Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the golf world today is the increased emphasis on fitness for golf. Tour professionals and amateurs alike are practicing regular fitness routines specifically targeted for golf. The results are more powerful and stable golf swings. And lower scores.
Not that long ago many people commonly assumed that strong muscles were slow muscles, and anyone who worked out with weights ran the risk of becoming a muscle incapable of swinging a golf club or having the touch for short chips, pitches, and putts. Big, strong muscles were bad in golf, or so said the conventional wisdom.
We all know how Tiger Woods is when it comes to his physical preparation. Annika Sorenstam is 14% leaner and drives 25 yards longer.
The truth is, professionals like Tiger Woods, Annika, VJ ,David Duval, and Ernie Els make the game look easy because they’re strong and fit enough to make the golf swing look simple.
Very few amateurs can devote that amount of time, energy, and money to their golf games, but that shouldn’t stop those amateurs from making positive changes in their games and personal life, by improving their strength and conditioning.
It comes down to this idea: the mechanics of a golf swing require specific levels of flexibility, balance, stability, strength, endurance and power to perform it efficiently. Regardless of how much time you work on your swing mechanics, if your body doesn’t have the golf strength to support your swing, you are limiting your potential.
We see it everyday on the range, people practicing at the range who struggle, not because of trying to get better, but because their bodies are limiting what they can do with their swing.
with limited flexibility, poor balance capabilities and low levels of strength and power.
The bottom line is that your mechanics won’t get better until you fix the body that swings the club.
The pros are all aware of the importance of golf strength, so you should be, too.
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Strength for Your Game
Today the value of strength in golf is almost universally recognized. Strength in all major and minor muscle groups plays a critical role in the golf swing:
Strong external stomach muscles, are essential for good posture at address. This becomes especially critical for golfers with the increased risk of back and neck injury resulting from poor posture.
Shoulder, arm, and upper back strength are crucial in the takeaway, the downswing, the follow-through, and the short game. Your swing is initiated with the shoulders and hips rotating away from the target. The forearms and wrist engage to keep the club in a cocked position. The triceps extend to keep the target arm straight, while the biceps flex the opposite or non-target arm. The rotator cuff muscles work to stabilize the shoulder girdle and turn with the shoulders and arms. The rotator cuff of the non-target arm pulls the club back and externally rotates the arm. The hamstrings and external obliques assist hip rotation during the backswing, creating a stable stance and good posture. The weight shifts from an almost equal distribution at address to upwards of 85 percent on the rear foot due to the redistribution of the upper body.
The lower back is a source of much pain and misery in many golfers. The coiling of the upper body around a resistant lower body coupled with the twisting of the back during the downswing and follow-through can have devastating results. Even in a properly executed golf swing, back muscles pull at the lumbar, and, if a golfer isn’t strong, the discs are susceptible to strain and injury. Nothing can guarantee that you won’t have back problems, even if you do everything right, but a strong lower back is less likely to become an injured lower back.
Strength in the legs and hips are also crucial. Strong hamstrings provide a solid base at address while the inner thighs and hip flexors initiate both the backswing and the downswing. The calf muscle, drives the lower body through the swing, while the ankle flexors are critical for balance.
Golf requires flexibility of the body.
Tight muscles restrict and slow down the motion needed to effectively swing the golf club and as we age, muscles aren’t as naturally flexible and as they were in earlier years. That means golfers must work harder just to maintain the same level of flexibility they had in their younger days.
Keeping your flexibility requires a more than simply warming up with a few stretches at the first tee before a round. Golfers who want to improve their games need to take flexibility training as seriously as hitting practice balls or working on the putting green.
Here are some reasons why:
Stiff muscles and tendons in the trunk and lower body inhibit proper setup and cause golfers to slouch. You can’t make a proper golf swing from a poor setup, and you can’t set yourself in the proper position at address without some degree of flexibility.
Making a proper shoulder turn is impossible if your the shoulder muscles, the chest muscles, obliques the stomach muscles , and the upper back muscles are stiff.. The backswing is a turn of the upper body around the relatively stable lower body. Upper body flexibility makes that turn possible.
The biceps, triceps, wrist and elbow flexors must also be flexible in order for the arms to work properly in the swing. You may have heard the phrase “releasing the golf club”. This term refers to the point in the swing when the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and hands work together to generate the greatest clubhead speed at the exact moment the club makes contact with the ball. In order for those body parts to work in this fashion, each muscle group in the arms and shoulders must be flexible.
The hip flexors and adductor muscles must also remain flexible if you want to swing the club efficiently. Because the lower body initiates the downswing and provides the stable base on which the entire swing is structured, having a full range of motion with these muscles is critical.
Making a good golf swing also depends on a flexible back and abdominal muscles. These opposing muscle groups are stretched to their limit in golf and players must go to great lengths to stretch these muscles properly. If you don’t, poor golf is the least of your worries.
Flexibility may be your single biggest issue or just a small portion of the weaknesses you face today. Maybe stamina is a small issue, yet strength loss is a major factor. It could be just one thing or any combination of things that work together and against your game.
Flexibility, stability and power are all improved by exercising for golf. As you begin to develop a regular golf exercise regimen, be sure to concentrate on functional exercise for golf. These exercises include a combination of movements designed to both strengthen the muscles as well as improve neuromuscular coordination. Therefore, when you take your golf swing, the body’s already been conditioned to perform in a similar manner. Strength training and stretching exercises will go the distance to improve your game.
How do you find a golf fitness program? Pursue a fitness professional who works with golfers and really understands the mechanics of the swing.
Get a book on golf fitness at your bookstore: put together your own program from the content of the book. Remember all it takes is two or three times a week for 40 minutes to dramatically improve your game.
Certified Golf Fitness Instructor through the Titelist Performance Institute. Current Golf Fitness Director for the Golden Bear Golf Center in Carrollton Tx. For more info go www.chrisownbey.com