THE KINEMATIC SEQUENCE: WHAT IS IT & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO GOLF INSTRUCTORS?
A golf swing can be like a fingerprint: each one unique, influenced by body type, range of motion, age, strength, etc. But science and new forms of measurement like 3D analysis have shown us that there is something in common among better players: They transfer energy efficiently from the ground through their body to the club and ultimately to the ball. You cannot measure this with the naked eye or 2D video. Professional athletes in many sports are using this analysis called the Kinematic Sequence, which in fact creates ROI.
Return On Investment? Well, yes – Reliability, Opportunity, Improvement.
Unlike other forms of golf swing analysis, there is a great deal of commonality in the Kinematic Sequence of top athletes. We aren’t just talking about the transition order of the hip, chest, arm, club, but the comprehensive analysis of the dynamic movements of an athlete that the Kinematic Sequence can measure. There are many ways to make a good swing, but the reliability of a good kinematic sequence provides a solid foundation for instruction and player improvement.
Even at the highest levels, analysis of a player’s Kinematic Sequence can find room for improvement or a need for conditioning. An athlete may have a correct transition sequence but the timing may be off, or the deceleration sequence may be out of order. One segment may not be gaining enough speed from the previous segment. The Kinematic Sequence can not only measure the precise amounts of load in the spine, shoulder and wrist to maximize power; it can also pinpoint load timing and reveal unequal or excessive loads on particular joints, which can lead to injury.
Once the inefficiencies are identified, you can start working on them, which typically leads to measurable results that students can see and feel. Even by fixing just one aspect of the Kinematic Sequence, speed increases in double-digit percentages have been achieved for both amateurs and professionals. The effects on the player – and their reactions – are dramatic.
As a golf professional, a complete understanding of the Kinematic Sequence is paramount.
WHAT IS THE KINEMATIC SEQUENCE?
In practical terms, the Kinematic Sequence was pioneered by Dr. Phil Cheetham, a sport technologist and biomechanist for the USOC (United States Olympic Committee). According to Cheetham,
Kinematic Sequence algorithms allow us to see how efficiently energy is transferred from the big, strong muscles (the hips and the pelvis area) to the extremities (the smaller muscles of the wrist and the hands.)
More technically, it measures the angular velocity of the pelvis, thorax, arm and club in degrees per second over time – all to facilitate the evaluation of the dynamic elements and efficiency of the golf swing.
The details are shown on graphs like the one below, which may seem complicated at first. A golfer’s Kinematic Sequence looks something like this. (Important to note: it is impossible to measure the Kinematic Sequence in 2D because it is not a linear motion and a camera cannot maintain a 90-degree relationship with a rotating body part.)
The vertical axis shows angular velocity and the horizontal axis shows time in milliseconds. The colored lines represent the pelvis, the thorax, the lead arm and the club.
These lines are rich in information: They show the sequence, timing, acceleration, deceleration, gain in speed of specific body parts, load of the key power joints, gains from one segment to the next, and more.
According to the Titleist Performance Institute: “think of the handle of a whip. The first thing you do is accelerate the handle of a whip to generate speed. Then you rapidly decelerate the handle to transfer speed to the next part of the whip. The same thing happens in the best ball-strikers in the world. Their lower body represents the handle and the club shaft represents the end of the whip.”
THE KINEMATIC SEQUENCE OF THE GREATS
We began the article by saying that a swing is like a fingerprint: everyone’s is different. And this is true on the surface. But when measured with a technology like 4D Motion’s, you can see the patterns in the graphs with which great players generate power, speed and consistency. For example, a player like Jon Rahm – who seemingly has a “short” swing – generates so much power. With 4D Motion, we would be able to see how Jon’s kinematic sequence provides such power.
Conversely, when you see an amateur player whose transition sequence begins with his chest or generates no load in the spine, shoulder or wrist – or who gains very little speed from hip to chest – you have an opportunity for ROI and a perfect roadmap for instructing your student. There is very little debate about these or other issues that can be identified in a Kinematic Sequence analysis. According to Dr. Ara Suppiah, it’s important to understand the kinematic pathway because injury patterns will follow where the forces flow.
A good example of this is the way Tiger Woods has coped with injuries. Check out the video to see how he’s adapted his swing to improve and maintain a strong kinematic sequence.
The Kinematic Sequence measures the angular velocity of 4 key parts of the golf swing: the pelvis, the thorax, the arm and the club. The golf swing, like many other athletic movements, is largely rotational. The power travels in a chain from the ground up and from proximal to distal (from the core to the outside). More specifically, the legs push against the ground while the ground pushes back. This energy is used to drive the hip rotation, which is the most powerful move in golf.
Each motion is built on the previous one, and speed increases gradually. After a section is “done” with its role, it slows down while the next one begins to accelerate. First, the hips have to rotate. This is critical to the energy transfer. Almost 90% of tour pros start the transition with the hips. Next, the hips start to decelerate, transferring energy to the chest, which should rotate at least 30% faster than the pelvis. Then the arms start to swing while the chest rotates – the arms should swing at least 40% faster than the chest. Finally, the club optimally travels at least twice the speed of the arm.
If everything happens in the right order with the right timing of acceleration and deceleration, the maximum amount of energy will be transferred to the club head.
THE BENEFIT OF APPLYING THE KINEMATIC SEQUENCE
A golf player’s swing is based on the build of their body: some are taller and some are shorter, some have longer arms and some have shorter ones, and of course, everybody’s muscle development is unique as well. Tall players hit the ball from a different angle than shorter players. But if they are swinging efficiently, their kinematic sequences will be similar.
There is so much to learn from the graphs, going way beyond the transition order of hips, chest, arms and club. The Kinematic Sequence can provide information on takeaway, timing ranges, acceleration and deceleration rates, loading on the spine, shoulder and wrist, stretch shortening and more.
According to Dr. Phil Cheetham, the Kinematic Sequence is “a way of maintaining high club head speed without killing yourself or without working too hard on every single swing.”
OK, BUT IT SOUNDS A BIT COMPLICATED – HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT IT?
The Kinematic Sequence analysis might seem complicated at first because it describes so many critical elements of the swing. But those skilled in reading all the details of the Kinematic Sequence graph will practically be able to see the swing just from reading the graph. Dr. Phil Cheetham says that “It’s truly amazing when I look at a kinematic sequence signature graph, I can immediately tell whether that’s a tour pro or an amateur. The signatures are just so consistent.”
Now, every instructor can learn to read and analyze their students’ kinematic sequence with the comprehensive PGA certified course presented by biomechanics expert Jon Sinclair and 4D Motion. Jon has remarked how easily all of this information can be accessed: “I cannot believe the power that we have with such a simple system – some small inertial sensors, straps and a tablet, that’s it. I am going to be using 4D Motion as a 3D System more than any other system that I own.”
The course is based on Jon’s 17+ years of coaching and measuring the Kinematic Sequence in 3D with PGA tour professionals and amateurs. The lessons are taught on the Rex e-learning platform, with videos, activities, and Q&As. Upon course completion and passing the certification test, participants can earn 4 MSR credits.
WHAT COULD THIS KNOWLEDGE BRING TO THE TABLE?
ROI – Reliablity, Opportunity, Improvement. That will translate into ROI for your students and for you. And that is the whole point.
As we explained, the Kinematic Sequence isn’t just about the hips, chest, arms and the club. Correcting the flaws in the Kinematic Sequence can have an immediate and measurable impact on the player. Without it, it is much harder to identify the mistakes in a player’s swing. The Kinematic Sequence directly improves feel and – under pressure – feel is key.
Every player wants to reach their maximum potential and prevent injury. As a coach, you can quickly find these power leaks and fix them. Your trainees will stop comparing their swing to others’ and focus more on their own because they don’t have to evaluate themselves indirectly anymore. And with a better understanding of joint stress, they’ll have a longer, stronger, more enjoyable relationship with golf.
A full understanding of the Kinematic Sequence will make you a more well-rounded instructor, and you will have a more immediate and lasting impact on your students.
Have any questions? Share your thoughts and comments below, and feel feel free to get in touch with us to learn more about the kinematic sequence. Here’s a free sample of our course below!