Lower Body in the Golf Swing: Step into Some Speed
Online Golf Instruction By: Chuck Quinton, Master Instructor • FULL BIO •
In golf, as in any throwing motion, leverage is created from the ground.
Imagine for a moment that you are hovering on the moon. You can float around freely several feet off the ground.
Now try to throw a baseball as far as possible while you're floating.
You can imagine that your feet and legs would flail violently as you try to throw the ball forward. You would not be able to get a lot of speed into the throw. You might even feel powerless and inefficient.
The reason you would have very little power in this situation is that you have no leverage, which means you can't initiate the proper kinematic sequence, with movement starting from the ground and moving up.
(In case you were wondering, the kinematic sequence is a fancy way of saying, "the order in which parts of the body move.")
It's no different in golf, as the key to your swing speed lies in the correct kinematic sequence.
As is discussed with the swing model in the video, there's a specific order in which certain parts of your body must release in the golf swing to produce maximum speed at impact.
Most amateurs I watch simply spin their hips or sway with their lower body instead of correctly loading and unloading.
You can see how important loading properly is when you examine the downswing, which begins a cause-and-effect process to deliver the club to the ball with maximum velocity and consistency:
Kinematic Sequence in the Golf Swing
- Load Weight to Right Side
- Hips Shift Left and Begin to Unwind
- The Shoulders Start to Unwind
- Arms Fire
- Club Releases
The Step Drill (and Stomp Drill)
So the real question is, how do we get the correct sequence? Here's how...
Introducing the Step Drill.
Think of the Step Drill the same way you would when you throw a baseball. When you pitch a baseball there are several moves you would make without thinking:
- You begin by coiling.
- You start to step forward toward home plate, and your hips would start to open.
- The shoulders are pulled open by the hips. (They don't spin open on their own.)
- Then the arms would fire.
- Finally, you would throw the ball.
In many ways, the golf swing is just like a pitching motion. We are essentially throwing the club into the back of the ball.
The Step Drill described in detail in the video shows how you can actually take a step in the golf swing and mimic the baseball pitching kinematic sequence.
But we don't stop there!
To help you transition from the Step Drill to a regular swing, you'll also learn the Stomp Drill, which is already helping members improve...
So, the next time you are practicing, take out the impact bag and do the Step and Stomp Drills.
Forget about golf for a while and focus on a throwing motion. If you do, you will be amazed at the speed you can gain.
Checkpoints for Practice
- Sequencing is what builds effortless power in the golf swing
- The hips fire first in the downswing, and simply carry the arms, shoulders & club along at first
- As the hips decelerate, the shoulders speed up - momentum is passed from hips to shoulders to arms & finally the club
- We see some of the same movement and weight shift in a baseball throw
- Drill: Stride & stomp the left leg during the downswing
- Once you master the stride/stomp, just lift the left heel & stomp it down without taking a step
- Make the motion smaller and smaller to integrate it into your normal swing
- The stomping motion activates the left glute & gets you loaded properly onto the left side
Video Transcription: How the Lower Body Works
Chuck: We're here with Clay Ballard, our new RST Certified Instructor, who's taking over down here in Orlando for us and doing a great job and learning all the biomechanics of the swing. He's also going to help us today talk about the lower body movement.
I know for a lot of you golfers, we talk about hip spinners and those types of things that typically are geared more towards the better golfer, but that's obviously not everybody out there. We know we have a lot of golfers who still come over the top and don't really have a good picture of how the lower body works, so that's what we're going to talk about today.
We've built a little 2D model here. It's built kind of like Clay. Maybe we'll call him Clay, the stick figure to move here. Basically, it's an over-simplified 2D model from a top-down perspective. Like I say, it's over-simplified, but it's going to show the segments of the body, in proportion, how they work. They're color-coded for a reason.
The one piece that I have here at the bottom is green. This is the starting piece, and it's the smallest piece. The green piece represents the hips, and it's green for a reason. We're going to talk about that in a second.
The next piece, proportionately bigger than the green piece, is red, and it's red for a reason. That's the shoulders, or the upper torso. Then the yellow piece represents the left arm, and the blue piece represents the golf club.
They're color-coded for a reason. Clay, we see a lot of golfers moving these segments in the wrong sequence. We spend a lot of time talking about sequencing in the golf swing, and this is where people come over the top and they don't sequence things correctly.
They're color-coded like this for a reason. What do we typically see, the first part moving in the higher-handicap golfers?
Clay: With the higher-handicap golfers, they tend to go ahead and unwind their shoulders right off the bat. They throw their arms from the top and that gets the club releasing way too early. They're kind of throwing the club from the top, coming over the top, hitting a big slice, getting too steep on it; a lot of different problems that are caused with that.
Chuck: Yeah, exactly. This is why this is red. Especially if you're an over-the-top golfer, your first move is not to move your lower body, but to take your upper body and heave it around. Then of course you're getting the club to fire early, and your arms to fire early, so you lose a ton of lag and that's how you cast it.
We have the hips being green for a very specific reason. The hips can fire and, for most of you golfers who are higher-handicap golfers, we want that to happen. We need them to be focused on getting those hips to go first.
Obviously, a lot of the videos on the website deal with hip spinners, and that's really geared towards a lower-handicap player who hasn't learned how to post up and decelerate the hips. They just keep rotating through.
We know, through the online groups and the video submissions that many of you out there on the website are still over-the-top guys, casting the club and moving the segments in the wrong sequence. Sequencing is everything in the golf swing. That's how you build effortless power.
Let's look at this sequence, how it works in the golf swing. I'm going to go ahead and move Clay here up to the top of the backswing, and show you about where everything would be, roughly, in this sequence. Again, this is over-simplified. We don't have any angles. We're just trying to make it a really simple picture.
You can see, in this image, the hips have turned about 45 degrees. That's fine. The shoulders are about 90 degrees, maybe even a little bit more. The arm is loaded up across the chest, so it's across the red part here, and then the club is loaded up.
Now we have a lot of potential energy. When we started out, we had nothing. There's nothing to hit with. There's no angles, there's no leverage, right? But as we rotate back, now we have some rotational force, and we also have some levers here.
This guy right here is now potential energy. This guy is potential energy. As those two are working together, we've got to get these guys to work and release - let me tighten that up real quick - now, in this position, we have lots of lever and lots of force available to us.
The key is to unwind that force in the right sequence. That's the whole point of the downswing. We're loading it up to create potential energy. Now we've created these levers and now we need to unwind them in the right way.
As Clay mentioned earlier, the first thing we typically see is they take the red part. Red means stop. We don't want to fire that red part. We don't need this to just start unwinding early because then we're taking our trunk, our lower body, out of the swing. What it's going to do is then start to stabilize to support the upper body, to keep us from falling on our face.
Instead, we need the lower part to fire. In a minute, the next part of the video is we're going to show you exactly how to move that lower body in the right sequence, and some drills to do it.
Let's look at how it works here. As I start unwinding the green segment first - it's green because we want it to go - as it starts to unwind, notice how all of the segments are moving. What are the arms doing at this point?
Clay: Very little.
Chuck: Right. Most people do this, right from the top. They take these segments, they move them out in the wrong sequence.
If we move the hips, the arms are being moved by the lower body. We talk about that a lot. You hear sayings like, "I feel like my arms are falling from the top." "They're relatively passive from the top." When we talk about how the arms work in the downswing, again that's really geared towards a player whose lower-body movement is already working correctly, but that's not everybody.
We want to maintain these angles later in the downswing. For the average higher-handicap golfer, we need to maintain those angles as long as humanly possible, is what it's going to feel like.
Clay: Absolutely. There's something that we call the kinematic sequence of events, which is just the order in which you fire. If you do this very efficiently you're going to get maximum power. That's something that we see very few amateurs do, and a lot of the professionals do it very well. This is very key in getting the maximum amount of power into all your shots.
Chuck: Yup, exactly. That's what we want to do, is sequence all of these movements so that everything's delivered at the right point.
Now we're going to move the hip segment. I'm not moving anything else, but because they're attached via your muscles and tendons and ligaments, the rest of it's getting moved.
As the hips accelerate and then decelerate - because we don't want the hips to keep spinning; that's what we talk about with our higher-handicap players. They don't learn to decelerate the hips and they just keep moving, and then the club inevitably releases late. If we imagine impact is here, this club is going to release late. There's no release of energy here.
We want the hips to decelerate, and that's what we're going to talk about a lot in this next part of the video, is getting the hips to move correctly at first and then decelerate because we need to transmit that energy up the chain, eventually to the club.
As the hips begin to decelerate, the shoulders start to move a little bit faster. They accelerate a little bit, but not a ton. That's not something that you're consciously trying to do. We don't want to take our shoulders and move them through. We want our hips - once you stretch these muscles, they're going to get pulled around by your obliques and other muscles in your core. That's what we want.
Then the shoulders also are going to decelerate. The arm is going to then accelerate off the chest here. Then as it decelerates as well, the club head finally gets a chance to accelerate.
At impact, our segments roughly look like this. The hips are 30-45 degrees open, shoulders are pretty squared up, the left arm and club are forming a straight line, so we've taken all of those segments and unwound them. That's what we're trying to do to get the club head to release.
Proportionately, you can see that the club is quite a bit longer than my arm, in this place. Obviously, the reason for that is that the longer the club is, the faster it can be swung. The problem is - this is obviously a full release at this point - when everybody keeps unwinding their shoulders and then their arm is still draped across their chest, and the club is like this, that doesn't look like we've fully released our energy, right, Clay?
Clay: Yeah, exactly. It's still lagging behind. We usually end up hitting it very thin, or to the right.
Chuck: Yeah. This is what we see a lot of our better players do. They move their lower body really well, but they don't learn to decelerate the body so that the club can finally accelerate. When you look at the length of this lever, and you know that at the top you've got your wrists cocked this much, it has a long ways to travel in space.
If I grab the end of this club, it's got a long ways to go. If I just keep spinning my arms and pulling my arms as hard as I can, it's going to end up like this. That's what we deal with, with a lot of better players.
In this next part of the video, we're going to talk about how to get this in alignment, and these segments to release at the right angles and the right times so we generate a lot of speed without a lot of effort.
As we just talked about in the theoretical part of showing you the 2D model of our stick figure, Clay, going through the swing, now we're going to actually get some drills and put it into practice. Also, one of the things that's really going to help you is to relate golf to other sports.
While it's not identical to the sports that you may think of all the time like baseball, throwing motions, hitting motions - because they have different requirements - there are enough similarities that it's worth discussing.
One of those that's really, really simple, and that we use in the clinics - you've seen the video on the website - is the Throw the Ball Drill. One of the things you need to understand is that Throw the Ball Drill, where you feel like you're throwing it from the top, is for somebody who's already moving their lower body correctly.
For those of you that aren't, you can still take the idea of the exact sequencing that you would go through in throwing a ball, and understand how your lower body works and how those segments work, and relate it to the golf swing pretty accurately.
Clay, if you were going to load up to throw a ball, what would be the first thing that you would do? Just go right from the beginning. Not even going forward, but what would you do to throw a ball with some power?
Clay: The first thing I would do is probably transfer a little bit of weight to my back leg. I would be transferring my weight back and loading up so I would be braced to get some leverage and throw the ball.
Chuck: OK. That's a great thing. We hear that a lot.
What about guys who stack and tilt? They would throw a ball kind of like this. Have you ever seen a baseball player throw a ball like that from the outfield?
Clay: I can't say that I have.
Chuck: I haven't seen it yet either. I would like to, actually, but I don't think it would go very far.
The reason is, we need to load up the body in different segments. A lot of the keys of sequencing the golf swing correctly is really building momentum. It's not just building lots of power; getting things to move with momentum allows you to generate speed in the right sequence.
When we're moving big objects - your pelvis is a very big bone in your body, the biggest bone structure you have - it takes some effort to move that. It's pretty heavy, so it's going to take some momentum and some grace moving back and forth to help start generating some power.
As he mentioned, the first thing he's going to do is load up on this right leg. We do the same thing in the golf swing. This is another important concept that I want to briefly touch on because a lot of things, as I mentioned earlier, that I discuss on the website are really geared towards the better player who does a lot of things really accurately and just overdoes them.
We talk a lot about, during the takeaway, how the hips don't move. That's not really accurate. That's to help somebody who does this, that we see, and spins their hips. There's no power available to your golf swing if you're just doing this and you have no separation between your upper and lower body.
It's not that your hips don't move. It's that if you do this a lot, that's not really going to help you, so the club is going to go to the inside, and things like that. As Clay mentioned, he's going to load up. What he demonstrated was right. He's actually going to really rotate his hips, going back.
Again, if you're somebody that just rotates your hips really weakly, it's not going to do you any good. We want to load up onto that right glute, which is why we go back onto our right ankle and we pivot onto that right hip. Now we've got the ability to generate some momentum.
What's going to be your next step?
Clay: The next step, once I've shifted back, now I'm ready to start to move back forward. The first thing I'll do is start to shift my weight back to the left. I'll also almost squat down a little bit, to help build up some power.
The same thing if you're jumping; obviously I can't jump if I'm standing straight up and down. It's impossible to jump from this position - I'm already fully extended with my muscles.
Chuck: Yeah, exactly.
Chuck: I'd want to squat down and start to shift to the left. That way I would have potential energy.
Chuck: Yeah, and that squat is really important. What he's doing is he's activating his glutes. If you don't squat down, your glutes don't get stretched. If you don't stretch your glutes, you can't fire them. It's really simple like that.
As he's loading up into this right side, as he's pivoted around his right foot and he's loading up to push off that right leg, his body's going to go down a little bit so that he can stretch those glute muscles, which you have to do for power and stability in the swing. That's excellent.
The next thing he says, "Once I do this, I'm going to start to go the other way." It's a simple thing. You're not going to go like this, so his left leg is going to externally rotate just a little bit. He's going to point his foot at the target.
Clay: Just like we talked about in the model, the hips are going to start to unwind a little bit, but I'm going to keep my upper body kind of coiled and back behind my hips.
Chuck: Exactly. This part's not firing yet; this is still red. This is yellow; it's going to fire, but not until later. It's got a caution flag on it, but this has got the go-ahead. The first move is we would step and we would pivot.
Once we're on this left leg and our knee is lined up over our foot, we've got the ability to drive off this glute and post up so that then energy can be transferred. As our body receives force from the ground, we can transfer that to the arm.
One of the things that's really critical is that you've never seen a pitcher throw a ball and just keep going down. He posts up.
Clay: Yeah, exactly.
Chuck: When he's doing that, he's actually pushing against the ground. Clay, can you demonstrate what that would look like for us?
Clay: I start to throw, and then I'm posting up on my left side and that's bracing. It's actually decelerating, and that way I can transfer the energy as I come on through.
Chuck: Exactly. The reason that you don't just keep going this way is because you would be absorbing that energy. You're creating force, thanks to gravity. Gravity is wanting to pull you down, so you have to use the muscles in your body to decelerate your body to keep from falling on your face.
The harder you push against the ground, the harder the ground pushes against you. That's a great thing in the golf swing. It helps you transfer energy. As your body stiffens up to get ready to release everything, that's how you transfer energy. You can't be soft and languid and transfer any energy from the ground or from your body.
As you post up, the muscles have to fire in order to stiffen everything up so that then everything can release with speed. That's what Clay just demonstrated. He pushes against the ground with his left leg and his left glute. Then everything unwinds.
At that point, most of the sequencing has already been set in place. You don't have to worry so much about this stuff, once we get this stuff right.
We've got a couple of great drills that we're going to have you work through, and Clay is going to demonstrate how they're going to work, taking that whole concept of how you would throw an object - because that's the fastest way Man has figured out how to accelerate any object - is through that kinematic sequencing.
When we were throwing spears, chasing elephants or something for food, that's how we figured out how to do it. Nobody went like this. It doesn't work that way.
Let's grab a club and the bag. We've got an impact bag. Of course, you can get these from the site. They're very inexpensive. You can also use small children or animals, either one. Whatever you have available, but these work better because they're reusable.
Go to the top for me Clay. Show me loaded up on the top of your backswing. Let's turn so we're a little bit more squared up to the camera here and I'll move out of the way. The other way, sorry, from face on. Perfect.
As Clay goes to the top, the first thing that he's going to do is be loaded up on that right side. You're going to feel that right ankle pushing into the ground, and now we're going to do this drill.
This is called the Stride Drill. All we're going to do is actually take a step - a physical step forward - with that left leg to get you to fire those muscles. What I want you to do is I want Clay to actually stomp his left foot on the ground to where I can hear it. Not your toes, because then you're only going to use your quads. I want him to push his heel down, and you can hear that.
Clay: You really want to make sure you activate the glute and you can feel it in your left glute.
Chuck: That's why it's important to stomp, because if you stomp it down, whether you want it to or not your glute is going to fire. What we're trying to do is send a message to your central nervous system that we want that muscle to engage.
You probably don't think about your golf swing like this right now, but that's exactly how I think about it. We want to get that into your brain, to get power from the ground and from your glutes. Go ahead and do that for us, Clay. Go to the top.
He's going to take a step and stomp it. Excellent. Then, as his body would keep coming through as he's posting up, then he would release the club. Let's go ahead and do that all in sequence. Step...good. Let's go ahead and, without stopping on this next one, step and then go ahead and whack the bag.
There we go. You can see there's a lot of force and a lot of power available from that stomp move. That's a great way to hit balls. It's tough to hit balls like that at first, because you're changing where your divot would bottom out, but you can do it.
The most important thing is to learn to come into the impact bag, because the impact bag forces you to decelerate and transfer all your energy into the bag. Let's do it one more time, Clay, so they can see it.
The full sequence; he's going to load up to the right, take a step, boom. Lots of power there. You can see he's really posted up on that left side. That's excellent.
Now of course in the golf swing we can't really take a stride. We need a lot of accuracy here. This is to help you to learn to fire the lower body in the correct sequence, but now what we want to do is tone that down a little bit.
As you know with RST, everything that I've developed is very progressive. We do a big-picture thing, and then we're going to start putting it back more in the context of the swing. Now Clay's going to go to the top of his swing, but rather than taking a step, he's going to lift his left heel off the ground.
I'm going to move this bag here, just so you can see it for a moment.
Go ahead and lift the left heel, and then he's going to stomp the left heel down, and then he's going to be able to come down to the bag.
This is taking that same motion, the same kinematic sequencing, the same messages that we're trying to send to our brain - to fire that glute, to extend the leg, to get the hamstring to fire. We're going to take that into a more controlled environment now.
Let's go ahead and do the whole thing, in sequence now. You're going to do the same thing, and I want to hear that left heel stomp down on the ground, just like we did before.
Chuck: Lift the heel...good.
Now it's the same drill. Notice how his hips are rotating, but they're also stopping and decelerating. Once that glute fires - this is really important - as your glute contracts, it keeps the hips from pivoting. Go ahead and get into that impact position without the bag again.
Lift your left heel and stomp it; we'll go through the whole thing in sequence. Put it down hard. Now if your glute's fully engaged, how much farther can you turn your hips there?
Clay: Not very much farther. It's pretty much stopped there. It's braced.
Chuck: That's pretty much it, right? Now get back into that impact position again. Do the same thing, and now relax your glute. Let it relax. How far can you turn now?
Clay: I can really turn as far as I want to. I could just spin right out of it, I guess.
Chuck: Exactly. That's what happens for our better players. That's what the Hip Spinners videos and things are for, is that those glutes aren't engaged. In order for your hips to continue to rotate, your glute muscles actually have to relax. As they relax, then you can pivot all day long. This is a really pretty way to swing the golf club, but it's a very weak way to swing the golf club.
We want to post up, stomp, and then once that glute's engaged the body can decelerate and transfer energy up the chain to the club. These two drills are really, really critical for learning how to move your lower body without getting into the minutiae and the nuts and bolts of, "OK, the left leg's got to externally rotate a specific amount, and then I've got to transfer my weight..."
If you just think about making it a little bit more athletic, stepping, that's going to help you learn the basic movements of it. Then also you're going to get some auditory feedback, where you hear your foot stomping on the ground.
If you do these drills, eventually, once you get comfortable to where you can make the lower body movement correctly and decelerate, what you can start doing is just slightly lifting your heel in your shoe a little bit, rather than lifting your foot all the way off the ground.
Just start making it smaller and smaller and smaller. Some of you may find that you want to play with it lifting the heel. It's OK. The only negative side of that is that if you're lifting your heel a lot, you're really freeing up your hips to rotate a lot, and it's not building up any power there.
If you lift your heel and you're still loaded up on the right, it's perfectly OK.
Just start making those heel stomps smaller and smaller and smaller, but still try and really set into that left side in your regular golf swing and you'll have a great lower body movement, and have a lot more power and a lot more control over your golf swing.