The 5 Best Golf Fitness Exercises for a Better Golf Game
The golf swing is a complex and unnatural swing for many people.
Unlike tennis or baseball, where you have the luxury of moving the feet and body to position yourself to
strike the ball, the golf swing necessitates detailed attention to the sequencing of your body’s
movements for best ball striking.
Years of research on the optimal golf swing has identified a very specific “Kinematic Sequence” that
produces an efficient, smooth, and powerful swing. It will vary slightly from person to person, but, in our
mind’s eye, we all know what it looks like.
The question we need to ask ourselves, whether we are a beginner or experienced veteran, is do we
have the body awareness, strength, and mobility to achieve the best, safest, and most efficient kinematic
sequence for our bodies?
This is where golf fitness comes in. While YOU might not know the answer, your golf pro, and golf fitness
expert can help you answer that.
First Step – Ask Your Golf Professional
- What does he or she identify as an area of your golf swing that needs improvement?
- Is your golf turn and finish complete?
- Can you maintain golf posture at address and throughout the swing?
- Do you overuse your arms (and maybe suffer from chronic, shoulder, or wrist pain)?
- Do you lack clubhead speed and power?
These are ALL things that can be identified by your golf instructor and then addressed by a golf fitness expert.
As a golf fitness professional, I would personally evaluate you on your golf pros’ recommendation and assess what part of your fitness needs improvement to help your golf swing.
Is it your mobility/flexibility? Is it your core stabilization? Is it strength and power? Is it balance?
Over the last 15 years of training hundreds of golfers, I have focused on several basic golf fitness
hallmarks and programmed simple exercises that are must-do’s for my golf clients.
Just remember that golf fitness does not have to be complicated!
These exercises can be progressed or regressed as needed to fit a golfer’s baseline fitness and golf skills.
The Essential Areas of Golf Fitness
- Strong hips and glutes for power transference and back safety.
- Anterior core stability to protect the back, translate forces from the hips up through the golf club, and cement good golf posture at address and through the entire swing.
- Mid back strength to protect the mobile, but often weak, shoulders and assist in power translation.
- Rotator cuff strength to protect our vulnerable shoulders which take a beating in the golf swing.
- Adequate hip and mid back rotation to create coil and spare the spine.
Top 5 Golf Fitness Exercises for Beginners and Advanced Golfers:
Your glutes are the king of the golf swing as far as transferring forces, getting through the ball, and protecting the low back from overworking.
Exercises that work on hip extension and lateral hip strength and stability are the key to a powerful golf swing.
Glute Bridges (also called Hip Thrusters) when elevated, are a user-friendly way to get your glutes in gear. To get the most out of your glute bridge, push through your heels, engage abdominals to prevent over-arching of the low back, and perform as many reps as you need to feel fatigued. Try a single-leg bridge for more than double the work!
Planks on forearms and other plank variations are very helpful in golf.
Many people misinterpret the role of the abdominals in the golf swing and hence choose abdominal
exercises that may not be what they need for their best golf swing.
Primarily, the abs act as isometric holders of your golf posture and allow for hip and shoulder separation during different phases of the golf swing. Rotation or “twisting” is another role they take on during the swing, but always make sure you work stability ( anti-rotation and anti-extension) in addition to any rotational drills. I love all kinds of rotational drills – but know what you are rotating and why.
Low back? No!
Upper body and whole body pivot- yes!
ROWS & CABLES
Rowing for the mid-back with dumbbells or cable/tubing.
While the glutes and anterior core are the king and queen of the golf swing, the latissimus dorsi and
other mid-back muscles have got to be the princes and princesses.
The mid-back muscles hold the shoulders back and allow for straight posture at address. The mid-back muscles support the highly mobile shoulders, and without mid-back strength, shoulders are at risk of injury.
The lats pull the arms down into the body as in the downswing, so they need to be strong. But the lats also need to be resilient enough to withstand the momentum-driven forces in the follow-through without getting injured.
SHOULDER EXTERNAL ROTATIONS
While the mid-back muscles support a strong swing and assist in power translation, they also support
the very mobile and delicate shoulders.
I say very mobile – well….they should be, anyway!
They should be able to rotate in all directions! And yet, many people have tight shoulders from working at computers or their desks all day.
In the golf swing, external rotation of the humerus is an important movement, and this is driven by a strong rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is actually 4 muscles that hold the arm bone centered in the socket.
Strengthen those tiny muscles to prevent shoulder injuries and optimize the top of your golf swing. Keep the weight or resistance quite low to begin with.
HIP & MID-BACK ROTATION STRETCHES
While it is essential to strengthen the core, mid-back, and legs for a strong resilient golf swing, we still
then obviously need to be able to rotate our mid-back and our hips during various parts of the golf
This is often where people struggle.
The thoracic spine and the hips get very tight from seated static postures. You’ve got to work on the rotation of these body segments for a full swing and prevent shoulder, elbow, and back injuries. There are many ways to do this, some more complicated and “pretzley” than others.
Pick your poison. I often use a lying side twist to mimic movements of the golf swing and get a full-body rotational stretch. Of course, do both sides always.
Feel how these stretches create the rotation needed for a big backswing and smooth follow-through.
Also, remember, the ability to rotate shoulders while hips are still, and vice versa, demands a strong core to act as an anchor. Rotation will also improve when your abs and glutes are strong.
Simple And Effective Golf Exercises
These are simple but effective exercises for golf fitness and life too! These are just examples. You might
need to regress or progress these depending on your baseline fitness level. I do suggest consulting with
a trainer to assess your baseline fitness level and help you choose the right exercises for you.
About the Author
Kathy Ekdahl, CSCS, of Personal Best Personal Training, is a 35-year career fitness
professional, personal trainer, TPI Golf Fitness Instructor, writer, and yoga instructor. She
currently works at Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee, Massachusetts. Kathy is the author of “Getting
Golf Ready – An Introduction to Golf Fitness and Yoga”. Visit Kathy’s website at: www.personalbestpersonaltraining.com