Thursday, July 2, 2015

Explosiveness

As a college coach, I have the opportunity to be around a lot of excellent coaches from many sports. There is a synergy of information and positive energy in this environment. This week, I had the chance to listen in as a track coach was instructing a young runner on how to explode out of the starting position. What he had to say seemed odd, yet made complete sense.  He wanted the runner to push off with both feet at once to start, not just the back foot.  He told him that in order to explode off the starting line, power came from that push and drove the hips.  He also asked him to keep his head steady.


I stopped and asked him whether or not this was a new way to teach the start.  I was curious if they used to teach runners to push off with the back leg only.  He said they had, but now they understood that great sprinters pushed with both feet.  As I exercised, I imagined Bubba and Lexi, both powering their swings using the power from pushing off with both feet.  They drive off the ground and create power with the push, while simultaneously rotating their hips.  The only difference between how the track coach was teaching explosiveness and how many golfers get it is the hip rotation.

The point of the comparison is that golfers who are self-taught are innovative in the most natural ways. They learn by experimenting and their goals are individual. If Bubba's goal was power as a kid, he probably figured out how to get the most speed out of his skinny body and what he came up with was exploding off of both feet while turning.

Bubba Watson's hips face his target while powering his swing.

The advent of new equipment with bigger surfaces and sweet spots than we had in the 80’s and 90’s means that the swing can be less precise, especially in the early years of playing.  Self-taught players are figuring out how to create maximum power and they are doing it differently than many of the players who have lessons and direction as to how to swing.  Young players are pushing off of both feet and exploding through the ball with a dynamic move that involves both hip rotation and extension.  

Lexi Thompson's hips don't clear quite as well as Bubba's which makes it harder control the shaft of the club, but the athleticism and explosiveness of her swing is undeniable and fun to watch. 


If you are learning the game or taking instruction to improve your game, be wary of the teacher who wants you to slow your hips to sync your swing.  Your hips are your engine and your goal should be to get yourself balanced and on plane so you can keep up with the rev of the engine.  Slowing your hips down will take away your speed and power. Great athletes are playing the game of golf much as they would any sport and using the same movements to produce power.

If you have a young golfer at home, make sure you find an instructor who allows motion and athleticism. Many instructors work to reduce and control motion, but power is created with speed and explosiveness. As a player matures, he or she can learn to harness the power and hit fairways. It is really tough to teach speed and explosiveness to a player who has been taught a slower, controlled swing.


Also, simply getting on your toes at impact isn’t a good thing.  If you are on your toes because your hips haven’t cleared, you are there because you’ve run out of room to release the club.  This will cause you to flip the club and tip the shaft back at impact and lose both power and control.  Golf is a target game and in all target games, your hips face the target prior to or duing the motion of going to your target.  Remember, they are the engine and if they don’t face your target, they will be propelling you a different direction.  

Here are some more shots of players who've figured out how to get the most power possible out of their engine; their hips:

I love this shot of Stacy Lewis.  You can see the explosiveness and rotation of her hips right at the moment of impact.
Dustin Johnson, one of the longest hitter's on the PGA Tour is explosive with his hips, but uses rotation coupled with lateral motion instead of vertical motion.  Either way, your hips are your engine and create your speed.  
Charlie Beljan is one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour today.  Complete explosion off his feet.  If you are athletic, you can produce power with this move.  Control might suffer in the beginning, but as proven in Every Shot Counts, it is easier to be online with faster swing speeds.  If that seems like a funny idea to you, picture the need for a straight line across a blackboard.  Would you do it fast or slowly?
Rory McIlroy is very extended at impact and has used both the ground and rotation to create speed.


Finally, here is a nice video that backs up the idea of using athleticism and crossover motions to produce power. In this clip, Joseph Mayo teaches sequence of downswing, but his message is exactly the same. Use your legs and hips to explode and rotate to the target. I'm not sure why he says not to use your feet at the beginning, but his message otherwise is spot on. He has a clear understanding of power and speed, which are both reliant upon sequence and explosiveness.





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