When it comes to the golf swing, there are two separate, but at the same time unified pieces of the rotational power puzzle:
The lower body and its relationship with the ground
The upper body and its ability to load and explode rotationally
A recent video was posted by 2 Time World Long Drive Champion, Joe Miller, check it out below:
Hitting a golf ball 380+ yards, off your knees… absolutely unbelievable.
This is by far one of the cooler things I have seen on the internet in some time.
However, I think we can learn a lot from this video, so much that I decided to write an entire blog on it… let’s do this!
First and foremost…
It is unbelievable how adaptable and versatile Joe’s movement abilities are that he can produce this much rotational power from a kneeling position.
It is another example showcasing how equipped our motor abilities are to learn new skills and solve problems!
Let’s break down what changes from a biomechanical lens with this swing.
Torque is equal to force * moment arm… and both of these things are decreased when we drop to our knees as he did in this video.
By being on his knees, he is seriously limiting the amount of ground reaction forces and lower body torque he can create.
Rotational power development moves from a holistic bodily process to an upper body emphasized movement when he swings from his knees. And because of this, the biggest takeaway, although it is by no means earth shattering…
*** Our upper bodies play a crucial role in rotational power development ***
The Three Pieces of the Rotational Power Puzzle
Ground reaction forces
Upper body rotational power
Connecting the two
Now, don’t even think about stepping up (or I suppose, I should say down) to the first tee and ripping a driver like this. The legs obviously do play a significant role in rotational power development.
Which leads me to the first piece of the rotational power puzzle, ground reaction forces (GRFs).
As we exert force into the ground, the ground pushes back on us at the exact same level. As we rotate in the golf swing, we appropriately blend vertical and horizontal forces in order to tap into torque, or rotational force.
The best golfers in the world, and the furthest hitters, exert the most amount of force into the environment, allowing them to transfer the most amount of force into the golf ball.
Check out this video of Kyle Berkshire, another long drive champion, and notice how far his lead foot jumps counter clockwise during his swing… this is due to exerting huge amounts of torque and rotational force into the ground.
Upper Body Rotational Power
The second piece of the rotational power puzzle is the upper body, and it’s ability to rotate, and more than that, rotate fast!
When we rotate, we create what is known as the X-Factor or (X-Factor Stretch depending on the timing). This is the amount of rotational separation you can obtain between your hips and your shoulders (therefore, essentially the amount of rotation you can create in your spine and torso).
In the golf swing, most elite golfers will create an X-Factor of 45 degrees+. At peak backswing, the hips will turn away from the target ~45 degrees and the shoulders will turn ~90 degrees… obviously this is very athlete dependent, everybody is different, but just to give you some rough numbers.
When we do this, we are loading specific rotational muscles, giving them the ability to snap and rotate our body powerfully.
Like a rubber band… pull it back and let it snap.
In regards to Joe’s video from above, this is the central way that he is producing elite rotational power from his knees.
Combining the Two
The final piece of the puzzle is bringing the two together to create the most efficient and powerful swing that we can.
In order to truly create upper body rotational power, we must use our lower body forces to create stability, thus giving the upper body a foundation to rotate on. This is the first connection.
Next, the two pieces must work together to achieve maximal efficiency in our kinetic chains. Lower body forces must initiate our movement, they are the leaders. The upper body, and everything else up the kinetic chain must sequentially follow the lower body in order to truly create a “whip-like’ effect.
Lastly, from a health perspective, efficiency is crucial for dispersing forces amongst our entire body. By building these appropriate connections between our lower and upper bodies we not only will produce higher forces, but our body can absorb them more efficiently by dispersing them across our entire body, thereby limiting injury risks.
In many golfers with lower back pain, we will find that the upper back is more than likely compensating and absorbing too many of these forces created in the lower body. If we can teach the body how to disperse them more efficiently, we may be able to eliminate and reverse any sort of pain.
Don’t think for a second that these are the only things that matter to hitting bombs on the course, however, watching Joe’s video sparked me to look at the golf swing through this lens of upper and lower halves, working separately, yet together.
The big takeaway: Build upper body rotational power. Learn how to interact with the ground and produce lower body force. Bring the two together with an efficient golf swing and strong core.
Here’s a YouTube video of me discussing and showcasing some exercises we can use to build connections within our bodies:
And here is another showcasing some core stability exercises we can use to create a stronger core, and build bridges between our lower and upper bodies:
Here’s five moves you can use to develop that X-Factor we discussed above:
Here’s a discussion on plyometrics, and how we can use plyometrics to enhance our ability to produce GRFs and a powerful interaction with the ground:
Let’s go low!