Flex Those Biceps To Lower Your Distance

 - by Kelvin Miyahira

So you wanna hit the ball far but you don’t want to look like ze little girly man? Hanz and Franz, Aaahold Schwarzenegger’s fictitious cousins, can help you to build those biceps and help you get rid of your flabulence.  But hear me now and believe me later, your biceps might be the cause of a major loss of speed and therefore distance.

How can having strong biceps cause you to lose distance and hit it like ze little girly man that you don’t want to look like? Easy, by destroying a much needed stretch shorten cycle in one of the major speed producers in your swing.

Fastest Moving Joint for Humans

Let’s go into greater detail for this problem. Scientists have found that the fastest moving joint rotation in the human body is the external/internal rotation of the shoulder. Capable of rotating at 7000 degrees per second, this movement is critical for producing speed. Whether you are throwing a ball, hitting a tennis serve or hitting a golf ball, your external/internal rotation of the shoulder is a major contributor.

How to Throw the Club Into the Ball

Okay, so how does this work for a golf swing?  Think of throwing a baseball. When your elbow leads your shoulder, that’s external rotation of the shoulder. As your hand catches up to the elbow, that is the internal rotation of the shoulder.  

The pictures on the left show student Melanie Ito with an incorrect throwing motion. This is her natural tendency and it makes sense that she’ll cast and flip the club during the downswing since she doesn’t have good throwing skills.

But on the right, with some prompting to drive elbow forward and use an underhanded throwing motion as well as to begin moving her hips, the correct motion is very easy to learn. The only problem is transferring this easy to learn motion into a more complex golf swing. That is ultimately the biggest challenge.

Let’s take a closer look at how this simple, athletic motion can be destroyed by an incorrect contraction of the biceps.

Right Shoulder and Arm

As I described earlier, the way the external/internal shoulder rotation works is similar to throwing a baseball. The right elbow should drive towards the ball while the hips turn and this should give you a good sense of the external rotation stretch. Once this stretch reaches maximum tension, the internal rotation will fire automatically.

For many weekend warriors, something strange happens along the way and it is called casting or early releasing. So what causes so many players to cast? It’s not as if they want to cast. It just happens. For whatever reason, they don’t know. And it’s not going to get better just because they say, “I’ll try to stop my casting now.” It just won’t change unless something very fundamental improves.

So what’s at the root of this casting business? In looking at thousands of golf swings, I’ve seen several patterns of dysfunction. The one most commonly seen is the firing of the right bicep. Once the bicep fires, the whole throwing motion using the external/internal rotation of the right shoulder goes out the window.

Imagine throwing a baseball while contracting your right bicep. It hinders your ability to lead with your elbow (externally rotate) and now you’ve lost most of your ability to create any speed. This applies to your golf swing as well.

As you can see here, there’s some major right bicep contractions going on with Melanie. This effectively stops the right elbow drive, severely limits external rotation of the right shoulder and ultimately decreases clubhead speed potential.

For you athletic people out there, if you’ve ever tried to throw with your opposite hand, you are feeling limitation of the external rotation and therefore end up with more of a shotput throw than a normal, athletic throwing motion. People without throwing skills use the shotput motion as well. You are definitely not going to throw a ball far with that motion.

Faced with the prospect of generating little speed, what would you do if this happened in your golf swing? Rotate your hips and shoulders around even faster? Even if hips move at top speed of around 4-5 mph and shoulders at double that, would that create any swing speed?  As you can see here, Melanie spins the hips and it isn’t getting her anywhere.

In fact, her spin causes many evils to creep into her golf swing. It causes her to come over the top, have a steep downswing, and this leads to fading, pull hooking and fat shots. Doesn’t sound too promising does it? So we must find a way out.

Left Shoulder and Arm

The left shoulder and arm should work very much like throwing a Frisbee. Nothing much complicated about this except that the sequence is reversed in comparison to the right arm/shoulder in the golf swing.

In this case, the internal rotation occurs first, then the external rotation comes later. This sequence is not as powerful or as fast as the external/internal rotation but in the golf swing, we must learn to move them properly as well.

But the left shoulder and arm can become dysfunctional when and if the left bicep (right bicep will fire as well.) “decides” to use a tug-of-war movement. While this motion has a powerful “feeling” associated with it, it is undoubtedly slower and ineffective for swinging a golf club fast.

Check out the massive biceps contractions.

In addition, if the left arm pulls up and in, topping, poor impact (toe shots) and more can occur thereby increasing the likelihood of a mis-struck shot.

Paradoxically, the correct motion will seem slow and weak. Yet the undeniable truth is that the clubhead moves faster than if doing the tug-of-war motion as well as improves one’s technique.

This is clearly the case where your feeling is that you’re putting all your effort into the shot. And you are. But it’s a wasteful effort that does not create much speed. Much like throwing a baseball by using the shotput technique.

As you can see, the biceps contracting at the wrong time can really ruin a golf swing. Isn’t it about time to rethink the whole weight training thing? And replace dysfunctional training with proper equipment that allows this sort of complex movement to be performed properly while getting stronger? Might help golfers truly improve in technique and speed.

I’ll do a follow up article next month to show you how we’ve tackled this problem.