Welcome back, in part one of My Ultimate Guide to Golf Fitness I gave an introduction on this topic and discussed the debate regarding lumbar spinal rotation, and then discussed the physical demands of golf from a power strength and endurance perspective. Part two in this series will focus on the types of exercises that I consider to be beneficial to your golf game, including strength training, power training, conditioning, mobility training, and flexibility training.
Now just a couple of points here – this will not be an exhaustive list of exercises for golf as there are many exercises that your game could benefit from. What this list contains is fairly straightforward, back to basics, strength, power, speed, mobility, and stability conditioning. I find that many trainers and clients these days are looking for the most complex confusing exercises they can find. For instance, let’s stand on a stability ball, do a squat and catch a med ball that is thrown at me. While this may have its place for certain things (I would argue possibly for recovery/warm-up, or a wicked party trick), I can’t see how this exercise translates into real world improvement? So great, you can stand on a stability ball and swing a golf club, what a great trick, but when you go out on the course, you will be standing on the ground and creating force against a stationary object (the ground). Where is the translation from exercise performance to real world performance in this situation?
“Core” is definitely not my favorite term because people confuse it with abs, but it is still a word people recognize the most so I will use it. What you will note regarding the below exercises is that you will not find any trunk flexion exercises. Also, for the rotational exercises that are listed, the following is a description of how to stabilize your lumbar spine during the movement.
*Note on spinal stabilization*: When performing “core” exercises, or any exercise for that matter, it is very important to stabilize your spine, particularly your lumbar spine. There is currently some debate out there about how to properly do this which I have written about previously, but here is a brief overview:
Technique 1.) Abdominal Hollow – Which most of you are familiar with and involves bringing your belly button to your spine. A common cue to properly do this is when you are lying on your back, push your low back to the floor and pull the belly button to the spine (into your abdomen). There has been experimental evidence to support the effectiveness of this technique; however, most of the recent evidence supports technique 2.
Technique 2.) Abdominal Brace – This involves the co-contraction of all of your core musculature (deep and superficial abdominal muscles as well as the musculature of the back) without a movement of the belly button towards the spine. A cue for this is to imagine that someone is about to punch you in the stomach, that is ultimately what an abdominal brace should feel like. This is similar to the bracing method used by Olympic and power lifters.
So as not to confuse you even more, here are my thoughts on this whole thing. We want to develop all of the muscles in the “core”, not simply the deep ones (Transverse and internal oblique) which is what abdominal hollowing focuses on. Therefore, when we are performing activation style exercises, I would recommend an abdominal hollow to provide a focus on deep musculature, which appears to be the most difficult for people to master. However, when we move into active movement, particularly dynamic movements like throwing, and anything where we need to support external weight, abdominal bracing should be used as it provides a greater level of spinal stability. Also, when performing any type of twist, including throws and cable work, please use abdominal bracing and rotate your hips through the movement to limit excess rotation in your lumbar spine.
Anyway, on-wards to the list of exercises:
- Supine Glute Bridges
- Prone Plank
- Side Plank
- Supine Plank
- Static hanging bent/straight leg hold
- Isometric lateral cable hold
- Bird Dog
- Prone Hip Extensions (heel roof raise)
- Hollow Rocks
- Hanging leg raises (maintain neutral spine)
- Farmer’s Carry
- Overhead hold/walk (with weight)
- Kettle/dumbbell swings
- Sledge Slams
- Kettle/dumbbell windmill
Rotational & Throwing Exercises
- Med ball/sand bag slams
- Med ball/sand bag between the legs overhead backwards throws
- Med ball/sand bag between the leg forward throws
- Med ball/sand bag side throws (can be directed 45 degrees towards the ground or perpendicular to the ground)
- Med ball/sand bag overhead forward throws
- Cable twists
- Overhead Press
- Overhead Squat
- All types of Squats
- Basically any movement where you are standing and supporting external weight will challenge your ability to stabilize your spine. Holding weight overhead is probably one of the best tests of spinal/core stability.
b.) Strength and Speed:
If you recall from part one of this series, Power = Strength x Speed, so I will now get into mentioning some great all around strength and speed exercises. Strength exercises being slower grinding type movements and speed obviously being lighter fast movements. Also, as I am sure you all know, in order for these exercises to have their desired effect they have to be programmed correctly (ie. sets, reps, rest, etc) which I will go over in Part 3 of this series.
*Spoiler*…to produce increases in absolute strength we are looking at performing strength exercises in a lower rep range with a higher amount of your one rep max and…fatigue is not the path to absolute strength and power increases.
- One-leg Deadlift (not Romanian)
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Overhead Squat
- Pistols/Elevated One-leg Squat
- Overhead Lunge
- Lunge varieties – Front, Side, Back (weighted or not)
- Military Press
- Push-ups (weighted or not)
- Chin-up/Pull-up variation (weighted or not)
- Supine Pull-up (weighted or not)
- Bent Over Rows
- Bench press (only for fun, does not have much of a transition to real life movement, particularly golf)
Power & Speed
- All Clean and Jerk variations: Clean and Jerk, Power Clean and Jerk, Clean and Push Jerk, Power Clean and Push Jerk, etc.
- Power Clean
- Push Press
- Push Jerk
- Power Snatch
- Clean High Pull variations
- Snatch High Pull variation
- Plyometrics: Jump Squats, Tuck Jumps, Depth Jumps, Box Jumps, Lunge Jumps, Clap Push Ups, Rotational Squat and Box Jumps, etc. (can be weighted or not)
- Sprinting (either running or biking) – This means for durations less than 1 minute followed by a rest period. Since we are on our feet for golf, I would NOT lean towards biking, but it is still beneficial if this is your preference.
- Weighted Sled Drags and Pushes
c.) Mobility and Flexibility
Another point I am sure you all know is that to develop maximum speed and subsequently maximum power, we need to be able to build or speed through a full range of motion. Not only will proper mobility increase power but it will also decrease your risk of injury. Many of the below movements may even be the same as the strength ones but with no weight. You will also see some static stretches included here. All mobility exercises noted below will be used more as dynamic warm-ups and for recovery work in between training and playing sessions. All stretching exercises will mainly be used as part of recovery sessions and following training and playing sessions.
- Squat Stands
- Downward Dog
- Leg swings (side and front)
- Leg/hip Rotations (Back to front and front to back)
- Arm Circles
- Un-weighted Torso Twists (move your hips)
- Rest in a Full Squat (Grok Squat)
- Deep lunge
- Side lunge
- Wall Angels
- Couch Stretch
- Supine Hamstring Stretch (with rope or band)
- Supine Glute Stretch
- Mountain Climber Stretch
- Wall Squats
- Golf Club Overhead Squat
- Clam Shells
- Shoulder dislocate
- Upper back streches
- Shoulder extension stretch
- Chest stretches
So this is obviously a large list of exercises and you may be slightly confused as to how you would implement them into a productive training routine. Part 3 of this series will dive into how to properly create a strength and conditioning program with many of the above exercises.
Disclaimer: Obviously, as always, before beginning any exercise program, seek the assistance of a trained professional, particularly if you are not familiar with many of the complex movements listed above since they can be dangerous and detrimental if not performed with proper form. Also, get clearance from your healthcare practitioner prior to beginning any exercise program.
The Barefoot Golfer