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Improve Your Golf Swing

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Improve Your Golf Swing

Here’s how to build the strength and mobility you need — while warding off injuries that could put a crimp in your golf game.

Golf does not require the endurance of a triathlete or the brawn of a power lifter. Instead, it’s all about technique and form — which in turn require mobility, stability, flexibility, and core strength.

The quick, fluid motion of a drive takes just seconds, torquing your upper body backward and then forward: backswing, downswing, follow-through. But there’s a lot more happening here than you might expect.

Consider the tremendous amount of force created by your body during those seconds. Then there’s the rotation of a full swing and the balance and coordination required to keep your feet on the ground and your swing on plane. Added together, you have a complicated athletic movement, indeed.

To accomplish all this, golfers need adequate thoracic (upper and middle back) mobility, stable knees, flexible (but not hypermobile) hips, and, perhaps most critical, a strong core.

“Without proper activation of the core muscles, you’re getting too much laxity and mobility of the lumbar [lower] spine and SI [sacroiliac] joint,” says Chris Poulin, CSCS, PRT, a Titleist Performance Institute golf-fitness instructor who tutors pro golfers in the finer points of preventing or recovering from injuries.

Many golfers suffer lower-back pain because of the excessive motion of the swing, he explains.

“Most golfers have difficulty shifting into their left hip, or turning their pelvis to the left.” (Due to anatomical asymmetries, this is true for both right- and left-handed golfers.) Not only does that limitation cause you to lose distance and accuracy in your swing, it also causes unnecessary strain on the knees and excessive back extension, which can lead to back pain and knee injuries.

The following workout, designed by Poulin, builds up your body for the demands of the sport, so you’ll have the necessary strength and balance to perform well and remain injury-free. Several top European tour professionals perform a similar program.

One word of caution: These exercises are subtle but powerful, so don’t overdo them. You’ll get the best results by building your capacity over the course of a few weeks.

The Golf-Swing Workout

Begin with just one set of up to 10 reps of each exercise every other day, and work your way up to two sets of 10 reps per day. When you hit the links, warm up with a single set before you start playing, and then complete up to three sets afterward. Workout by Chris Poulin, CSCS, PRT, instructor at the Titleist Performance Institute.

1. TRX Hip Lift With Exhalation

Most golfers play right-handed, which can cause the pelvis to compensate by pulling forward on the left side. This exercise will help draw your pelvis back into a more neutral, balanced position.

TRX-Hip-Lift-With-Exhalation

  • Set the straps of the TRX suspension trainer to the “long” position.
  • Lying on your back with your hands at your sides, slip your feet into the foot cradles of the TRX with your knees flexed at a 90-degree angle.
  • Begin by taking a deep breath through your nose.
  • As you exhale, push through your heels while trying to keep your back flat on the ground and your knees flexed at 90 degrees. Engage your hamstrings and lift your knees slightly. You will feel your rib cage moving down.
  • Take another deep breath and allow your knees to relax back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for up to 10 repetitions.

2. Knee-Forward Sprint

This exercise helps you stretch the back of your hips, so you can transfer weight from the right side of your body to the left. It’ll aid you in pivoting effectively, preventing injury and improving your swing.

Knee-Forward-Sprint

  • Set a 25-pound or heavier weight plate flat on the floor, and stand on it with your left foot.
  • Place your right foot on the ground parallel to your left foot, hip-width apart. Move your right foot a couple of inches ahead of the left foot. Distribute your weight evenly on your two feet.
  • Rest your hands on a bench, desk, or table in front of you. You can also use a Smith machine with a bar that’s about waist high.
  • Bend slightly at the knees and tuck your tailbone to push your pelvis forward in a posterior pelvic tilt. Keep your right knee a couple of inches ahead of your left knee. Hold for five seconds.
  • Repeat for up to 10 repetitions.

3. Lateral Dips

A tight adductor muscle (on the inner thigh) in the right leg can limit pelvic mobility, gumming up your swing and shortening your follow-through. This exercise stretches the adductor muscle.

Lateral-Dips

  • Set a 25-pound or heavier weight plate flat on the floor, and stand on it with your left foot.
  • Place your right foot on the ground parallel to your left foot, positioned slightly wider than hip width.
  • Squat slightly and tuck your tailbone.
  • Rotate your right leg slightly, similar to the way you would shift your weight during a swing.
  • Breathe in and engage your core, holding for five to 10 seconds.
  • Repeat for up to 10 repetitions.

4. Lunge With High Guard

This exercise improves your backswing by strengthening your left abdominal muscles and assisting with optimal shoulder rotation. Instructions below are for right-handed golfers. If you are a left-handed golfer, simply reverse the position and perform the exercise on your left side.

Lunge-With-High-Guard

  • Begin by standing with your feet parallel and together. Step your left foot back into a backward lunge, keeping your weight in your right heel.
  • Extend your arms in front of your body, palms facing each other. Bend your arms at the elbows to bring your fingertips toward the ceiling, then draw your arms together until your elbows and palms touch.
  • Leaving your left arm where it is, and keeping your right arm bent and your core engaged, rotate your upper body to the right and draw your right arm back and slightly up. Your hips, legs, and feet should remain positioned forward in the lunge.
  • Maintaining that position, inhale and exhale five times, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for up to 10 repetitions.

5. Cable Push-Pull

This exercise helps strengthen your core and upper body, and improves coordination. Keep resistance light so you can maintain good form.

Cable-Push-Pull

  • Adjust a cable cross machine so that the left arm of the machine is just slightly below parallel to the ground, and the right arm of the machine is one notch lower than that. Attach strap handles to each arm.
  • Stand perpendicular to the machine. Grip the left handle with your left hand, the right handle with your right hand.
  • Bend your knees slightly. Tuck your tailbone and engage your core.
  • Inhale, then exhale while slowly pulling the right cable back and pushing the left cable forward.
  • Inhale and return to the starting position.
  • Use the same breathing pattern and repeat with opposite arms.
  • Complete up to 10 repetitions on each side.

6. TRX Rotation

This exercise helps improve your backswing (or downswing, if you’re left-handed). Perform on both sides. If you’re tighter in one direction, or find that it’s more difficult, perform more reps in that direction.

TRX-Rotation

  • Adjust the straps of the TRX suspension trainer to the “long” position.
  • Gripping a handle in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and torso bent slightly forward.
  • Tuck your tailbone, slowly rotate your right shoulder backward, and let your right arm follow.
  • Continue to pull your right arm back until it forms a straight line with your left. At the top of the movement, your chest will be facing right and your arm will be behind you. Keep your elbow slightly bent and your core engaged. You’ll feel pressure in the arch of your right foot.
  • Bring your hands back together again in front of your body.
  • Repeat for up to 10 repetitions on each side.

Yael Grauer is a health and fitness writer, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, and managing editor of Performance Menu: Journal of Health and Athletic Excellence. Find her at www.yaelwrites.com or on Twitter @yaelwrites.

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