As fitness and human performance practices have advanced over the last decade, many professional and recreational athletes have sought every opportunity to increase sports performance. This trend overlooks general fitness training in exchange for sports specific training to promote optimal movement patterns for the desired sport.
Casually observing this trend has been discouraging because most trainees are becoming too specific without paying respect to basic fundamentals. This faulty trend is really popular within the golf community.
Frequently I witness golfers mimicking the golf swing using various external loads in the gym; this motion usually isn’t the limiting factor. If a golfer is unable to demonstrate swing power, rarely is he lacking the ability to produce the power in the first place.
Often there is a mobility bottleneck somewhere, and any power that is produced isn’t transmitted properly. The resulting consequence is joint pain and the inability to drive the ball hard.
ASSESS MOVEMENT PATTERNS
First, a movement screen is absolutely essential to assess shortcomings in the individual’s movement patterns. Find a qualified coach to get screened if you wish to improve your golf performance. Every trainee is different and the coach should employ a few corrective exercises to address the obvious movement bottlenecks before using external resistance.
For example, let’s assume a golfer screens well in mid-back mobility (that is needed for successful execution of a golf swing), yet scores poorly on a deep squat pattern. Forces created at the foot will be diminished once they reach the golf club head because of improper hip mobility. Furthermore, with minimal hip function, the next joint up the chain will carry the burden. In this case the lumbar spine will take up the slack often leading to painful low back problems golfers often experience. Corrective exercise strategies to increase hip function will often spare the low back and create a more efficient golf swing.
FOCUS ON THE BASICS
Once movement bottlenecks are improved using corrective exercise strategies, external loading using the proper resistance training methodologies are needed. However, it is my contention to train generally and practice specifically. Most athletes would benefit from getting generally stronger with basic fundamentals such as squatting and bending rather than trying to mimic specific sports movements.
If you can touch your toes, get stronger deadlifting on 1 or 2 feet using various loads. This will carry over to your golf swing better than chopping with a medicine ball because you get enough stimulus already swinging the golf club during play. Generating overall body strength using an exercise like the deadlift is an optimal approach. The best medicine for improving sports skills is practicing the sport itself. Stop wasting your time on complicated sports specific training when you can’t own basic archetypal movements in the first place.
Also, good movement is good movement regardless of the sport. Sport specific training is a little silly because basic movements are present in all sports and specificity doesn’t always apply. The only caveat is to pay attention to the metabolic demands of the sport, which is very different from movement demands. For example, specifically sprinting 100 yards for several sets is unnecessary for golfers; walking at a fast pace for an hour will do the job without the high stress and demand that sprinting places on the body. By the way, I love sprinting for developing fitness regardless, I am merely making a point.
Before you begin a golf-specific training program, rethink your strategy. Get screened for proper basic movement first. Next, perform corrective exercises to improve any shortcomings that come up during the screen. Once basic movement is established, get generally strong using external loads with a few key exercises.
Finally, pay attention to the specific metabolic demands of golf and consider high paced walking a few days per week. These strategies are optimal for improving your golf game. Have fun out there!
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at r2hp.com and 970-401-0720.