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Upper Cross Syndrome and Your Golf Game

I just finished in the last two weeks explaining to you what about the hip flexors, Lower Cross Syndrome and how they affect your golf game. I also gave you exercises you can do on your own to combat these issues.

If you didn’t get a chance to read those, CLICK HERE.

Now we will move on to the upper body. Unlike where I specifically looked at the hip flexors with Lower Cross Syndrome, I will not be focusing on one main group here. I will just look overall at Upper Cross Syndrome.

So what is Upper Cross Syndrome?

Just as with Lower Cross Syndrome, it is a series of tight/shortened muscles opposing a set of weak/inhibited muscles around the neck and upper back.

The main tight/shortened muscles include the pectoralis major and minor, upper trapezius and levator scapula. These oppose and cause the rhomboids, lower to middle trapezius and the deep cervical neck flexors to all be weak and inhibited.

When this happens it causes your upper body to become more kyphotic (rounded shoulders) and as this happens you also get a more exaggerated curve in your cervical spine (neck) causing more torque to be put on the spine in and around the neck. This can generally give people headaches and add a lot of tension to the top of the shoulders for the extra work they now have to do.

A more lengthy description is …

Upper-Crossed Syndrome (UCS) is also referred to as proximal or shoulder girdle crossed syndrome. In UCS, tightness of the upper trapezius and levator scapula on the dorsal side crosses with tightness of the pectoralis major and minor. Weakness of the deep cervical flexors ventrally crosses with weakness of the middle and lower trapezius. This pattern of imbalance creates joint dysfunction, particularly at the atlanto-occipital joint, C4-C5 segment, cervicothoracic joint, glenohumeral joint, and T4-T5 segment. (Janda 1988)

A lot of people have these issues and more are on the way. This comes from what many people do on a daily basis. Sitting at a desk to work, sitting and watching TV, and looking down at our phones… way too much. The era of the cell phone as they are now is only exaggerating the problem. We are even set up for the as a kid sitting at a desk all day studying.

So how does having this issue affect your golf swing?

Upper Cross Syndrome has a lot to do with thoracic rotation (upper body / rib cage area). When your chest (pectoralis major and minor) and tight and shortened they restrict how far back your arms can rotate. As you try to rotate one arm back you chest should relax while the muscles of your upper back (middle and lower trapezius and rhomboids) contract to pull the shoulder blade (scapula) back. When this doesn’t happen because the upper back is too weak to contract against the chest you get less rotation.

Another issue that comes into play here is chicken winging. If your chest is tight your lats (latissimus dorsi) also start to tighten up and together they internally rotate the arm at the shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint). The arm needs to be able to externally rotate to allow the club to swing fully though. Sometimes with chicken winging you may feel like you just can’t get enough rotation and feel blocked during your follow through.

Besides Upper Cross Syndrome affecting you ability to rotate it also affects the amount of power you can generate and handle. If the upper trapezius is pulling the shoulder blades up too high it causes a destabilization of the shoulders. When there is a lack of stability in the shoulder they cannot produce enough and cannot handle enough power. So even if you are capable of producing enough power from your lower body and get it to fully transfer up the body you cannot get it through your shoulders because they are not stable enough. Worse yet is that if enough power gets to this joint without the ability to handle it, that is where you get an injury.

As you can see being able to get the most out of your golf swing requires a mobile upper body and sitting at a desk or in a car all day is restricting your ability to do this. Make sure to watch for next week’s article to get stretches, mobility and strengthening drills to combat Upper Cross Syndrome.

The Pallof Press is one of many ways to work your core the way it is intended to be used. The greatest thing is it refers right to your golf game.

Give it a shot and let me know in the comments what you think of it.

Fix Your Lower Cross Syndrome to Help Your Golf Game

Last week I we put up an article explaining what your hip flexors do, lower cross syndrome, and how these affect your golf game.

If you didn’t get a chance to read it, click here.

I promised at the end of the article that I would share with you this week things you can do to fix these issues. And without further ado…

The first thing we must do is start to mobilize the tissues in and around the hips. We will start out with some foam rolling (if you do not own a foam roller you can get them for around $15 to $20).





After you perform some soft tissue work with foam roller you can then move on to a couple of stretches. The first is for the hip flexors, Hold each stretch long enough to take 3 to 5 deep breaths on each side then repeat for a second time.

After the hip flexor stretch you will perform a Child’s Pose with Quadratus Lumborum(QL) Stretch. Holding each side for approximately 3 to 5 deep breaths each side and repeat one more time on each.

Now that we have the stretching out of the way we will mobilize the spine. A lot of times you will hear people say that your spine (lumbar mainly) isn’t supposed to move. I agree when it is under load (picking up a weight) but when you are just using your own body you need to be able to move everything. It helps to keep the joints happy and healthy. Perform the Cat-Cow 5 times.

Now we have loosened up all the tissues we need to get the body moving. We need these changes to stick, we don’t want them to go right back to being tight and causing these same issues. To help these changes stick we have to strengthen the muscles opposing those tight muscles. The next set of exercises you can perform between 1 and 3 sets of each. You can perform them as a circuit if you are short on time or you can take your time and perform all sets of one and move onto the next. Just remember to focus on the muscles being used and truly control them. First is a plank, try holding for 20 to 30 seconds (and if you think you know how to do a plank watch the video and see if you do).

Next we move on to strengthening your glutes along with more core activation. Hold the Glute Bridge with Adduction for 30 seconds, make sure to squeeze hard the whole time.

We continue to work on the glutes and the core with a Side Plank with Abduction.

The last exercise works on the ability to internally rotate your hips.

If you do this series of mobility/stretching/strengthening 3 to 5 days a week, you will see a serious change. Remember doing this once won’t fix anything, you must be consistent and put in work to see a change. But if you are dealing with lower cross syndrome and tight hip flexors this can open up your hips allowing you to rotate more and alleviate you of your low back pain.

In the next article I will discuss Upper Cross Syndrome, make sure to watch for it. And if you know anyone who may be dealing with this issue feel free to share this article with them!

Lower Cross Syndrome vs Your Golf Game

 

The hip flexors are a set of muscles that act to bring your knee to your chest. Meaning they flex your body at your waist. There are a few main ones and a couple others that assist.

Main Hip Flexors
>Iliacus
>Psoas (Major and Minor)
>Rectus Femoris (also extends the knee)

Assist in Hip Flexion
>Tensor Fasciae Latae
>Pectineus
>Sartorius

Each of these muscles has a job when the action of flexion of the hip is required. Depending on the exact movement needed you may use all of them or some of them.

Now what is Lower Cross Syndrome?

Lower Cross Syndrome (LCS) generally refers to what happens to your body after years of prolonged sitting if you don’t do things to counteract it.

LCS is a tight and shortened set of hip flexors and a tightened group of muscles in the lower back. The opposite side of these is a weak/inhibited abdominal muscle and weak/inhibited glutes.

When this situation happens the pelvis becomes anteriorly tilted causing lordosis (exaggerated arching of the low back). Over time this causes people many problems, the main one being low back pain.

A more lengthy description is…

Lower Cross Syndrome (LCS) is also referred to as distal or pelvic crossed syndrome. In LCS, tightness of the thoracolumbar extensors on the dorsal side crosses with tightness of the iliopsoas and rectus femoris. Weakness of the deep abdominal muscles ventrally crosses with weakness of the gluteus maximus and medius. This pattern of imbalance creates joint dysfunction, particularly at the L4-L5 and L5-S1 segments, SI joint, and hip joint. Specific postural changes seen in LCS include anterior pelvic tilt, increased lumbar lordosis, lateral lumbar shift, lateral leg rotation, and knee hyperextension. If the lordosis is deep and short, then imbalance is predominantly in the pelvic muscles; if the lordosis is shallow and extends into the thoracic area, then imbalance predominates in the trunk muscles. (Janda 1987)

I hope you had fun reading that.

Many people reading this right now have this and deal with it unknowingly to some degree or another.

Now that we have an idea of what prolonged sitting is doing to our bodies and the muscles involved, how does it affect your golf swing?

Do you ever feel like you are missing something in the length of your drive? It’s probably an issue stemming from a weak gluteus maximus. First and foremost, the gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful muscle in the body. Meaning if you want to have a powerful swing and drive the ball you need strong glutes. So if the hip flexors are causing the gluteus maximus to be weak and inhibited you are missing a lot of the length in your drive that you could have.

How many of us have an issue with swaying or sliding? There is a muscle called the gluteus medius, it’s involved in lateral stabilization. Meaning these muscles stabilize you side to side. Another issue is if your gluteus medius is weak, when you have the power from your gluteus maximus if you cannot stabilize the power and transfer it to the core then you will leak power and lose length on your drive here as well. One simple way to tell if your gluteus medius are weak (not the only way to tell but an easy one) is to stand on one leg. If you start to fall fairly quickly then you may have a weakness.

The hip flexors also assist in adduction of the legs. Basically they help pull the legs together. This is in direct opposition of the gluteus medius which abducts the legs or moves them away from the center of the body. Meaning the hip flexors, specifically the pectineus, is restricting the movements of the gluteus medius causing it to be weak and inhibited just as the hip flexors are causing the weakness and inhibition in the gluteus maximus.

How about your low back feeling like you pulled something or just worn out at the end of a round? The abdominals are inhibited and weak when you are dealing with LCS. The anterior pelvic tilt caused by LCS forces the abdominals the sit in a stretched position. When the abdominals and the core are weak your body cannot properly transfer power between the lower and upper body.

Most of what we have talked about so far has been just on forward and backward movement and side to side. We cannot forget rotational movement as well. The hip flexors, specifically the psoas attaches to the lumbar spine. When the psoas on one of the body is engaged it helps to resist rotation. If these muscles are tight and shortened they cause a lack of the ability to resist rotation. And it becomes even more difficult for the body to create this rotation when you are in golf posture. So the body will do what is has to do to create the rotation you are asking of it. Meaning is forces you to stand up (known as early extension) or the body will find other ways to create the rotation.

The opposite of the weak and inhibited abdominals is the tight and shortened muscles of the low back. Just as the hip flexors affect the glutes, so do the muscles of the low back affect the abdominals. These muscles being sitting in a tightened state also means they are more prone to injury since they don’t like to move.

I love the human body because it will do what it takes to create the movement we ask of it. I hate the human body for that as well. As we repetitively do these movements we teach the body that this is way to create that movement. The new pattern can sometimes have a drawback. The drawbacks include incorrect firing patterns of the muscle and pain, which go hand in hand.

The hip flexors play an integral role in being able to execute a great golf swing and staying pain free. Check back next week! I will post exercises, mobility drills, and stretches you can do to counteract these issues.

Sleep! It's kind of important!

How often do you hear someone say, “I had a great night’s sleep last night!” or “I feel refreshed and energetic!”? Probably not very often. Feeling sluggish seems to be the new normal. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, it is the new normal: most Americans are sleep-deprived. But not getting enough sleep may be causing more trouble for you than just that pesky drowsy feeling: it could be seriously harming your health.
Why aren’t we sleeping?

Centuries ago, it was common for people to sleep 8 to 9 hours each day. But now, only about 25% of Americans get 8 or more hours of sleep. The reasons we are not sleeping are many. We live in a 24/7 society—practically anything we want to do is available around the clock, from fitness centers to pharmacies to department stores.

We are working long hours, transporting our kids to activities, trying to make time for friends and fitness and entertainment. When the heat is on, the first thing to go is usually sleep. And it’s usually not even a conscious decision to skimp on sleep-we just get in bed a little later most nights, because we are so pressed and pushed.

But even when we get into bed, we aren’t guaranteed sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of Americans have sleep problems. That means more than half of us struggle to sleep. And it is taking its toll.


Dangers of sleep deprivation
“The foundations of good health are good diet, good exercise and good sleep, but two out of three doesn’t get you there,”1
— Dr. Anne Calhoun, neurology professor, University of North Carolina.
 

Eating healthily and getting plenty of exercise are not enough to make up for the danger that sleep deprivation poses to your health. Adults need around 8 hours of sleep each night, although some studies indicate that as little as 7 and one-half hours can be sufficient. Getting less than that can have serious consequences:

Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: If you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night and have disturbed sleep, you have a 48% greater risk of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater risk of developing or dying from a stroke.2 Lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, blocked arteries, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.
Obesity: Sleep shortage is directly linked to obesity. When you don’t get enough sleep, two powerful hormones that control hunger are disrupted. The result is that you feel hungrier and have fewer sensations of feeling “full.”

But without enough sleep you will also feel more stressed, which encourages the production of the hormone cortisol in your body. This hormone causes you to crave high-carbohydrate foods such as potato chips and brownies, and then deposits those carbs as fat around your belly—the most dangerous place to store fat.

Pre-diabetes is also a risk for those who don’t get enough sleep. Trying to get by on less than 6 hours of sleep per night can cause impaired glucose tolerance.

Compromised immune system: Why is it that two people can be exposed to the same germs, but only one of them gets sick? The reason is the immune system. If your immune system is functioning well, you can ward off many illnesses. But if something happens to compromise your immune response, you will be vulnerable to infections, bacteria, viruses, and even some autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and asthma.
When you do not get enough sleep, your immune system becomes stressed and compromised. You actually have a decrease in white blood cells, and those that remain are less active. The result is that you will get sick more often.

Impaired exercise performance: As if the threat of heart disease, obesity and immune suppression weren’t enough, lack of sleep can negatively impact your fitness efforts. It’s not uncommon for people to struggle to maintain their normal level of workout intensity when they are sleep deprived. You just won’t have the energy to push through. Also, your muscles repair and rebuild while you sleep: if you don’t allow your body this recovery time, you will be at a significant disadvantage during your next workout.
Make time for sleep

The truth is, if you don’t make time now for adequate sleep, you will likely be forced in the future to make time for illness. It may take significant effort to arrange your schedule and priorities to carve out time for more sleep, but the payoff will be increased health, energy and productivity!

Sources:
1 http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2010/12/02/f-sleep-tips.html
2 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/09/dangers-sleep-deprivation

Control Your Training to Control Your Swing

Too many times I see people at gyms throwing weights around.. getting a good sweat going… but what did they really accomplish?

My clients notice on day 1 with me sometimes we move really slow. I learned a long time ago you can’t go fast if you can’t go slow. Stop and think about that…

That means if you are working on your golf swing and you just keep whacking at the ball how will you ever get better. Slow your swing down. Control the movement of the club at a slow speed and slowly build on that until you can control the club at high speed.

This goes the same in the gym. You want to lift heavier weights, great I want you too as well. But can you take this lighter weight and do the same thing at a slower pace?

Look at this guy. He has way too much weight on the bar to do those bicep curls correctly. He is arching his back, using his legs…

Quick question when did bicep curls become a leg exercise?

This is just an easy example of how people do things wrong in the gym.

By slowing the pace of a movement you can also get a better sense of proprioception.

Proprioception – to take or grasp, is the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.

All of the best golfers in the world have amazing proprioception. As the swing the club they know where every part of their body should be and the know when it isn’t there.

So focus on things that increase your own awareness when in the gym. Do this for a month then work your way back up while continuing to control your movements. This will help you to truly take your game to the next level!

Check in next week for a workout guaranteed to challenge your control!

5 Pieces of Gym Equipment You Must Use

If you are a golfer and you are locking yourself into machines and not diversifying your workouts you could be doing more damage than good. Machines lock you into place and take away the challenge of stability. When you swing a golf club you are challenging the stability of all the parts of your body to be able to transfer power through the kinetic chain. If you want to improve you golf swing through fitness you need to train the same way. Here are some pieces of equipment and a few exercises with each that can be used to increase strength, power, and/or mobility.

Barbell –
This goes without saying but you have to learn to use one of these to get the best results. Barbells allow you to put a very heavy load on your body which requires a great deal of core activation. The greatest athletes spend a great deal of time using this piece of equipment to become stronger.

Exercises include:
Squat
Barbell Hip Bridge
Deadlift

​Dumbbells –
These go along the same lines as the barbell. These require even more stabilization by your body. You have to stabilize your shoulders even when performing a dumbbell bench press as compared to a barbell bench press. This can also be a great piece of equipment to help prepare your body for using equipment like the barbell.

Exercises include:
Single Arm Bent Over Row
Lateral Raises
Single Arm Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

WANT TO SEE MORE VIDEOS OF EXERCISES TO IMPROVE YOUR GAME
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH ALL OF THEM!
CLICK HERE!!

​Exercise Bands –
Bands can be a change from the normal. Whereas equipment like dumbbells maintain the amount of resistance against you throughout the range of motion and band becomes more difficult the more it is stretched. Bands can be great for use as a warm up or as a finisher.

Exercises include:
External Rotation
Pallof Press
Lateral Band Walk

​TRX –
Suspension trainers are very popular around the world right now. They have multitude of uses. These can be used to help balance people as they do moves they aren’t used to. It can also be a great way to challenge your core and much more. This can also be a great tool for stretching. A quick search of the internet and you will find many different uses, with new ideas are coming out all the time.

Exercises include-
TRX Row
TRX Lateral Lunges
TRX Mobility

​Physioball –

You will see these at all gyms. It is a big ball full of air. You may see some people just sitting on it. You may even see these behind people’s desks at work, it can be great to help your low back from sitting at a desk all day. These move and change the stability below you during your workout. Using these instead of a normal bench at the gym can be a great way to change up your routine, just make sure you lower the weight you are used to using to make sure you have the balance to handle the weight.

Exercises include:
Leg Curl
Plank
Knee Tuck

WANT TO SEE MORE VIDEOS OF EXERCISES TO IMPROVE YOUR GAME
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH ALL OF THEM!
CLICK HERE!!

 

The Core: Your Body’s Transmission

Most people tend to think of their abdominals when you mention the core. So their go to exercises are things like crunches and sit ups. This is a gross underestimate to the uses and capabilities of the core. There are numerous muscles involved when you speak about the core. The core is the abdominal cavity, it is a box that is created from the diaphragm at the top to the pelvic floor at the bottom, the obliques on the sides, and the front by the abdominals and the muscles of the lumbar spine in the back. There are also other muscles like the hip flexors and the latissimus dorsi that have part of their muscle within the box that makes up the core. As you can see thinking of the core in terms of the abdominals is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact the abdominal muscles aren’t really used to bend your body forward like you would do in a crunch, they are more used in bracing to stop motion. The cause of you bending forward is actually gravity and your gluteal muscles and the muscles of your back are what hold you up.

What is the main function of the core? Dr. Stuart McGill states that “The core musculature functions differently than the limb musculature in that core muscles often cocontract, stiffening the torso such that all muscles become synergists.” What does that mean? The core functions to stop movement, mainly of the spine. It also functions to transfer force from the lower limbs to the upper limbs and vice versa, which is of great importance to golfers.

If the core is there to stop movement, then why do we allow our lumbar spine to flex? It basically comes down to a general lack of knowledge in the public arena. When the lumbar spine flexes you are exposing yourself to potential injury of the spinal discs. The idea of the crunch is much better than the sit up, when done correctly. The sit up causes full flexion of the lumbar spine. Whereas the crunch, when done correctly, the spine will not flex, the problem is most people don’t know the correct way to do a crunch. In a proper crunch the thoracic spine will curl up and the core will be held in a steady position through bracing.

Now back to how the core affects your golf game. As mentioned earlier a stable core is important to transfer power from the lower body to the upper body. An unstable core allows for “power leaks”. If your core is stable the power generated from your lower body can move smoothly up to you torso and down through your arms and out to the club. A weak core means some of that power “leaks” out because the core can’t handle the power that is generated. And in some cases a weak core that is trying to take on too much power can end up becoming an injury.

If we make an analogy you body is a vehicle. The glutes are the engine and the core is the transmission. If your transmission goes then the car doesn’t move. It doesn’t matter how much power the engine generates you can’t move without the transmission.

Where do we go from here? Now that there is a lot of research out there about how the core works and how the body uses it, we need to train it in that way. The Plank is a great example of an exercise that when done correctly can elicit the action we desire by the core. Watch this video to see an example of the Pallof Press. It is an exercise that is made to resist rotation of the torso by stabilizing the core.

The Pallof Press is one of many ways to work your core the way it is intended to be used. The greatest thing is it refers right to your golf game.

Give it a shot and let me know in the comments what you think of it.