21st-century golf training is no longer just hitting the range or putting green. It has evolved into functional movement training with mobility, control, strength, and speed at its centerpiece. Not only are professional golfers acknowledging the benefits of this type of training, but so is the average golfer who is now reconsidering what they’re doing during their workouts. In this article, you will learn the best exercises for golf!
It’s All In The Hips
Golf training programs are now being developed in the eyes of movement practitioners. Golf is a three-dimensional activity, similar to human movement. Today’s golf swing demands effective loading and force production throughout the kinetic chain. Golf is a sport that demands loading from the bottom up, meaning energy is generated by the lower body, specifically during the backswing. The downswing is the unloading of this energy, and again this is initiated with the lower body, specifically the hips! This energy is transferred from the hips to the pelvis, trunk, arms, club, and finally the golf ball. This is referred to as kinematic sequencing, which in golf is greatly influenced by control of the hips. The following videos are movements designed to increase control of the hips and improve overall movement and control of your golf swing. Golf-specific training for the hips at its finest.
Probably my go-to exercise prior to or after a round of golf, the hips, pelvis, and low back are so inter-connected that you have to tackle all of them for your golf swing not to be limited in any way. Give this a try!
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Mobility, in a Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) sense, is defined as strength and control in order to expand upon usable ranges of motion, articular resilience (i.e. load-bearing capacity), and overall joint health. Adding FRC principles into your training and prehab routine can be a huge game-changer. Read more about FRC below!
According to an article by Vad et al. 2004, a high predictor of low back pain in golfers is reduced internal rotation of the lead hip. In golf, as one hip moves into internal rotation (IR), the other hip moves into external rotation (ER). IR facilitates loading during the backswing on the trail hip, and balance during the follow-through on the lead hip. Whereas ER on the lead hip facilitates the backswing position, and ER on the trail hip helps to initiate the downswing and generate power. Training movement in the 90-90 hip position is excellent for golfers because it puts one hip in ER, and the other in IR, just like golf! One of the best exercises for golf right here!
Want To Fix Your Backswing? Watch This Video!
Building off the mobility and control we’ve gained in the past videos, now it’s time to progress to a standing loaded position to further compliment golf-specific training for the hips. As demonstrated above is one of my favorite exercises for golfers. The backswing primarily loads the trail leg, whereas the follow-through primarily loads the lead leg, thus the body has to control this weight shift. This drill is excellent because it demands single-leg stability while getting comfortable with controlling weight-shifting. The added benefit is working on hip hinge performance, if you want to make this harder, switch legs each rep!
Thoracic Spine Mobility
In addition to good control and mobility of our hips, the thoracic spine is another area of the body that must move well for golfers to hit the ball well! Most overuse injuries can be attributed to poor hip or thoracic spine mobility. The thoracic spine is our mid-back area, and we get a lot of our spinal rotation from this area of our spine. Naturally, in our lives, we fall into poor postures, which is inevitable, and as a result, if we are not moving this area of our spine, it becomes stiff and locked up! Below are some of the best exercises for golf with a focus on thoracic spine mobility!
Begin in a standing position while holding one band with both hands. Hold the band down in front of you to start. Step to the side with one leg. As you step to the side, rotate your chest opening up to that side, and extend that arm back behind you pulling the band. Keep your head looking down at your other arm which is down in front of you. Alternate to each side. You should feel your shoulder muscles working and a stretch in your mid back. Keep your hips facing forward, only rotate your upper half. Keep your head looking down at the arm in front.
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Don’t Forget About The Core!
Where else do we generate movement with our golf swing? The core! Having a solid foundation of core stability will allow everything else to come together with the golf swing. Trying to “arm the movement” is not going to generate a big swing. On the contrary, focusing on sound mechanics, and generating the force from your core and hips will allow you to gain depth on your swings! Here are some of the best exercises for golf with a focus on core activation.
Bird Dog – Band
Begin on your hands and knees with a band wrapped around your foot anchored by your opposite hand. In this position, you will balance on the opposite arm and leg. The wider you are the easier to balance, the more narrow the more challenging this will be. Bring the arm and leg with the band up as high as you can towards the ceiling, slowly return to starting position, and repeat. With the leg kicking out you will feel the muscles on the back of the hip working, with the arm that is punching out you will feel the muscles on top of the shoulder and back of the shoulder blade working. Avoid rotating the trunk, arching the back, or shrugging the shoulder as you elevate the arm with the band.
Golf is a challenging sport, both physically and mentally. One of the greats said it best. Jack Nicklaus – “You can win tournaments when you’re mechanical, but golf is a game of emotion and adjustment. If you’re not aware of what’s happening to your mind and your body when you’re playing, you’ll never be able to be the very best you can be.” Ensuring that you set yourself up for mastering the game of golf is ensuring your body is primed for the activity! Incorporating a purposeful program of exercises specifically for this sport will allow you to do so. Focus on the body areas mentioned in this article to build a great foundation for golf. We have outlined some of the best exercises for golf in this article, now go and get after it!
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Vad et al. 2004 “Low Back Pain in Professional Golfers The Role of Associated Hip and Low Back Range-of-Motion Deficits”
About The Author
Craig Lindell, PT, DPT, CSCS
[P]rehab Co-Founder & Chief Content Officer
Craig is a South Jersey native & Penn State Kinesiology Alumni. When the opportunity came, Craig packed his bags and drove to California to pursue his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. With [P]rehab, Craig oversees all digital content creation and multi-channel publication that reaches millions of people on a weekly basis. As a PT, Craig has a wide array of experience from working with various neurological conditions to working with collegiate & professional athletes across the Big Five in North American sports. Experiencing physical therapy first-hand as a soccer player in high school, Craig has a passion & special interest in adolescent athletic development working with young athletes to overcome injuries. In his spare time, Craig enjoys exercising, playing golfing, hiking, traveling, watching Philly sports, and spending quality time with his family.
Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.