2011: How to Fix Brett Favre – A Sports Kinesiologist’s Rx

While many of us consider Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Brett Favre to be one of the greatest in history, 2011 has been a disappointment for many reasons. Favre should have never come back for his 21st NFL season.

The reason?

Favre, regarded as the “Ironman of NFL quarterbacks” is capable of living up to the tough guy mantra, “no pain, no gain.” However, his tough guy act has now caught up to him. Due to previous injuries to his left ankle, Favre required surgery again in the off-season. Yet the problem wasn’t the surgery, but the rehab. Years of listening to his medical advisors and failing to adequately prepare his body physically in the off-season to meet the demands of the regular season may have contributed to this horrible season.

Let’s look at Favre from a biomechanics’ perspective. For starters, Favre’s left ankle acts as the first major joint in stabilizing his body for each and every pass attempt.  Tough guys find ways to work around the pain and Favre has been doing just that. The human body is great at compensating around its own deficiencies but that stress still has to go somewhere.  Suffering from an immobile ankle all season, it was only natural that Favre would struggle with accuracy and even begin to over use an already weak shoulder.

Historically, Favre has never been known for great throwing mechanics. (Tom Brady has the best mechanics of any NFL Quarterback— we’ll tell that story another day).  Unfortunately, for Farve, those mechanics have gotten even worse this season. Why? You can’t build a $20 million dollar mansion on a $20 foundation.

With a shaky left ankle, a good athlete’s body finds a way to compensate for the injury and perform the necessary task. In Favre’s case, the task is: throw the ball.  However, what then happens to the stress that should be in his ankle? The stress shifts to his throwing shoulder, causing an aging shoulder to absorb more than its appropriate share of the workload. If Favre’s body were healthy, that workload would be spread over his entire body.

Favre could probably play another 3-5 years because of his mental toughness. However, in order to do that he would have to take care of this body from head to toe. So, the next question is how should he do that? Here is my prescription:


1)      Fix the left ankle by increasing the mobility in each joint in his left foot.  Increase the mobility of his left foot’s plantar fascia with golf ball rolls and massage therapy. Careful consideration should also be placed on joint mobility in the left ankle.  This is best done by a manual therapy expert who digs in to break up all of the accumulated scar tissue from Farve’s previous surgeries.

2)      Address the mobility issues that have developed over the past three seasons in Favre’s throwing shoulder.  This means more manual therapy on the biceps and the front of his shoulder and chest muscles. Simultaneous to the mobility activity on the throwing arm, a qualified expert in performing exercises correctly needs to work with Favre to perform exercises for strengthening the posterior (back) side of his throwing arm and shoulder (triceps, posterior deltoid, and latissimus dorsi muscles on the right side.)

3)      Finally, it would not hurt for Favre to build-up stronger muscles on his right leg from foot to hip.

These are just a few recommendations for the future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback.  If Favre’s body felt better (a lot less aches and pains), we could be in for a wonderful summer season of our favorite NFL soap opera “Will he or won’t he.” Stay tuned.

Stay updated for more sports mechanics analysis by subscribing to ZigSports RSS feed and following me on Twitter.

With over 18 years of experience in health, fitness, and sports performance improvement, Mr. Ziegler has helped some of the world’s best athletes find their groove in baseball, Olympic softball, basketball, football and many other sports. Learn more in About Zig Ziegler, Sports Kinesiologist.

A Sports Kinesiologist’s Take: Why Tiger Woods Really Lost the Pro-Am (and Why He Might Continue to Lose)


While national golf writers are trying to spin some optimism into Tiger’s performance at the Pro-Am Chevron World Challenge and are looking to what’s next for the superstar , I look at things through a kinesiologist’s spyglass. My review of Tiger Woods to date: He’s just an above average player now. However, although he has tumbled from superstar athlete to merely above average golfer status doesn’t mean that a new and improved Tiger Woods can’t emerge.

3-D biomechanical comparisons from his performances in 2007 versus his current performance reveal a number of issues with his swing and his body’s overall health. The 3-D schematics show what the naked eye cannot see.

In figure 1, Tiger’s body might look perfectly straight. However, the measurements tell a different story. Instead of being straight, the data measures about 13 degrees of side bend. The next measurement registers 17 degrees of side bend and that four degrees (though microscopic) could magnify the margin of error as the club makes contact with the ball. In addition, that 4 degrees can turn into plus or minus 12 degrees of hip or shoulder rotation, causing Tiger to push the ball to the right, or a big hooking swing pulling the ball to the left.

In recent performances, Tiger (while thinking his swing is getting better) is actually sliding his body weight into his front side hip more than he thinks to compensate for the weaknesses in his right and left side. Where Tiger’s spine alignment is in relationship to his pelvis, significantly impacts the repeatability of his swing (causing under or over shoulder rotation). In a perfect swing, both legs should be heading towards extension combined with rotation of the pelvis and shoulders.

The right leg should be measure 12 degrees of bend at the knee, indicating muscles firing on the back and front of the back leg. In the ideal world, the left should be exactly zero degrees of knee bend. Instead, Tiger’s knees, in recent performances, have shown 41.4 degrees in the right leg (indicating weak calves, glutes, and hamstring muscles) and 12 in the left (indicating weak calves, and quadriceps muscles—no brakes on the car). In other words, instead of extending his knees on the way to his finish position, Tiger’s weaknesses (and many other average golfers) cause him to lean to the weaker side (evidence that the muscles in his legs are not doing their job).

When you look at the success of any athlete, you need to understand how they use their body; how they use it both efficiently and inefficiently. You need to understand how the body compensates for injury and weakness (we don’t always know to address). The cardinal rule is: The body finds a way to perform the task at hand…and, as a kinesiologist, I try to understand physical limitations or weaknesses the body is attempting to compensate for and how that impacts performance.

Visually, Tiger’s swing has changed completely. Instead of using his left leg to stabilize himself and keep his balance, he is now using his left leg as an accelerator (to help initiate his swing). This is the opposite of what Tiger did as a healthier, superstar golfer. The Old Tiger would use his left leg as the brake, instead of the gas. Why? Tiger (in concert with his old and new swing coach) may not be aware of the purpose of his right leg versus his left leg to his performance. Tiger’s left side and leg are weak in specific areas due to multiple injuries and surgeries. In 2008, he had knee surgery reconstruction his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). At that same time, Tiger has gone on record stating that he also suffered a partially torn achilles tendon. During the drama of his personal life, there was an extensive (crucial) period in rehab where he wasn’t working out which affected his long term healing process. Oh sure, the pain and soreness went away, but if Tiger wasn’t addressing the weaknesses during that crucial period, when he came back to golf, his body had already developed compensatory patterns to make up for the weaknesses.

Tiger’s new strategy with golf swing coach Sean Foley forces him to rely on his already fatigued left side in order to strengthen it. It is a longer term strategy that might be fraught with side-effects and, eventually, injury.

At Chevron, Tiger talked about his swing: “I lost my swing in the middle part of the round, and pieced it back together again,” he said. “I was proud of that. I was very committed coming in, and hit some really, really good shots, which was good. Unfortunately, during the middle part of the round, I lost all those shots,” he said. “And Graeme was playing really well.”

The truth is…Tiger didn’t lose his swing, his body could not repeat the swing because it is the opposite of what he learned to do for over 30 years on the road to becoming the Tiger the golf world feared.  Tiger, its not your swing…it’s your body!  Hank Haney couldn’t fix your swing for the same reason’s he couldn’t improve Charles Barkley’s swing on his TV show. THE SWING IS AFFECTED BY THE BODY!!!!!  You have knee problems related to weakness which affect your swing, Tiger! Charles has knee problems for the same reasons that affect his swing.

Graeme McDowell won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, won the final match for Europe at Ryder Cup and became the first player to beat Woods when trailing by at least three shots going into the final round. He is the first person to be able to beat Woods in the last 24 attempts.

The Old Tiger invoked a fear of invincibility. In the old days, we could expect Tiger to regularly dominate the leaderboard.  This invincibility was because Tiger’s worst round would was consistently within 4-5 strokes of his best round. That domination requires both mental concentration and a healthy body to repeat the swing. However, a healthy body also requires use of the entire body and if Tiger simply tweaks a few areas of weakness in his body he can return to his former greatness and best Jack Nicolaus’ record.

Here is my prescriptive sports treatment to help Tiger get his game back:

TIGER…CHANGE YOUR WORKOUT ROUTINE!!! Perform exercises to isolate your true weaknesses (forget about “functional training, you need to isolate your weaknesses). And after

  1. Work on single leg balance with your eyes closed until you can stand on each leg (with all muscles contracting from your foot to your glutes).  When you can stand on one each leg for 3 minutes without losing your balance you’ve made significant improvements.  That little burning feeling in the bottom of your foot Tiger is a sign of weakness, so don’t ignore it.
  2. Perform single leg calf raises on both legs.  You injuries on your left leg have made it weak in specific areas. Improve the weakness in your foundation.
  3. Perform Single Leg (prone) hamstring curls. (Be careful not to use your lower back by arching to make up for the weakness in your hamstrings) If any joint other than you knee moves, you’re cheating. So isolate the weak muscle. This may mean humbling yourself by not looking at the weight on the machine but identifying whether or not you feel the hamstring curls only in your legs (place more emphasis on the right leg)
  4. Finally, Perform single leg hops on both legs (forwards, backwards, and to both the left and the right). Hold one knee up towards your chest to help ensure you are allowing your glutes to help you stabilize your hips as you hop. 2-3 sets of 40 yards of hopping on each leg in each direction.  Work up to it though so you can take the time to do it right.
  5. Stretch you quadriceps by laying down on a bench in a lunge position and bending your knee (while your thigh is braced against the bench!!!!!!

If Tiger Woods want to dominate the next 5 years of golf like he did before, he should follow one simple motto: My body and my swing are one!!!!!!  Hello World!

Stay updated for more sports mechanics analysis by subscribing to ZigSports RSS feed and following me on Twitter.

With over 18 years of experience in health, fitness, and sports performance improvement, Mr. Ziegler has helped some of the world’s best athletes find their groove in baseball, Olympic softball, basketball, football and many other sports. Learn more in About Zig Ziegler, Sports Kinesiologist.

Was Charles Barkley ‘Right’ About Obama’s Game? A Sports Kinesiologist Weighs In

Ziegler: “Obama, a little light in the behind, affecting his ability to go right.”

On Wednesday evening, Conan O’Brien asked my good friend Charles Barkley about his impression of President Barack Obama’s basketball skills. Charles classified President Obama as a “one handed basketball player” who is only capable of playing to one side of this body. So to see if Charles was correct, I searched for video footage of President Barack Obama exercising and playing basketball. Fortunately, Bryant Gumbel did a special on the soon-to-be President where we see Barack Obama in full glory on the court (see video).

A Couple of Factors Impact the President’s Inability to Go Right

Watching the President (around 0:36), he is definitely a natural lefty, demonstrates confidence in going to his left but shys away from penetrating, dribbling, and even passing when going to the right. A couple of factors contribute to the President’s inability to perform to the right. The most obvious assumption is that the president’s dominant hand is his left hand.

Basketball experts prefer to classify this as someone who likes to go left, but in reality, the President’s physical limitations prevent him from going to his right. One factor contributing to his inability to “go right” is the obvious lack of strength and coordination the President has with his right hand and weakness on his left leg in comparison to Obama’s left arm and right leg. The weaknesses in the President’s left leg starts in his toes and goes all the way up to his hip and lower back. The President’s weak hamstrings contribute to a constant feeling that his quadriceps need stretching. The President’s hamstrings are significantly weaker than his quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh).

Because of that weakness (imbalance), the President’s quadriceps muscles are working significantly harder than they should and contribute to periodic soreness in his patella tendons (on both knees-but more often on his right). Quite often after extended sessions where the President is seated (especially following a period of exercise), President Obama may experience slight back pain and or discomfort in his lower back and neck due to the lower body muscle imbalances I mentioned earlier and weaknesses in his posterior deltoid (back of the shoulder, which is significantly weaker on his right side).

If President Obama wants to prove Charles wrong and improve his game, I’d suggest he apply the following prescription:

My Prescription for Improving President Obama’s Game

Target Areas of Weakness: Both, hamstrings-both but weaker on the left leg, Gastroc/Soleus strengthening on the left leg and stretching on the right leg; upper back and posterior deltoid strengtheninging.

Areas to Stretch: Quadriceps with an emphasis on the right leg. Hip flexors on both legs. Avoid Stretching the back of both shoulders. Stretching these areas will lead to tightness in the chest and more rounding of the President’s shoulders-which will contribute to the appearance of poor posture.

Perform Single Leg Calf Raises (heel lifts) on his left leg (be sure to keep the glute muscles—buttocks—firmly contracted on the left leg. This is best done on a stair well with the toes of his left foot barely on the step and the right foot resting 2-3 steps higher.

Perform Single leg hamstring curls (prone)—2 sets of as many reps as he can on the left and 1 set of as many as he can on the right leg, (the goal is 50-100 repetitions on the left)

Perform Box Step Ups—2-3 sets of 15-20 reps stepping up with the left leg and lifting the right towards the chest. Repeating for only 2 sets of 15-20 reps with the right leg on the box.

Single Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press. 3 sets of 15-20 reps with the right arm, 1-2 sets of 15-20 reps with the left arm. This will help the improve the President’s neurological issues affecting strength and coordination of his right hand. Sure he could just work on dribbling and passing to the right, but the weaknesses the President make this a slow road to improvement.

If you’ll notice the prescription calls for the President to do more work on his left leg while working to rest the right leg (the opposite of his arms). A more detailed workout would be prescribed if I had reviewed biomechanics data on the President, but none was available. Incidentally, President Obama struggles with golf because of the weaknesses on his left leg. Those weaknesses could have been caused by an injury earlier in his athletic career which still impacts him today, even though he may not realize it.

Interesting aside about 2008 Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee

While we are on the subject of Presidents or Presidential contenders, interestingly enough, in 2007, I spent a few hours with 2008 Republican Presidential candidate, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. While training for the NYC marathon, Governor Huckabee began to experience knee pain. His personal trainer contacted me and suggested I come down to perform a biomechanics assessment on this running mechanics. The analysis showed that the Governor possessed weak ankles on both legs and as a result failed to use his calf muscles when he ran, (a waddling type gait) consistent with someone who is or was previously overweight and inactive for an extended period of time (many years). Even though the Governor had taken up walking and then running, he failed to address one physical limitation, in his years of being overweight.  It became easier to walk without using his ankles, firing the much needed and neglected muscles on the back of his lower leg.

With the right training and exercise, there may be hope for both President Obama and Governor Huckabee yet.

Stay updated for more sports mechanics analysis by subscribing to ZigSports RSS feed and following me on Twitter.

With over 18 years of experience in health, fitness, and sports performance improvement, Mr. Ziegler has helped some of the world’s best athletes find their groove in baseball, Olympic softball, basketball, football and many other sports. Learn more in About Zig Ziegler, Sports Kinesiologist.