What Golf Swing is Easiest on the Body?

September 28th, 2010 by John Graham Leave a reply »

For all of you that are unaware, I am at an AMF meeting today(Monday and tomorrow) in Dallas, Texas.  AMF is an organization of like minded golf professionals that will get together to share information on all subjects golf.  Each year, there is an AMF Instructor Division Summit that brings a bunch of us together in an effort to learn and share ideas about the golf swing and/or playing golf.  It’s a great place to network and learn some new information about teaching this great game.

Our first presentation was from Rod Cook and Dr. Troy Van Biezen  about the subject of “Injury Prevention/Performance Improvement.”  A nice presentation on some of the physical issues juniors are beginning to face and some steps they have taken to help prevent golf related injuries.  Dr. Van Biezen gave us some staggering quotes about numbers of doctor visits that were occurring each year related to golf.  Care to guess?  If you said 15 million, you are a brighter person than me.  15 million doctor visits related to pain created from the golf movement.

From all accounts, Dr. Van Biezen is a leader in the industry as confirmed by TPI founder Dave Phillips and many other golf professionals that use his services.  He is certified in a special category of soft tissue rehabilitation called A.R.T.  This stands for Active Release Therapy and we were recommended to find an A.R.T. doctor to join our team in working with our students.  There was a long discussion about information that was covered in the first TPI Golf Fitness Instructor seminar about physical problems and their impact on the golf swing and the likelihood of future injury.

One of the big areas Dr. Van Biezen mentioned that contributed to a great many injuries was the combination of reverse pivot in the backswing and reverse ‘C’ position in the follow through.  Very shortly after that because we all were golf professionals, some one noted that those things looked like what some had read about the Stack and Tilt swing.  Instantly, Dr Van Biezen became somewhat uncomfortable and asked Dave Phillips to respond to this area.  Dave was also quite reluctant to answer but rather reminded everyone exactly what the Stack and Tilt backswing should be like and that it wasn’t a target leaning spinal condition at the top of the backswing.  Rather, it is a spinal tilting to the golfers left side that is rotated.

Shortly after, Dr Van Biezen tells some stories from his time traveling with the PGA Tour Fitness van about how many players are getting treated week in and week out.  Some names get thrown around and some questions are asked along with some success stories.

I felt that this Dr Van Biezen seemed like a very bright and respected guy in the industry so I put my hand up to ask the question everyone wants to know the answer to.  I have a tendency to stir the pot a little and I thought I would give it a try.  It gets to my turn and I ask, “In your opinion, relative to injury prevention, is there a best anatomical/biomechanical way to swing a golf club that is the easiest on the body?”  “Is there a best way.”  Dr. Van Biezen says, “You’re going to make me say it aren’t you.”  I start to get excited.  No one ever answers that question. I had no idea what was going to happen next.  His answer……

Stack and Tilt!

The room shut down.  All the talk stopped.  Up till then, I could here little snickers about the system when they were talking about injury.  This was especially true when the subject of reverse pivot and reverse ‘C’ was being discussed.  During that talk Dr. Van Biezen mentioned that he had worked with some stack and tilters on there sore backs while he was treating players on tour.

He went on to say, assuming the player had no imbalances or weaknesses that stack and tilt presented the least amount of sheering forces in the spinal region when performed correctly.  Amazing as it sounded to many, it just made me laugh. I love when people that don’t research get slammed.  To me, and from second hand information, it seems pretty clear that TPI is in agreement with what Dr. Van Biezen was saying.  I hypothesize that this information will come out in a big way at the TPI World Fitness Summit but that’s just a guess.

Please feel free to ask any questions or leave comments on this post.  Hopefully, at some point, AMF will post the video of this presentation and all doubt will be cleared up about if what I am saying actually happened.  My guess is some of you won’t believe me but I promise you the information contained above is accurate.

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32 comments

  1. James R says:

    Surprise, surprise…

  2. Jeffery Passage says:

    John, very interesting post. While S&T is difficult for me to replicate (but will get there eventually), I can confirm that the backswing is NOT a reverse pivot and that the follow through is NOT a reverse C. That is, if you perform S&T correctly. So, take it from an Average Jeff who has immersed himself in this swing method.

  3. Andy Gordon says:

    Great blog as per usual JG. Very interesting to hear that so many in the room were perplexed by his answear.

    I am sure it will become a great talking point with many instructors. I am very interested in his referance to muscle imbalances or weaknesses. I believe any instruction has to made with the bodies capabilities in mind, irrelivent of swing stlye or method.
    Physical Screenings should be an important part of golf instruction.
    What do you think?

  4. Sam Quirke says:

    Great post JG, I’d have loved to have been there.

  5. Jason Sutton says:

    JG,
    thanks for the update. Look forward to hearing about the rest of it and have further discussions in more depth. Fact is, fitness is important, no matter what method you choose.
    Jason

  6. Just curious John, and as you know me you’ll know I’m not doubting what you said, but what do you have to say to Brian Manzella’s accounting of what happened? Brian is quoted as having posted this in his forum:

    “Here is EXACTLY what happened…

    The Chiropractor/Physical Therapist said he had seen a lot of S&T students on TOUR, and they all had back issues.

    Almost immediately, Dave Phillips of TPI jumped up out of the audience in a Kanye West moment, and “corrected” the expert saying that S&T was not a reverse pivot.

    The Chiropractor/Physical Therapist had said noting about WHAT the S&T pattern was, so why did Phillips jump up so fast?

    He is the head of the TPI Fitness Summit, and the S&Ters are presenting, and he was protecting his “ball sales.”

    So to speak.

    At the end of the talk, the Chiropractor/Physical Therapist was asked BY JOHN GRAHAM this:

    (paraphrased) “Technique aside, what method is the easiest on the back mechanically?”

    The Chiropractor/Physical Therapist said…..after deliberating for a long time, “S&T if done correctly.”

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.brianmanzella.com/forum/golfing-discussions/13999-anti-summit-manzella-symposium-topic-thread-6.html#post172795

  7. John Graham says:

    JG,
    thanks for the update. Look forward to hearing about the rest of it and have further discussions in more depth. Fact is, fitness is important, no matter what method you choose.
    Jason

    Jason,

    For sure. Fitness needs to be a part.

    JG

  8. John Graham says:

    Just curious John, and as you know me you’ll know I’m not doubting what you said, but what do you have to say to Brian Manzella’s accounting of what happened? Brian is quoted as having posted this in his forum:

    “Here is EXACTLY what happened…

    The Chiropractor/Physical Therapist said he had seen a lot of S&T students on TOUR, and they all had back issues.

    Almost immediately, Dave Phillips of TPI jumped up out of the audience in a Kanye West moment, and “corrected” the expert saying that S&T was not a reverse pivot.

    The Chiropractor/Physical Therapist had said noting about WHAT the S&T pattern was, so why did Phillips jump up so fast?

    He is the head of the TPI Fitness Summit, and the S&Ters are presenting, and he was protecting his “ball sales.”

    So to speak.

    At the end of the talk, the Chiropractor/Physical Therapist was asked BY JOHN GRAHAM this:

    (paraphrased) “Technique aside, what method is the easiest on the back mechanically?”

    The Chiropractor/Physical Therapist said…..after deliberating for a long time, “S&T if done correctly.”

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.brianmanzella.com/forum/golfing-discussions/13999-anti-summit-manzella-symposium-topic-thread-6.html#post172795

    Erik,

    Brian and I discussed our different views of the seminar face to face soon after my post hit the cyber world. If I remember correctly, we have a $100 wager on who’s account is more accurate. We mutually agreed to display the, hopefully unedited, video on a neutral web site location. This assumes we get access to the video. The best thing about Brian is his honesty and passion. Traits I share as well. I feel very confident in my depiction and I’m sure he feels equally confident in his.

    Dr Van Biezen mentioned he had worked with some SNTers backs as I mentioned in my post, not that “they all had back issues”. Dave Phillips did not jump up. In fact he was quite reluctant and even said so out loud. Something like, “thanks for passing that one on to me.(sarcasm)”

    I pride myself on being as accurate as I can be and I’m no advocate for any particular swing style. I am an advocate for facts.

  9. David Colly says:

    Hi John,

    Good article. Made me think and I decided to get the views if a couple of people. Sent a link to your article to Rob Neal and Greg Rose. Still waiting on Greg, but a colleague of Rob’s forwarded these thoughts below.
    Is Stack and Tilt the easiest technique for backs?
     
    I think the focus is wrong in this question. One size does not fit all! Different golfers have different strengths, weaknesses and flexibilities. We love to group them and classify them but this question needs to be asked of an individual golfer once we have screened them and know what their back behaves like.
     
    The “punter” thinks that back pain is back pain but there are 6 or seven pain producing structures at every level of the spine. Now is your pain disc, ligament, muscle imbalance, arthritis etc?
     
    In Pilates we might prescribe flexion or extension biased work depending on the client. Why would a golf swing be any different? One size does not fit all. Screen them all I say.
     
    Bill Mc
     
    Kind Regards,
     
    Mr Bill McTigue
    Principal Golf Physiotherapist

  10. John Graham says:

    Bill,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I would first clarify that no where in the above post is the back singled out as the topic of MY question. When Dr. Van Biezen answered the question, he stipulated that all else being equal and assuming no imbalance or weaknesses, Stack and Tilt would he the least stressful on the body. The assumption of passing the screening is built into the answer. He was clear to say that assuming they passed a screen and could do it, at that point, he would say Stack and Tilt.

    I agree that the each person has to be looked at individually and certain weaknesses would be exposed more harshly depending on the swing pattern chosen. This was just a hypothetical question.

    What happens to the golfer that passes all the screenings? Do we recommend a swing that will prevent injury the longest or something else? Surely, certain motions must be worse for the body than others in this scenario.

    JG

  11. Dan Lockhart says:

    My take on you and BManz’ bet. I was sitting right beside Dave Phillips and remember this “incident” fairly well.
    When the topic of “reverse C” came up and Dr. VB was describing it someone asked about S&T, he then redirected the question to Dave. Dave said something along the lines of (your going to throw that one at me? I’m not even presenting.) then Dr. VB proceeded and Dave stood up a few moments later and gave his Kanye impersonation and supported S&T in principal as you’ve mentioned. At some point in the preso Dr. VB said he’s seen “a few” of the S&T players in the van. As for his answer to your question, you’ve got it bang on. “if done correctly” was what I recall being stressed. Another reason why it may not be a good idea to pick up a book or magazine and learn it on your own. I wonder what he would say about Foley’s model, as I mentioned to you at lunch I thought one main difference that Sean points out is his more “posted” finish to relieve stress on the back.

  12. John Graham says:

    Dan,

    Thanks for your input. I feel myself getting $100 richer. So, that’s two people with one view of the presentation. I hope Brian see’s this post.

    JG

  13. John Graham says:

    Hello all,

    The video from this seminar is up on the AMF site but unfortunately it is password protected. I don’t know if it will ever become publicly available but if it does, I will post it here.

    JG

  14. birly-shirly says:

    Hi John – I’m sorry that I won’t be able to view the video, but I suppose that you have. How do you feel about your $100 exposure now?

  15. John Graham says:

    Birly,

    I feel fine. Who’s original depiction of the event do you think looks closest to Brian’s latest version?

    JG

  16. birly-shirly says:

    Hmm – the phrase “in violent agreement” springs to mind.

    When you and Brian spoke and made your bet, did he say then what he thought was wrong in your original post?

  17. John Graham says:

    Birly,

    If my memory serves me correctly, Brian felt that my post was not an accurate depiction of the atmosphere in the room. I think Brian feels that the World Golf Summit and Stack and Tilt’s presentation at the Summit somehow influenced Dave’s actions. I got the impression Dave was trying to help people understand the differences between SNT and reverse pivot and reverse “C” finish. I think Brian believes that Dave got up to counter the Dr’s talk about players he helped with pain and use SNT so to not upset the SNT crowd and hurt Summit attendance or Titleist ball sales.

    The original bet was linked to this topic and was made in jest by Brian. You know, one of those “I’ll bet ya $100 bucks if people saw this video, they would see the same thing.”

    I have no intention of enforcing a bet made under those circumstances, plus we never shook on it. =) I just wanted people to know that I believe my story is accurate on this point and all the other points and I’m sure Brian believes he’s accurate also.

    No problem from me having as many people view it as possible. I’m quite comfortable that my account is a fair representation of the events. I’ll be happy to alter it if people think otherwise.

    JG

  18. Errolgolf says:

    John,
    I was there as well. I think your depiction of the events is quite accurate. Dr VB is an expert when it relates to the spine, that is no doubt. I have only issue I have with his statement at the summit. I think it is unfair to lump the wide array of models together and compare them to something as specific as S&T. The mechanics of all the various models cover to wide a spectrum to make such a statement accurately. To do so is to say that all other models are dangerous for a players back relative to S&T.

  19. John Graham says:

    Errol,

    Thanks for the comment. I wish we could have met. Sounds like we will run into each other sooner rather than later.

    I think that is a fair concern.

    JG

  20. The S&T approach is picking up steam within the golf community. As a former golf professional, player, and doc, I can attest to the fact that the S&T system is sound from a biomechanical/anatomical standpoint, as well as based strictly on results. The positions of the body allow for maximum energy storage, conversion, and transfer throughout the golf swing, and it may be the best position for the spine of any golf swing approach being taught today.

  21. John Graham says:

    Dr Williams,

    Thanks for your comment.

    JG

  22. Kev Kaye says:

    Found this a few months late but I’m learning more and more about the S&T every day. I’m pretty shocked to say the least.

    It seems the swing is the “safest” however deficiencies in a players core strength can play a role, correct?

    …I’m off to do some sit-ups. Awesome post.

  23. Better late than never but I’m glad to have found this epic post. I think Brian is way off base about Dave and his alleged Kanye impression. There are plenty of great speakers from that event (the WGFS), why the cynicism?

    Then again, I’m a big TPI supporter so I guess I just want to sell golf balls for Titleist too

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG_6_Z4olOU

    Kevin: Hit those planks, too much lumbar flexion will keep you out of the select group that Dr. Van B stipulated needed to be present in order to put S&T over the top.

  24. Jerry Crowell, PGA says:

    The Mike Austin swing is both the most efficient in striking a ball with length and accuracy not to mention preventing injury to the spine, back, and ANY joints of the body.

  25. tom boers says:

    I could not more disagree with stack and tilt statement. I have worked with PGA tour professionals, college and amateur back problems now for 27 years.
    The lateral side bend component in the revearsed “c” as in every lateral side bend motion comming down from the top of swing is a major stress to the the spine. The key component to biomechanical sound swing mechanics is the proper flexed position at address and during swing. This means lumbar flexion at lower lumbar spine! This is were core strenght comes into play. SNT does not follow this concept.

  26. John Graham says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for providing your opinion. Have you discussed it with Dr Van Biezen? I’m also not clear on the picture you are trying to show with lumbar flexion. Could you please explain again.

    JG

  27. tom boers says:

    Bending forward is bending forward just like tying shoes. Just look how a 10 y old does it.there are no special rules for golf, proper bending starts at bottum spine (l5-S1 and moves proximal) The address position is a bend forward action! and needs to be maintained during swing. This gives a natural proper balance between concentric abs (TA) and eccentric erector spinals. The more muscle help out the economic the action will be. Any extension in the lumbar spine during the swing untill impact is increasing the abnormal load. Tom

  28. John Graham says:

    Tom,

    At the top of the backswing, isn’t the spine bent to the side more than it is bent forward? This where I am confused from your description.

    JG

  29. tom boers says:

    At the top of swing your spine is actuall a slight bit more bend than at address, By having weight on the left side and the body stays on top over the ball so to speak, there should not be an increase in side bending. SNT also honorsd this principle as does the “one plane” Hardy swing.
    This sets the 2 planers apart from the one planers. In a 2 plane swing you have to side bend! this is where I see a consistent finding in golfers and back pain.

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