It’s common to try to carry training programs over from one sport to another. A golfer’s skills are similar to a pitcher’s in some respects: the need for balance, stability, power and mental toughness. Both need the ability to consistently repeat mechanics under pressure. The main differences are the environment and the angle players use to swing. Different angles produce different stresses on the athlete’s joints.
It’s impossible to train for every eventuality. What’s important is to train for the specific physical stresses your sport places on your body.
Golfers use predominantly one side of their bodies, which creates muscle imbalances. Because continued play aggravates the imbalances, it’s not always possible to eliminate them. But training for golf should attempt to counter the negative stress and prevent injury.
Here is a breakdown of the stresses a right-handed golfer encounters during the swing.
- At the beginning of the swing, the labrums on both shoulders are in a compromised position.
- The rotator cuff muscles are stretched and firing to stabilize the arm while preparing for a fast ride.
- The right arm ends in a position that places high stress on the labrum and the tendon of the long head of the biceps.
- Stabilizing the head of the humerus and slowing down the arm at the end of the swing challenge the rotator cuff muscles.
To counteract these issues, golfers need to pay strict attention to training their shoulders. Strengthening the shoulders provides additional protection against the stresses of the repetitive movements in a swing.
A golfer’s upper-body strength training should include:
- Board Presses
- Floor Presses
- Band Presses
- Dumbbell Presses
- Pull-Up variations
- Push-Up variations
- Pulling exercises (Rows, Face Pulls, Bent-Over Rows, isometric rotator cuff exercises)
To ensure safety to their joints, golfers need to avoid:
- Excessive overhead pressing
- Olympic lifts
- Overhead Squats
Middle Body (Back and Abdominals)
A swing requires significant range of motion in the neck and full back so a golfer can swing without pulling their head and eyes away from the ball. When the neck rotates, it must also effectively bend sideways. If a golfer lacks the ability to fully rotate, the body will compensate by increasing stress on the lumbar and cervical spine. To offset this, the spinal extensors, abdominals and obliques must be trained effectively.
Golfers should focus on:
- Extension movements and stabilization
- Plank variations with arm lifts
- Hip Circles
- Side Planks with hip abductions
- Reverse Hyperextensions
- Quadruped Bird Dogs
- TRX core exercises
During a swing’s transition, golfers demand a lot of their hips. As the body shifts from a lateral to a vertical plane within one quick motion, the hips must begin to stabilize and rotate up to 180 degrees. During the lateral movements of the down swing and weight shift, the hip abductors stabilize while the glutes and rotators generate power. (See also Stability Training to Improve Your Golf Swing.)
Maintaining mobility, power and strength in the hips requires a golfer to do more than read putts.
To improve hip mobility, golfers should incorporate:
- The Scorpion hip rotation drill
- Lunge variations
- Squat to stands
To strengthen their hips, golfers should incorporate:
- Farmer’s Walks
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Good Mornings
- Romanian Deadlifts
To improve power, golfers should incorporate:
- Aggressive medicine ball exercises like rotational throws
- Aggressive plyometric pushes in different planes
Although many nuances of the game need to perfect, golfers must do more than hit balls on the driving range. Getting to the gym for strength training is important, but other modes are also effective:
- Yoga to improve mobility, balance and decrease stress
- Aquatic exercissa for strength and power to limit joint loading and alleviate pain
- Tabata intervals on a bike to improve endurance, maintain power and reduce joint stress