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Stretching... A few key points
by Dan Frost

Working on your swing with resistance bands can quickly produce results – not only do they enable you to train with the benefit of enhanced sensations as you rehearse the exercises but you also enjoy much greater freedom of movement when the band is then removed.

I'm going to show you a few relatively easy exercises that will greatly improve your positional awareness in the swing, the feeling of 'coil' as you turn and load your bigger muscles, and thus simplify the learning experience, adding a kinesthetic element to your development.

The beauty of these drills is that they can be rehearsed either at home, in the office or out on the range. In as little as 20 minutes you can design a valuable work-out and see immediate improvement. For those of you who feel up to the challenge, a few of these exercises lend themselves to hitting shots.

Learn to 'load'

You may have heard about the importance of 'coil' and 'resistance' in the swing. Well, this exercise quickly wakes you up to the dynamics involved as you turn and rotate your upper body against the resistance of a strong leg action to get 'loaded' at the top of the backswing. To get started, tie one end of the resistance band just above your left knee, knotting it in place, and wrap the other end around the upper part of your left arm. Adjust the band so that it is nicely taut when you then assume your set up position – get your left shoulder up a little as you create a good spine angle (above). A good posture pre-sets good motion: all you need to do is resist from the knee and stretch the band as you turn your left shoulder under your chin. You will feel a fantastic coiling up of the big muscles in your torso as you reach the top – hold it there for a few seconds to maximise the benefit of the exercise, then repeat.

Stay 'grounded'

Related to the 'load' exercise, this one is designed to improve the foundation of your swing – i.e. the quality of your leg action. It's simple: loop the resistance band just above the knees, and draw it tight enough so that when you are in the address position your leg muscles feel 'engaged'.

In a good posture (thigh muscles flexed) the key then is to keep your left foot grounded for as long as possible as you make your backswing.

As long as you keep that band in position, your legs will be encouraged to maintain a solid base to the swing (they are prevented from swaying about) and this enables you to turn and coil your upper body effectively over a resisting lower body action. At the top there should be more of an 'X'-like shape between your lower and upper body – one of the key ingredients to a powerful swing.

Compact, after Hogan

Ben Hogan was famous for rotating his forearms inwards as he set up to the ball, to the extent that his left elbow pointed at his left hip and his right elbow pointed at his right hip.

This distinctive position has been studied and copied by great players down the ages, and you can replicate it by looping a resistance band just above your elbows and tying it in place. This will encourage the arms/elbows to work in harmony with each other and with your body throughout the swing – as Hogan displayed to such devastating effect.

Getting the band in position at the setup can be quite tricky, and it might be a good idea to have a practice partner help you. Make sure that you rotate your forearms gently inwards as you settle into the address position, adjust the band until it's taut, then maintain that tension throughout your swing, checking your position back and through in a full-length mirror.

Not only will repeating this help you to develop a compact and reliable technique, but getting the arms working together will synchronise your arm and body motion so that those two components move at the same speed, which helps the arms to stay on plane. One final thought that can help you – when you rehearse this exercise, remind yourself 'left arm back, right arm through' as you make your swing – i.e. the left arm should be straight on the way back, the right arm should be straight on the way through.

Identify your 'inner circle'

The golf swing is most effective when the arms work in a simple circular motion around the body – the spokes spinning around the hub of the wheel, if you like. This drill instantly improves your awareness of your own golf swing's 'inner circle'.

As I have here , loop the resistance band around your belt buckle and then take up the slack with your left hand, fixing the band on the club as you take your left hand grip. The key is then to resist with your middle, your belt buckle, as you swing. This will encourage better width and a nice circular shape to your arm swing. Maintaining this width (and keeping the band taut) as you transfer from backswing to downswing and then on into the follow-through will massively improve the kinetic chain of movement in the body. Rehearse this drill correctly and you'll find that the body naturally wants to support the arms, helping you to rotate more strongly all the way through the swing.

Resist with your belt buckle to create this dynamic tension in the backswing, and then maintain that feel as you move down into the transition. Note the stability in the lower body as the momentum is reversed. The body rerotates towards the target, the arms fall into a good hitting position. Width is maintained all the way through impact and into the through-swing, the arms extending to the target.

No more 'flying right elbow'

Good players control the shape and structure of their backswing with the position of the right arm/elbow. One of the big problems many amateurs struggle with is what's known as a 'flying right elbow', which occurs when the right arm fails to set correctly, the angle at the elbow is lost and the forearm flails all over the place. This drill trains the right arm to fold away correctly in the backswing so that the angle of the forearm does not exceed the spine angle. Attach the resistance band just above your left knee and loop the other end around your right arm at the elbow. Initially, I'd suggest starting out with comfortable one-armed swings to isolate the feeling of the right arm folding and setting correctly. After a few minutes apply your left hand to the grip and replicate that same feeling.

Clear the left hip

I'm sure you've heard the phrase 'clear the left hip'. It's easy to say but can be quite difficult to feel or put in to practise – hence the beauty of this exercise. Tie the resistance band through a belt buckle on your left hip and position the other end under your left hand grip. Then rehearse small swings or hit half shots with your focus on clearing the left hip so that the band is taut through the impact area and beyond.

How will this help your swing? Learning to clear the left hip will not only give you more space and freedom to swing through, it will also improve the quality of your leg action through the impact area, helping you drive more power into the back of the ball.

Backswing check: the plane truth

The backswing is usually the most difficult position to get right in the swing as we are looking at the ball and our arms are behind us. Without a mirror you can't see whether you are on plane, but with the help of a resistance band you can at least learn to feel the correct position. Wrap the band around the centre of your left foot and place the other end under your left hand grip.

In the backswing you are looking for the band to brush the inside of your right thigh and your arms will work in front of the chest. You will instantly know if you have got this wrong as the band will either have no contact with the thigh, indicating that you have a steep arm plane, (below left) or will wrap over the leg creating a flat arm plane (below right).

Stronger ball striking

Golf is a game of opposites – yet few of us have the confidence to trust in that knowledge when it comes to the impact position. To make the ball go up, your job is to strike down, and you have to learn to trust it.

Trying to help the ball into the air is one of the most damaging faults in golf – and one this final exercise is designed to correct. Wrap one end of the band around your right foot and take up the slack as you secure the other end beneath your left hand grip.

The key then is to repeat simple half-swings, ensuring that the shaft leans forward at impact (similar to driving a hockey shot along the ground). Notice here that my left arm and the clubshaft form a straight line immediately after impact (not before!).

The more often you rehearse this and enjoy the sensation of being in a strong position post-impact the better your ball striking will become. You will enjoy exerting more pressure on the ball, the transfer of energy will be more efficient and you will hit the ball straighter and further.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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