With all the talk about the players on tour getting stronger and more flexible, we hear a lot about exercising for golf from television commentators and read about it in the golf publications. But what exactly are the best exercises for the amateur golfer?
A great question that has a good answer, but before we give you the answer let us provide some background so the answer makes a little more sense to you. First of all, discussing the golf swing for the time being will get us rolling.
What exactly is the golf swing? The golf swing is an athletic movement that requires using of the entire body from “feet to fingertips” in order to complete the swing. Realize that the golf swing is not about the club, not just about your 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. To perform the “athletic movement” of the golf swing requires the body to begin at address, move through the actual phases of the golf swing and complete it with the follow through. In order to perform this activity with efficiency and repetitively, the body must have certain physical parameters.
These parameters, as I call them, are actual physical categories of the body that need to be developed to a certain level. These categories of the body are the platform from which the body is able to perform the athletic movement of a golf swing efficiently. The categories are probably familiar to many of you, but for the purpose of this article let us briefly run through them.
The body is required to have certain levels of flexibility, balance, endurance, strength, and power to complete a golf swing. If the body lacks in any of the above categories, then the results will be seen in the golf swing. The results are usually in the form of poor mechanics, bad shots, or poor scores on the course. So, now that we know what the connection is between the “body” and the “swing” let us address the question about the best exercises for golf.
The Best Exercises for Golf
Let’s say you walk into your local health club and see all the fancy machines and aerobic machines at the facility to get you shape. What ones would choose? Would you choose running on the treadmill for 30 minutes, or would it be better to push out a couple sets of bench presses? Well, the answer to our question really lies within the connection between your swing and your body.
I will tell you that exercises meant to “pump you up!” or give you that “six pack” are not necessarily the correct exercises for your golf game. Neither is that weight training program you used back in high school. So, with those thoughts in mind what do you think the best exercises for golf are?
Right now we know, in general terms about the golf swing, what is required of the body for the golf swing and what exercises are not good for the swing. Armed with that knowledge we can decipher what the best exercises for golf are for you.
Beginning with flexibility, we know that the entire body must move through certain ranges of motion to perform an effective golf swing. And what happens if your body is not able to move through the required ranges of motion of the golf swing? The answer: the golf swing will mechanically suffer resulting in shots that are less than optimal. So part of the exercises that are good for golfers are flexibility exercises and, even more so, flexibility exercises that work the muscles used in the golf swing through the movements involved in the golf swing. So first and foremost flexibility exercises should be on the top of your list.
The second category of exercises that would be conducive to the golf swing would have to do with balance. We hear about balance in reference to the golf swing all the time. “Stay balanced through the swing; transfer your weight to maintain balance during the swing…” But what does balance exactly mean? Balance is the ability to control your body through a specific movement pattern. The movement pattern we are discussing just happens to be the golf swing. We know the importance of balance in relation to the golf swing, so how do we train our body for better balance in the golf swing? Before we answer that question we need to know a little more about balance. Balance in relation to the body has to do with 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 body’s balance. The more efficient your nerves and muscles are to these messages the greater balance abilities the body develops. So balance exercises train both the nervous system and muscular system to become more efficient at this function. Summing it all up, balance is the second category of exercises that will assist your golf game.
The third category of exercises that are beneficial to golf have to do with your muscles. The golf swing requires the muscles of your body to move through a specific range of motion (flexibility) and help with your balance capacities. In order to perform these actions and others, your body needs certain levels of strength and endurance. The definition of strength is the ability of the muscles to exert force for the given “athletic action” (simplified definition but a good working definition for us). Endurance is the ability of your muscles to do the same activity over and over again for a specific amount of time.
First off, let us discuss strength. 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 bench press 250 lbs. Or squat 500! It is strength geared towards the improvement of your swing. I refer to this type of strength as “golf strength.” So when you get to the gym, performing strength exercises like bench press will not help your swing. Exercises that train the body in the positions and through the movements of the golf swing will help your swing.
In addition to strength, we need to develop endurance in your muscles. Think of how many swings you may take over the course of 18 holes. In order for you to be able to swing the club the same way on the 18th hole as you did on the 1st hole. Your body has to have high levels of endurance. This will allow your body to perform the golf swing without getting tired. You develop endurance similar to how you develop “golf strength.” Utilize exercises that train the body in the positions and through the movements of the golf swing. Lighter loads with higher repetitions will be used for these exercises. The end result will be the development of “golf endurance.”
The final segment of exercises beneficial to your golf swing is power training. Power training is geared towards the ability of your body to generate high levels of club head speed. Power development by the body is what allows for greater distance on your shots. Clubs help, golf balls help, but it really comes down to the piece of machinery, your body, swinging those club and hitting those golf balls. Development of power for the golf swing is very similar to the development of “golf strength and endurance.” It is the utilization of exercises that place your body in the positions and move you through movements similar to the golf swing.
So there you have it, the answer to the types of exercises best for the improvement of your golf swing. I think you now realize it is not one exercise, but a group of exercises that incorporate flexibility, balance, endurance, strength, and power. A combination of these exercises is what will enhance your golf swing.
Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world today. He travels the PGA Tour regularly with 2004 Masters Champion Phil Mickelson. To learn more about Sean and his golf fitness progams go to http://www.seancochran.com
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