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Serious golfers work hard to play well: expensive equipment, professional lessons, and hours of reading and practice. Yet many players bypass an important part of playing well: exercise.

Serious golfers work hard to play well: expensive equipment, professional lessons, and hours of reading and practice. Yet many players bypass an important part of playing well: exercise. Whether you are new or experienced on the golf course, a sport-specific physical training program can give you that extra edge.

“A good golf-conditioning program emphasizes flexibility, strength, posture, stabilization, balance, and endurance,” says Wayne Oliver, certified personal fitness trainer and cofounder of Golfisticks, a program in Fonthill, Ontario, that aims to create a well-rounded golfer by incorporating technical, mental, and physical disciplines. Here’s why.

Flexibility improves joint range of motion and helps avoid muscle strain or soreness. To execute an optimal golf swing, a full range of motion is essential.

Strength adds power to a swing and prepares the body for repetitive stresses from the sport. A strong muscular system translates into long-term injury prevention.

Posture is important, especially at the top and finish of the swing. Good posture allows for efficient movement, less chance of injury, better recruitment of muscles, increased swing consistency, and a positive mental outlook.

Stability in the shoulder girdle will affect proper grip and arm position, while stability in the lower spine will affect hip rotation. Failure to stabilize in these areas can create inconsistencies in your swing.

Balance contributes to and is a very important component of an effective golf swing.

Endurance in the cardiovascular system enhances athletic performance, helps delay fatigue and allows for better mental focus.

Even if your score doesn’t improve, a good training program could keep you on the course rather than the sidelines with an irritating injury.

A good warm-up makes a difference

Lying rotation
Increases midsection flexibility and reduces chance of lower back injury.

Lie face up on floor with knees bent, feet flat, and arms outstretched to sides. Tighten abdominals and slowly lower both legs to one side. Keep head, shoulders, and arms flat. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.

Hamstring stretch
Hamstrings help stabilize the body and initiate power for the swing. Flexible hamstrings reduce the chance of lower back injury.

Sit on floor with one leg extended and other leg bent (bottom of foot rests on inside knee of extended leg). Lean forward from hips and reach toward toes with back straight until you feel stretch in back of extended leg. Repeat for other leg.

Door stretch
Opens chest and reduces rounded shoulders to allow for a full backswing and to easily take the club to the top.

Stand in doorway with one leg in front and other slightly behind. Bend elbows at right angles and place forearms on either side of doorframe. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch.

Helpful Exercises for the Golfer

Hip Lift:
Strengthens and stabilizes lower back, reduces chance of lower back injury.

Lie face up on floor with knees bent, feet flat and arms at sides. Tighten abdominal muscles, squeeze buttocks, and lift hips off the floor. Return to starting position.

To increase the challenge of this movement, add a stability ball under the knees, calves, or heels. The farther the ball is from your buttocks, the harder the exercise will be.

Obliques roll back with club:
Strengthens torso for rotation to the top of the swing, improves stability, and reduces chance of lower back injury.

Sit on floor with knees bent and spine tall. Using both hands, hold golf club horizontal to floor with arms straight out in front and shoulder width apart. Round spine and roll back; hold and twist upper torso to one side, and then the other. Return to centre and roll up to starting position.

Scapular isolations:
Strengthens upper back, shoulders, and rotator cuff muscles to improve posture and stability.

Sit on edge of chair or on a stability ball with back straight. Using both hands hold golf club with arms straight out in front and hands shoulder width apart. Separate shoulder blades as you push golf club away from chest. Squeeze shoulder blades in toward spine as you pull golf club toward you.

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