Arnold Palmer, Gait & The difference between Muscle Tightness vs Muscle Shortness.

Arnold Palmer did not exactly have the prettiest golf swing but we doubt too many are going to argue that in the height of his uber successful professional career he should mess with it.

One of the gait guys used to date (eons ago) a gal who’s father used to be on the PGA tour. (Although it was not the case, Go ahead and accuse us of using her to get to him ! We have no shame. LOL). We got to golf with him once a week. Needless to say there were deep lessons each time they went out. Some days it was “today we will play with a 7 iron and a putter and nothing more”. But one lesson that really stuck out was …. “Don’t be afraid to bet against the golfer with a beautiful swing who can golf well most days…… be afraid to bet against the golfer with a butt-ugly swing that always hits the middle of the green in 2 strokes every single time.”

Now, this may be a confusing point. What this meant in the golf world was that if you do something enough times, no matter how bad it looks, you will get really consistent and accurate with it. You can bet on it. Now this does not mean there is not a better way, a smarter way, a more economical way. Ask any golfer who cannot hit a driver but can groove a 3 wood and they will tell you they will pick out the 3 wood every time in friendly competition over the risk of driving the ball off the Tee with the driver at the risk of entering the woods or deep rough. That does not mean that picking up the driver at the range and getting some lessons would have a better and wiser outcome in time.

Our point here today is that many times there is a better way, our bodies just cannot always find that better way on the working body parts available. Hitting the driver is just a different skill set and needs some different skills and work to harness its benefits. When we cannot find a “better way”, because of muscle inhibition from an injury or from challenged anatomy (ie. forefoot varus) or for some other reason, the body will attempt a reasonable strategy. It will be a strategy to protect the involved joints, to maximize ranges of motion and over all limb function, as best as possible. Sometimes this works for a short while, sometimes for months or years. But it is usually inevitable that the compensation will fail or the repetitive nature of the tasks will tax the tissues and end in pain or injury.

Sometimes we find a better way on our own, sometimes we need help to find a better way around problems. Heck, we all need crutches for a sprained ankle from time to time, but after the first few weeks we do not continue to use the crutches. Eventually function must be restored. Either the pristine biomechanically correct function, or a compensation pattern. One is optimal with little consequences, the other is suboptimal. The real trick is knowing if you have the optimal pattern or if you are adding strength and putting miles on the compensation pattern. Sometimes it is hard to tell.

We will choose conscious incompetence any day over unconscious incompetence. We would rather know we are doing something wrong so we can correct it, or at least be able to monitor it.

So, next time you are foam rolling your “tight” IT Band or stretching out your tight calf……. we hope you will ask the question, “am I bandaiding the problem or am I fixing the problem?” Remember, tightness and shortness are not the same beast. One is a neuro-protective phenomenon and the other is just plain vanilla shortness. One needs stretched and the other craves the strength around the joint to afford the protective tightness (the heightened tone) some resolve.

Athough we love Arnold Palmer, we bet had someone caught him early enough in his young career he would have opted for the optimal swing as opposed to what we all grew to know.

Now, go watch the Masters on TV !

Four !

Shawn and Ivo