• Dr. Brian Abelson DC |

The Golfer's Body #2 – Swing Phase Muscle Connection

Updated: Jun 22



In this edition of the "Golfer's Body" we will cover "The Swing Phase Muscle Connection". We will review the specific anatomical structures that are involved in each phase of a golf swing. With this knowledge, we can focus our treatments on removing the functional limitations that often have a substantial impact on both swing performance and injury prevention.

Note: This edition (part 2) is technical. Rather than simplifying or 'dumbing down' this section, I would rather give you what I consider to be key anatomical/Bio-mechanical information for improving a golf swing.

  • If you are NOT a clinician, feel free to jump over the technical aspects, or move onto Part 3.

  • If you ARE a clinician, then this information is well worth learning to help you in preventing or resolving your patient injuries and improving their golf performance.

MATCHING SWING PHASES TO ANATOMICAL STRUCTURES

Biomechanics 101

Electromyographic (EMG) analysis can often provides good data about muscle activation while performing any physical activity.

EMG analysis of a golf swing can help researchers identify exactly which muscles are being activated during each phase of a golf swing.

By combining this information with the Golf Pro's analysis of the Golfer's swing, we have a great starting point for figuring out which structures must be addressed to improve golf swing performance.

In the following sections of this article, we will show exactly which sets of anatomical structures are primarily activated for each phase of a golf swing. For the purposes of this edition we will focus on the anatomical structures activated by a right-handed golfer. (If you are treating a left-handed golfer, simply reverse the sides ).

5 PHASES OF A GOLF SWING

We will look at the following five phases of a Golf Swing:


  1. Phase 1: Address Position to Top of Backswing.

  2. Phase 2: Top of Backswing to Horizontal Club Position (Early Down Swing).

  3. Phase 3: Horizontal Club Position to Ball Impact (Late Down Swing).

  4. Phase 4: Ball Impact to Horizontal Club Position.

  5. Phase 5: Horizontal Club Position to Completion of Swing (Late follow through).

For the purposes of this article it is impractical to consider consider all the muscles of the body when analyzing each phase of the golf swing. Instead, we will therefore focus on just the primary structures that are involved.


PHASE 1: ADDRESS POSITION TO TOP OF BACKSWING

A golf swing begins with the golfer moving from the Address position to the top of the Backswing. To achieve the Backswing position, a right handed golfer must: (1,2,3,4,5,6,8)

  • Rotate the entire right shoulder girdle.

  • Take the right arm into external rotation, abduction, and flexion.

  • Take the left arm into internal rotation and flexion.

  • Retract the right scapulae and move the left scapulae into protraction.

The Backswing position prepares your body in a very similar manner to winding up a spring. This is how your body stores kinetic energy in preparation for a sudden release.


The following illustration shows you the primary muscles that are activated in this action (Address Position to Top of Backswing). Any restrictions in these structures will reduce the efficiency of the golf swing during this phase.

Specific Muscle Involvement

Specific actions of primary muscles involved in moving from Address to Backswing (1,2,3,4,5,6)

  1. Subscapularis (LUQ): The subscapularis muscles rotates the head of the humerus into internal rotation and adducts it. When the arm is raised, the subscapularis draws the humerus in an anterior and inferior direction.

  2. Upper Serratus Anterior (LUQ): The primary role of the serratus anterior muscle is to stabilize the scapula during elevation and to pull the scapula forward (scapular protraction).

  3. Upper Trapezius (RUQ): Elevates, upwardly rotates, and retracts the scapula. It extends the head and neck, laterally flexes the head and neck, and contra laterally rotates the head and neck.

  4. Middle Trapezius (RUQ): Retracts the scapulae.

  5. Semimembranosus (RLQ): The semimembranosus muscle assists in hip extension and knee flexion.

  6. Bicep Femoris - Long Head (RLQ): Both heads of the biceps femoris perform knee flexion. Since the long head of the biceps femoris originates in the pelvis, it is also involved in hip extension.

  7. Erector Spinae (L): The erector spinae functions to straighten the back (extend) and is involved in spinal rotation, and core stability.

  8. Abdominal Obliques (L):

  • The External Oblique muscle: Flexes the trunk, tilts the pelvis posteriorly, laterally flexes the trunk, and contra laterally rotates the trunk.

  • The Internal Oblique muscle: Flexes the trunk, tilts the pelvis posteriorly, laterally flexes the trunk, and ipsilaterally laterally rotates the trunk.

PHASE 2: EARLY DOWNSWING - TOP OF SWING TO HORIZONTAL CLUB POSITION

In Phase 2, the right handed golfer swings the golf club from the Back Swing position towards the ground. To achieve the Back-Swing to Horizontal Club Position, a right handed golfer must (1,3,4,5,6):

  • Begin with rotation of the pelvis to the left.

  • Then move the right hip into extension (primarily gluteus maximus).

  • Simultaneously, the right hamstring (biceps femoris) contracts to aid in transferring of body weight back over to the left side. This weight transference is assisted by the left vastus lateralis and the left adductor magnus.

Note: The right pectoralis major initiates internal shoulder rotation and flexion.

The right upper serratus anterior contracts to assist scapular protraction.

Specific Muscle Involvement

Most active muscles from Back-Swing to Horizontal Club Position (1,3,4,5,6):

  1. Rhomboids (ULQ): The rhomboid muscles are involved in retraction, elevation, and downward rotation of the scapulae.

  2. Middle Trapezius (ULQ): Retracts the scapulae.

  3. Pectoralis Major (URQ): The pectoralis major muscle acts to adduct and medially rotate the arm, flex the arm (clavicular fibers), extend the arm (sternocostal fibers), and protract the scapulae.

  4. Upper Serratus anterior (URQ): The serratus anterior muscle protracts and upwardly rotates the scapulae

  5. Vastus Lateralis (LLQ): The vastus lateralis extends the leg and thigh at the knee joint.

  6. Adductor Magnus (LLQ): The adductor magnus muscle adducts and extends the thigh at the hip joint. It also posteriorly tilts the pelvis at the hip joint.

  7. Gluteus Maximus (LRQ): The gluteus maximus extends and laterally rotates the thigh, abducts the thigh (upper fibers only), adducts the thigh (lower fibers only), tilts the pelvis posteriorly, and contralaterally rotates the pelvis.

  8. Biceps Femoris Long Head (LRQ): Long Head (RLQ): Both heads of the biceps femoris perform knee flexion. Since the long head of the biceps femoris originates in the pelvis it is also involved in hip extension.

3. HORIZONTAL CLUB POSITION TO BALL IMPACT - ACCELERATION PHASE

The acceleration phase of the golf swing is the continuation of the downswing to ball impact. This is the most active phase of the entire golf swing. To achieve Horizontal Club Position to Ball Impact, a right handed golfer must use the following structures: (1,3,4,6,7,8):

Note: There is a large increase in wrist flexor activation just before impact.

Specific Muscle Involvement

Most active muscles from Horizontal position to Ball Impact are: (1,3,4,6,7,8)

  1. Pectoralis Major (B/L): The Pectoralis Major muscle acts to adduct and medially rotate the arm, flex the arm (clavicular fibers), extend the arm (sternocostal fibers), and protract the scapulae.

  2. Upper Serratus Anterior (RUQ): The serratus anterior protracts and upwardly rotates the scapulae.

  3. Levator Scapulae (LUQ): The levator scapulae elevates and downwardly rotates the scapula, it also extends, laterally flexes, and ipsilaterally rotates the neck.

  4. Biceps Femoris (LLQ): Both heads of the biceps femoris perform knee flexion. Since the long head of the biceps femoris originates in the pelvis it is also involved in hip extension.

  5. Gluteus Maximus (LLQ): The gluteus maximus extends and laterally rotates the thigh, abducts the thigh (upper fibers only), adducts the thigh (lower fibers only), tilts the pelvis posteriorly, and contralaterally rotates the pelvis.

  6. Vastus Lateralis (LLQ): The vastus lateralis extends the leg and thigh at the knee joint.

  7. Abdominal Oblique (RLQ): The external oblique muscle: Flexes the trunk, tilts the pelvis posteriorly, laterally flexes the trunk, and contra laterally rotates the trunk. The internal oblique: Flexes the trunk, tilts the pelvis posteriorly, laterally flexes the trunk, and ipsilaterally laterally rotates the trunk.

  8. Gluteus Medius (RLQ): The gluteus medius abduct the thigh, extends the thigh (posterior fibers only), flexes the thigh (anterior fibers only), laterally rotates the thigh (posterior fibers), medially rotates the thigh (anterior fibers), tilts the pelvis both anterior and posterior, and contralaterally rotates the pelvis.

4. BALL IMPACT TO HORIZONTAL CLUB POSITION - EARLY FOLLOW THROUGH

This phase of the golf swing is where most injuries occur. Injuries can be due to increases in wrist flexor activation (flexor Burst) just before impact. Injury also occurs if the golfer hits the ground (or some other object) that create a sudden change from concentric to eccentric contraction of the wrist flexors.

To travel from Ball Impact to Horizontal Club Position a right handed golfer must (1,3,4,6,8):

  • Decelerate trunk rotation just after impact.

  • Continue to keep pectoralis major muscles active during this phase.

Note: The right subscapularis and the left infraspinatus are very active during ball impact to control left arm supination and right arm pronation.

Specific Muscle Involvement

The most active muscles from Ball Impact to Horizontal Club Position are: (1,3,4,6,8)

  1. Pectoralis Major (B/L): The pectoralis major muscle acts to adduct and medially rotate the arm, flex the arm (clavicular fibers), extend the arm (sternocostal fibers), and protract the scapulae.

  2. Subscapularis (R): The subscapularis muscles rotates the head of the humerus into internal rotation and adducts it. When the arm is raised the subscapularis, draws the humerus in an anterior and inferior direction.

  3. Infraspinatus (L): The infraspinatus muscle laterally rotates the arm.

  4. Biceps Femoris - Long Head (L): Long Head (RLQ): Both heads of the biceps femoris perform knee flexion. Since the long head of the biceps femoris originates in the pelvis it is also involved in hip extension.

  5. Vastus Lateralis (L): The vastus lateralis extends the leg and thigh at the knee joint.

  6. Gluteus Medius (R): The gluteus medius abduct the thigh, extends the thigh (posterior fibers only), flexes the thigh (anterior fibers only), laterally rotates the thigh (posterior fibers), medial rotator the thigh (anterior fibers), tilts the pelvis both anterior and posterior, and contralaterally rotates the pelvis.

  7. Abdominal Oblique (R): The external oblique muscle: Flexes the trunk, tilts the pelvis posteriorly, laterally flexes the trunk, and contra laterally rotates the trunk. The internal oblique: Flexes the trunk, tilts the pelvis posteriorly, laterally flexes the trunk, and ipsilaterally laterally rotates the trunk.

5. HORIZONTAL CLUB POSITION TO COMPLETION OF SWING - LATE FOLLOW THROUGH

An injury may occur in the shoulder rotator muscles, if there is a decrease in trunk rotation at this phase.

Many golfers try to compensate for lack of trunk rotation by excessively activating shoulder rotator muscles to maintain swing momentum.

This increased force on the shoulder can easily lead to injury. This is one of the reasons why golfers with back problems often develop shoulder injuries (1).

Specific Muscle Involvement

Most active muscles in Late Follow Through:

  1. Infraspinatus (L): The infraspinatus muscle laterally rotates the arm.

  2. Pectoralis Major (L): The pectoralis major muscle acts to adduct and medially rotate the arm, flex the arm (clavicular fibers), extend the arm (sternocostal fibers), and protract the scapulae.

  3. Subscapularis (R): The subscapularis muscles rotates the head of the humerus into internal rotation and adducts it. When the arm is raised the subscapularis, draws the humerus in an anterior and inferior direction.

  4. Serratus Anterior (R): The serratus anterior protracts and upwardly rotates the scapulae.

  5. Semimembranosus (L): The semimembranosus muscle assists in hip extension and knee flexion.

  6. Vastus Lateralis (L): The vastus lateralis extends the leg and thigh at the knee joint.

  7. Adductor Magnus (L): The adductor magnus muscle adducts and extends the thigh at the hip joint. It also posteriorly tilts the pelvis at the hip joint.

  8. Vastus Lateralis (R): The vastus lateralis extends the leg and thigh at the knee joint.

  9. Gluteus Medius (R): The gluteus medius abduct the thigh, extends the thigh (posterior fibers only), flexes the thigh (anterior fibers only), laterally rotates the thigh (posterior fibers), medial rotator the thigh (anterior fibers), tilts the pelvis both anterior and posterior, and contralaterally rotates the pelvis.




CONCLUSION THE SWING PHASE MUSCLE CONNECTION

In this part two of the"Golfing Body", we focused on bringing your attention to the primary muscles involved in performing each action of the golf swing. By taking the time to understand each aspect of the Golf Swing (from Address to Follow-Through) and the role played by each anatomical structure - in each phase - we are better able to:

  • Gather and analyze critical bio-mechanical information.

  • Identify which restrictions are causing decreased swing efficiency.

  • Get a better understanding of what structures we need to address in order to improve performance and reduce the risk of injuries.

In Part 3 of this blog, I will go over the strategies we use to release both soft-tissue and joint restrictions, and will give some other recommendations that you can use - for both yourself (if you are a golfer) and for your patients.


The Golfer's Body #1 - Powering Your Swing

The Golfer's Body #2 - Swing Phase Muscle Connection

The Golfer's Body #3 - Releasing Your Swing



REFERENCES

  1. A McHardy, H Pollard Muscle activity during the golf swing British Journal of Sports Medicine Volume 39, Issue 11 2005;39:799–804

  2. Barclay JK, McIlroy WE. Effect of skill level on muscle activity in neck and forearm muscles during the golf swing. In: Cochran A, ed. Science and golf: proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. London: E & FN Spon, 1990:49–53.

  3. Bradley JP, Tibone JE. Electromyographic analysis of muscle action about the shoulder. Clin Sports Med1991t;10:789–805.

  4. Cole MH, Grimshaw PN (2008) Electromyography of the trunk and abdominal muscles in golfers with and without low back pain. J Sci Med Sport 11(2):174–181

  5. Hosea TM, Gatt CJ, Galli NA, et al. Biomechanical analysis of the golfer’s back. In: Cochran A, ed. Science and golf: proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. London: E & FN Spon, 1990:43–8.

  6. Jobe FW, Moynes DR, Antonelli DJ. Rotator cuff function during a golf swing. Am J Sports Med1986;14:388–92.

  7. Marta S1, Silva L, Castro MA, Pezarat-Correia P, Cabri J. Electromyography variables during the golf swing: a literature review. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2012 Dec;22(6):803-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2012.04.002.

  8. Watkins RG, Uppal GS, Perry J, et al. Dynamic electromyographic analysis of trunk musculature in professional golfers. Am J Sports Med1996;24:535–8.

DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC.

Dr. Abelson believes in running an Evidence Based Practice (EBP). EBP's strive to adhere to the best research evidence available, while combining their clinical expertise with the specific values of each patient.

Dr. Abelson is the developer of Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems. His clinical practice in is located in Calgary, Alberta (Kinetic Health). He has recently authored his 10th publications which will be available later this year.

DISCLOSURE

Dr. Abelson is the owner of Kinetic Health, a partner in BKAT Motion Specific Release, and a partner in Rowan Tree Books.

#GolfMuscles #GolfSwingPerformance #GolfFascia #GolfPerformance #TheGolfSwing #BrianAbelson #golfanatomy #Calgary #Chiropractor #Golf #Therapy #MSR #motionspecificrelease

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