Using the Ground in Training – An Under-Rated Tool

John Izzo is a lot like me.

A hard-working guy that genuinely cares about getting better as a coach and trainer, so that his clients and athletes get better results.

John offered to write a guest post for today, and I simply couldn’t turn him down.

Here’s a great post from John that I think you’ll really enjoy!

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The human body is a dynamic system of levers.

According to Wikipedia, a lever is a beam connected to the ground by a hinge, or pivot, called a fulcrum. The ideal lever does not dissipate or store energy, which means there is no friction in the hinge or bending in the beam. In this case, the power into the lever equals the power out, and the ratio of output to input force is given by the ratio of the distances from the fulcrum to the points of application of these forces. This is also known as the Law of the Lever.

As a fitness professional working with many golfers, I observe countless golf swings per week.

My clients stem from the business realm and on sunny afternoons, they like to unbutton the shirt, remove the tie, and hit the course for 18 holes.

Day in and day out, I watch golfers that I have worked with and observe their swings. The golf swing is a systematic explosive movement, whereas the entire kinetic chain performs in a sequence of mere split seconds.

According to the law of the lever, the power into the lever must equal the power out of the lever. This translates to the amount of power put into the golf swing, dictates how hard the golf ball is hit and how far it goes.

With today’s technology, this is skewed by the advancements in newly engineered golf clubs.

However, another factor that skews that statement is the assumption that the lever does not weaken or store energy. In order for a lever to work properly, it must be attached to the ground by a fulcrum.


In the golf swing, the body is the fulcrum. The golf club represents the moment arm.

In order to generate this powerful lever system during  the action, the body must stay connected to the ground. The ground provides the “leverage” for the body to produce the force to move that moment arm (in this case, a golf club) and hit the ball off the tee.

This is also true with the baseball swing, hockey power play, soccer kick, racquet swing, and even simply hitting a piñata. The force generated to produce a targeted strike is dictated by the body’s connection to the ground.

Using the ground as a leverage producer is greatly overlooked in human movement. The textbooks talk about the lever system with mathematical equations, but it is difficult for the reader to make sense of this scientific model without applying to real-world settings.

When it comes to training clients, many fitness professionals lack a clear understanding of using closed-chain exercise as a lever system.

Many trainers tend to place clients on unstable surfaces such as stability balls, balance boards, and BOSUs in an effort to work the “core”; but they miss a crucial component of activating the core: the ground!

When talking about bracing the abdominals or creating intra-abdominal pressure when using an external load, initiating force begins with a connection to the ground.

According to the law of the lever, it is assumed that the lever does not dissipate to generate power.

Unfortunately, when standing on a balance apparatus with limited contact with the ground/floor, there is a dissipation of power production. Because the body is connected to an unstable object, the power it is capable of producing is limited because there is no fixed point for the limbs of the body to “push against” to create a force. Energy is dispersed. On a BOSU, the power dissipates across the instability of the surface.

I have been approached by many golfer and golf professionals over the last 4 years that could not grasp this concept.

Upon reading research and working with golfers, I eliminated all “balance” apparatuses and steered golf pros from these dangerous gadgets. Training was designed around basic ground-based exercises that taught each golfer how to use the ground as leverage to produce the force needed to send the ball an extra 70-100 yards.

My golfers were getting stronger and picking up the mechanics of the swing more efficiently once they consistently used exercises like squats, chop and lifts, woodchops, and lunges to their program.

Golf professionals were in disbelief. They wanted to incorporate the latest gadgets from big golf club makers and let their students stand on balance boards while swinging.

Many golfers were reporting to me a “pulling” sensation in their bellies. Without proper footing on a solid surface, golfers were unable to stiffen up the core during the powerful downswing.

Without this brief intra-abdominal pressure, golfers were feeling a strain in the diaphramic muscles and rectus sheath that covers the organs within the stomach. They were putting themselves at risk for muscle pulls and in severe cases, hernia.

Using the ground has to be included in any training to improve function. Regardless of sport, balance training has a minute place in training the senior population, but the majority of training needs to involve ground-based exercises.

Spending too much time on balance apparatuses with your clients is detrimental to their overall functional capacity. It is a hindrance on their long term function.

Incorporating basic exercises like squats, deadlifts (including single leg), lunges, and bent over rows really provides body awareness and intuitive ground feedback. “Pushing the feet into the ground” is a staple verbal coaching cue in my programs. This concept is easily grasped once strength levels begin to increase and clients understand that the ground is a tool just like every other piece of fitness equipment.

The next time you perform a simple exercise, such as a plank…ask yourself:

What are you pushing yourself against to maintain that body stiffness?

If we can argue that the plank exercise is the most widely used core exercise, then we can understand how crucial the ground is to core training.

This concept is explained in great detail in my Shatterproof Spine product. This is essentially a workshop video based around concepts that support function and performance of the lower back.

I’m offering the product at a deep discount for this week only, so be sure to check it out ASAP so if you’re interested.

John Izzo

(Photo Courtesy of Fevi Yu)

2 Comments

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  1. Great post! I feel that unstable surface training is something that is vastly overutilized in the fitness industry. Its always great to see some more info about it. Keep up the good work!

  2. GOLF- Geometric Orientation of Linear Force 🙂 Excellent article, as a former teaching professional I can appreciate this at a deep level. It is the efficient use of the levers we all have that makes a good golf swing. The golf world has progressed in this direction over the last 30 years as evidenced by guys like Tiger, Anthony Kim, Dustin Johnson, etc. Good stuff.

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