70% of All Amateur Golfers Do This. Do you? PART 1: TPI Trainer, SouthPark, NC 28211

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One of the most common Swing Characteristics that can negatively affect a golf swing is known as Early Extension. I have met and worked with hundreds of country club golfers over the last 13 years, and I can tell you with certainty, that nearly all of them do this. I have also found that even though some of them have heard the term Early Extension, very few truly understand what it means and why it happens. After reading these articles, I want you to have a clear understanding of what it is and why it happens. Let’s take a deep dive into Early Extension.

Early Extension: What Is It, Why Does It Happen?

Before we talk about Early Extension as it relates to the golf swing, I think it’s essential to know what the terms flexion and extension mean.

At the address position in golf, the hips should be flexed. In other words, they should have a bend to them.

That would look like this:

The bend, or flex in the hips is the same as you would see at the elbow joint, at the end of a biceps curl exercise.

The elbow on the right is flexed, and the elbow on the left is extended.

  • Flexion is a movement that causes the angle between the bones of a joint to decrease, such as when a person bends their elbow joint.
  • Extension refers to a movement that increases the angle between two body parts. Extension at the elbow straightens the arm.
    The same is true for this well-known Kettlebell exercise, “the swing“.  At the start of the exercise, the hips are flexed or hinged, and at the end, they are extended, or straight.

 

Flexed Hips                                 Extended Hips

 

So we want to start the golf swing with flexion at the hips.

What Is Early Extension?

So now you know the difference between hip flexion and hip extension. Every golfer’s hips extend during the golf swing. But you tend to stand up (extend your hips) too early, either on your way to the top of the backswing or in the transition sequence to impact.

**Early Extension occurs when the hips and spine of a golfer start to go into extension or straighten up too early in the backswing or on the downswing.

Early Extension: BACKSWING

It’s important to remember that Early Extension can happen in either the backswing or downswing. This article will focus solely on the backswing. If your hips move toward the ball on your way to the top of your backswing it is a loss of your dynamic posture. In other words, the original lines from your ear to your hip, to your knee to your ankle changed dramatically. If your hips move forward, your shoulders move up and instead of pointing down to the ball, they point more towards the horizon (flat).

Physical Causes of Early Extension in the Backswing

If you do not pass the following physical screens, any of them CAN cause you to Early Extend:

  • Cervical Rotation Test
  • Seated Trunk Rotation Test
  • Lat Length Test
  • Shoulder 90/90 Test
  • Pelvic Tilt Test
  • Torso Rotation Test
  • Single Leg Balance Test
  • Overhead Deep Squat Test
  • Lower Quarter Rotation Test
  • Bridge w/leg Extension Test

That’s 10 of the 15 screens. That’s why 70% of you have this problem. There are a lot of physical limitations that can cause Early Extension!

The upper body’s mobility requirements to stay in posture during the backswing are the following:

  • Cervical Rotation Test

To keep your head down and eyes on the ball, as your chest turns right, your neck turns left. So you need enough mobility in the cervical spine to turn your head left 70-90 degrees.

  • Seated Trunk Rotation Test

To turn your chest (thoracic spine), without any compensation, you need a minimum of 45 degrees of rotation.

  • Lat Length Test

To get width in your swing and lift your arms up without any compensation, you need a minimum of 70 + degrees of shoulder flexion. If you cannot do this, you will likely stand up (early extend) to get more width and height in your backswing.

**I have found that the Lat Test is the biggest predictor of Early Extension in the backswing because it is the only muscle in the body that connects your arms to your pelvis. So if this muscle is tight, as your arms lift UP, it will pull your pelvis DOWN, create arching of the lower back and your hips will go FORWARD.

  • Shoulder 90/90 Test

To set the club without standing up and having that elbow in front of your hips at impact, you need shoulder mobility in the 90/90 test.

If you can’t maintain the same angle you obtained in standing in your golf posture, you’ll likely just stand up. There it is again, Early Extension!

*Notice that the forearm is behind the ear standing upright, but in line with the ear when in golf posture.

  • Torso Rotation Test

The ability to separate the upper body from the lower body allows the golfer to maintain a stable posture and proper sequence of motion during the backswing. 

*In the backswing, the upper body leads and the lower body remains relatively stable until the lead arm is about parallel to the ground.

From a physical standpoint, a lack of disassociation (separation) of the thorax-to-pelvis separation is usually caused by reduced spinal mobility and shortened lat flexibility, and from a technical standpoint, is caused when a golfer takes the hands too deep, too soon. In other words, they bring their hands towards the trail hip before separation can occur. 

These are all the joints of the upper body that need to be mobile enough to maintain your posture and not Early Extend in the backswing. Remember, the chest and arms are moving as a unit to get into a good backswing position. If you have trouble with any of these tests, compensation will occur.

The lower body’s mobility requirements to stay in posture during the backswing are the following:

To maintain dynamic posture without standing up, you need to pass the Overhead Deep Squat Test.

  • Overhead Deep Squat Test

The OHDS Test is the #1 predictor of whether or not you will early extend. There is a 99% chance you will early extend if you struggle with the squat pattern. WHY you ask? This test looks for mobility at; the ankles, the knees, the hips, the thoracic spine in extension, and the shoulders in flexion. If you have mobility limitations anywhere from the ground to the hips it will influence how you set up to the ball. There’s a bit of a squat position at setup. Being able to maintain that squat position is critical for being able to maintain your posture throughout the swing. If you don’t maintain your squat position, you might stand up (early extend) in the backswing or the downswing.

*95% of the golfers I’ve tested in the last 13 years fail the OHDS test. How low can you go?

  • Lower Quarter Rotation Test

Pass    Fail Fail Fail

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test will identify whether or not you have enough rotational capability in your trail hip to sit back deep enough to stay behind the imaginary plane line behind you. If you have a mobility deficit in your trail leg in hip internal rotation, it’s going to be hard for you to rotate your upper body (coil) around your trail hip, you might just stand up.

The lower body’s stability requirements to stay in posture during the backswing are the following:

Finally, the ability to stabilize your lower body is directly proportional to gluteal strength. This is best tested with the Bridge with Leg Extension Test and Single Leg Balance Test

  • Bridge w/knee Extension Test

This test is looking to identify if you’re glutes are neurologically inhibited. In other words, can your brain use them to help you stabilize the pelvis and lower back during movement? Since the glutes are known as “the king of the swing“, having inhibited glutes can cause any body-swing connection, including early extension.

  • Single Leg Balance Test

The Single Leg Balance Test requires enough glute strength to maintain stability on a single leg (amongst other things). It may not be obvious to you, but if you are using the ground correctly, you should have approximately 80% of your downward pressure into the ground on the trail side when the lead arm reaches parallel. So you are pretty much standing on one leg. If you lack stability and balance, your brain just won’t let you go there.

Trail Hip Load

All of the above lower body mobility and stability requirements will allow you to load your trail hip and avoid early extension in the backswing.

https://www.mytpi.com/exercises#trail_hip_load_-_early_extension_backswing

The Best Golfers In The World Don’t Early Extend

The best golfers will not move any closer to or farther from the ball during the backswing, their trail-side hip will appear to sit deep into the line at the top.

To do that, they need a decent squat pattern and the ability to turn INTO the trail hip.

END OF PART 1