What is consistency? How does MGS produce greater consistency?

What is consistency? How does the MGS gives you greater consistency?

What is consistency? Surely it is the first thing most golfers should strive for, so that they can have better scores on a repeating basis? So, for the full-swing, consistency can mean total number of fairways hit, or number of greens made, on a regular basis. This in turn would mean a golfer should have greater consistency at the shot-level so that ball speed, ball launch angle, ball starting angle as well as starting spin should repeat to a greater extent. Incidentally, an article that will be in the June issue of my avid golfer magazine (check this link in June 2017: http://myavidgolfer.com/the-magazine/) is about what PGA Tour players think about consistency and what they do to try to achieve it.

In recent years a lot of research has been focused on variability within movement and how that is supposed to have many benefits. However, not all variability is good. “Good” variability is that of the various body parts having differing amounts of movement in each swing made by a golfer, while still all being able to come together to produce the least possible variability in the “outcome”. Outcome variability, or changes in shot patterns (such as a mixed-bag of fat, thin, hooked and sliced shots) each time a golfer hits a shot is then, naturally, “bad” variability.  And “bad” variability can therefore be considered inconsistency.

One recent study on movement variability (“Motor Abundance and Control Structure in the Golf Swing” by Morrison, McGrath and Wallace, 2016) in the golf swing found that higher skilled golfers (handicaps below 4) are better able to synchronize the many joint movement capabilities of their bodies to produce better results than intermediate golfers (handicaps 10-18). Stated in simple terms, while the body (head, trunk and legs) and arms might bend and rotate in a slightly different way in each swing, the more skilled golfers are still able to produce greater consistency of ball striking at impact. Also, all body movements during the golf swing can be divided into those which actively affect the resulting ball flight (outcome) and those which do not.  With increasing expertise, more and more body parts are free to move in different ways without affecting the result of the swing.

From other research in golf we know that there are 4 important movements which produce greater club speed –weight shift, torso rotation, lead shoulder/hand vertical lift and lower-body-before-upper-body sequencing – during the downswing. Here too, skilled golfers are able to produce greater amounts of desirable movements than less skilled golfers do. We also know that even highly skilled golfers can revert to the movement styles (in terms of variability of movement) of more novice golfers under conditions of anxiety or fatigue or when they have made changes to their swing movements which have not yet become “grooved in”. In other words, all golfers are capable of the movements seen in less skilled golfers under the right circumstances!

Every golfer, then, can be considered to occasionally regress to a less-efficient movement, and thus it might be beneficial for all golfers – skilled and less skilled alike – to use a swing which intentionally “locks up” some joints so their movements cannot vary too much, while releasing others to be “as free as they like”. Enter the Minimalist Golf Swing (MGS) which does just that. It positions the golfer’s head, torso and legs (ie. “body”) to need very little of both downswing weight shift and vertical lead-shoulder lift, to quickly (the downswing lasts only 0.27 to 0.34 seconds!) get into the impact positions typically seen in the more skilled golfers. It also forces more body rotation than a “typical” swing, by positioning the body in a rotated-away-from-target position before the backswing even begins. The MGS therefore prevents the body from having too much movement, in too many directions, during the downswing – it reduces side-to-side and up-and-down movement, and mainly involves only rotation. While body movement is thus being reduced to essentially one dimension only, what about the arms? The MGS requires only one area of conscious focus during the backswing – on the lead upper-arm (left, of a right-handed golfer). The trail arm is free to do what it likes, at this time.

[A side-note for technical clarification: the trail arm only appears to be “given complete freedom”. In reality, the stay-in-trail-side-lower, side-bend torso position of the MGS backswing forces the trail shoulder into better “external rotation” which in turn allows this arm to help deliver the club to the ball “from the inside”. The experts who study the brain’s ability to “self-organize” movement in different “situations” (more correctly termed “constraints”) may not remember that certain joints cannot function well from some positions, especially in a double-handed movement like the golf swing, so the brain cannot always self-organize for optimal results. The MGS’ unique ability to maximize trail arm external rotation is perhaps the one of the biggest keys to its ability to produce greater ball-striking consistency. See pictures of TOUR Pros top-of-backswing internally rotated shoulders below (one even in putting!). The importance of top-of-backswing trail-shoulder external rotation is, however, a topic for another day.]

As a result of all this intentional positioning of body parts during the set-up and backswing of the MGS, the downswing is often termed the “do-nothing-intentional” or “let-it-happen” part of the movement. Because of the inherent inability of some body parts to move any-which-way, the downswing is able to deliver the club to the ball on a more consistent basis, regardless of the brain’s ability or otherwise (as when a golfer is tired or anxious, for instance) to control movement.

Book Review : Dynamics of Skill Acquisition

Review of the book:  Dynamics of Skill Acquisition – A Constraints Led Approach

by Keith Davids, Chris Button, Simon Bennett

  • A book that explains how human movement is controlled when learning a new skill
  • A lot of useful information on how to coach sport
  • Very explanatory of the benefits of using the MGS movement to create a more goal-directed end-point (ie impact)

What a phenomenal book – for any maker of movement, or teacher of it. And for users of the MGS. It is completely research-based and involves all the latest theories on “motor learning”, a formal term for the learning of a new or even changed, movement.

Chapter 1 offers a historical overview of the ideas that were believed to explain how the learning and coordination of movement is controlled. Earlier theorists believed that the brain acted as a central controller sending top-down commands to muscles to create movement. It was also believed that years of practice led to invariant performance, which was considered to be a good thing.

Chapters 2 to 5 explain all the modern theories of how movement really takes place and why it changes with each performance. It is now understood that human movement involves chaos and complexity (read this great – and simply explained – paper to know more about those two terms: http://necsi.edu/projects/baranger/cce.pdf), and variability is desirable so that movement can be altered based on the challenges encountered. Variability is also useful for reducing the effect of repetitive loads on identical body structures over time, and helps to slow down the progression towards injury. It is now known that the human is capable of “self-organization”, which means that the parts involved in a movement spontaneously adapt, based on the constraints of a particular movement. For instance, a golfer might encounter differing constraints on each shot such as the slope on which he/she stands, the wind conditions or the stiffness in a particular body joint. Thus the human body self-organizes movements based on the varying “conditions” or “constraints” it finds itself in. “Constraints” are the restrictions placed on each movement, and depend on the body and mind of a performer, the requirements of a particular sport’s tasks, and on the environment surrounding a particular action. They are formally terms “organismic”, “task” and “environmental” constraints.

The book then goes on to explain learning or how a performer can best learn a new movement – should instruction be verbal, visual, video-based or what? Even sound and touch are important tools for new learning. Chapter 6 explains how a coach might deal with individual differences, Chapter 7 talks of how best to organize practice to optimize learning, Chapter 8 is about how best to use verbal guidance, and Chapter 9 explains how observational learning takes place.

Finally Chapter 10 has case studies which explain all of the above information based on specific cases of motor skill learning, from a soccer shot to amputee gait.

This is a must-read book for any serious coach in any sport, as it contains all the latest researched information. Most of the book has complex concepts which become easier to understand because of the simple, real-life examples carefully factored into the explanations. Personally, this book had many epiphanies which explained why the MGS might speed up learning through the artificial means of restricting some degrees of freedom (of the torso) while loosening up others (of the arms) so that it would be more likely for any skill level of performer not to regress under conditions of fatigue or arousal, when the golf swing has so much overall and individual joint-based movement that sequencing can become a problem during the mere 1.3rd second that the downswing lasts.

The book can be purchased at: https://www.amazon.com/Dynamics-Skill-Acquisition-Constraints-Led-Approach/dp/0736036865

Golf the mental game: Thinking your way around the course

Book Review: 

Golf the mental game – thinking your way around the course

When a golf book is written by someone who has great expertise in his own field, and has also been a golfer since age 10, it is sure to hold much value for the reader. Tom Dorsel is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology, and has been listed as one of the USA’s top golf psychologists by Golf Magazine. Moreover, this book is a compilation of 50 lessons which were first published in Golf Illustrated.

So, how can this book help the average golfer? According to Dorsel, when something goes wrong on the golf course, the reason is only related to three things – thoughts, emotions and actions. If a golfer can identify which area is an issue for a particular shot, then steps can be made to correct the fault.

“It doesn’t take long to realize that golf is harder than school,” says Dorsel. Which is why the three Rs known to create success at school – Reading ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic – convert to the nine Rs important for golf. In addition, while many think that all sports psychology has to offer is relaxation training, it can be so much more. It involves helping a golfer build confidence, focus, handle pressure, think strategically, learn how to practice scientifically and can even teach one that there is a mental side to selecting golf equipment and apparel.

Part I of the book talks of the basics and the nine Rs. Part II is about clear thinking and offers tips on concentration and visualization. While Part II is about the thoughts, Parts III and IV are about emotions and actions. Controlling the emotions requires mental toughness and avoiding choking, while good actions can take place during practice as well as play. Finally, Part V is about golf’s mental mysteries and how to solve them.

This book has been written in simple language and makes for easy reading as it is not dreary, while at the same time offering many practical, simple-to-follow tips.

A note from the author: The book is available through Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Golf-Mental-Game-Thomas-Dorsel/dp/1581826494

 

Tiger Woods’ Future in Golf

Tiger Woods’ Future in Golf

  • Why is it dangerous for “typical” golf instruction to be given to an injured golfer?
  • What is “typical” golf instruction?
  • What can the average golfer learn from all this?

Continuing on from the previous blogpost, this one discusses exactly what a coach desirous of working with leading golfers, especially those who are injured or highly inconsistent should have a deep knowledge of:

  1. An understanding of the structure and function of seven main “joints” involved in golf –

The spine, three upper-limb joints (shoulder, elbow, wrist) and three lower limb joints (hip, knee, ankle), as well as how their roles change in a “closed kinetic chain” situation, when the furthest (distal) parts of the limb (hands or feet respectively) are not free to move independently (are attached to the club grip or touching the ground, respectively).

  1. Knowledge of which tissues (such as bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage) are commonly injured and the mechanism of those injuries, or which factors are likely to cause them.
  2. Knowledge of which body segments are typically injured and the etiology or causation of those

There are several risk factors involved with injury (and they are often the same factors that cause poor/inconsistent ball striking). Some are modifiable (that a coach/fitness trainer/physiotherapist/chiropractor) can do something about, others are not, but even so, non-modifiable risk factors must be taken into account and worked around, if at all possible.

 

If a coach has all this knowledge, she/he should be able to understand, based on posture, gait, images of former injury, anthropometrics and even psychological makeup the predisposing risk factors. Then the factors which might take an athlete from predisposed to susceptible should be considered and avoided.

 

While a physiotherapist or fitness coach could help change some anatomical or neuromuscular risk factors, the main risk factor a coach can eliminate or reduce the effect of, is biomechanical. Which loads act on a particular joint or several joints, what adverse effects will that have, and what can the coach do to alleviate reduce loads so as to lower the risk for injury, while improving ball-striking and consistency at the same time, if possible?

The days of “use this grip”, “swing on that plane”, “lag at this stage”, “cover the ball”, “rotate the thorax over a stable pelvis” should be long gone, because none of that information has ever been scientifically proven to be effective, nor have the injury-causing potential of those ideas been studied. Also, it must be clearly understood that the golfer controls the club, and thus body-positions and movements through impact is all that changes ball-flight and reduces the likelihood of injury.

Tiger Woods (and Pat Perez) – Can he or Can’t he WIN AGAIN

Tiger Woods – Can he or Can’t he WIN AGAIN

  • Would you place your money on Tiger?
  • What are the odds?
  • What can you learn from his mistakes?

Pat Perez, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR very recently commented about Tiger Woods, the 14 time Majors, and 79 times Tour winner, “Tiger knows he can’t beat anybody.” Is it true, then, that Tiger is done?

It all depends on whether his doctors and surgeons even give him the all-clear to do so. Also on whether he can still swing pain-free. If yes, then he certainly has the patience and “zone” required to win, if only his golf swing will hold up to the rigors of competitive golf and all the practice that entails.

Why did he make all those changes, you might wonder? Especially when he was already the most dominant player golf has ever seen? Well, one can tell that he is probably the type of person who not only wants to win but win strong, with a powerful, repetitive swing. According to Hank Haney’s book, “The Big Miss”, in the era of Haney (and probably before too) he rarely even used his driver. Which leading golfer would want to win that way? And he also obviously had a great curiosity about biomechanics, as his next two coaches after Haney “got” Tiger based on their study of that subject.

Biomechanics is generally explained as the study of movement and the external forces (such as gravity or ground reaction force or air resistance) that help to create movement. However, in golf, any movement created is muscular, with the muscles of the legs pushing off the ground and the muscles of the hands controlling the club. If that is the case, surely an understanding of the design of the human body – its muscles as well as its joints, tendons and ligaments, is more important than an understanding of external forces which the human body may or may not be able to withstand the application of?

A study of musculoskeletal structure, shows us that inconsistency and injury are two sides of the same coin. When the body’s major joints are poorly positioned, they make compromises during the downswing, somehow managing to deliver the club to the ball – in any possible manner. Even though modern golfers work out in order to create muscle-strength (and hypertrophy or bulking up), the supporting structures (tendons, ligaments, cartilage) do not have much of a blood supply (and sometimes none) and do not strengthen in proportion, becoming the weak link in inefficient, violent, aggressive movements (which we know Tiger has always made!)

So, what sort of swing changes have his previous coaches recommended and how did they affect his body? His knee injury, whether or not from golf, was certainly exacerbated by being told to “snap it out of the way” or words to that effect. Research has shown that any movement which forcefully shifts weight onto the knee while decelerating and straightening it out, on a repeated basis, is the main mechanism of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. [For a serious student of injury, the following is a great paper: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=acl+injury+in+soccer+players+part+1+mechanism&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C44&as_sdtp= ]

Then, from looking at the swing he has worked on in recent years, he has made an exaggerated a squat-jump movement during his downswing. This puts greater load on the spine. When combined with the steep tilt of his shoulder-plane during the downswing (reduced since late last year) and a fast rotation of the hips towards target, it is possible for spinal disc herniation to occur, which is what Tiger next suffered after the ACL surgeries.

The only way for Tiger Woods to continue on in competitive golf is through a thorough analysis of all his predisposing internal factors, joint by joint, then having him make anatomically meaningful swing changes. It is NOT enough to merely address the current body-region of injury. He should use a swing which will prevent recurrence of old injuries as well as reduce the likelihood of new ones.

So, until such time that Tiger and his team understand how important it is to bring on board golf coaches with an academic education in all the movement sciences – who can thus serve as the “air-traffic-controller” between his surgeons, physiotherapists, chiropractors, fitness coaches, nutrition experts and more –  it might just be the case that @PatPerezGolf is right!

Round-up of all the Bells and Whistles at the PGA Show 2017

The PGA Show is the must-visit venue for anyone who loves golf. To network, meet up with old friends, to check out what’s new in the industry and even to attend some educational seminars.

As regards to the new – or fairly new – innovations of 2017, there were many interesting, scientific products, reviewed here in random order.

Gears Golf offers an 8 camera (optical), three-dimensional motion capture system, the standard in the biomechanics industry. What it can uniquely capture according to the company, amongst all of its many features, is the impact position of the ball. So, not only can one tell how the club is approaching and departing from the ball, but where on the face of the club it actually connects (https://gearssports.com/).

My Swing Golf is also a full-body motion capturing system, but it does this with waterproof wireless inertial sensors instead of optical markers. These sensors have the capability of measuring acceleration, angular orientation and position all at the same time. The advantage of this technology is that it can be easily taken out into the field, and surely real-life sports performance measurement is the way to go. This system is the brain-child of a professional golfer cum mechanical engineer, Peter Gauthier, so very cleverly involves a full-body set of sensors not just a few, so that body-modeling or the creation of a realistic avatar or body image is closer to that of the actual golfer being studied (https://www.myswing.com/).

Going from the physical to the mental, one education seminar was offered by Dr. Debbie Crews, who explained how the brain plans and executes movement, and what brain state reproduces a person’s best performance. She has, based on her many years of research as a professor at Arizona State University, studied brain activity and created brain maps to indicate the “state of the mind”. This background helped her develop “Opti”, which helps a golfer self-train an ideal brain state for better performance (https://optiinternational.com/).

Mark Metus is a chiropractor who had a booth demonstrating the “neuroconnect” product which his flyer states stands at the intersection between neurology and quantum physics. It does involve a leap of faith but then all of quantum physics relies on that too – after all sub-atomic particles cannot be sensed by the five human senses! The product appeared to work, because Dr Metus’ manual muscle testing showed muscles to be stronger in golf swing positions and gait positions while using the small “devices” than without. This unique product won the 2017 United Inventors Association’s Pinnacle Award during the 2017 Show, implying that it worked for other people too. (neuro-connect.ca)

Trackman, the company whose world-famous product is fondly referred to as the “orange box” introduced (entire distance) ball tracking for putts, to be followed soon by putter tracking as well. The software is able to output not just the parameters that are offered for the full-swing (launch direction, ball speed, distance travelled), but also roll speed, skid distance and roll percent – roll being the quality of ball movement which should predominate in a well-stroked putt. There is even an effective stimpmeter reading possible. (http://trackmangolf.com/products/putting). Trackman’s Texas area representative, Kyle Butler, is a golf professional himself and so a font of information about all Trackman products.

Mark Csencsits is a golf professional with dozens of ideas for improving any golfer’s game. One of his many innovations is the Fatt Matt swing trainer, a prototype for which he displayed during the Show. This is a very useful tool for allowing golfers to train on uneven surfaces and with uneven lies because there are separate platforms for the feet and for the golf ball. As a result, a golfer can adjust each foot independently for slope and also adjust the lie and slope that the ball lies on. It should make for many hours of boredom-free, realistic practice as a golfer experiments with making shots from all sorts of different and difficult positions (http://www.fattmatt.com/trainsmarter.html).

A product that has spread like wildfire throughout the golf industry, and across golf swing, fitness and even shoe-profile applications, admis the BodiTrak pressure mat. Easy to carry and affordable, it provides pressure traces and vertical force information of foot-ground patterns associated with any movement. An ideal product for a golfer or golf instructor wishing to study what is happening at the ground level to better understand how the body, overall, is moving (http://boditraksports.com/).

Rory McIlroy – fast hips cause sore ribs

Rory McIlroy’s recent rib fracture.

Could his fabled fast hips have been the downfall of his ribs?

Read on for an analysis you will read nowhere else.

During the recent couple of weeks he had between golf seasons, Rory hit balls for hours at a time, testing new clubs. The result? What appeared to be a persistent pain in the back but has now been diagnosed as a rib fracture. It will keep him off golf and some of the big events he was scheduled to play in, with speculation now arising about the likelihood of recovery by the 2017 Masters event.

The best way to scientifically analyze a topic is by first finding out what research already exists on the subject. Believe it or not, these days one can find research on every imaginable topic in golf. So, sure enough, someone has researched stress fractures of the ribs in golfers (stress fractures result from repeated loading over time)! A paper titled “Stress fractures of the ribs in amateur golf players” by Lin, Chou and Hsu, states that “Stress fractures of the ribs are sometimes seen … in patients with a history of playing golf enthusiastically.” Surely one can consider Rory as having played golf “enthusiastically” in recent weeks.

The researchers studied 11 golfers whose chief complaint was chest pain. Six of the participants (all right-handed) had right side rib fractures, while eight had left side rib fractures (three had two fracture sites). It was discovered from biomechanical analysis that the bending forces placed on the ribs was located at their back ends (posterolateral segments), where the fractures tended to occur. The researchers thus stated that “Overuse, poor technique and inadequate stretch will probably lead to stress fracture of the rib.”

Another study “Stress fractures in athletes: review of 196 cases” by Iwamoto and Takeda, which assessed all stress fractures in a variety of athletes found that stress fractures of the ribs was the second highest type of stress fracture, and was seen in baseball, rowing and tennis more than in other sports they studied – one might thus assume the mechanism of injury in those sports is similar to that seen in golf.

Finally, a paper on rib stress injury prevention published by Princeton University’s department of athletic medicine states that, “Symptoms of rib stress reaction or fracture may include increased pain with … reaching for something such as a “doorknob”, resisted shoulder adduction…When athletes get tired, they may start to “round” or “hike” their shoulders which, puts a lot of stress… The program for rehabilitation involves flexibility training followed by strengthening the muscles of the upper back.

Basically, then, it becomes apparent that when the shoulders become rounded (protracted), the shoulder blade (scapula) is pulled closer to the ribs, and thus repeated compressive stress is placed on the ribs as strong muscles pull the scapula forward, which can then cause rib fracturing. It should also be noted that loads on body parts increase with speed, so injury is far more likely during the downswing rather than the backswing.

What is amazing is that researchers of all sporting activities always take for granted that amateur golfers acquire “poor technique” injuries, while skilled professionals only get injuries from overuse. That is absolutely untrue because, especially in golf, how do we know that the technique used by professionals – when no two even use the same movement – is ideal? The golf swing has never been analyzed in an objective, holistic manner, and certainly no-one has ever thought to assess the movement as a function of human joint capabilities. No siree. Golfers are simply told “shift weight” or “cock the wrists” but no one knows how those actions affect the major joints of the body, and indeed whether those body parts are even designed to make the movements or bear the loads we ask of them!

rory

Now look at Rory (from a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUtO4jkQJwo) coming into and going past impact at his super-human speed. The earlier and faster his hips rotate towards target during the downswing, the more rounded-forward both shoulders become, especially the trail one. Then, when the arms get flung forwards towards the ball at a very rapid rate, as the trail elbow straightens, the shoulders protract even more. Thus a case of fast hips = sore ribs!

Only one swing has ever been developed keeping the design constraints of the joints in mind, and that swing produces hip rotation from closed at the top to square at impact, so that the shoulders are never pulled into excessive protraction and the arms are never flung far from the body at impact!

Twenty-first Century Cardio-Machines

Every twenty-first century product is jumping onto the add-value-through-internet-use bandwagon. So too are the cardiorespiratory fitness machines. One cannot help watch even a little bit of TV without seeing ads for the exciting looking Peleton cycle which allows one to cycle with people from all over the world or be in a virtual cycling “class” right from one’s home. As to the famous Coach Michael’s Nordictrack X11i, it simulates virtual settings of some of the most beautiful corners of the world. What is the science behind these and other similar machines? Obviously the TV ads are making an impression because just saw a couple of Peleton cycles at my own small gym. What is the idea behind handlebars which make one lean forward, pedals that are tiny, and no heart rate monitors? Is it a message that it is only for 20-something-year olds who may not worry about low back pain as they lean forward excessively and do not feel the need to at least occasionally measure their heart rate? Are the small pedals meant to look sleek, or reduce air friction force for better speed (on a stationary bike!). What about if a foot slips off the tiny pedals? As to the Nordictrack incline machine. at what speed should 40% extra incline be tackled? Do they offer any advice with the machine? Does it have any heart rater monitoring? Why would one not simply put one’s good old 20th Century treadmill into a good incline? Basically, my question is – looks over functionality? Form over science? Many modern mechanically driven products now have some  internet-related features and wonderful, modern designs, but are they maintaining the science?

What’s the Best Putting Stroke?

How to decide which putting stroke is best?

The new NEWS & REVIEWS section will have short snippets of – you guessed it – NEWS, all of it related to some science that concerns golf – and there are many.

So, which stroke “look” is better – a pendulum (in which the arc of the putter is circular) or a stroke with a bit of an ellipse at the bottom (ie. slightly flatter in the bottoming-out area)? The latter because it gives your a greater margin within which to connect the ball.

Many like the pendulum stroke and go to great lengths to acquire it. In the post-body-putter era, what are a person’s options? Read about Bryson deChambeau (the mad scienctist)’s new putting stroke, its advantages and disadvantages on page 72 of https://en.calameo.com/read/004756792e3682610235b