This article was submitted by Nick Jack.
Nick is the owner of the No Regrets Personal Training. Visit him at noregretspt.com.au.
Who Am I And Why You Should Listen To Me?
My name is Nick Jack, and along with our team of trainers we have put together a comprehensive Golf Specific Conditioning Program that targets all of the essential elements a great player needs in order to improve their game.
We have completed several advanced courses and education to develop this training manual with the most significant being the CHEK GOLF PERFORMANCE SPECIALIST course with the CHEK Institute. To earn the title of Golf Performance Specialist we had to demonstrate extensive knowledge of the CHEK System by completing a rigorous written and practical exam to ensure we had a great understanding the biomechanics of the human body. As opposed to a normal strength and conditioning course this related specifically to the game of golf and part of our assessment involved swing fault analysis, correct golf warm ups, use of stretches to correct swing faults and program design for the golf play-er. We already possessed a great knowledge in other areas of sports training, strength training and especially with rehabilitation which is part of what led us to this certification.
You see I have been a personal trainer for over 10 years now and a qualified CHEK Practitioner for 5 years and the amount of people I see as clients who are about the age of 45-65, who want to lose a bit of weight, get a bit fitter and stronger, suffer from some niggling injury and play GOLF is astounding. For some people we see they know they need to train their body to play better but they don’t know where to start or what to do.
Some of them can no longer play the full 18 holes due to injury or constant pain. They love the game but the pain is keeping them away from the course.
Listen to what one of our clients has to say
“After years of either doing no form of strength training, stretching or stability training and sometimes trying some website training programs without much success I have now seen that there is a real need for including fitness training for Golf. Training with Nick has opened up a whole new world of fitness, improving my game considerably, and giving me that real love for the game again that I needed. I used to suffer from several types of niggling elbow and lower back problems prior to commencing training. I never used to stretch or warm up correctly. I just thought I need-ed more lessons in order to play better. I now realize how much better a player I am, plus I enjoy it so much more than before all due to the conditioning of my body. A fantastic course and I highly recommend to anyone who plays golf, regardless of your ability.” Mick Moylan
Golf Conditioning For The Golfing Athlete
Every golfer wants to play better golf, and golf is a highly athletic event! The most common method used to achieve this goal is a combination of professional lessons and more practice. Although this approach seems logical, it is the very reason many golfers end up injured and rarely reach their potential. Why? Simply, because few golfers associate the need for improved physical conditioning with their quest for improved performance.
No Regrets approaches golf conditioning in a truly sport specific manner. Our program is built entirely upon the principles of functional exercise. Unlike exercise programs developed upon a bodybuilding format, or upon muscle isolation exercises, functional exercises are designed to restore balance, lengthen, strengthen, and coordinate movement patterns specific to the golf swing.
The human brain does not think in terms of isolated muscles. Instead, it recruits groups of muscles in uniquely programmed sequences. A golfer’s conditioning program must there-fore be designed to integrate the whole body.
There are 4 physical factors that must be addressed in order to help the golfing athlete. These are
flexibility, stability, strength & power. It is important to address these factors in the correct order.
Golf Conditioning For The Golfing Athlete
The first step in for any golf-conditioning program is to improve flexibility, as this is the catalyst for all subsequent aspects of golf conditioning. Stretching allows the development and maintenance of optimal joint range of motion in the golfer’s body. When the golfer is not flexible, the body’s biomechanics are altered, progressively disrupting swing mechanics. In other words, optimal joint range of motion is a biomechanical prerequisite of the golf swing. Once flexibility is restored to appropriate areas and the musculoskeletal system is balanced, then stability can be handled.
Stability is important since a stable body creates a solid frame-work or all movements and activities. Additionally, a stable, well-balanced body is less likely to be injured. What exactly does stability really mean, and how does it apply to the game of golf? There are two key types of stability. The first is the ability to remain in one position (static) for a period of time without losing good structural alignment. The second type of stability is the ability to keep all working joints in optimal alignment during any given movement. When you have inadequate postural stability, you have a very poor chance of ever reproducing a good shot consistently.
When stability is achieved, strength can be built using functional movement patterns that will readily transfer to the game of golf. The need for strength can’t be overstated. Whenever tight muscles are present, there is also a set of weak muscles that must be strengthened. Understanding this method is the key for development of ideal posture, which every golfer must strive to attain as this is where consistency is found! We also use a method of isolating weak muscles first with the intention of integrating them at the end. Again this is often an area missed by many fitness professionals who are using body building methods to strengthen people. As mentioned earlier this will ruin the golfer. Only a well designed pro-gram that ends up focusing on movement patterns and improvement of posture can help the golfer to firstly stay injury free and secondly improve performance.
Finally, the last progression is to develop power. The more power a golfer can transfer from his or her body through the club to the ball, the farther he or she will be able to drive the ball. You can drop 5 to 10 strokes off your golf game if you incorporate these tips in your workout. Any attempts to improve golf strength or power without first restoring flexibility and stability will always prove to be less fruitful and more likely to lead to injury!
Let’s take a closer look at some exercises you can do in your home right now!
“Do-It-Yourself At Home Golf Fitness Assessment”
To improve your golf game you should look no further than improving your body — whether it be getting stronger, increasing flexibility or balance, or healing a nagging injury, golf fitness is the answer. A consistent exercise program designed specifically for your needs is the best place to start. When designing a golf-specific exercise program, it is important to have a plan. Attempting to improve performance without some direction is a waste of time and energy.
A self-assessment of your physical abilities will help you figure out what you need to work on most. The following self-assessment will give you an idea of where you need to improve.
Hamstrings: Tight hamstrings can hinder your address position and cause you to rise out of your stance during the back swing. Tight hamstrings also can lead to lower back pain. Try this: Lie flat on your back and put your left hand under the small of your back. Keeping the left leg flat, raise the right leg as high as possible without bending the knee.
Anything short of 80 degrees will restrict your golf swing.
Hip Flexors: Tight hip flexor muscles can limit hip rotation throughout the swing, which can cause over-rotation of the spine, a lack of power in the downswing, and a shortening of your follow through.
Try this: Lie flat on your back and pull one knee to your chest. If the opposite leg stays flat on the ground, you pass. If the opposite leg raises up at all it is a sign of tight hip flexors.
Spinal Rotation: Your core is one of the most important muscle groups to keep limber. A tight core can limit rotation in the swing, restrict power and cause lower back pain.
Try this: Lie on your back with your arms out to the side in a T-position. Raise legs in the air and bend knees and hips to 90 degrees.
Rotating at the waist slowly attempt to lower the legs to one side while keeping the opposite shoulder flat on the ground. Stop when the legs reach the ground or when the opposite shoulder comes off the ground. If the shoulder raises off the ground before the legs reach the floor you are tight and need to stretch through the hips and lower back.
Shoulders: Having tight shoulders can restrict your extension in the back swing and cause an outside-in swing.
Try this: Standing with good posture. Reach up and over behind your back turn your arm taking your hand downwards towards the bottom of your shoulder blades with one hand, while reaching backwards and rotating the other arm behind your back up towards the top of your shoulder blades.
Clasp your fingers together form both hands and hold.
Repeat the process by switching arm positions to the opposite sides.
A word of caution: Do not proceed with this assessment if you have any existing injuries, and be sure to warm up the muscles for five minutes before beginning.
Stability & Balance Assessment
The need for a strong foundation and balance in the golf swing can never be overlooked. You may not find it important until you are standing on the side of a hill looking down over a shot or standing on grass hitting out of a bunker.
Try this: Stand on one leg as long as you can. If you can stand longer than 60 seconds with no problem, try closing your eyes, or standing barefoot on a pillow. If you cannot balance longer than 30 seconds on one leg, balance is something you should work on.
Arguably the most important group of muscles used in the golf swing is the core. Having a strong core can limit back injuries, increase power and distance, and assist in body control throughout the swing. Try these:
Lower Abdominal — Start by lying on the ground placing your hand under your lower back. Bend your knees and raise both legs into the air. You should feel pressure on your fingers. Now gently activate your core by pulling in your belly button and attempt to lower you legs to the floor without any pressure coming off your hand. If any pressure comes off your hand you have weak abdominals and need to strengthen them. We actually use a blood pressure cuff for feedback in the Golf Performance Course and can give you an exact reading of whether you can maintain good form.
Balance Board Squat
We love to use the balance board with our golfers to enhance their weight transfer in their legs and correct posture at address. In order to maintain perfect balance on this board you must have even amount of weight placed on both legs and maintain perfect upper body posture. A great exercise that not only builds stability, but strength for long periods of time.
Standing upright in a split stance as body weight or holding dumbbells by your sides. Drawing your belly button inwards bend your knees to lower to the point where your back knee just touches the ground. Push with your legs to return to standing and repeat. Perform on the opposite side.
The lunge is a useful test for identifying short hip muscles (tight hips), which will be seen as an inability to maintain an upright torso and/or keep the pelvis square to the leading leg.
STRENGTH FOR GOLF
Functional movements such as walking or swinging a golf club involves all three planes of motion at the same time, therefore it is three dimensional. The efficient golf swing is actually dominated by movement in the transverse plane followed by the frontal plane, and with much less movement in the sagittal pane. So it makes sense that your golf exercises should dominate the transverse and frontal planes. I challenge you to be more aware of the golf exercises you are currently doing, and try to recognize what plane of motion they emphasize.
Because the golf swing occurs in all three planes of motion then you should also implement exercises that work in all three planes, and in combinations. For example the shoulder turn in your back-swing involves right rotation (right handed golfer) and left side bend through your trunk. If your shoulder turn needs improvement then you must make sure you perform exercises that involve the transverse & frontal planes.
Some of our key Strength Exercises are
Number 1: Multi Directional Lunge
This exercise is extremely beneficial to a sporting athlete as it carries over to several aspects of almost any sport. Per-forming this exercise requires activation of all the muscles surrounding the hip joint, which is important for the athlete as it prevents injury to the hips and pelvis. The Multi Direction Lunge also trains the nervous system to be able to move in many different movement patterns you might encounter in a game situation. For our advanced clients we get them to perform this exercise doing arm movements such as shoulder press or bent over row to further enhance skills and nervous system overload
Number 2: Wood chop
The wood chop exercise is possibly the most effective and applicable exercise with any sport or movement. It is commonly known that the rotation movement is a key attribute to successful performance in many sports such as Golf, Tennis, Javelin, Boxing, Baseball etc. Wood chop is an exercise that uses the body’s twisting ability. The twist pattern is one of the key movements from which the brain makes other movement patterns.
Number 3: Swiss Ball Bulgarian Deadlift
A common phrase I use with all my client’s is “ Weak glutes ruin an athlete”. Now if I wanted to use the most effective glute exercise in a standing position this would be it. Many people like to use a bench but I prefer the swiss ball as it trains the nervous system more effectively enhancing balance and strength. Strong glutes prevent everything from shin splints, Achilles problems, hamstring or knee problems to back injury. Now you can see why I often say weak glutes ruin the athlete!
You don’t need to have the barbells and cable machines to do these, just using your body-weight and perhaps a swissball will be enough to get you going. But if you are really serious about taking your game to the next level you should try to incorporate this type of training with a specific Fitness Professional who understands the game and movement patterns specific to golf. This will help you to develop golf specific exercises in all three planes of motion, which in turn will help improve your overall golf performance.