Increase flexibility, mechanics and strength
By JENNA ANDERSONreparing your golf game a few months ahead of time will ensure your season starts with your muscles strong and fully prepared for the complexities of the swing. And let’s face it, a golf swing is not only complex, but will make or break your game. It can also leave your back hurting and muscles tight. Use the following six exercises to help increase flexibility, mechanics and strength. Improvement on the course starts with creating range of motion, allowing for a unified separation between the upper and lower mechanics of the golf swing. Speed and power is directly related to flexibility by allowing the shoulders to turn 90 degrees over the hips, which, ideally, sit at 45 degrees. Golf is about explosive surges of power, repeatedly, and proper mechanics will prepare the body for the demands of a competitive 18 holes or a leisurely 9.
1. Child’s pose rotational twist teaches the body to extend from the spine, creating movement from the spine, versus compensation in the hip. To do it, start on the floor with your knees wide (the wider the better) and your toes touching. Push your hips back into the cradle created by your calves and feet, rooting firmly with your left hand while bringing your right hand to touch behind your ear. Avoid pulling on the neck and tuck your right elbow to your left elbow, then on the exhale sweep it open, using your left hand to push your hips into your heels and keep the lower lumbar stable. Try to aim your elbow to the back of the room, looking past it with the opposite eye.
2. With movement created in the spine, opening the hips is the next step, and one of the easiest ways to do that is a yogic squat or deep squat. Squatting is one of the most fundamental movements of human physiology, and one of the most functional exercises a human can due. Done correctly it creates ankle mobility, traction down the spine allowing for elongation of the spine, stretches muscles of the lower back, and strengthens and releases the muscles of the hip, allowing increased range of motion. Start with your feet wider than hip width, pushing the hips down and back while keeping the chest high as you lower your hips until they rest against the calves. Your ribs should be snug inside your thighs. If you find yourself falling forward or unable to rest your heels on the floor, place a folded blanket or mat beneath your heels, or work them slightly wider apart. Use a bench or wall for support as you learn to keep your chest up, keeping your weight balanced through the entire foot. Shoulders down the back and continue to lift through the chest, engaging your core for stability. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing deep before rising up and resting for a moment. Repeat twice more.
3. Once you’ve begun to open your body, proper mechanics are the next step. If you can’t physically turn your hips, lift or drop your shoulder where it’s needed or rotate at the spine, then you’ll be unable to generate the power and drive to direct the ball where you desire. Single leg Romanian deadlifts are a great start to isolating the glute and learning how to activate it independently. Glute control equals more power generation and a stable base leg creates greater distance, consistency and accuracy. Begin by standing feet width hip distance apart, lifting up out of the hips and stretching through the ribs, shift the weight to one foot, tipping your body forward from the hip as you go. Stabilize the standing leg, avoiding a lockout by tracking the knee directly over the center of the foot as you push the hips back, lifting through the glute of the back leg. When your chest is parallel with the floor, your back should be in a neutral spine. Avoid letting the back round, but keep both legs engaged to counter balance. Squeeze the glute of the working leg, and push your hip forward, lifting the chest at the same time. Do 10 to 12 on each leg. To make it harder add dumbbells.
4. Superset the single leg deadlifts with a medicine ball woodchop squat – the motion of the squat helps to strengthen the muscles of the hip and back, while the rotation of the medicine ball strengthens the core, shoulders and back with the cross motion. Begin by holding a medicine ball at chest height. Sit back and down into a squat keeping the weight in the heels, the chest high and hips low, knees behind toes, and touch the floor with the medicine ball. Immediately squeeze the glutes, keep the chest high and stand up, bringing the medicine ball across the body and over the right shoulder. Square up and squat, bringing the balls straight down to touch the floor of the right foot, lifting across the body and over the left shoulder – that’s one rep. Do 10 to 12.
5. Bring all the components of your golf swing into play by finishing with rotational power exercises. Start with a step-up with cross knee. Stand parallel to a step or bench that will allow your knee to bend at least 90 degrees, cross your arms over your chest and hands to opposite shoulders. Your elbows are going to be your markers to make sure you keep your shoulders square. Step up with the right foot, driving through the heel of the foot all the way to the glute. As you lift, drive the left knee up and across the body, keeping your shoulders square and emphasizing movement through the hips and core. Avoid bouncing on the way down and pushing off the non-working leg. Drive the knee firmly across the body. This exercise emphasizes internal hip rotation while teaching the two powerful muscle groups of your golf swing — the glutes and abdominals — how to fire powerfully and explosively. Do eight to 10 reps on each leg.
6. Complete your pre-season prep with one final exercise that will engage your body from head to toe, while giving you a chance to apply the strengthening and stabilization techniques from the previous exercises. The squat with rotational press allows you to drive from the power of your pelvis and strengthen the core, shoulders and back, while teaching the body how to stabilize from the feet to the shoulders. Start with a single dumbbell in the right hand lifted to the shoulder – keep this weight a little lighter until you’re comfortable with the exercise – then sit into a squat. As you come out of the squat, rotate to the right, pressing the dumbbell overhead. You should finish with your weight on the left foot, pivoted on the right toes, dumbbell overhead, core tight, glutes tight and engaged on the right leg. Hold for one second at the top, then return to center and repeat. Do eight reps on each side.
Jenna is trainer and competitive physique athlete with a passion for yoga. She can usually be found at Flathead Health and Fitness in Kalispell helping others reach their health goals either in class or through one-on-one sessions. She also offers personal training out of her private studio and teaches classes at Fitness 365. She also teaches Yoga Athletica at the hot yoga studio Mandala Montana north of Kalispell.
Contact her at www.innerpowertraining.com or drop into one of her classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon at Flathead Health and Fitness.