Vail Daily column: Exercises for golf performance |

Vail Daily column: Exercises for golf performance

Last week, I discussed the optimal approach to train for golf fitness. To recap, it’s extremely important to have a qualified trainer assess your movement quality and use corrective strategies. Once proper movement is established, it’s ideal to pursue general strength training and to minimize golf specific training movements early on. Today I will discuss in more detail why general strength training is optimal and give you a few exercises to incorporate into your golf training program.


Assume the trainee has developed optimal movement ability by correcting asymmetries, mobility and flexibility shortcomings. It is important to now train generally. I get asked several times throughout the year to teach specific classes for particular sports that are popular during the season we are in. Even though I offer golf and skiing specific classes because of demand, I teach the same exercises in all of them.

The reason I stick with the basics is because the vast majority of people haven’t established general fitness. Most people early on in fitness acquisition lack the motor control to properly use their hips in order to spare their backs for example. Novice trainees who might be gifted golfers move right into specifically training the motion of the golf swing, yet they cannot even walk and chew gum at the same time. All kidding aside, there are larger issues at hand when a recreational athlete cannot perform fundamental natural movements and is trying to advance his fitness with complexity.


The first general quality a golfer needs is the ability to push their hips back. Look at most gifted golfers when they swing the golf club. The hips go back and the lower back is rigid and slightly extended. The best way to learn this motor skill is to stand erect, back against the wall. Walk about 6 to 12 inches away from the wall. Instead of rounding over at your belly button as if to perform a standing crunch or sit up, keep your back straight and push your butt back into the wall as to create a “hinge” or pivot point at your hip joint. This will engage the muscles of the back, hips, and legs. Not only is this position safe on your spine, it is the strongest position the human skeleton can position in.

Need proof? If I told you to stop where you are and jump as high as possible, you would naturally throw your hips backwards slightly dip with minimal knee bend and jump. You wouldn’t squat down with a generous knee bend as to sit in a chair. Not squatting but hinging at the hips is your strongest position. After learning this movement skill, train it with traditional deadlifts or kettlebell swings.


The second quality a golfer needs is good rotation through the mid back. Generally, for spine health humans need stability (rigidity) at the low back and mobility (range of motion) at the mid back. If your mid back lacks optimal mobility your low back and shoulders will take up the slack.

A good way to develop mid back mobility is to lie on your right side in a fetal position. Ankle, knee, and hip at 90 degree angles. Extend both arms out to your right side. Try keeping your lower extremity in the starting position and rotate at the mid back bringing your left arm across your body; try to lay your left arm flat on the ground on the opposite side pushing your shoulders into the ground. Perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.

Third, to build good low back and shoulder health, try the waiters carry. Carry a moderate weight dumbbell or kettlebell with one arm locked out over head. Keep your arm completely vertical with your upper arm in line with and touching your ear. Make sure to keep your shoulders level. Walk as long as possible until your shoulder and torso become tired. Switch hands.

In summary, assuming the trainee has been screened and has corrected any movement bottlenecks it’s time to get strong in a few key movements. Hip hinging will build the strength and power necessary to drive the ball hard. Mid back mobility exercises will help get that force to the ball. Finally, core stability training with the waiter’s carry will bulletproof the shoulders and low back from injury. Stay healthy and 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 or 970-401-0720.

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