ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creating Power, Part 1: Carl Rabito

There are so many things I want to talk about on this blog. For example, Jonny Barber sent me an email about some new stuff he read concerning shot shapes that seemed to contradict some of what I wrote about full shots back in April but not what I wrote about putting. I haven't forgotten it, Jonny, but I don't know how many posts it will take yet... so I'm saving it for December, when we don't have as much golf going on.

Contradictory (or at least apparently contradictory) teaching is part of the reason golf seems so hard. We hear this teacher say one thing, that teacher says something else, and yet another teacher disagrees with them both -- it's no wonder we struggle! I like looking at these apparent contradictions and finding the common ground; it often clears up otherwise confusing problems.

Well, earlier this week Golf Channel rebroadcast a "Playing Lessons with the Pros" that focused on J.B. Holmes, one of the Tour's longest hitters... and also a guy who seems to break all the rules for getting that distance. I went looking on YouTube and found somebody had posted that part... and quite by accident discovered some instructional video by the pro who taught me, Carl Rabito. It seemed a perfect way to show just how differently two pros can describe the same action, and how understanding what's actually happening can help you make sense of apparent contradictions.

Like most teachers these days, Carl is spokesman for an instructional aid -- the Perfect Connextion, which is basically a bar that connects your upper arms just above the elbow -- and he did some instructional videos for it. The ones I've seen aren't pitches per se, they just use the device to demonstrate the lessons he's teaching. You can find 14 free lessons from Carl at this site, but I'm going to focus on one I found posted at YouTube today and another from the free site. We'll pull out a few teachings, then tomorrow we'll compare them to what J.B. and his teacher said on TV.

Ok, here's the first video:



Carl says that 76% of your speed comes from your wrist cock and another 11% comes from your elbow movement. That's nearly 7/8 of your speed! Your body creates the rest, which Carl refers to as "force" or "power," and he says the idea is to get this force, along with the speed from the hands and arms, to release at the same moment -- when we hit the ball.

Then he says the majority of your range of motion comes from your spine and upper body. That doesn't mean that your legs and lower body don't move, only that your upper body moves waaaaay more than the lower body does. The way he says it may sound unusual, but most of us are used to the idea that we want a big shoulder turn and much less hip turn; Carl is saying the same thing.

Finally, Carl labels the blending of your wrist, arm, and body movement, with the intention of releasing all of its created speed and power at one time, as "the power triangle." To put this in terms I've used before in this blog, the power triangle is how you "keep your arms in front of you" and basically just return to your setup position when you hit the ball; that way the ball goes where you aimed it with all the clubhead speed you can deliver.

For the other video you'll have to go to that free website I gave you earlier and click on "Lesson 7: Starting the Downswing with the Hips." (You'll need to click on the words "Lesson 7" because the title is just text. You can start and stop the video, but if you want to restart it you'll have to click on "Lesson 7" again.) There's one main point we're interested in, but first there's a couple of odd-looking things that I want to explain so you don't get sidetracked from the lesson.

Carl is teaching a backswing position that looks really awkward, where his student Mike (no relation) is really bent over. This looked strange even to me, and I learned from him! But I think the reason it looks so weird is because Carl teaches a "squat" setup position, which causes you to lean a bit more on the backswing; Mike is probably less flexible than some players, plus he's demonstrating that Perfect Connextion device. You'll note that Carl's position is much less extreme than Mike's. Personally I don't use the squat setup anymore because I find it a bit too constricting as I get older. Now back to the video...

The main thing I want you to pick up from this video is Carl's atypical statement that you don't start the downswing with your hips. Please note that he doesn't say your hips don't move early in the swing, only that you don't drive them to start the swing. That's an important distinction. I really like the analogy: Your fingers are the people and your back leg is the bus. Take the people to the bus, then the bus takes them home. Carl is saying that you turn your shoulders back to your setup position, which pulls your arms and hands down to your leg, and then you drive your legs.

Carl also says you don't want to try and hold your wrist cock on the way down, or keep your head back behind the ball on the way down, or consciously swing your front hip around, because all of these will make your back shoulder drop and cause you to mis-hit the ball. To hit the ball solidly, he says you want to keep your elbows parallel to the ground throughout the swing.

Yeah, I know -- Carl says keep the bar parallel. But the bar is attached to your upper arms, so your elbows will determine whether it's level or not -- even if your shoulders tilt. Just clasp your hands and hold both arms straight out in front of you, then bend one elbow and let the other arm move to that side so your hands stay at the same height. I don't care where you clipped that bar on your upper arm, it ain't parallel to the ground now! Carl's student Mike has both of his elbows bent all the time, so he has to move in the way Carl shows with both of his shoulders pretty level.

But if you're keeping one arm straight (as most players do), your shoulders can be tilted a little downward at the top of the backswing -- which Carl says in another video is bad -- and a line between your elbows would still be level. I point this out because this is the kind of thing that confuses us when we listen to differing teachers. Carl assumes a backswing with the elbows bent, where many teachers assume one elbow is straight. (I dare you to find a straight arm at the top of the backswing in these video lessons!) Focus on the elbow position, and Carl is teaching the same thing as other teachers.

Anyway, here's the five points we want to compare when we look at J.B.'s swing:
  1. 76% of your speed comes from your wrist cock and another 11% comes from your elbow movement.
  2. The majority of your range of motion comes from your spine and upper body.
  3. The power triangle is how you "keep your arms in front of you" and basically just return to your setup position when you hit the ball.
  4. To make your downswing, you turn your shoulders back to your setup position, which pulls your arms and hands down to your back leg, and then you drive your legs.
  5. To hit the ball solidly, you want to keep your elbows parallel to the ground throughout the swing.
Tomorrow we'll see how slugger J.B. Holmes compares to these points.

3 comments:

  1. Ok - the English teacher in me kicked in - Carl says that power comes from cocking the wrists. (10 point deduction) (1) you don't hit the ball with the backswing, so (2) the power is coming from the UNcocking of the wrist. (it's not the fall that kills you - it's the sudden stop at the end) :-)

    I actually have a Perfect Connexion. It's a pretty solid tool, but you have to be careful not to get into a couple of potentially really nasty habits. With the arms tied together like that, it's easy to stop rolling the arms through and start pushing the ball. The other one I had to be conscious of is flipping the hands at the bottom. It's not a huge flip, but the hands will instinctively try to kick in to generate speed.

    Used correctly, it's a terriffic tool.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Point noted. I make that mistake a lot, but defend myself by saying you can't uncock what you don't cock. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;-)

    About that pushing/flipping motion... I wonder if it's supposed to do that? Since Carl makes a big deal about keeping the chest moving, I can see where you would do that if you stopped your rotation early. That would be an clear cue that you stopped turning your chest too soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Exactly - and it's also a good reminder when you need to work on your flexibility.

    ReplyDelete