If you've been reading Golf Digest's Instruction Blog, authored by my colleague Roger Schiffman, then you might have seen his recent item on the X-factor (Read, "Jim McLean's new X-Factor"). If you recall, Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim McLean brilliantly came up with the term "X-factor" roughly 15 years ago as a way to describe the differential between the hip and shoulder turns during the swing.
McLean's findings, in part, showed that most of the biggest hitters on the pro tours also had the biggest X-factors--meaning they had minimal hip turn but loads and loads of shoulder turn. This was true especially at the start of the downswing when the "X-factor stretch" was identified as the hips unwinding well before the shoulders moved. Kudos should still be given to McLean for coming up with something original in golf instruction. It's hard to argue that the torque created by restricting your hip turn while allowing your shoulders to turn as far as they can will help generate a lot of speed and power in your swing.
However, a question has been raised by many fitness trainers and some teaching pros. Is it wise to torque the body like this--especially for anyone with thoracic spine (mid-back), shoulder, and hip mobility issues? What's good for elite golfers with great flexibility might not be right for an average Joe with limited flexibility, says Ben Shear, one of the top fitness trainers on the PGA Tour (count Luke Donald and Jason Day as his clients).
"The X-factor does put stress on the body," he said. "How much depends on a lot of physical factors. Golf even done efficiently is tough on the body. However, if hip and thoracic spine mobility is an issue, you'd be better off swinging like Rocco Mediate and let the hips and shoulders turn back together."
Adds Craig Davies, a PGA Tour trainer who works with Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose and Sean O'Hair, "The ability to create separation is a good thing for power. But the idea of maximizing one's "X-factor" can lead to injury. It can be detrimental to performance for many players who have limited, or even average mobility in their shoulders, thoracic spine and hips."
Whether you are a disciple of Jim's X-factor or believe the hips and shoulders should turn together, there's no argument that strong, pliable hip muscles are what all golfers need. For two exercises that will help improve the range of motion in your hips, and make them more functional in the golf swing, click on the video below.
*Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor
Follow him on Twitter: @RonKaspriske