Golf: Reducing Tension (part 2)

The first part of this series talked about converting muscle tension to static or dynamic tension. Try the exercise below to feel the difference.

First, grab a golf club and grip it the way you normally do. Use just enough pressure to keep it from slipping out of your hands. Now, squeeze the grip as hard as you can. You should feel your shoulders, arms and wrists tightening up as your muscles start to contract.

Next, loosen your grip. Keeping your arms relaxed, bend over from the waist and let the club hang down from your hands and arms. Pressure on the grip along with the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders allow you to hold on to the club in this manner. Static tension is created from gravity pulling the weight of the club downward. Elasticity of the arm muscles (like a rubber band) is offsetting the force of gravity, and that is what makes the arms feel like they are still relaxed. Admittedly, there is not much static tension in this example and it is only present when setting up to the ball, but what happens when the club is moving?

For this next exercise take a club and hold it in either hand. With your arm completely relaxed and just enough grip pressure to hold on to the club, start swinging it slowly back and forth. Go short distances at first, feeling the weight of the club. You should notice as you change direction, that there is not much pull from the club on your wrist. Now, increase the distance and swing the club somewhat faster. As you do this, you are going to experience two sensations. Since the inertia and centrifugal force of the clubhead are increasing, you are going to feel the weight of the club pulling on your arm. Additionally, those same physical properties are going to cause your wrist to hinge or bend as you change directions. This is called dynamic tension since it increases as you swing the club faster and faster. Ironically, the arm continues to feel relaxed even though the tension on it is increasing.

Ok, here’s where the fun begins. Grip the club with both hands and just enough pressure to hold on to it. Keep both arms totally relaxed. Start swinging the club back and forth as you did in the last exercise. That is, short distances at first and increasing the distance and speed as you go along. When swinging the club further and further back (or forward), the club is going to want to continue moving in the same direction and you are going to feel the weight of the club pulling on your wrists as you change direction. Let the weight of the club finish hinging your wrists for you. This is the feeling you want to achieve during the golf swing.

Actually, the club naturally pulls on your arms and wrists continually during the backswing. Dynamic tension is achieved by the fact that you are allowing the weight and centrifugal force of the club to pull on your relaxed arms. The arms and shoulders form a triangle. The pulling effect on two sides of the triangle (the arms) is what gives strength and stability to the triangle. Although the triangle formed by the arms and shoulders goes through some transitions during the golf swing, the dynamics are the same.

Reducing Tension Before Making a Golf Swing
Ideally, you want to eliminate or convert as much muscle tension as you can before making a golf swing. One way is to warm up with the exercises above. Another good exercise is to grab two clubs (one in each hand) and swing them back and forth. When doing this, try to keep them moving parallel to each other with your arms relaxed. In this way, you feel of the weight of the clubs and it prepares your arms to move at the same speed.

Muscle tension in the legs and feet can also affect your golf swing in an undesirable way. If they are tense when swinging the club, it will be difficult to turn properly (in either direction). Do some leg stretches during your warm up exercises to help relieve any tension in them.

Something you can do before addressing the ball is to stand with the club in your left hand and at your side, then release all the tension from head to toe. This takes but a few seconds, but pays big dividends during the golf swing. Also, you can get the feel of the grip at the same time. Take the time to learn what reduced muscle tension feels like and your swing will improve immensely.

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