By Anne-Lise Bidou (www.physio4golf.com.au)
Do you want to play pain free for longer? Are you looking at improving your golf game by hitting the ball further and more accurately? Then check this out…
Too many golfers neglect the number one key to their golf swing: their body. You can go out and buy the top of the range golf clubs but if your body does not work properly or if you are in pain, I can guarantee you won’t be a happy golfer.
What do I mean by the body not working properly?
The golf swing is an asymmetrical and repetitive movement meaning that you always use the same muscles over and over again. This would lead to some muscle imbalances in the body with some muscles getting strong and some muscles getting weak. As a result, your body would start compensating and you will develop some physical limitations such as reduced mobility and/or stability that could in turn cause some injuries.
You may already find yourself struggling to maintain your golf posture through the swing motion or you may notice some increase tightness towards the end of the round.
So don’t let injury prevent you from playing the game you love and look after your body!
How can I get golf fit?
There are a few key elements to reach the most efficient swing mechanics.
The first one is to have good mobility in certain areas of the body, the main ones being the hips, the mid-back and the shoulders. If you lack mobility in one of these areas, your body would compensate by getting mobility in the area above or below with a greater risk of injury. On the other hand, having good mobility in these areas will help you reach adequate rotation in your back swing and downswing.
The second key element is to have good stability around the pelvis and lower back (core) and the shoulder blades (scapula). An efficient golf swing is a swing that does not allow any leak of energy from the ground to the club head. This can only be achieved with optimal core and scapula stability. When we talk about core strengthening, we don’t talk about building up a 6 pack, but what we talk about is building up deep abdominal muscle strength. The core muscles give stability to the pelvis and lower back while the mid-back and hips can move freely. As for the scapula stability, it is not about squeezing your shoulder blades back together so hard that it is uncomfortable but it is about controlling the appropriate scapula position to optimize the shoulder movement.
The third key element is to have good movement pattern. It is not enough to have good mobility and good stability: your body needs to be able to perform the movements properly. It is crucial to perform the exercises repeatedly with optimal form when working out so that your body learns the right movement patterns. Golfers need to have a strong ability to dissociate their upper body and lower body in order to create an optimal x-factor stretch to generate power in their golf swing. Therefore, they need to work on using effective rotatory movements throughout the swing to control the golf club all the way through impact to the end of the follow through.
This leads us to the fourth key element, which is to have good strength to be able to generate power while sustaining optimal golf posture throughout the swing. Strength training is an important part of the golfers’ fitness program as it allows them to build up muscle strength in specific areas of their body to improve their golf swing efficient and create a strong base to build more power. This will lead to an increase in the club head speed due to an optimisation of the transfer of forces generated from the ground up during the swing and therefore an increase in distance. However, golfers do not need to bulk up to the point that they lose mobility, they only need to be golf fit!
The game of golf has changed dramatically in the last few years and now requires the players to be very athletic so that they can hit the ball further and play longer without getting injured. Therefore, it is crucial for them to train their body to their optimal fitness level to get the most efficient and powerful swing.
On the LET and LPGA, the players go to the gym most days even on game days! They have different programs tailored for their needs and they are very consistent with their fitness plan. They really look after their body to play at their peak potential and prevent injury.
Cheyenne Wood’s take on injury prevention and fitness for golf:
“My first few years of professional golf were vaguely focused on my golf fitness. After playing on tour for five years, I have learned the importance of taking care of your body through creating a fitness and stretching routine. With golf being a unilateral sport, it is important to create a balance within your body’s flexibility and strength. Playing at the highest-level week after week was taking a toll on my body due to weaknesses I had. I found that a fitness and stretching routine was very necessary for preparing my body to compete and prevent injury. I’ve felt improvements this season after incorporating a program that helps increase my stability, mobility and strength.”