of balance. 

Balance is not only critical in the golf swing, but driving the cart as well! 

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1. Sell, TC, et. al. Strength, flexibility, and balance characteristics of highly proficient golfers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2007;21(4):1166–1171

2. Lephart, SM. et. al. An eight week golf specific exercise program improves physical characteristics, swing mechanics, and golf performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2007;21(3):860–869

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