Many golf coaches emphasise the importance of developing a large separation or angle between the 'hips' and 'shoulders' during the swing - meaning the shoulders rotate a lot further than the hips do. This angle between the pelvis and shoudlers/trunk is formed by two virtual lines through the pelvis and trunk (see diagram below). Maximising pelvis and trunk separation (called the 'X-Factor Angle' and we are not talking about the TV talent show here either!) during the backswing, has been associated with longer driving distances. McLean (1992) was the first to describe this event termed 'X-Factor Angle', after analysing a group of tour professionals. McLean (1992) found a positive relationship between X-Factor Angle and golf driving distance the larger the angle, the further one could hit the ball.
It has also been found that skilled players would increase their X-Factor Angle early in the downswing, due to the pelvis rotating towards the target before the trunk; this is often referred to as 'leading with the hips' by golf professionals. Results have indicated that skilled golfers (handicap less than zero) increased their X-Factor Angle significantly more than a group of novice golfers (handicap greater than 15) early in the downswing, meaning they rotated the torso well in the upswing, then led from the hips before bringing the torso and shoulders around with the downswing. (from golfmedicine.com.au)
So how do we increase this so called X-Factor Angle to hit the ball further?
Well you should of course practice your swing to get your technique right, and obtain the help of a golf coach but often the reason you don't naturally do the right thing with your swing is because of physical limitations within your body.
If your spine, hips and shoulders are not flexible enough, no matter how hard you try, you simply will not be able to rotate the shoulders away from the hips enough to create this X-Factor Angle. If your core stability and strength through the abdominal and pelvic muscles isn't good enough, then you will have no chance of being able to control the pelvic rotation or leading with the pelvis. The abdominal and pelvic muscles are the key to the power behind the swing as well.
Pilates is a fantastic way to work on all of these things it increases the flexibility of the spine, shoulders and hips, and improves your core strength and control so that you can get the most out of your golf.
Studies have also found that poor spinal flexibility and core strength lead to common golfing injuries such as lower back pain, shoulder pain and elbow and even wrist pain so Pilates can not only help to improve your golf, it can also help prevent injuries too.
Any Pilates exercise which stretches the spine and shoulders or works the gluteals, abdominals, shoulders and arms will be beneficial. If you don't currently use Pilates, book in to make an appointment to see one of your profesisonal instrcutors now.
If you are already going to a Pilates studio, or are a Pilates instructor, incorporate some of these exercises into your program as they will be particularly helpful:
Mermaid, Spiral, Hamstring, hip flexor, Lat and Pec stretches
All Abdominal work, in particular Pendulum, Criss Cross and Double Leg lift
All buttock exercises
Mermaid Stretch and Lat Stretch
Any abdominal exercises, but particularly:
Short Box series Rollback plus Rotation
Sides over the Box
All arm and shoulder exercises
All buttock exercises, particularly Standing Sidesplits plus Rotation
Side Torso Twist
Side Arm series with or without an Oblique Twist (go over the correct pattern of pelvic rotation first, then the body follows like in the downswing).
Twist around the World/Rollback series
Kneeling or Standing Side stretch