If you want to unleash the longest drives you have to generate more clubhead speed, it’s a fact of physics.
There are many variables that either contribute or take away from your clubhead speed.
One of the main contributing variables is the amount of rotational power that you can generate from your back hip (right hip for a right handed golfer).
The first thing that probably comes to mind when we think of rotational power in golf is the gluteus maximus.
The gluteus maximus is the main contributor to generating clubhead speed in golf… or at least it should be.
The problem is, one of the most common postural dysfunctions I see in golfers is pronation distortion syndrome and this posture hinders the functionality of your gluteus maximus and dramatically takes away from your clubhead speed.
What is pronation distortion syndrome?
*Note: the above image is a very extreme example of pronation distortion syndrome.
If you’ve ever sprained your ankle(s), then you probably have pronation distortion syndrome.
This is because when you injure any joint in your body, that joint will then have laxity in it, meaning it will be unstable.
Because of this instability, your body will develop compensation patterns.
The compensation patterns we are concerned with in this article have to do with your muscles and alignment of your joints.
Before we continue, it’s important to note that these compensation patterns can occur without having any previous injury to your ankles.
If you have pronation distortion syndrome, then you might have flat feet and knock-knees.
Having flat feet and knock knees changes the length-tension relationship of the muscles in your hips, thighs, and lower legs.
These altered length-tension relationships cause muscle imbalances in your hips, thighs, and lower legs
In fact, we can actually make a list of probable muscle imbalances in your body based off this posture.
Muscle imbalances are a combination of overactive and underactive muscles that change your posture and how you move, leading to movement inefficiencies, inflammation, and possible injury.
In the case of pronation distortion syndrome, potentially shortened or overactive muscles may include:
Biceps femoris (short head)
Potentially lengthened or underactive muscles may include:
Pes anserine complex (gracilis, sartorius, semitendinosus)
Deep core stabilizers
Notice that with pronation distortion syndrome your gluteal muscles become long and underactive.
This is a problem that has serious consequences on your swing mechanics, as well as, your low back health.
When your gluteal muscles become long and underactive it means that they have reduced neural drive and are unable to perform their tasks properly.
Your gluteal muscles’ main job is to eccentrically decelerate internal rotation and flexion of your femur at the hip and concentrically accelerate external rotation and extension of your femur at the hip to generate rotational power during your downswing.
When your gluteal muscles are underactive, you cannot generate enough power to concentrically accelerate external rotation or extension of your femur.
In response to this your body will compensate.
When your body compensates it uses up a lot of your capacity, and the way your body compensates is by creating what’s called synergistic dominance.
Synergistic dominance is a short-term solution that has poor results in the long run.
To illustrate how synergist dominance works let’s think of a professional sports team with a star player.
The star player is our gluteal muscles.
Our star player has a supporting cast of role players and each of these role players has a very important job to do in order for the team to be successful.
The supporting cast for our gluteal muscles includes our hamstring complex, our erector spinae, and our piriformis. There are others but for simplicity we will stick to these 3 supporting muscle groups.
These 3 supporting muscle groups are referred to as the synergists for our glutes.
Their job is to help.
Back to our sports team, if the star player gets hurt and cannot play the supporting cast will be asked to do more.
This might work out ok for a game or two, but asking players to do more than they are capable of will eventually result in losses for the team.
The same goes for our body.
When the glutes are underactive and not able to do their job the hamstring complex, erector spinae, and piriformis are asked to do more and this is referred to as synergistic dominance.
This will create new movement patterns and these new patterns will cause the synergists to become overactive, it’s analogous to overworking the role players – they burn out quickly.
Synergistic dominance is bad for our posture and movement patterns and eventually leads to inefficiencies, inflammation and injury.
Having synergistic dominance at your hip due to underactive gluteal muscles will result in an anterior pelvic tilt, which places stress on the structures in your low back.
It also causes instability in your lumbar spine, resulting in pain and injury.
So this begs the question, what causes our gluteal muscles to become underactive in the first place?
Two main things are causing you to have gluteal amnesia.
Short and overactive hip flexors
Sitting all day at your desk job shortens your hip flexor complex. When your hip flexors become short they will then become overactive neurologically. This will result in less neural drive to your gluteal muscles.
This is referred to as reciprocal inhibition.
Reciprocal inhibition is a reflex in your body and it’s a necessary reflex for us to move.
Think of bending your elbow.
To bend your elbow your biceps have to contract.
But also, your triceps have to relax.
This contract-relax relationship is referred to as reciprocal inhibition.
If your biceps were adaptively shortened then your elbow would not straighten all the way and as a result your triceps would be obliged to lengthen and as a result they would become long and underactive.
This is what’s happening at your hip.
Your hip flexor is short and has changed the way your lumbopelvic hip complex sits resulting in an obligatory long and underactive gluteal group.
Excessive Subtalar Pronation (flat feet)
Having flat feet means you have excessive pronation – you have too much pronation.
If you have too much pronation you will then have a reduced ability to supinate, which is the opposite of pronation.
It would be analogous to your elbow being stuck in a flexed, or bent, position – this would reduce your ability to straighten your elbow.
Having a reduced ability to supinate at your ankle has consequences up your body linkage.
One of these consequences is an increase in hip internal rotation which then causes an increase in anterior pelvic tilt.
In fact, a 2-3 degree increase in subtalar pronation results in a 50-75% increase in anterior pelvic tilt during walking and even more during your swing sequence.
Another consequence is a decreased ability to externally rotate your femur.
A decreased ability to externally rotate your femur results in the same synergistic dominance described above.
Namely, long and underactive gluteal muscles and overactive hamstrings, piriformis, and erector spinae.
Having overactive erector spinae means you will have a “tight” back, it also means you will have long and underactive abdominal and deep core muscles.
Why does a tight back cause weak and underactive abs?
For the same reason why tight biceps will cause weak and underactive triceps – reciprocal inhibition.
And we can keep navigating through the body connecting dots and identifying muscle imbalances and synergistic dominance.
By the way, this is also why you are struggling with a sway or slide or having difficulty maintaining posture during your swing sequence.
How do we fix this?
To correct the problems outlined above we have to target your lower legs and hips through corrective exercise.
The corrective exercise algorithm is:
INHIBIT → LENGTHEN → ACTIVATE → INTEGRATE
We would start by using self-myofascial release to reduce the neural drive in your:
biceps femoris (short head)
We would then use static stretching to lengthen the above muscles, but active stretching to lengthen the short head of the biceps femoris.
Your hamstrings are too long as it is, we don’t want to lengthen them further.
By using active stretching for the biceps femoris (short head) we can reinforce optimal reciprocal inhibition and reduce its activity without lengthening the entire hamstring complex.
We also need to lengthen the psoas and hip flexor complex. I usually don’t use myofascial release for the hip flexor complex because there are sensitive tissues in the vicinity of this muscle group that we want to avoid irritating or damaging.
Next, we would activate your posterior tibialis, anterior tibialis, vastus medialis oblique, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus, as well as your intrinsic core stabilizers through isolated activation.
Static stretching returns a muscle to its optimal length.
Over time we would progress to active stretching.
Active stretching reinforces reciprocal inhibition and strengthens a muscle at its end-range.
Given some more time we would progress to dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching improves neuromuscular control at the tempo of normal daily activities and eventually at the tempo of your swing mechanics.
In regards to the activation, we would progress from isolated activation to integrated activation of myofascial synergies and eventually to reactive integration to increase the firing rate of the muscle so that it can be reintroduced into your swing mechanics.
The point of all this is that having flat feet has turned off your glutes and by fixing this we can add 10-15 MPH to your clubhead speed.
Feel free to sign up for a free consultation if you would like me to identify where your swing killer is.