How Much Shoulder Elevation

It's time to help you decide how to power your golf swing. And it all starts with how you use your arms in the golf swing going back. In this video, I go in depth on how the amount that the arms move vertically during the backswing directly impacts how you will be able to and should power your downswing, no matter how you swing the golf club. Check out the video now because the consequences of using leverage or rotation improperly can be disastrous!

  • Shoulder elevation (arm height) is a variable, not a fundamental in the golf swing
  • Raising the arms so the elbow is at the base of the pectoral muscle is ideal for most golfers
  • Golfers using the body very aggressively should keep the arms lower to keep them from getting stuck
  • In an aggressive swing, imagine swinging the club with the weight of the body, like a sledgehammer
  • Golfers protecting the body from stress by using it more passively should get higher arms for leverage & potential energy, harnessing gravity in the downswing
  • In a passive swing, imagine swinging the club like a hammer, with wrist snap for speed through impact
  • Drill with an impact bag to see the difference & choose the right elevation for your swing

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Bradley
Assuming I have a proper set-up and assuming I want to achieve above average arm elevation in order to maximize leverage, should my hands move in a straight line back from their position in my set-up parallel to the target line in the initial phase of my take away (rather than moving in and further away from the target line)? Is it ever appropriate for my hands to move away from my body in the take away? Does the answer vary depending on the club (e.g., a driver is swung on a flatter plane than a wedge)?
June 1, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello. Yes. It would be a little closer to straight back. If the hands start moving away (pushing away) you will get disconnected early and need a recovery move at somepoint in the swing. Most players that do this stop rotating their shoulders.
June 2, 2020
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Todd
Guys, when I focus on REF concept solely, ( I purchased the Connect ) I can get a nice compact arm set up compared to when I'm not thinking about it alone and focusing on set up, tempo, etc...When I'm not focused on REF completely, I've noticed that my forearms get a tad wider and the right elbow flares out a bit at the top. How critical is it that I keep my forearms close? Also, this compact position should be from set up until release, no?
March 14, 2020
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Todd. The trail arm needs to shy away from flying away because the connection is vital for power/rotation. Take a look at the 3 Functions of the Right Arm Video. Yes, the spacing shouldn't change much at all. If the trail arm is flying you simply are using them more than you think. For added info on the fly take a look at 2. Overview: Fix Overswing/Across-the-Line Swing Video.
March 14, 2020
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Kevin
I need to work on my right arm depth - see picture but also read about width and extension in the back swing. I tend to get stuck and flip with my current move...curious on your thoughts on where to focus
April 3, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Kevin. If you get your arms more in front instead of behind your trail shoulder you will have more width. Getting deep tends to force you to make a manipulative move in the downswing to get the club squared up. Take a look at the 4 Square Drill and 3 Functions of the Right Arm.
April 3, 2019
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arthur john
From Arthur John. Reference my last. I now have more time to hit the ball. This is great
June 8, 2017
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Great. Let's keep it going!
June 8, 2017
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arthur john
Great video. I was worried that I could not get my hands high enough. Also for the first TIME I noticed the distance the hands/right elbow from body. I also noticed when going to hit hard and using power from legs I tended to trap the club behind me. Now I can swing at different paces to hit ball without missing 30%. Thank you. Arthur john
June 8, 2017
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Arthur J. Glad you found the video helpful.
June 8, 2017
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Kevin
Can more shoulder elevation happen earlier in the takeaway? I find if my hands are only at belt height in the takeaway in order to get into a high hands position it feels like I am bringing my arms straight up in the air to complete my backswing. I am simply looking for a smoother backswing and am wondering instead of what feels like a shallow takeaway followed by a steep backswing if I could simply add more shoulder elevation initially without messing other things up in my "loading" fase.
August 25, 2016
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Kevin. If you start to elevate too early in the takeaway it could lead to a lifty or more disconnected move. You want rotation to be the central element. Feeling the body rotate horizontally and the arms moving vertical is the proper feeling. To help with the blend. Take a look at the Winter Series Program Backswing Video.
August 25, 2016
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Paul
Hi Craig, can I just confirm the body rotates horizontally to the ground, not diagonally around your spine angle. Thanks.
May 1, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Paul. Take a look at Golf Backswing Shoulder Plane Drill. It might change your thinking. You rotate around the spine. My reference in the post earlier was more thinking about left and right and up and down with regards to horizontal and vertical.
May 1, 2019
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Paul
During my backswing I have been trying to rotate my shoulders right and up, with no shoulder elevation. When I rotate my body, more left and right, I am still maintaining my spine angle. So just to clarify, I should not be trying to rotate my shoulders up or down. They do move up and down naturally because of my spine angle. Thanks.
May 1, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Paul. Yes. I think you are on the right track now.
May 1, 2019
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Paul
Wow, thanks craig. Only taken me 35 years. Maybe I will be able to master stance width in the next 35. Lol.
May 1, 2019
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Paul. Woah woah woah. Let's not get ahead of ourselves .
May 1, 2019
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Paul
Hahaha
May 1, 2019
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James
Will should elevation affect the degree of should turn?
July 25, 2016
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello James. Adding proper elevation should help with a little more shoulder turn.
July 25, 2016
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Jukka
Is this same like "old vs new school" swing? In "old" swing you have deep lag and much faster roll release threw impact and you use more your wrists than your body. ( Phil Mickhelson, Fred couples, Davis love) In "new" modern swing you square club face earlier and hands are rolling slower threw impact and you use more your body rotation. ( Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Chuck Quinton)
January 1, 2016
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Jukka. Sorta. The RST Swing you use more of your arms/hands to square the club face without relying on hard body rotation to do it for you (Quinton, Jason Day, McIlrory). The older model swing would be to hold the hands and the club face allowing bigger rotation to square it (McDowell, Mahan, Z Johnson).
January 1, 2016
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Jukka
Thanks for answer! I undesrstand what you mean. I actually was thinking this "old swing" like Sam Snead or Bobby Jones and more wrist snap release. Hogan is "old" too and more hold and body rotation. RST is "new" and blending this both. Or maybe i am just blending all swings methods You can think it so manyways...
January 1, 2016
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gary
Any drills for slamming on the brakes other than the impact bag which will be the 1st drill I use? What is the feel I'm looking for on the start down because I'm trying to get on my left side 1st and the club never catches up unless I feel like i'm throwing it which leads to poor contact
November 28, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Gary. Slamming on the brakes or stalling out the body? If they are one in the same. The impact bag is your best bet. However, also take a look at the Increase Swing Speed By Hip Deceleration and Belt Buckle Drill.
November 29, 2015
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Robert
I have a body type question as it relates to the golf swing and arm elevation. I'm ~6'4" with very long legs, narrow hips and a short torso. I'm what you'd call lanky . Similarly, my arms are almost comically long. I've been considering adopting a lower backswing (not Kuchar low or anything) but low. My reasoning is as follows. When I transition, my core and hips get square real quick. Being narrow, they don't have a long way go. Conversely, my monkey arms can get stuck in a heartbeat if I don't let them drop. Overall I feel like I'm more prone to being stuck due to my body type. Does that make mechanical sense? Would a lower set of hands help assuage being stuck as I work on the sequence, considering my body type?
September 24, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Rob. I wouldn't want you to give up the tremendous leverage you can create with your body. We have lots of students with your frame/build. Without seeing your swing it would be hard to say lower should be acceptable. I actually think flatter might make you a bit more stuck than keeping the body more passive on the downswing.
September 25, 2015
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Robert
10/4 Craig. No band-aids. I'll submit for review
September 26, 2015
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Ryan
In my most recent swing review, I was told that I have too much shoulder elevation at the top of the backswing. My only question with this is, if I do not elevate my shoulders as much as I am now, then my club does not get onto the proper elbow plane during the backswing. As I understand it, drawing a line from the hosel to the bottom of the elbow is the proper plane for the swing. As the club goes back, the elbow should pretty much follow that line. Could you maybe clarify this a little for me so that I understand maybe what I should be looking for as I analyze my swing plane and shoulder elevation? Thanks for the help.
September 9, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Ryan. Take a look at Proper Swing Plane Video to understand more the elbow plane line. Also, if you follow the 3 Functions of the Right Arm you should match that line without having to add too much elevation.
September 9, 2015
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Ryan
Ok I have watched both of those videos and I am still unsure on shoulder elevation. When I analyze my swing on video I am constantly looking to try and basically keep my elbow following the line that runs from the hosel and to the back of the elbow. This allows club will be parallel to that "proper swing plane" until right at impact where the club lines back up on that plane line. As I look at my swing on video I feel that my elbow many times will fall below the line because of my hands rolling to much to the inside after the takeaway portion of the backswing. However, in the swing analysis I am told I have too much shoulder elevation at the top. I get what the right arm should be doing, however in order to keep my elbow going up the correct plane, I feel that I have to get some pretty high elevation to in order to stay on plane so I am just a bit confused still about the concept after watching all videos on the takeaway and backswing several times each. Thanks again for the help, I just want to make sure I am doing this portion right. Could height have any factor in this part of the swing? I am just under 6' 4", so would I need less shoulder elevation and be more "flat" than a person who is shorter? It's always kind of stretch to find a good position at set up because of my height and the length of the clubs.
September 9, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Mmm. Height can sometimes play an issue because elevation can still be relative. As in the Understanding Arm Elevation it can be a little variable. If you wouldn't mind. Email me on your next review. I would like to take a look before your instructor completes it before I give you the go ahead for somewhat flatter. Craig@rotaryswing.com.
September 9, 2015
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Ryan
Thanks so much. I have sent you an email with the video clip of my swing.
September 11, 2015
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Jukka
Hi! Interesting video. How the arms lenght effect this. If you have short arms are you getting less power from arm elevation than guy with long arms. I mean Fred, Davis Love, Mickhelson, Bubba have lot arm elevation and it looks that they have long arms also. If you have shorter arms you are not maybe getting so much benefit from arm elevation. Maybe 5 yards longer and always missing the fairway Off cource you can play how you want it.
April 7, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Jukka. Thanks for the post. Your swing is starting to look better. Keep the learning and good work up!
April 8, 2015
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Boris (Certified RST Instructor)
This video helped me out tremendously. Especially the idea that the height of your arm elevation determines the amount of body rotation that is involved. I have good flexibility but I have a big chest and long arms. I tried the swing with less shoulder elevation and an aggressive body rotation, and maybe that swing would have worked when I was 25, but I am well past that now. Before RST, I had tried a high hands swing, but I didn't have a template like RST. It was an classic old school swing where I was pushing off my right leg therefore getting my left hip well outside neutral joint alignment. Some of the RST moves I was doing back then, but as I said I didn't have RST model and I was guessing on much of it. This is a breakthrough for me because I can go back to a swing that I loved, but I don't have to get hurt. Thanks.
March 27, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Boris. Great. Can't wait to see the new improvements! We all want better swings, but also safer.
March 28, 2015
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David
In my last two video reviews Steven Maes has said I still need to get my hands higher up in my back swing (at the moment they are going to about my ear height. Every time I consciously elevate my right arm/elbow a bit higher to get them further, I don't feel as connected at the top or as powerful through the downswing and don't hit the ball as solid. My question is, if the arm movement at the start of the downswing is just mainly a free fall (while maintaining lag), as I sit into the left side and the real speed starts with the release/snap of the right arm/wrist in the release zone, why do we need to get our hands up to the top or above the head level? What is the real benefit of those few extra inches of height?
February 23, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello David. Try not to think of it as "get the hands above the head". But, the arms to the base of the pectorals. Extra height means extra leverage. It allows you to maximize more than just rotation for speed. Higher arms leads to good potential energy. It takes stress off the body to use rotation, leverage and width versus just rotation as your energy source.
February 23, 2015
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David
Thanks Craig. Yes, I do try to focus on getting my right elbow up to the base of my right pec muscle and my fore arm is vertical. When I do this in front of a mirror in my RST back swing position my hands are level with my right ear. To get my hands up level with the top of my head, my elbow (and humerus bone is horizontally straight out from my arm pit (way above base of pec). I am a normally proportioned 5' 8'' fifty-five year old so can't fathom how to get my hands higher without breaking the 'elbow/pec' guide?
February 23, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey David. If you have the arms at the base of the pectoral, no more than 90 degrees of trail arm flexion and maintain good external humeral rotation. I wouldn't worry too much. Although, not having seen your swing I do trust Steven's judgement. Make sure you are getting gradual wrist set and not getting to max set too quickly from the takeaway to the top. Also, take a look at the 5 Minutes to the Perfect Backswing Pitfalls Video in the Advanced Backswing Section. It will give you a good reference for elevation with your arms.
February 23, 2015
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Miguel
I rotate with the gradual elavation. I am hitting it well, just hard to elevate to the level that James recommended without fighting it.
February 6, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Train the trail arm first. See if you can reach the proper positioning. 3 Functions of the Right Arm in the Advanced Backswing Section.
February 6, 2015
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Miguel
Take makes sense now!!
February 6, 2015
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Miguel
Thanks!!
February 6, 2015
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Miguel
From my last lesson, it was recommended to add elevation. I know I need this, but I feel I am fighting the elevation. I stretch, workout ect, but I am 50. Any thoughts or exercises on this?
February 6, 2015
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Miguel. Make sure you aren't over doing it. Elevation isn't too high. From your notes age and flexibility shouldn't be an issue. Base of the pectoral is all we are looking for.
February 6, 2015
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Paul
Do you rotate and elevate at the same time? Or, do you rotate and then elevate?
December 27, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Paul. It will be more of a blended move than separate pieces.
December 27, 2014
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Paul
So, as you start to rotate, after about a foot or so you slowly start to elevate so that when you finish the rotate your elevate is finished? Am I thinking about this correctly?
December 27, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Yes, you are correct. You want the arms to stop adding elevation and other keys as you finish your rotation. You don't want the arms moving independently of you not rotating.
December 29, 2014
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Paul
Thanks Craig.
December 29, 2014
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Michael
Hi Craig this video leaves me with an either or decision, can use body or not, I have been following RST which up to now as been clear in the instruction. In fact older student and I fall into that category can only elevate the back swing as far as they can actually turn, lifting the hands higher moves my head which I am being encouraged not to do. I have spent years moving my body hard and that leaves me stuck or a hip spinner. Mike
September 8, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Michael. The issue is shoulder elevation is variable because of discrepancies of body type. If you can only rotate and elevate to a certain point there is no need to swing any further. The key is to keep everything in conjunction. Once you stop turning, the arms need to stop. Don't force the added movement. Stay in-sync. You will still be able to use the 3 keys for distance (leverage, width, rotation).
September 8, 2014
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Michael
I don't think How much shoulder elevation video does anything to help, in fact I found confusing as it leaves the student in no mans land. I think RST should be definite in its instruction.
September 6, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hello Michael. I am sorry you found the video to be confusing. Is there anything I can help with to clear things up?
September 6, 2014
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Kevin
If you trap the ball correctly ( delofted at -4 degrees/ clubface) as a reference point, and your posistioning throughout the swing is correct, what are a couple of things/ positions you can do/ be in to give yourself more ball elevation?
July 22, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
To get the ball up you need left hand angle control. Take a look at the Bonus Series-9 Days to Amazing Ball Striking-Day 5 High Trajectory. Learn a little more left hand control for higher flight.
July 22, 2014
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Kevin
OK, so in reference to the , " How Much Shoulder Elevation" video. We have shoulder elevation being taught as a variable, and acceptable within the RST swing. The variables are A) On the flatter end where we would use our hips, core, and shoulders more aggressively to square off the clubface and not get blocked, slices/ blices. And B) The leverage swing, where the hands are higher and we have time for gravity to help accelerate the arms and hands down. I have a few questions. 1) for the higher leverage RST swing: When we transition back toward the target with our lower body and the arms get pulled down; is this considered gravity? If not what is the sequence? 3rd. Again the higher arms/ leverage RST swing: would this swing fit more into the, " Increase Golf Swing Speed by Decelerating", video or can either swing fit into this video? Thanks.
June 27, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Yes, it is considered gravity and pulling from the left. As you start pulling with the left side and left oblique. Gravity and the pulling force will shallow out the lead arm and work it in front of the body. Decelerating will increase the speed with more of a arm release in the "higher swing". The more body release swing would make it difficult to want to decelerate and square up the club at the same time.
June 27, 2014
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Alejandro
Hi Craig, Kevin. Even if I appreciate RST in being flexible regarding one type of swing or the other, now I think they should make videos or change existing ones to reflect on one or the other. It seems that downswing thoughts change quite a bit in either case
May 10, 2015
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Kevin
Using the leverage-technique- golf swing. i have slammed on the brakes, i have cracked the whip (released the club head). 3 questions: 1) Does slamming on the brakes mean stopping the rotation, cracking the whip, and momentum finishing the swing? Or 2) is cracking the whip releasing the entire right side once i am at the delivery stage of the swing? or 3) Does my second question fit better into the, use the body more aggessively golf swing?
June 20, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Number one is correct. Rotation will decelerate, allow whip (club) to crack, and momentum will pull you to a full follow through. It's not about aggressively rotating the whole right side through the shot. More the firing of the right arm which is is your only link to the club to add torso rotational speed to the swing.
June 20, 2014
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don
Question, is too much shoulder glide when the shoulder (my right) comes out of the box? I find that if I elevate too much (which actually is the amount that is recommended - I have shoulder mobility issues) I start to shrug and then that shrugging really motivates a right side, over the top move as that shoulder is so unstable at the top. Would I want to stay in the box and stop elevation at that point even if that means what looks like a 3/4 swing? and in fact with this low elevation I don't need much flexion to fully rotate at top? thoughts?
June 19, 2014
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Craig (Certified RST Instructor)
Hey Don. You can overdo the shoulder elevation leading to the right shoulder wanting to disengage from the box. Its only from belt high to the base of your pecs. If you have flexibility and mobility issues. It would be better to stay in the box. Rather than worrying about getting enough shoulder elevation.
June 19, 2014
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Darryl
how does your build factor into how use your body during the swing
April 24, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
Some players with not have as much flexibility or range of motion and will not be able get a ton of elevation in their swings. If there is less elevation, you are going to have to use the body quite a bit more in transition. Some players that are tall and linky in the arms, will use more elevation which would allow them to use the body less in the downswing. These are just 2 of many examples per say.
April 25, 2014
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Leon
Does height and arm length play a part in deciding the best swing option? I am 5'7" with a 32 " shirt arm length.
April 19, 2014
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Chris (Certified RST Instructor)
It should not play much of a factor on your option. You may just need to take a good long look at your build and determine how you want to use the body during the move to help determine the best elevation point.
April 21, 2014

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