Archive for April, 2013

Functional movement is a term in the fitness world that frequently gets misused. Many people look at a full body exercise that mimics a movement similar to something they do in everyday life (such as a golf swing or chopping wood) and label that exercise as functional. Sometimes that exercise may be functional. However, a truly functional exercise is one which improves the function of joints either by making the joint more stable or mobile depending on the needs of those specific joints. By improving the functionality of joints, the body is allowed to work as a whole to transfer forces and create movement.

In order to create proper movement, some joints need to be stable such as the foot, knee, low back and elbow. On the other hand other joints need to be mobile; like the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder. Interestingly, the body follows an alternating pattern of stable and mobile joints. The feet are stable, the ankles are mobile, the knees are stable, the hips are mobile and so on…. This follows true up to the joints of the skull and down your arms to your fingers. However, because of things such as injury, lack of physical activity or the fear of falling, it is not uncommon for this alternating pattern of mobile and stable joints to become reversed. When this occurs, a person’s movement becomes dysfunctional thus forcing a person to compensate in order to create movement. For example, a person who develops very tight hips (a mobile joint) must then transfer mobility to the lower back and knees in order to move their body through space. As a result painful, injurious, inaccurate and powerless movement occurs.

Similar issues may occur with similar dysfunctions in different joints throughout the body. For example, let’s examine the effect of tight ankles on a golfer. A golfer with tight, dysfunctional ankles will run into numerous performance and orthopedic issues while playing golf. Since the golfer’s ankle is tight the mobility that is needed to be created through the ankle during the golf swing must now be transferred to the knees and low back. As a result, the golfer may lose their posture in their downswing causing the ball to fly in undesired directions away from the fairway and possibly towards a pond or the woods. Also, this same golfer may complain about sore knees or a sore low back at the end of playing 18 holes because the mobility they are supposed to create from their ankles may be transferring to their knees or low back where mobility is supposed to be limited.

Unfortunately these dysfunctional patterns cannot be fixed by simply swinging your club harder, more often or practicing things such as “getting your shoulders back.” If your body cannot properly create stability or mobility where it is supposed to, doing things like forcing “your shoulders back,” will only cause more compensation in other joints. As a result you may experience more pain, or a higher number on your score card after a day on the course. There is good news, you can restore joint function and subsequently fix your golf swing through either stretching or strengthening that joint. As a Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Instructor, I am happy to help you find and improve the dysfunctions in your body that are affecting your golf swing. It is up to you to get in the LEC and put forth the work!