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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Titleist Performance Institute Level 2 Fitness recap: Part 1

I was fortunate this fall to attend the Titleist Performance Insititute Level II Fitness Certification, which required a trip across the country to Boston.  My journey to Boston was an ordeal unto itself involving separate rentals of a minivan and a Chevy Suburban for a two night stay...even though the conference was at an airport-based hotel! 

Dr. Rose opened the seminar with a review of certain key points from the Level I curriculum, since many of the attendees took Level I several years prior. The Level I screen has evolved from its original iteration although the fundamentals have not changed. One notable change, which evidently took place before I attended Level I, was to omit the goniometer from the 90-90 screen. Apparently some TPI Advisory Board members were so displeased with the change took place that they walked out of the board meeting when the proposal was made. The Board ultimately made the change for ease of administration by the golf professional on the practice tee.

The rationale behind the change reflects the guiding philosophy behind screening. In the words of Dr. Rose, the golf professional is the "triage nurse" who is usually the first point of contact for the player. Determining whether the player reaches 94 degrees or 89 degrees is less important than finding the player who only gets around 75-80 degrees and can't support the club at the top of the backswing. A limitation will be noticeable with or without the goniometer, although there certainly is value for the goniometer in an exercise or medical setting where the numbers are useful for measuring progress.

The screen is a tool for the golf professional to send the player to the appropriate exercise and/or medical team member for the necessary corrections. As Dr. Rose also pointed out, the purpose of the screen is not to facilitate exercise; the purpose of the screen is to learn about the player's underlying patterns to tailor coaching around any existing limitations and to guide coaching as the limitations evolve and hopefully disappear.

As you can imagine, power and distance were also hot topics of discussion. Dr. Rose led this portion of the seminar on Saturday afternoon in tandem with legendary strength coach Al Vermeil, former strength coach of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.  They began by reminding that power training has a neurological basis and transfers across movements.  Sport specific training layers technique on top of the neurological foundation. 

They identified four power sources in the golf swing: Thrust (vertical leap),  Rotation, Chop, and Wrist.

Knowing these sources is important because you can learn a lot about someone's swing tendencies by identifying preferred power sources. For example, a player who favors push strength over pull strength is more prone to swinging over-the-top. To identify power sources, they recommend a three test battery consisting of a vertical leap (counter movement allowed), sit-up and throw (for core and pulling power), and a chest pass (for pushing power). According to the studies conducted by TPI, if the number of inches in vertical leap and the number of feet for each throw are equal, then the player has movement symmetry with respect to power.

Much of the power discussion focused on junior golf development.  In the video below, Dr. Rose describes the importance of hitting the “sensitive periods” in a junior player’s development.  Each of these periods is a “window of opportunity” during which a player, based upon age and gender, is best suited for certain types of training.  The timing and type of training can be the difference between building a player who runs on rocket fuel and a player who runs on diesel. (Note: this video comes from the PGA show, not from the Level II Fitness seminar.) 

Another key point as relates to power, both for juniors and for adults, is that if you take away a power source, you must find a way to replace it. For instance, many young golfers seem to “jump” into impact (Long drive legend Jason Zubak does the same in his downswing). This move might look ugly and create consistency problems, but the vertical leap is one of the first ways a kid learns to generate power. Take the move away and the kid can't hit the ball anywhere! Have a replacement plan if you choose to remove the vertical element in the swing, but recognize that the kid might not be ready to efficiently generate power from another source at his or her current stage of development.

More to come…

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