Sports Training & Conditioning Zone!

Introduction to the Chop and Lift–
Golf Conditioning (Part 5)

by Gray Cook

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For the purposes of this article, I would like to discuss chopping and lifting as a way to both assess and improve core stabilization with respect to the golf swing. Chopping is the downward movement across the body from a high position to a low position and lifting is the upward movement from a low position to a high position. They are essentially mirror images of each other. Each of these movements can be done in various positions.

Some favorite choices of the fitness professionals and rehabilitation professionals who perform the chop and lift are kneeling (which includes both half kneeling with only one knee down and tall kneeling with both knees down); seated on a stability ball; and standing. My favorite of all of these positions are the tall and half kneeling positions.

When we find squatting or forward bending patterns to be faulty tall kneeling is used as a corrective exercise for trunk stability. The tall kneeling position holds both hips in a symmetrical stance and it will complement spine stability for squatting and dead-lifting. Tall kneeling is the most favorable position because it takes away all compensations that are usually occurring at the foot, knee and ankle joints when hip mobility and stability are not optimum. Think of all of the compensations that occur when individuals do not have correct body mechanics. We see excessive out-turning of the feet, some caving in of the knees, rolling of the ankles and a loss of a stable foot position – all to compensate for a lack of range of motion or stability within the hips and core. By utilizing the tall kneeling position, we take away these potential compensations forcing the body to deal with the load and work out the problem. We also take the quad dominant, hip-flexor dominant golfer into a position where they cannot use anything but appropriate core stability for both the chop-and-lift movement.

Half kneeling chopping and lifting, on the other hand, is usually done when more of a single leg discrepancy is identified. This can be seen when an individual has an appropriate lunge that is both stable and mobile on one side and a deficient lunge on the other side (refer to the TPI Quick Screen half kneeling position or the lunge test in my functional movement screen). We have also demonstrated how single leg discrepancy affects whole movement by showing how a single leg toe-touch can greatly differ between one leg or the other (see the TPI forward bending or toe touch test). Any time that a single leg problem shows a deficit, a half kneeling position or lunge on that side will show you the way that the core has had to compensate in many of the mobility and stability problems present. You should be able to not the compensation if you compare the move to the other side. Adding the chop or lift to the position will magnify the difference in mobility and stability so keep your eyes open and use your video camera.

Setting a video base line on the first day of chopping and lifting is a great way to show progress. You will not necessarily always see that the chop-and-lift has the greatest difficulty when the faulty leg is in the down knee position. You will sometimes, but not as often, see it when the faulty leg is in the up position. So before you get started pick your position. Choose tall kneeling for symmetrical problems (squatting, dead-lifting, and simple forward bending) and problems involving the back and hips equally. Choose half kneeling for asymmetrical problems (half kneeling, lunging and single leg stance) problems involving one hip to a greater extent than the other.

Here are tips to test and develop a chop-and-lift program:

Once you have done a full functional movement assessment / screen or a quick screen, take note as to whether you have symmetrical or asymmetrical problems. If you have both always focus on the asymmetry first. If you have symmetrical problems, perform a chop to the right and to the left with the exact same amount of weight for each direction in a tall kneeling position. Then, perform a lift with the exact same amount of weight for each direction in a tall kneeling position both to the left and to the right.

Usually, chop is always done first and approximately at a 2/3 greater weight than the lift (this is due to gravity and leverage). We want to choose a weight, or resistance, that the golfer can perform 6-12 repetitions and then look for discrepancies in quality and the ability to hit maximum repetitions. This does not mean to pick a weight and have them do it for a set number of repetitions. It should be a mild struggle. This is a test and you are investigating posture, control, stability, strength, body awareness, symmetry and mobility. You want them to do a complete rep-out with in 6 to 12 repetitions. Take the test to the point of fatigue, loss of appropriate posture, absence of smooth movement, or to the point where a struggle is demonstrated. If you use video you can compare both sides and be more precise.

A great low-tech way to mark a loss of appropriate posture is to have the golfer get into the tallest position possible with in the tall or half kneeling position. This is not extension or leaning back. This is a transverse abdominus (deep abdominal musculature) contraction with the shoulders back and the eyes looking straightforward while the body is squeezed in the middle. The top of the head should be as tall as it can possibly be with the hips at full extension (0 degrees only - not hyperextension). A neutral pelvic tilt and neutral lumbar spine should be noted. This should not change throughout the chopping pattern and when it does they should be cued that it is occurring. If they cannot keep it from occurring, call the repetitions at that point. If they can correct, continue going until the flaw occurs again. Cue them again. When they can no longer correct and start to compensate to the point they are unable to correct, call the repetitions. If posture and alignment remain good throughout the test, then count the maximum number of repetitions until fatigue is present or until the chop is no longer a smooth and fluid movement. The more strict you are on posture and movement the more sensitive the test will be and this is important because you are looking for left to right differences in the same movement.

For the lift, take approximately 2/3 less weight and execute the same point of posture and repetitions with the lift pattern both to the left and to the right. Make adjustments with the weight until you feel it is appropriate. If you happen to miscalculate the weight and the person you are testing exceeds 12 repetitions keep going and look for the flaws, because they will still occur. The test is best done when the individual is fresh and the 6-12 is only a range to shoot for because I find most don’t use heavy enough weight in the chop and lift.

When the test is complete you should have drawn is an assessment of both quality and quantity in four quadrants – the right and left chop and the right and left lift in the tall kneeling position. Find the weakest quadrant and work there until symmetry is present. You will be amazed at how many other core issues clean them selves up by simply finding this weak quadrant. When an asymmetrical problem is present, (single leg stance or lunge) perform the exact same chop and lift test sequence but only in the half kneeling position. You will always chop toward the downward knee and you will always lift toward the upward knee. So the same amount of moves is still performed but we are just alternating that up-knee, down-knee position. Follow the same rules for posture of the spine. The up-leg should have a 90 degree position both at the hip and knee and we should ask that the golfer maintain both the down-knee and up-foot on the same 4” line. A strip of tape usually works really well here or a functional grid that has lines could be appropriate as well. The chop-and-lift should always be done with a cable bar because we do not want to collect data or information about shoulder weakness or asymmetry during this test. Both arms working together on the same implement and a stick or cable bar will negate any subtle differences in the shoulder and focus most of the stress on the core.

You can use chopping and lifting to assess wrist strength and shoulder stability as well as posture and symmetry of the upper core stabilizing factors but that is for the next article. Simply following this simple, functional diagnostic process will help you exercise your golfer in an asymmetrical fashion to achieve and restore symmetry. The chop and lift are fundamental building blocks for hip and trunk stability and simply exercising these areas will not get your golf muscles to support you. You must get specific in three categories:

1) Posture - tall spine with good extension though the hip/s.
2) Position - tall or half kneeling
3) Pattern - chop or lift

Finding the weakest link of the core quadrant is a completely different way to look at core issues in golfers. It is basically removing the negative before you add a positive which is the most common mistake in exercise and the primary reason for screens. I have used these techniques both in rehabilitation and performance enhancement across many sports with many different age groups and have found a common theme - human movement is human movement and the fundamentals always come first.

So, go out and diagnose a core deficit and find that weak quadrant. For extra help and support, check out my book, Athletic Body in Balance.

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