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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Microsquats for Righthanders

Today's two posts will be the last of this two-month long guide to golf fitness I've been doing. I've tried to cover the basics of strength and endurance training, help you develop some healthy eating habits, and give you some exercises to specifically help your golf swing. I hope you guys feel like it's been worth it.

There are two posts today simply because I wanted to do righthanded and lefthanded versions of the diagram. I had hoped to do a video or at least some pictures, but the weather has been uncooperative and I don't have a good place inside to shoot pics. The diagrams are the only difference between the two posts; the text is exactly the same. I have used the term "front" for the side of your body closest to the target, and "rear" for the far side.

Calling this exercise "microsquats" might be a little misleading because you don't really squat; it's just that most people will feel like they're squating. This exercise can actually be used to work on several aspects of your swing, but we'll be focusing on five things:
  • shoulder turn
  • eliminating a sway on the backswing
  • proper weight shift
  • eliminating a slide on the downswing
  • balance during the full swing
I know that sounds like a lot, but the beauty of microsquats is that the exercise takes care of all these things automatically. You will only have a couple of "swing thoughts" -- one going back, one going through. Microsquats will help you feel your swing as a single unit better than almost any other exercise I can think of.

In the diagram you'll notice a number of dashed lines. Think of the long vertical line as being behind you, like a wall that both hips touch at setup. The short horizontal line in each diagram runs through the "knees" of the diagrams and is always at the same height. Don't obsess over being perfect; just try to minimize the up-and-down movement as you "swing" back and through. These lines run through line diagrams showing your setup from the front and your rear leg and hip from the side.

Microsquats for righthandersStep 1: Set up normally. I didn't show the upper body in these diagrams because the movement is simple and it just junked things up. It always strikes me as funny that people go nuts trying to get their arms and shoulders on a specific plane... when their legs make every swing differently. After doing microsquats for a while, your consistency and accuracy should improve considerably because your lower body will keep you more stable.

Step 2: Make your backswing. Turn your shoulders as far as you comfortably can, but your main swing thought here is to keep that rear knee steady. You don't want it to move backwards or sideways or up or down. And if you do this properly, you will probably feel as if you are squating straight down. The reason is because your rear hip will move backward (as I have indicated in the drawing), which means your upper leg will tilt rearward, which means your body will drop down ever-so-slightly... and you will feel that as a squat. But your rear knee shouldn't feel like it moves at all.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Wait a minute. I don't want to move down on my backswing!" First of all it's very slight; if it wasn't for the tension in your hip joint, you wouldn't realize it was happening. Secondly, a little careful thought will convince you that your rear knee has to move backward just a fraction, so you probably stay very level. But let me ask you this: So what if you did? We all go nuts trying to hit down on the ball; this very slight movement would actually help you do that without even trying. The point here is that you don't want to straighten your rear knee, and this is a good visual to help you keep it flexed. You're squating, ok? Your front knee is going to feel like it's bending even more as you go back, and that will help you keep that "squat" feel in your mind.

Step 3: Now comes the fun part. As difficult as it may be for you to keep that rear knee flexed on the way back, this part won't be too hard at all. You're going to keep that squat all the way through to your finish!

How do you do that? When you start unwinding your shoulders, the only way to keep those knees bent is to roll your feet toward your front side. Again, I can hear you protesting, "But I need to start my downswing with my lower body, not my upper body!" Listen carefully: It is physiologically impossible NOT to start your downswing with your lower body! Or, to put it another way, if you get your shoulders turning toward the ball, your lower body had to start the turn. Part of the reason we get in trouble is that we try to do things that happen naturally and automatically, and by doing so we interfere with the natural action and make it hard. Trust me on this one.

When you start swinging through, your weight will "shift" automatically. Your "weight" doesn't actually move; your body stays pretty much centered between your feet. What you feel are pressure changes as different muscles try to keep your body centered during the swing. With your knees remaining bent, you should stay level and centered all the way through your swing to your finish.

As you do this, your front hip will begin to move backward, just as your rear hip did on the backswing. However, your hips are going to pivot much more on the followthrough, and your front hip can only move backward so far; so your rear hip will move toward the ball and then finish with your stomach facing the hole.

After a few attempts, you'll find this to be a very simple move. You'll feel a squat on the way back, and you'll feel level on the way through. You can do this move in your house where it's warm, then do it outside with a club when the weather improves. It's a drill you can actually use during a round. If you desire, it will ultimately become an integral part of your swing.

Later on, I'll show you how to use this drill to help other aspects of your swing. But this should really help you develop some trust in your swing.

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