Strength for Golf
A balance of flexibility and strength, plus mind and body efficiency, make great golf. The golf swing is a complicated movement that requires using the entire body from “feet to fingertips” in order to complete the swing. We know that the golf swing is not just about the club, or the grip, or where your head is during the swing. The golf swing is a movement that requires your entire body to move through a sequence of movements with the correct timing. The body’s ability “to move through a sequence of movements with correct timing” can be defined in one word as BALANCE. Balance for any sport is attained when a joint is being both stabilized and mobilized at the same time. Around a joint, some muscles and connective tissues need to lengthen (flexibility) while others are shortening (strength). This needs to happen at just the right time in the movement, and for the golf swing, timing is everything. If there is a lack of either flexibility or strength during any moment of the swing, the swing will be inhibited with a short drive or a slow swing or result in an injury. The possibility of injury has to be considered when developing your golf swing because of the repetitiveness of the sport. Another way to think of BALANCE is in regard to the mind – body connection. Balance involves the connection between your nerves and muscles. Essentially your nervous system, as a result of messages sent from your brain, tells your muscles how to move to maintain the shifting of your body weight. The more efficient your nerves and muscles are to the messages sent between them, the better the body is at responding to weight shifts. So developing the mind – body connection trains both the nervous system and muscular system to become more efficient for this function.
In my last article, I gave you stretches that were specific to the flexibility requirements for the golf swing. Today, I will give you strength exercises that target the muscles involved for a great golf swing. The muscles that I will target as a group are the hips, the low, mid and upper-mid spine, and the shoulders. There are other anatomical contributors to the golf swing, like the arms, wrists, fingers, neck and ankles, that should not be forgotten about, but they will not be exemplified in this short article.
The golf swing has one intention of developing club head speed while maintaining balance through the swing. The muscles in your body must have enough strength in them to do both. Now, when we discuss building strength for the golf swing it is NOT the type of strength needed to move heavy rocks while landscaping your yard or to win a weight lifting competition. It is strength geared towards the improvement of your swing. Exercises that train the body in the positions and through the movements of the golf swing with some resistance will help your swing.
The best golfers are showing 40-50 degree rotation of their pelvis and 90-95 degree rotation in their upper-mid back and shoulders. That is a lot of rotation. That kind of torque of the spine requires good flexibility to move the body effectively through that motion, and strength to be able to stabilize the body while creating club head speed. This shows that hips, spine and shoulder strength is crucial for a powerful golf swing. Most of the exercises below will help the whole golf swing, with some being more specific to one of the four phases of the swing. The refinement of these exercises are discussed in the Stott Pilates repertoire of movements and can also be found in other exercise modalities. Please don’t forget the basics of good posture. Basic does not mean simple, nor can it be assumed. Good posture is the foundation of any sport. If good posture is not established, chances are that the rest of the body will not respond properly to the demands of the sport. The teachings of Pilates and yoga are built on the foundation of good posture, as should any form of movement. And for you golfers who are looking to improve your game, look at some of the world’s top golfers and you will see great posture.
1. Squat with alternating leg lifts: strengthens the muscles that stabilize the hips while moving the legs. Mike has his feet hip width apart and maintaining his knees over his toes. He squats by reaching his hips back while keeping his torso straight and flat. When he stands up he lifts one leg up to train both strength and balance.
2. Back Extensions : strengthens all the muscles that help to keep that spine erect. Carole is both lifting and lengthening the upper and lower body off the floor, pulling her belly-button to her spine and reaching her hands to her ankles.
3. Lateral Flexion: strengthens obliques unilaterally and the quadratus lumborum which is strong anchor for the lumbar-sacrum area of the spine. Glenn, Janice and Jan are lying on their sides and lifting up the upper and lower body.
4. Oblique lifts: strengthens the obliques bilaterally. Kim lifts her upper body up as much as she can without pelvic tilting and twists her shoulder towards the opposite hip.
5. Long arm adduction: strengthens latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major and teres major. Jan has attached one end of a resistance band to a fixed object and pulls her arm away from the attachment and towards her body without lifting her shoulder.
6. Push Up: strengthens chest, shoulders, triceps and abdominals. Lynn is holding a beautiful plank shape with her hands under her shoulders. She keeps her tummy pulled up while she bends her elbows fairly close to her body and lowers herself to the floor and then pushes herself back up.
7. Back Swing assimilation: strengthens the deltoids, and a set of small muscles known as the rotator cuff that is responsible for the finer movements of the shoulder as well as preventing dislocation.
I hope that these exercises help your golf swing. Remember to spend time stretching as well as strengthening, it will help your game. Please view the graph below which shows the benefits of incorporating both strengthening and stretching movements into your exercises for golf program.
For questions or comments, go to www.sculptpilates.ca
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