One of the benefits of consistently dedicating yourself to improving your physical performance is the body awareness you earn through testing your nervous system every time you work out. The body is an amazing tool, and will adapt to the environments it finds itself. We have all experienced this in one way or another over the past few months during society’s adapting to the guidelines enforced from COVID-19 pandemic. In the world of sports performance, developing a high level of proprioception will certainly improve your ability to engrain a new movement pattern in your golf swing and it all starts in the gym.
An example of an exercise we use to help improve body awareness and coordination is Lateral High Knees through the Agility Ladder with a Ball Toss. The athlete must first master the ability to move side to side while bringing their knees to hip level and landing each foot in each square of the ladder accurately. We begin coaching this exercise by slowing it down and allowing the athlete to look where they place their feet. The next progression picks up the pace, but will still allow the athlete to see and anticipate where their feet are going to land. The eventual goal is to keep your eyes up, while knowing where your feet are going to land from reps and reps of practice. Adding the element and variability of tossing a tennis ball to the athlete as they make their way down the ladder takes it one step further and forces the athlete to have their attention on the ball while maintaining an awareness on the ladder.
The progression of golf skill happens much the same way. Once proper mechanics can be achieved the athlete must commit to them in slow motion, engraining the correct movement pattern without a result connected to it. Slowly adding speed to the movement will test whether it has been “saved” in the athlete’s hard drive, with the ultimate goal of being able to execute it naturally without much technical thought. Along the way the athlete would want to bring the newly learned pattern to a round of golf that may not have any more on the line than a few penalty strokes. If it can become trusted and consistently repeated in this low pressure environment, it is time to put it to the test in competition.
This process is critical to achieving a new motor pattern and mastering a new technique in the golf swing. If a step is skipped the process will not be successful and the risk of losing the changes being made is high. When considering learning a new movement pattern, “connecting the dots neurologically” is also a critical component and will be done more efficiently with the right efforts put forth in the gym.