Minigolf as a kid and some long drives out in the desert as a teenager are about the extent of my golfing experience.
Despite my lack of knowledge on the green, I can still help improve your golf game. Not with swing skills or shoe recommendations, but with some simple strength and mobility tools.
Many of my past and current athletes play golf. Some play as a hobby and others play in tournaments. No matter your level of play, there are two key principles to getting better at most any sport. The first is strength and the other is mobility.
There is no substitute for absolute strength. Technique only goes so far. It needs to be fueled by strength. When it comes to improving golfers, I have found that latissimus dorsi strength is key. It leads to a strong back and aids in rotational force needed for a powerful swing.
Correlated with strength is stability. Lats stability lets the player focus a swing instead of just crushing a ball down-range in an unknown direction.
Also, strength balance is necessary. Though a player may be dominant on the right or left side, having strength balanced between the two sides is crucial. It can help prevent viral movement patterns that can degrade your technique and possibly lead to injury.
Sports generally have a few repetitive movements that are sport-specific. Repetitive movements are great for practicing. That’s how we improve performance. However, repetitive use of the muscles involved with those movements can cause them to tighten; especially maximal effort movements. Without being promoted to relax and release tension when not in use, they can lead to crummy movement patterns and injury.
The thoracic spine is the spinal segment in the middle of the back. If it is tight, the torso won’t rotate as it should and the drive will be less powerful than it could be. Remember, you can have as much as 30 percent of your strength tied up in tight muscles.
I’ve discovered in my history with golfers that they could use some back strength and mobility. Strength in the lats to allow for a powerful and accurate drive. Mobility in the thoracic spine is needed to facilitate the rotation required, to reduce the risk of injury and to allow for proper technique.
The first exercise is a negative pullup. If you are unable to do pullups, then use the lat pull-down machine at your gym. The “negative” part refers to the use of a slow tempo on the eccentric (letting the body down from the pullup) portion of the movement.
I have found this creates both strength and stability in the back. I have used this exercise in the past to make women strong enough to drive from the “men’s” tee without sacrificing accuracy. It can easily make you swing just as far with a lighter club. I have had athletes jump two club sizes because of strength gains.
No, they did not get bulky, just strong. The time frame to see results could be anywhere from two to three weeks to upward of six months. If you can’t perform a pullup, then work toward that goal on the assisted pullup machine or use a band as featured in today’s column. Remember to keep your goal movement specific. Everything else will come. Be patient if pullups are difficult for you.
The thoracic spine drill is good for breaking up knots that hold back a powerful torso rotation. This may take as little as two to three weeks to see major results. The result is to keep an eye out for being able to play a full game with decreased middle and/or lumbar pain and a fuller swing instead of a partial-range motion swing. If you are already mobile, then the ease of your swing may surprise you. Loose muscles can also mean less warm-up time. The warm-up swings you use can morph into patterning drills instead of back-loosening exercises. That is as they should be.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.