The amount of joint mobility required to perform a golf swing is much more complex than the average golfer realizes. The foot and ankle joints, the entire spine, the elbow joints, the shoulder joints, and the hip joints are just a few of the major players in this game that requires a lot of mobility. Many golf-based therapies or training programs focus on gaining mobility in these joints to avoid injury and increase performance. The oftentimes overlooked x-factor in a golf swing is the ability to stabilize joints as well, with the proper sequence of muscle activation, which allows the golfer the mobility required to perform a good swing, while at the same time providing the all-important stability platform for the joints to avoid injury and explode off of to increase the speed and power of a swing. It is not as simple as "more mobility is good and more stability is bad" or vice versa. Think of the two as more of a "good cop/bad cop" routine; a regular Riggs and Murtaugh if you will (There will be lots of Lethal Weapon references in this one folks). Separate, the two have their faults and can't perform the job perfectly, but together the two get the job done; each keeping the other in check. The two forces need to be in balance. A lack of balance in mobility and stability in the hip joints can lead to not just hip pain in a golfer, but lower and mid back pain, knee pain, foot and ankle pain, and even shoulder pain!
Hip mobility is our all-important wild card; mobility is our Riggs! It allows us to get into a position to just go nuts on the ball! The further back I can rotate, the more distance I have to accelerate my swing towards the ball. With lacking mobility, the job can still get done, but not to the degree that most want. Speed and power could be lacking on the swing. Remember when Riggs gets the jumper to come down off the building by simply grabbing him and jumping off!? Man, that was crazy, but he got the job done that the others couldn't! Great hip mobility can get you places you couldn't get to before with your game! The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) recommends that a golfer have AT LEAST 45 degrees of internal and external rotation at the hip joints to avoid injury. Lack of hip mobility will cause a golfer to overcompensate elsewhere in the body to gain the mobility needed; like in the lower back causing the spinal facet joints to jam together and cause a painful facet syndrome like pain.
But TOO much mobility can also be a problem as well. Pushing a hip joint to it's limits or slightly beyond can lead to possible acute or chronic injuries like joint sprains, hip impingement syndromes, or labral injuries. Movement with reckless abandon can actually cause more harm than good! Just like when Riggs goes running after Mr. Joshua's car without looking for traffic and is hit by a taxi! Movement without control means nothing in the end. What we need is a partner in movement to reign in mobility when it gets out of control... we need Murtaugh!
In one scene, Murtaugh shoots a criminal in the leg instead of killing him as Riggs would have so that they are able to question him and get information. He provided control and stability to the moment. During a golf swing, stability plays just as important a role as mobility does in the hip joint. The golfer needs to start generating intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) during the backswing to provide internal support to the spinal joints, pelvis, and hip joints. This allows the hip flexors and lumbar erector musculature to stay more relaxed, which in turn allows for improved range of motion and muscle lengthening. As a muscle lengthens, its potential strength of contraction increases as well. Stability also keeps the golfer from pushing those joints TOO far into potentially dangerous or injury-causing ranges of motion.
On the downswing and during contact with the ball, core and pelvic stability via IAP and glute activation are the solid platforms that our muscles explode off of to generate speed and power; like a sprinter pushing off the starting blocks. If the blocks are anchored down well, the sprinter gets a better push-off and explodes to their run. If the blocks are NOT stable, instead of the runner moving forward faster, the blocks slide backward and the runner must then compensate with more energy to make up the lost power. Our spine and pelvis need to be the anchored down blocks, so our muscles (the runner) can push off of a stable platform.
But all stability with no mobility will not get the performance a golfer desires! It's playing it safe, not allowing our bodies to perform at their most ideal. It's Murtaugh standing at the bottom of the building waiting for the jumper to come down quietly on his own. While he's not making the problem worse, he's not getting the job done to the best of his ability either. He needs the loose cannon Riggs to stimulate the situation to get to the conclusion everyone wants. Stability needs mobility to push it out of it's comfort zone!
The Perfect Team
When stability and mobility work together in balance, you get a great team called control of movement and performance enhancement. Whether taking down the Shadow Company or hitting that 300-yard drive, the team of stability and mobility working together will always get the job done!