In this article, I’m going to talk about an exercise modality and tools created by a company called GravityFit. I have been incorporating their techniques, combined with more traditional strength and conditioning movements, more and more often into my day-to-day training of golfers. The reason I’m using it more frequently is that I keep seeing golfers of all levels improve their awareness, movement quality and stability at a much faster rate than when I was using previous techniques, and the exercise modality and tools are now more accessible for the average club golfer than ever.
Essentially, the principle of GravityFit is that if we simulate and even ramp up the effect of gravity on our bodies, while aiming for perfect postural control and joint stability in our movements, then we can make our body extremely posturally strong and stable while dramatically reducing our risk of injury. In theory, this means having more control in our golf swing, too.
The science behind this working model of using gravity to make us stronger and more stable can get technical very quickly. From space research, we now know that we have a specialized “sensory-feedback” system related to gravity that can also influence the way we optimize the golf swing. Gravity sensory information is specifically related to how the sensation of gravity is picked up by receptors in joint structures and leads to an increase in tone or springiness of the muscles of the trunk working more statically to provide proximal stability or a firm and flexible anchor for whole body movement.
For those of you without formal qualifications in anatomy/physiology, what this essentially means is that we have a whole bunch of deep stabilizer muscles that are located close to the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle. They respond to gravity and/or a simulated gravity that comes from a closed-chain exercise (think of the squat, push up, or overhead press as examples). Gravity Fit proposes that we don’t get enough of this stimulus as increasingly sedentary beings, and that sports like golf don’t really help either. Golf is an open-chain movement and provides very little of the closed-chain compressive load to which those deep stabilizer muscles respond so well.
The Gravity Fit system of exercise progressively increases the sensory effect of gravity based on a standardized exercise model, and incorporates this science into an upright, whole body training program using custom-designed pieces of equipment. I’m going to show you one example using each piece of kit that addresses the different postural, stability, and movement quality needs in three different golfers.
Example 1: Using Audio Feedback to Train the Core
This example features a piece of equipment called the Core Awareness Belt. As you can see in the image below, this is a belt that circles the lumbar area with a pressure sensor in line with the belly button. The genius of this design is the sensor picks up small changes in abdominal pressure that are a dead giveaway as to whether you are using the muscles of you lumbar core effectively. Basically, when the lumbar core isn’t working properly, it pushes outward and the Telme Buzzer emits a beeping noise, giving instant feedback to both the user and the trainer.
What you can see here (as well as his very impressive golf tan) is that he is doing a pretty good job with this drill, but it took a fair bit of work to get him to this stage. At one point he was getting very frustrated with the buzzer noise going off almost continually until he started to master the activation in increasingly complex movements.
Example 2: Proving Kinesthetic Feedback to Train the Scapula and Upper Spine
This example features a piece of equipment called the TPro. It provides feedback to the upper spine and shoulder blades through touch. The pressure from the green spikes tell you if your spine is in the correct position and the paddles on the side give awareness of your shoulder blades.
In this example, we have a player who is a big unit: very strong and athletic. He has a tendency to lose his thoracic (upper back) curve and get a very straight spine (those thoracic extensors taking over), often losing control of his scapulae (shoulder blades), too. This is less than ideal for a player who is looking to match up his arm and body movements better in his swing.
The picture below shows our man doing a classic closed-chain exercise — the push up — using the Thoracic Pro and the Core Awareness Belt. The aim is to keep the spikes in the middle of the back-bow connected to the spine and the scapulae connected to the paddles, while also keeping the buzzer on the Core Awareness Belt nice and quiet. This brings in a whole new element of challenge and focus to an exercise that would otherwise be very easy for this player.
Example 3: Sorting Out a Grumpy Lower Back
This example actually features myself (I just about scrape into the category of being a golfer) and my low back giving me a bit of bother. Upping the amount of practice, lifting heavy and neglecting my posture at work had left me with a tight and sore low back that wasn’t really responding to self massage using a spiky ball or foam roller. I decided it was time to back off the lifts for a few days and start using the Gravity Cap twice a day. In the images below you can see me demonstrating the exercise combo I used, basically just standing, walking and knee lifts, which looks so simple… but there is some hidden magic in the application of the Gravity Cap
Essentially the Gravity Cap gives me the cue to stand tall, drawing the spine out of the pelvis, feeling as though I’m lengthening my spine. What is actually happening? The increased gravity stimulus delivered by the band pressure on the crown of the skull, combined with my feeling of standing tall, is firing up the gravity muscles (stabilizer) close to my spine. Having these muscles more active then allows the tight superficial movement muscles in the low back to calm down and let go of their death grip on my spine.
These three examples are just some of the ways in which it’s possible to use the Gravity Fit training tools and techniques to help golfers train their posture and quality of movement in the golf swing. To take a look at Gravity Fit’s stuff yourself click here.
If you would like to access training programs that incorporate GravityFit exercises and equipment, then check out the following products and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro: