Exercise programs can speed the recovery from injury, prevent injury in the first place, increase stamina, help to reduce weight, create a more muscular or attractive appearance, improve mental alertness, reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, improve posture and reduce posture-related pain, reduce stress (or at least increase the ability to manage it), create a feeling of well-being (the exercise "high"), and increase the ability to perform specific functions (e.g. swing a golf club). This Guide focuses on the last point.
When you consider the requirements of the golf swing, your downswing swing lasts less than a quarter second. Depending on your ability, you may make anywhere from 35 to 60 full swings, over a period of 3 to 5 hours in a typical game.
As for exercising for the golf swing, several objectives are key:
In the golf swing, let's look at objectives that are not important.
With all this in mind, this chapter looks first at flexibility, and then muscle development, particularly as they apply to the golf swing.
Flexibility is important in the golf swing for three reasons:
There are several different types of stretch exercises:
The foregoing suggests that proprioceptive neuro-skeletal facilitation stretching may be the most effective stretch technique for golf.
Since golfer's elbow is a common golf injury, here are two static-passive stretches that all golfers should do. These stretches provide an opportunity to try proprioceptive neuro-skeletal facilitation stretch.
A muscle development program for the golf swing should include two elements: exercises and the way they are performed.
Regarding the way exercises are performed, the golf swing requires the rapid contraction of muscles moving a light load. The load is the golf club, and it does not weigh much.
Elements in a muscle cell include:
The myofibrils include a range of fiber types from white, "fast-twitch" fibers which have a thicker nerve supply, and red, "slow-twitch" fibers which have a greater amount of mitochondria and are important for sustained contraction. "Fast-twitch" muscles fire all at the same time, whereas "slow-twitch" muscle motor units are recruited asynchronously, with some resting and others firing. For golf, it is important to develop the white, "fast-twitch" fibers in a few key muscles. The development of "slow-twitch" fibers is relatively unimportant. The development of the nerve system which can trigger the nerve impulses that trigger contractions is critical.
Since the golf swing occurs quickly and does not require a great amount of strength, the key aspect of the training is not the weight to be lifted, but the speed of the contraction. The speed of contraction is to a large extent a mental activity. The brain says "contract". The message is carried to particular muscles, and the muscles cells, particularly the fast twitch fibers, contract simultaneously.
Conventional weight training programs are built around the following elements: amount of weight to be lifted; number of repetitions of the lifts per sets; speed of repetitions within a set; interval between sets; etc. Weight training programs should be designed to reflect the objectives being pursued. Here are some objectives:
It is conceptually logical to extend the conventional training options by adding a new category - explosiveness only. This option would apply to situations where one wants to perform a movement quickly and there is no or minimal load.
The table below outlines conventional weight training programs and by extension, how they might be applied in an "explosiveness only" option.
|Endurance||Body building||Maximal Strength||Explosive Strength||Explosiveness Only|
|Repetitions per Set||Target 15 to 20, based on muscle failure||Target 6 to 12, based on muscle failure||Target 1 to 5, based on muscle failure||Target 1 to 5, based on ability to maintain rate of force development||As many as possible, based on ability to maintain rate of force development and good form. No counting.|
|Load (as % of the one repetition maximum)||Less Than 60%||Greater than 60%||Greater than 60%||Less than 60%||Minimal|
|Speed of Repetition||Slow||Slow||Fast||Fast||Fast|
|Interval Between Sets||1 to 2 minutes||4 to 5 minutes||4 to 5 minutes||4 to 5 minutes|
Some important points on explosiveness training include:
In the foregoing chapters, the golf swing has been reduced to basic movements. Any exercise program for the golf swing should mimic these movements.
The exercises below typically entail a movement in one direction, and then a reverse movement in the opposite direction. It is important to pause at every direction change for several reasons:
These exercises mimic the movements in the golf swing. Most movements start at one limit of the range of movement, and then go in the opposite direction to the limit of the range of movement. In the golf swing, the impact point is approximately at the mid-point between the two limits. To the extent that one decides to perform the movement fast, the speed typically must be achieved by the mid-point in the movement. After the mid-point, the speed should decelerate and stop in a controlled way, to prevent injury.
To perform the exercise, place both elbows on their respective legs. This isolates the movement to the forearms and wrists. Put both palms perpendicular to the ground i.e. facing inward toward each other. Move the wrists to the right, then pause, and then move them to the left in synchronization. At the outset, you may want to try to do the movements in the left and right wrists separately.
To perform the exercise, place both elbows on their respective legs. This isolates the movement to the forearms and wrists. Rotate both forearms counter-clockwise and clockwise repeatedly. At every change in the direction of rotation, pause. At the outset, you may want to try to do the movements in the left and right forearms separately.
To perform the exercise, hold one arm out in front at an angle relative to your spine that is approximately equal to the angle it would have in your golf swing. Move the upper arm toward the centre of the body to the end of its range of movement, taking care not to move the shoulder socket forward at the same time. This is the "start" position. Once in the start position, move the upper arm away from the centre of the body to the point approximately straight out in front. In the golf swing, this mid-point would be the impact point. The movement from the start position to the impact point is the one that needs to be performed with speed in the swing. Decelerate and stop approximately the same distance from the mid-point as when going from the start position to the mid-point. Then, reverse the movement to get the arm back to the start position. Repeat the movements a number of times. Then, do the same movements with the other arm.
To perform the exercise, hold both arms out in front at an angle relative to your spine that is approximately equal to the angle in your golf swing. Rotate both upper arms clockwise to the end of their range of movement on a synchronized basis. The right elbow should be pointing down, the left elbow pointing out. Stop, and then rotate both upper arms counter-clockwise to the end of their range of movement. Elbow positions should have reversed. The right elbow should be pointing out, and the left pointing down. Repeat the movements a number of times.
To perform the exercise, sit on a chair. Put your right hand on your right shoulder. This ensures that the upper arm and related shoulder muscles are not active in the movement. Move your right shoulder socket forward toward the centre of the body (counter-clockwise) as far as it will go. This is the start position. Then, move the right shoulder socket clockwise to the end of its range of movement and stop. Then, reverse the movement by moving the right shoulder socket counter-clockwise to the start position. Repeat the movement a number of times. Repeat the exercise with the left shoulder socket. After you have mastered the movements in the separate shoulder sockets, do the exercise with both shoulder sockets on a synchronized basis. Note in the pictures that the chest and head do not move. The shoulder sockets are moving independently, and in combination, create rotation around the spine.
To perform the exercise, sit erect on a chair or bench. This will immobilize your butt and legs and isolate focus on the spine. Hold a pole, golf club or similar object with both hands, and place it across your back (not on top of your shoulders). The lower the pole position, the less likely you are to move the shoulder sockets as part of the exercise, and the more able to focus on your spine only. Rotate clockwise to the end of your range of movement, keeping the pole, golf club, etc. horizontal to the ground. Stop. Rotate counter-clockwise to the end of your range of movement. Stop. Repeat the movement in both directions a number of times.
To perform the exercise, sit on a chair. This immobilizes your lower body. Hold a pole, rod, golf club in your hands, and place it across your shoulder blades. Contract the muscles in your right side to tilt the pole so that the lower end is on your right. Go to the end of your range of movement. Note that much of the energy to tilt the spine comes from gravity, as well as the stretch of the muscles along your left side. Stop and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Contract the stretched muscles in your right side for 10 seconds while continuing to hold the position. Contract the muscles on your left side to tilt the pole so that the lower end is on your left. Go to the end of your range of movement. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then while continuing the stretch, contract the stretched muscle for 10 seconds.
To perform the exercise, stand with your right foot at the edge of an elevated surface such as a step, with the front part of your foot on the surface and the back part of your foot hanging below the surface, so that tendons in your lower leg are stretched. This is the start position. Raise yourself straight up, so you end up standing on your toe. Do not change your knee bend during the exercise, so that the change in elevation results solely from pointing your toe. Repeat the movement a number of times. Repeat the movement using your other foot.
To perform the exercise, stand on your right leg with your left leg off the ground. Hang on to a support to help with balance. Using only your right ankle, put your weight on the instep through eversion (turning the sole of your foot outward) and keep your weight on the instep throughout. Then, rotate your hips clockwise to the end of the range of movement, and then stop and then rotate your hips counter-clockwise to the end of the range of movement. Note what is happening. In essence, the rotation occurs because of a combination of pronation and supination, and plantar flexion and dorsi flexion in the ankle. Repeat this clockwise and counter-clockwise movement a number of times. Then, repeat the movements with your other ankle.
Note that this exercise moves your entire weight above the ankle. Rapid movements at your ankles can create a lot of momentum in your body. This momentum can cause you to over-rotate at your ankles, leading to injury. The injury risk is exacerbated because the foot has a lot of small bones, which injure easily. Because we generally and golfers particularly rely on our feet, it is best to perform exercises at safe speeds to reduce the risk foot problems.
Warming up before a round is a great idea. It prevents injury. It improves your score by eliminating the bad swings and bad shots early in the round. A golf swing with muscles that are not warmed up is usually painful. To reduce the pain in the over-stretched muscles, most golfers swing faster than normal by cutting short the back-swing. A fast swing can do a number of things to the golf shot, most of which are bad. Studies of the warm-up patterns of golfers indicate that most people do not warm up properly. Avoid being a member of this group.
Warming up before a trip to the driving range is also a great. It prevents injury. It improves your practice by giving you more benefit from the initial balls. In particular, warming up will give you a better tempo for your practice.
All the exercise books suggest that before stretching or contracting muscles, you should warm up the total body with five minutes of brisk activity - a good walk or jog, stair climbing, aerobic workout equipment (e.g. tread mill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike). If you can find a way to warm up your total body at your golf course prior to playing, do it.
Then, carry out the exercises outlined above. Most exercises can be carried out without any extra equipment other than a chair or bench. If time is limited, do one set of each exercise, to ensure all the relevant muscles are warmed up.
Now you are ready for your first swings. There are a number of devices available to help the golfer warm up, including special warm up clubs and weights that can be attached to your clubs. If you have these aids, use them.
Take practice swings, starting with gentle swings and working up to normal swings. Continue until you are totally comfortable.
If you are at the range, start with easy swings using a high iron. Work toward harder swings with lower irons and woods only when your muscles are telling you it is all right to do so.
At this point, you should be ready to either step up to the first tee.