The modern golf game is no longer represented by the likes of Ben Hogan puffing on Chesterfields or John Daly consuming diet soda by the gallon. The term “golf biomechanics” was never part of their vocabulary! Tiger Woods set new and long-held benchmarks for game preparation, physical fitness and power.
Without a doubt, Woods introduced the value of gym work as an additional and critical component in preparation for playing competitive golf. When he donned the cover of Men’s Fitness in 2007 with an accompanying headline: “Tiger! His Supersizing Workout — How He Got BIG” we knew “golf fitness” would never be the same again!
If attending the gym is a regular part of your week, then great. There are a vast range of exercises that will enhance golf fitness and game readiness. Here are four exercises that target critical body components in the golf swing — from top to bottom. These are easy to include in gym routines and easily adapted to home workouts by replacing specialist equipment for at-hand materials.
But first, the power of stretching
Take a leaf from Woods’ book and begin every gym session with a suite of specific stretches. One thing the pros have in common is acknowledging that stretching and flexibility is a key factor supporting fitness and performance on the course.
Stretch for five whole minutes prior to stepping onto the first tee. Raise your driver above your head and focus on stretching the shoulders and lower back. Tip back slightly and feel for the good stretch in the lower back (don’t bounce or force back to far). Bend to the left and right, slowly. Make sure not to overdo it. Grab your elbow and bring it across in front of you and stretch. Again, feel for the threshold and hold rather than jerking or bouncing.
Medicine ball work or adding weight to the chest or upper body while training will make the club feel like a feather and build that powerhouse up top. Hold it with two hands, swing it across to emulate a golf swing and drop it. Repeat this many times for a super exercise.
The heavy ball and pronounced swing motion make you painfully aware what muscles are being used and how critical the back, shoulders and thighs are in making a swing. DJ and a myriad of others turn to this exercise every week to build strength through the swing motion.
McIlroy, the first golfer ever to make the cover of Men’s Health, has dedicated himself to developing upper body strength. Daily gym work made that happen. Core strength, flexibility and building muscle to protect the back, arms and shoulders are a prime focus. Watching the video of Rory’s photo shoot for Men’s Health reassures that the use of the heavy medicine ball, while mimicking a swing, is a favored routine for many of the guys on tour.
The anti-inflammatory meds market is propped-up by the number of golfers who pop these before, during and after a round to compensate for back issues. Lower back issues, in particular, are associated with poor or declining core strength and flex — so take this seriously.
Day, Rose, and Woods have all presented with recurring back complaints. Day’s most recent injury, the result of changing a diaper and pushing a tee into the ground, saw him pull out of the BMW and rest for the remainder of the 2016 season. Interestingly, Day was quoted on the Golf Channel as saying, “I wasn’t able to go to the gym as much, missed a few massage sessions with my guy. Muscles turn off, and then my back goes out. But I learned from it. I’m going to try and get better.”
The best and easiest exercise for building strength in the lower back is the “Superman” exercise. Lay on the floor, on your stomach, and lift the arms and legs in the air. The repetitions, as well as long holds, will build strength in that lumbar and disk region, notorious for golf injuries and a critical component in the swing.
Target the torso, pelvis, hips and glutes
Who best to turn to than the legendary Gary Player. At over 80 years old, this guy is still knocking out over 1400 crunches or sit-ups four times a week. His washboard stomach and core strength helps him shoot an average of 70 on every outing. One of Player’s secret weapons is planks, going every which way, including the left and right sides. This builds core strength in no time.
These skeletal and muscular rotation components need to be kept subtle and stretched. Deep squatting, squatting against a wall or pushing into a physio ball are easily executed exercises. Completing lunges while twisting your arms from side to side as though you are rowing a canoe will also build strength. Grab a mat along with a physio ball at the gym and build this into your workout.
Don’t forget your oblique muscles! These are key for trunk rotation. Try to touch your toes by simply leaning over. Allow your lower back and obliques to stretch, but make sure to do so gently to avoid injury.
Thighs are the base of your strength, and knees for flex. Power here will bring the stability and balance needed to execute a powerful shot without falling backward or forwards, not to mention being a willing and able accomplice in getting around the golf course. Squats and deadlifts are the two easiest exercises to build strength in the legs.
Deadlifts are favored by DJ and McIlroy. Over time, as you get better, add weight. The important point is to ensure that you are doing it correctly. As weight increases, be careful so injuries are avoided.
Bench presses for legs are great, too. Again, get some help from gym personnel to ensure they understand your goals and purpose. Safety should be your priority.
Consider yoga or pilates
If the gym fails to hold your interest, consider yoga or pilates classes. You can even try home routines. There will be terrific benefits all around. These types of exercises are designed to build core strength and increase flexibility in critical golf body parts, like the spine and hip rotators. Balance, stability on your feet and garnering mental prowess are additional benefits.
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