Enhancing Golf Performance with Orthotic Support
by Mark N. Charrette, DC
Research studies confirm the importance of postural balance to effective bio-mechanical results. In a study on the effects of orthotic intervention on balance and proprioception among experienced golfers, data suggested a relationship between exercise and changes in standing balance and proprioception. Custom-made functional orthotics positively influenced balance and proprioceptive symmetry and likely reduced the relative effects of fatigue associated with playing nine holes of simulated golf.1
In a second study, this one on the effects of orthotic intervention on club head velocity (CHV), results showed an approximate 3 to 5 mph increase in CHV, or a relative increase in CHV by up to 7% after experienced golfers wore custom-made functional orthotics daily for six weeks. The effects of fatigue associated with playing golf (relative to CHV) were eliminated, therefore improving the likelihood for more consistent golf performance.2
In addition to the research findings, the three steps discussed below will likely help most of your patients who use them. The key to the last sentence is “use them.” Without application, the best idea will never come to fruition. If you’re a golfer, I recommend that you try these techniques yourself. If you aren’t a golfer, try them out on one of your patients. If you do them exactly as I recommend, you’ll generate some excitement—and very likely some new patients.
Step 1: Stabilize the foundation
Stabilize and balance the foundation with custom-made functional orthotics. This will help both structurally and functionally. If there is a structural imbalance, the pulley system of the muscles will be adversely affected, and the muscles won’t be able to work as efficiently.
There is a direct correlation between the medial arch and the iliopsoas muscle, the lateral arch and the hip abductor (gluteus medius/minimus) muscles, and the transverse arch and the quadriceps/hamstring balance. All the muscles inserting into the pelvic bowl should be working to their optimal ability and be approximately equal in strength and function. You will find that when there is asymmetry in the pedal foundation, there is muscular imbalance as well. Custom-made functional orthotics were created not only to stabilize the bones of the foot, but also to enhance muscle function throughout the lower legs and spine.
Try these simple manual muscle tests:
- Perform a manual muscle tests of the iliopsoas, gluteus medius/minimus, and quadriceps/hamstring muscles before inserting the orthotics.
- Insert the orthotics into the patient’s shoes, then have the patient walk around the table.
- Re-test the above muscles. They will appear stronger, as they are now working more efficiently.
By stabilizing the pedal foundation, you will be creating better structural alignment and enhancing muscular function. The pelvis, though moving throughout the swing, must be stable and balanced.
Step 2: Strengthen the lumbar extensor muscles
The most important muscle group for low back stabilization is the extensor group. Studies clearly demonstrate that if you only strengthened one muscle group in the low back region, it should be the extensors.
Many golfers, like just about everyone else, have lumbar extensor muscles that are not as strong as they should be. Adding to this, the nature of their golf stance further stresses these muscles. The constant bent-over position creates a postural distortion, further weakening these muscles.
According to Weishaupt et al., when golfers who did not experience back pain were examined relative to isometric strength of trunk muscles, they showed highly significant stronger lumbar extensors, but also “muscular dysbalance in lateral flexors and rotators of the spine.” This finding supports the recommendation of specific physical training for well-balanced strengthening of muscle groups involved in the maintenance of spinal stability, including the lumbar extensor muscles and the muscles of the mid-back region.3
Simple surgical tubing stretching exercises will definitely strengthen the lumbar extensors. The protocol to start off with is three sets of six reps performed slowly, to benefit both the concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. The number of reps can be increased as the golfer gets stronger. The number of sets remains the same and can be alternated with the next key exercise.
Step 3: Strengthen the mid-back region
Just as with the lumbar extensor muscles, the mid-back region—especially the mid-trapezius, rhomboids, teres minor, and infraspinatus muscles—are notoriously weak. This is true for the general population and particularly for golfers (look at the stance posture).
Simple surgical tubing stretching exercise works wonders for stabilizing the mid and upper torso. The protocol for this is slightly different: three sets to fatigue at a fast but controlled pace. Again, these can be alternated with the above extensor exercises.
These exercises can be performed daily and can be done in five minutes or less. The cardinal rule is “no pain for maximum gain.” This is not an intense bodybuilding program—rather, it is designed to facilitate the nervous system to enhance muscular co-ordination to stabilize the golf swing.
As simple as this approach appears, it gets great results quickly. Most golfers will notice the difference immediately—and all will notice it within two weeks. What will they notice? A smoother, more controlled swing that produces greater distance with each club they use.
About the author
Dr. Mark N. Charrette is a 1980 summa cum laude graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. He is a world-renowned expert in extremity adjusting. Over the past 20 years Dr. Charrette has lectured extensively on spinal and extremity adjusting throughout the United States, Europe, the Far East, and Australia – performing over 1,000 seminars. Dr. Charrette is a featured speaker in Foot Levelers’ 2010 Seminar Series.
1Stude DE, Brink DK. Effects of nine holes of simulated golf and orthotic intervention on balance and proprioception in experienced golfers. J Manip Physiol Ther 1997; 20(9):590-601.
2 Stude DE, Gullickson J. Effects of orthotic intervention and nine holes of simulated golf on club-head velocity in experienced golfers. J Manip Physiol Ther 2000; 23(3):168-174.
3 Weishaupt P, Obermuller R, Hofmann A. Spine stabilizing muscles in golfers. Sportverletz Sportschaden 2000;14(2):55-58.