Proper Muscle Activation

Understanding how to properly activate muscles is critical for producing effortless power and speed. This video shows you exactly what proper muscle activation is for the golf swing.

  • Allow yourself to feel how much energy is needed to move the lead arm to the top of the swing
  • Try and remain as tension free as possible within the arms and shoulders

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Eric
I really like your low hands feature. When I do it right I get tremendous power and perfect flight. I hit a number of these shots per rounds. Then there are the good misses and some awful shots. I am trying to figure that out since I have the same swing thoughts. A friend of mine thinks it is tension,,hands, arms and shoulders. I had preset been working on minimizing muscle tension with the new low hands. I went to the range today and I relaxed my arms at address. I few like I am getting to a very good top of the backswing position. How important is it to have relaxed arms at address (not sure if this is something that just works on the range and not the course).
November 14, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Eric. Control over tension is very important. If you aren't relaxed enough you won't be able to sequence and engage muscles in the correct firing order. I would say the overwhelming majority of players have too much tension and are working too hard in their swing. Think like cracking a whip. You want the whip to crack with speed. The more you relax the better you can get the snap.
November 15, 2020
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Jesse
I notice that when Chuck is speaking during the backswing, he is able to talk without straining while he is talking. When I try to tighten my core, I cannot speak without straining. Can you tell me if I am trying to use my core too much? Thanks!
March 30, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Jesse. Core is engaged and working. You will feel some constriction in the lungs. But, not to the point of death, or can barely speak. Engaged, not death squeeze.
March 30, 2020
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Jesse
Ok, thanks Craig.
March 31, 2020
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James
Patrick, your latest review was helpful, especially leading me to this video. A history of contact sports and weightlifting has trained me to perhaps put too much effort into feeling the muscles activate. It’s seemingly much more subtle in the golf swing. Now admittedly I am disappointed that I failed the setup portion for the second time. But I feel that your comments were more centered on my takeaway and backswing as opposed to setup per se. I am fine with that. But I don’t want to keep submitting videos for setup, if that is the case. I followed the checkpoints that were given, and I passed those. It is frustrating to be failed for things that were not included in the checkpoints. I am trying to follow the process as prescribed. In other words, I working solely on setup, but my takeaway and backswing are what got me the fail for setup. Thank you for your VERY helpful comments nevertheless. I see that I am overdoing things such as keeping right arm straight for too long (that was Chuck’s advice in some of the videos, but I understand that it is exaggerated for those who may not be doing it enough). I am moving on from setup and will begin working on takeaway as you suggested. Am I off base in any of this? Again, let me reiterate that I am immensely thankful for your thorough review.
July 31, 2019
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Patrick (Certified RST Instructor)
Hi James, one of the reasons the club lifts so much during the takeaway is due to tension at set up. When you get into a golf posture and let your hands hang freely in front of you, they will basically be right in front of your zipper. Look for the back of your left hand to be in line with the inside of your left leg at setup. When you relax the arms, your brain can focus more on weight to create momentum for the club to move into the takeaway. Focus on the Takeaway overview video. Focus on weight shift and rotation (rt. shoulder glides behind head). Do this without a club and check in front of the mirror. Thanks
July 31, 2019
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James
Thanks, that makes sense. I agree. However it bothers me that your review did not address anything concerning my down the line footage. What is the point of recording and submitting it, if there is no comment or helpful instruction on it?
July 31, 2019
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Patrick (Certified RST Instructor)
Hi James, while we always encourage both views to be submitted, it is sometimes best to describe a swing change from one view. In your last review, the face on view provided the best angle to describe having too much arm elevation for example. Thanks
July 31, 2019
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Ryan
To help with tension, I have heard multiple times that the JumboMax grips, the one's Bryson Dechambeau uses would help with tension in the wrists. Any thoughts? http://www.jumbomax.com/set-of-13-tour-series-grips-black-with-silver-trim/
March 19, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Ryan. This can go one of two ways. You decrease grip pressure, but sometimes can limit wrist set and tends to give you more wrist roll. When I increased my grip size it did help with some tension, but I noticed a lack of club set.
March 19, 2019
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Matt
This is just a thought, but for someone like (a very visual learner) it would be awesome if there was a 3D model that had muscles displayed semi-transparently and a view of the skeletal structure so we could view what occurs in an "ideal swing." Possibly even coloring or highlighting which muscles are activating at what time during the swing. This may exist somewhere and I just haven't stumbled across it, but I know it would be a tremendous help for someone like me.
November 5, 2015
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ira
Can you tell me what the role of the right arm is in the down swing. I could not find a discussion of this in the video. In the release video you mention "use the right arm to increase speed". But how do I do that without ``trail side" push. When I use my right hard to increase speed it leads to early release. Thanks Ira
September 3, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Ira. Take a look at the Golf Swing Release Drill and the Throw the Ball Drill.
September 3, 2015
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Dan
Hi Chuck, I am certainly enjoying the RTS Videos. I have already started to hit the ball effortlessly much farther off the tee and with my irons. Is there a drill to work on just gently activating the proper muscles in the swing? I seem to get stuck on my back leg because I think I am waiting to activate the rear glute to strongly on the backswing. Also, I still tend to turn the dump truck into a corvette when starting down with my swing and I slightly block the ball. I feel like my forearms, wrists etc. do not quite release all the way. It's like a partial release that never fully completes. I would appreciate your input. (I play left handed) Dan
August 12, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Dan. I would incorporate the RST Tempo Drill and the Re-Shaping Your Swing for Lag to your routine. The tempo drill will help with a smoother and better shift than racing the dump truck. And, the Re-Shaping will help you allow for gravity, pull and weight shift to create more of a natural flow to impact versus overly activating muscles that are unnecessary.
August 12, 2015
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Dan
Thanks Craig, your comments are very much appreciated as well as the quick response. I will begin the drills immediately.
August 12, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
No problem Dan. Get to work. Any question along the way feel free to ask!
August 12, 2015
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Francis
Chuck, this is me, so my question should I be swinging my club or should the club move naturally from shifting my weight from right to left? I think I try to wing and I don't shift my weight correctly. unfortunately, I don't have a camera and don't belong to a club so practice time is minimal. after all these years with rotary swing you would think i'd understand but, none the less, I am lost! I know you can't help without seeing my swing, but I feel as though my arms are leading. what do you think?
April 16, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Fran. You need to use weight shift, pull and gravity. If you take a look at the Frisbee Drill in the Weight Transfer Section. You will see using the lead arm and weight shift are a natural move (shift and pull). Also, the Re-Shaping Your Swing for Lag in the Introduction Section you can learn more about the gravity aspect.
April 16, 2015
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Francis
Thank you.
April 17, 2015
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Kirk
For the lack of finding a better place to post this question, I'll ask it here. In your experience with the bio-mechanic part of this system, what do you suspect would be the primary cause of hurting the shoulders in an incorrect golf swing. I play right handed and the shoulder that gets hurt the most is primarily my right, but sometimes both. I haven't submitted a video as of yet and realize that would help the analysis, but wondered if this might be something you run into frequently.
January 22, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Kirk. Shoulder impingement is one of the leading causes of shoulder pain in the golf swing. Typically, for the right handed golfer it will be the left shoulder. The notion of pushing the left shoulder under the chin a stressing the left arm. However, it can happen in the right shoulder. I had surgery last year in my right dealing with the same issue. When the arms work across the body (horizontal) and not (vertical). They are working against their function. Take a look at Understanding Shoulder Elevation in the Backswing Section. Arms go up/down, not side to side.
January 23, 2015
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Kirk
Ok, I'll check that out Craig, thanks. It actually feels like the injury/strain happens through impact, not during my backswing.
January 23, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Kirk. Make sure you are releasing the club and not continuing to pull too hard with the lead arm. 5 Minutes to the Perfect Release in the Downswing Section.
January 23, 2015
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Matt
If I am coming excessively from the inside, does that mean I'm not using my right side enough?
October 23, 2014
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R.J. (Certified RST Instructor)
Depending on what part if your swing you're talking it about, it could be any number of things. If we saw your swing on tape, we could figure out what the issue is or if you describe your swing ailments in more details we can help you get them ironed out. R.J.
October 23, 2014
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Martin
I've sometime tried swinging with my torsoe only as I let the arms and hands just react to the motion of my upper body. Now of course the lower body is critical to the swing, but in trying to lose the emphasis on the arms during the swing, is the focus on the torsoe something that is a legitimate tactic? I'm just trying to find ways to quiet the arms and hands during the swing.
October 3, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Martin. The only problem is pulling the torso too much might get your hips spinning. The arms do have a job to do. You need to use pull and gravity to get the arms shallowing out and working in front. Use the LADD Video and the Stop Coming Over the Top Video in the Downswing Section.
October 3, 2014
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matt
This is a great video, and I recently "found" an effortless swing at the range the other day. I was swinging with less of my own forced effort, which let the club swing what appeared to be much more quickly. The sound of the ball off the face was very different. Then...I went to the course, and my body began to put too much effort back into things. Any thoughts on how to get over this hump? Also, I would love to see a swing speed radar, or trackman "evidence" of this with a student. I've heard to have less tension for a long time, but I never really did it because it didn't "feel" right, and I didn't really know how to move in that direction. Maybe if you showed some real world speed examples of people using effortless power vs. trying to hit the ball hard, this would have seeped in sooner; maybe not. Just thought I'd throw that idea out there.
September 29, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Matt. We are working to get some data from one of our previous lessons series to show effortless club head speed gain. When you get to the course, you are trying to force the ball into a location. I.E. Steering it. You need to trust in the swing. Let the ball get in the way. Don't force the body to put the ball somewhere. Allow the ball to get in the way and happen. On the range, you free wheel it. The course shouldn't be any different.
September 29, 2014
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lars
Hi Chuck, Great video again. Your way of teaching how to sequence a golf swing is wery professional After breaking a leg (fibula) July 1st, I am now back again with succés. May be the brain also needed a break (10 weeks) to digest all info. I am keeping my handicap of 10, and the goal now is to break the wall to single with help of RST Best regards Lars Ölander Sweden
September 28, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Thanks Lars. We would love to help you get that single digit! Take care of that leg.
September 28, 2014
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atilla
If you are in the rough or high grass area is the feeling be same or should I hold the club slightly tighter or loose, I just like to know the difference in feeling between swinging in regular fairway vs thick rough. Thanks
September 27, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Atilla. Your grip pressure will tend to increase to help control stability of the club through rough. If it gets too light, you might not get through.
September 27, 2014
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lee
Hi. After searching a long time for a solution to my casting problem ( I start my downswing casting down first which creates a very strange flat to vertical swing plane that result in an out to in swing) I finally found some something here that could solve my problem...but its going to be slow and painful the fact that I had been right side dominant for so many years! Using the left arm only to swing, I realized from the video I took of myself that the clubhead alignment on top was perfect and the tendency to cast.. (the sudden change in swing plane at the top from flat to vertical) was gone. I have a question to ask RST is that I find now that the irons i am using while swinging with my left arm alone felt a lot heavier. Does that mean that the club is too heavy? Should I change to a club that feels light swinging it with only the left arm?
September 26, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
You are just feeling the weight of the club. Now, that the right arm isn't helping support the swing. I can understand the weight placement. You don't need to change clubs. Once, you master and get the right back on. The heaviness will subside.
September 26, 2014
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jon
Effortless Power....or.... Power with Less Effort. love this vid, thank you!
September 25, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Thanks Jon. We do too!
September 26, 2014
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Hilmar
This is very good, but muscling through your swing, using arms & hands too much, can be caused by a picture in your mind saying 'this is a 4-Iron so I have to hit it at least 180 yards' and the number of mishits before reinforce that mental block causing the tension in your hands to compensate for another mishit... Any mental advice on this?
September 25, 2014
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jon
Use a 4-hybrid and swing easy
September 25, 2014
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Larry
Great video! Wonderful demo of how relaxed muscles allow for speed!
September 25, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Thanks Larry!
September 26, 2014
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Brian
After following this video and also the advice of not letting the right hand to be too dominant in the swing, I had the best round of golf for a long time.
September 25, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Awesome Brian! Thanks for the update!
September 26, 2014
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Pierre
I enjoy all your videos and the way you teach, I try to get relax but my body doesn't follow what I want to keep in mind. I squeeze the club grip when I start the downswing so it causes a lot of problems. Do you have a video explaining how to get "relax" or should I take pills for that?
September 20, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Pierre. We currently don't have any videos on how to "Relax", but good suggestion.
September 20, 2014
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william
Finally ! Now I can relax , let the club head release and see the ball move on out.
September 19, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello William. Make the swing easier and more efficient!
September 19, 2014
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Sisto
Another gem from 'The School of Chuck' ... awesome job fellas.
September 19, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Thanks Sisto! We will keep pumping out the hits!
September 19, 2014
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David
Awesome video, would be my biggest issue - getting the tension out of the swing makes everything flow so much easier.
September 19, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello David. Thanks! Are you really Adam Scott checking out this video?
September 19, 2014
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Nina
Great golf education! I am a LPGA teaching professional in Virginia. I have a huge amount of men students that are so tight with their hands and arms. Coming over the top, losing club head speed and effecting club face inconsistency! Getting them to relax the hands and arms and asking them to only feel that the target is 100 yards away when it is really 200 yards proves to them that it works. They end up hitting it further with less effort vs brute strength! Love your site! Keep it going! Picked up some great drills for students.
September 19, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Nina. Hitting it further with less effort is what we want! Glad you are enjoying the site. If you want to know more information for your students. You should look into getting RST Certified. Much more out there to help all golfers!
September 19, 2014
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Martin
Stunning video. Watching it a flashbulb went off in my head and I realised what a mistake I have been making over the years. I'd advise making this part of the basic program within the takeaway section since it is absolutely fundamental and the moment you start moving the club you need to know and apply this.
September 19, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Martin. Thanks! Don't worry. This will be included in the Introduction Section.
September 19, 2014
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Chiara
Great video Chuck's teachings are so clear and easy to understand and he has an answer for every doubt that rise in my mind about this game, and this for less than 20 euros a month! The value of premium membership is so much more than this! I'm recommending Rst to all my friends, the problem is that many of them speak little English, not enough to understand videos :-(
September 19, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Chiara. Thanks for the referrals and post!
September 19, 2014
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Lars
True! I have been practicing hard for 4 months now and lost 6 kgs of weight, for which I am grateful. But the progress in my long game came only recently along with the sensation of being soft and easy. Suddenly hitting 4 baskets of balls on the range doesn't exhaust me any longer. I am amazed how little it takes to make a good long shot after so much of power wasted (my friends had started to accuse me of triggering earthquakes). With this video at hand 4 months ago, I would most likely not fit in my new pants now, but play 5 strokes better.
September 18, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Lars. Thanks for the post. Good job with the weight loss. I'm glad to see we are not only helping the golf swing, but making you healthier! The golf swing should be effortless. Much easier to practice when your not exhausted after ten shots.
September 18, 2014
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jim
This muscle activation video may be the most important video you've done, at least for me. As I think back to my good ball striking rounds, I remember having the effortless sensation that Chuck talks about......very well presented, too, in language we can all understand. Thanks.
September 18, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Thanks Jim. Effortless is way more fun to swing!
September 18, 2014
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jeffrey
Chuck, Thank you for this video. You are a very good teacher. This lesson was so fundamental to having a good athletic swing, covering a concept applicable to the whole movement. So many destructive habits creep into my swing and this video addressed one of the them very well. Thanks.
September 18, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Thank you for the nice post about Chuck and this video Jeffrey. Good luck with your swing and beat those bad habits.
September 18, 2014
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Cory
I feel like this video was made just for me lol. Great explanation!
September 18, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Thanks for the post Cory. You and me both!
September 18, 2014
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Cory
It's SOOOO hard to stop though. I've been trying to shallow out my plane and attack angle. Coming down to see Chris in about a month. He'll get me straight.
September 18, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
After 5 minutes with Chris you are going to be like "it's that easy?". &*(0))(#!
September 18, 2014
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clay
regarding the Proper Muscle Activation video are the abs and gluts an exception to the soft feel Chuck describes?
September 18, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Clay. They will get engaged, but you don't want to overly stress them. Some like "the glutes" will feel more loaded.
September 18, 2014

With the Rotary Swing I talk a lot about the specific muscles you want to use in the golf swing and how it needs to feel and what exactly we need to move to produce a great golf swing. A lot of times people don't, they hear the term muscle activation, but they don't understand exactly what it means, and the truth is, it's incredibly simple, and most people overdo it.

                For instance, with the golf swing takeaway video, we're talking about pulling that right shoulder blade back and down and in, and pulling that right shoulder behind your head. A lot of people turn that into an exercise program. That's not what this is all about. You don't need to wrench that shoulder back. If you're sore or tired after doing that, you're doing something wrong. Muscle activation is much, much simpler than that. In fact, it needs to be much more relaxed in order to produce proper club head speed.

                Here's how simple muscle activation needs to be though of. Take your right arm or left arm, and hold it out in front of your body and hold it there. Right now, this shoulder is properly activated to hold your arm up here with no more tension or no less tension than it takes to hold your arm up here. Now if you had a dumbbell weight in here it would be much harder, or if you were trying to hold it here really tight, it would be much harder. But you needed to hold it up there as softly as you can, and still keep it from moving. That's activation, that's the proper activation level that we typically need in a golf swing.

                To feel in the swing, take your left arm and swing your left arm up to the top, and you can feel the proper activation that it would take to hold the club up here. It's a little bit high because the right arm's not on there. But what it's going to help you feel is how little the right arm needs to do to help hold this club up here. Now what we typically see is people go to the top of their swing and they get like this because they're trying to generate all this power, the arms get really over-activated, the shoulders get really over-activated, and we get this nasty over the top movement instead of just letting our left arm sit up here nice and soft. And if I didn't have the right arm on here, the club would drop down and swing a little too far from the inside, but it would do so very quickly because as my arms are soft and the wrists are soft, the club can then release very quickly.

                Your muscles need to be soft to allow the joints to move very quickly, especially in your wrists and your arms, they need to move very fast in the golf swing to produce clubhead speed. But they don't move fast by you putting a ton of muscular effort into it. By being soft, the muscles can actually fire faster and the joints can be more supple and move faster, and that's going to allow you to produce more speed, and that's all about properly activating muscles. So again, just hold your arm up here. It gets a little heave because we're doing it one arm only. Take your right arm up there and see how soft your right arm should be at the top. Just barely holding it, it's making the left arm's job easier by supporting it. It's not tight and mashing it up here, and I'm definitely not squeezing the club tight.

                I'm staying here in an activated motion where I could stay here all day, but I want to be soft. As I'm soft, the club can shallow out. If this shoulder's over-activated, you're going to go like this and you're going to start to come over the top. Your right shoulder needs to be very relaxed at the top in order for that club to naturally shallow out. If you see yourself coming over the top, you over-activated with the right, so take it out of it and just find the balance point of how little it needs to be there to help support the left arm. And that goes for every part of the swing. Muscle activation is very, very soft.

                When we talk about shifting weight, and maybe loading into this right leg a little bit, again not trying to do a lunge, it just needs to be activated. No different than holding your arm up here. So, as you start to understand muscle activation, what it really is, you'll start to pick up more effortless club head speed which is what we're all about, and you'll find that you can do it with much less power put into your swing, by learning to move fast rather than trying to move very aggressively. All you have to do, just take your arm, hold it up here, keep it nice and relaxed, that's the same amount of tension that you should have in most parts of your body during the swing, and that's properly activating your muscles. 

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