Tune Up Your Body
Staying flexible and improving strength are key in improving a player's golf game
March 01, 2015
- Bent knee marches are a good way to improve strength in the lower back. (Courtesy of Sean Cochran)
After a long layoff from the links due to the cold days of winter, it is imperative we recognize the importance of getting both our swings and bodies back into shape. Taking these steps to address the physical parameters of the golf game will go a long way in assuring optimal levels of play and enjoyment, as well as the prevention of injury.
If your body does not have the required levels of mobility, flexibility, strength, and power to perform the mechanics of the swing efficiently, the potential to perform a proficient golf swing will be dramatically decreased and the possibility for a nagging injury increased.
In order to avoid such a situation and get the greatest amount of enjoyment out of your game this season making sure to take care of your body can go a long way to get your swing on track from the get go.
The Five Physical Pillars of the Golf Swing
We know the body is the physical foundation of the golf swing, allowing the golfer the potential to proficiently execute. The physical foundation is comprised of five pillars -- mobility, balance, strength, endurance, and power.
Mobility is the combination of joint range of motion and muscular extensibility. The swing requires the golfer to draw the club through a large range of motion, and in order to do so correctly require certain joints of the body to be mobile and many muscles of the body to be flexible.
Balance is the ability of the body to maintain postural positioning, center of gravity, and coordination during movement. Throughout the golf swing, it is necessary for the golfer to maintain the proper spine angle, create a weight transfer and coordinate muscular movements. To perform this properly, you must be able to maintain balance.
Strength is the ability of your body to exert the required levels of force to perform the functional movements at hand. In order to execute every phase of the golf swing efficiently and effectively, a certain level of postural strength is required. This allows your body to maintain the postural positions and a fixed spine angle to generate power.
Muscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to repeatedly perform a physical action over an extended period of time without fatigue. Performing the golf swing over 18 holes causes fatigue within the muscular system. As a result, performance can decrease. Once this occurs, the ability to swing the club efficiently is compromised. To prevent such a situation from occurring during a round, it is necessary to develop muscular endurance.
Power can be defined as the ability of the body to create the greatest amount of force in a short amount of time. During the golf swing, the muscles of your body in conjunction with the swing generate power. Increasing the power outputs of the body provides you the opportunity to increase clubhead and ball speeds, equaling increased distances on the course with every club in the bag.
Six Golf Fitness Exercises to Get Your Game Back in Shape
1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Presses
Goal: Increase dynamic flexibility in the hip flexors and activate the glutes.
Starting Position: Kneel with the right knee in contact with the floor and bend the left knee at 90 degrees. Position a dowel rod or golf club 4-6 inches in front of your left foot. Place your hands on the club with the arms extended and torso upright
The Exercise: Begin by pressing the hips forward and left knee towards the golf club. Allow your left knee to bend and continue pressing forward until a stretch is felt in the right hip. Once a stretch is felt in the right hip, pause briefly, return to the starting position of the exercise and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. Repeat the exercise with the right knee.
Tip: Keep your torso upright and forward foot in contact with the floor throughout the entire exercise.
2. T-Spine Openers
Goal: Increased mobility in the thoracic spine.
Starting Position: Position the knees on the floor directly under the hips, hands shoulder width apart, and arms straight. Push the hips backwards towards your heels while keeping your hands on the floor. Place the left hand on the back of your neck.
The Exercise: Slowly rotate the left elbow towards the right arm. Create the rotation with the torso and continue to rotate until the left elbow touches the right arm. Pause slightly and reverse the rotation away from the right arm. Rotate the left arm, shoulder, and upper torso as far as possible away from the right arm keeping the left hand in contact with the neck throughout. Pause briefly at the end point of rotation and repeat for 10-15 repetitions. Repeat the exercise with the opposite arm.
Tip: Keep the hand in contact with the neck through the entire exercise.
3. Stork Turns
Goal: Improve hip mobility and separation between upper and lower body.
Starting Position: Standing perpendicular to a wall, post, or cable column, feet closer than shoulder width, torso upright, and place both hands on the wall. Hook the left foot behind the knee of your right leg.
The Exercise: Slowly rotate the hips left and right while keeping the shoulders parallel. Increase the speed of the hip rotation as you become comfortable with the exercise. Perform 10-15 rotations and repeat with the right foot hooked behind the left leg.
Tip: Keep your foot firmly planted on the floor and shoulders stationary throughout the exercise.
4. Bent Knee Marches
Goal: Develop postural strength in the lower back and glute activation.
Starting Position: Lay with your back flat on the floor, knees bent, and feet together.
The Exercise: Elevate your hips off the floor in-line with your knees and shoulders. Do not arch the lower back or allow the hips to sag. Slowly lift the left foot off the floor 3-5 inches, pause briefly, return the foot to the floor, and repeat with the right foot. Alternate elevating the left and right for 10-15 repetitions.
Tip: Think about keeping the hips in-line with the shoulders and knees throughout the entire exercise.
5. Side Plank
Goal: Develop stability in the internal and external obliques.
Starting Position: Begin on your right side, elbow directly under the right shoulder, forearm on the floor. Extend your legs straight with the left leg on top of your right. Do not permit your elbow to placed in front of behind the shoulder on this exercise, doing so may cause discomfort in the shoulder capsule.
The Exercise: Elevate your hips off the floor to a position in-line with the feet and shoulders. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds. Do not allow the hips to sag. Repeat on the opposite side.
Tip: Keep the arm extended and eyes looking at your hand throughout the exercise.
6. Single Leg Address Position Rotations
Goal: Improve balance capacities during rotational movement patterns
Starting Position: Place the body in a proper address position, knees slightly bent, fixed spine angle, arms crossed over your chest.
The Exercise: Raise the right foot slightly off the floor while maintaining your address position and fixed spine angle. Begin to slowly rotate your shoulders to the right to the point of a complete shoulder turn. Return to the starting position of the exercise and repeat for 10-15 repetitions maintaining balance on the left foot. Repeat the exercise balancing on the left foot.
Tip: Maintain a fixed spine angle throughout the exercise.
Performance coach Sean Cochran has worked with pro golfers for more than 10 years, including five-time major winner Phil Mickelson. He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including Performance Golf Fitness. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations, including the Titleist Performance Institute.