Did you know that golf is a game that more than 30 million Americans enjoy, and the chances are if you’re reading this article, you’re one of those 30 million. Whether you’re a tournament pro, a club golfer, or new to the game, every golfer wants to perform the best they can.
Improving your golf game by becoming a better athlete was made popular by the legendary Australian golfer Greg Norman. Greg, or “The Shark,” was and still is recognized for being the pioneer who introduced the game of golf to physical fitness, weight training, and preventative measures such as stretching and pilates.
The bonus of the advice and tips that I’ll be providing is that they will increase your strength and your ground-up power and help reduce long-term injuries; metaphorically speaking, we’re killing two birds with one stone. The golf swing is an incredibly intricate and powerful action that can cause stress on your body; this is why strength and conditioning play such a crucial role in your golf swing and overall performance.
Preparing your body for the explosive movements of the golf swing starts from the ground-up. The exercises and tips that I will outline are specific to golf and will help your body withstand the rigors of swinging the golf club day in and day out.
There are several different ways you can improve your strength and power in your golf swing, but today, we’ll be looking at three in particular.
- Increasing your power by improving and developing ground-up muscle strength and coordination
- Increasing your power by improving your postural stability and balance
- Increasing your power by enhancing the mobility and flexibility of your joints
Part of performing to the best of your ability and getting the most out of your golf swing is maximizing your “ground-up” power. This guide aims to provide you with practical and simple advice that can have you swinging efficiently and, more importantly, powerfully.
Defining Ground Up Strength and Force
When it comes to physical development, your main focus should be on safe, practical, and effective exercises that have been designed explicitly for golf. A few components play more extensive parts than others, such as increasing maximum strength for distance and postural stability. Still, all in all, the best program should encompass a full range of exercises and modalities.
The power generated in your golf swing starts from the ground up, particularly as your feet push against the turf; the forces generated drive your body and initiate the swing’s motion.
Generally speaking, there are two primary forces: “basic forces” and “rotating forces.” Basic forces refer to the swing’s technical aspects while rotating forces refer to the rotational segments found in your golf swing.
Basic forces occur when your feet are placed on the teeing ground or are perpendicular to the turf. Alternatively, rotating forces are applied when your feet are parallel to the teeing ground. In the case of the golf swing, rotating forces are generated throughout both feet equally.
During basic force, your body weight is transferred to your front foot while completing the downswing, and your weight is transferred to your back foot as you start your backswing. As your body weight transfers from front to back and vice-versa, the force generated and applied increases on one foot while it decreases on the other; this defines the components of basic force.
Basic force plays a pivotal role in the kinetic chain because its this movement that then generates and improves your rotational power and explosiveness through your hips.
Rotational forces are applied by the feet during the address position of the swing and, as suggested earlier, are applied by both feet equally. The rotational forces help to develop and generate torque through the hips and around the axis of the core.
It’s these movements and components of the swing that define the rotational force part of the action. The rotational force is the most critical aspect of the golf swing because it creates and generates swing and club head speed. Simply put, the faster you swing, the further you hit the ball.
You can think of issues occurring in the golf swing the same as in a house’s foundation. As soon as your base becomes shaky, your swing mechanics and efficiency literally crumble, just as a house built on sand would; this is why building a solid technical and physical base is so critical to the outcome of your golf swing.
Transferring Energy In The Golf Swing
When it comes to the golf swing, no one component is more important than the other, but as we say in sports, your swing or action is only as good as your weakest link.
Swinging the golf club is a complex athletic action, and the transfer of energy is one such action. The energy is transferred from the ground up and is undoubtedly the most critical aspect of all of the movements. Notably, the transfer of energy is also the area of the swing in which amateur golfers display the most significant weakness, partly due to poor swing mechanics and weak stabilizing muscles.
The core muscles in the golf swing act in a similar role as the crankshaft in the engine of your car plays. The crankshaft transforms energy from the pistons into torque at the car’s wheels, and this is precisely the role the core muscles play in the golf swing. The rotational force generated by the lower body translates into club head speed, which is directly correlated to how far you hit the ball.
For the backswing of a right-handed golfer, their lower body rotates counterclockwise around the core muscles. During this complex action, the core muscles which connect the upper and lower body start to “coil” and generate the power and explosiveness required to drive the ball.
It’s an important action for more than one reason because the “loading phase” helps accelerate the shoulders’ motion in the downswing. Possibly even more critical is the timing in which this occurs; in other words, it’s not only the power generated by the “coiling” motion but the timing in which it happens.
The shoulder component of the swing follows the hip action and rotates counterclockwise while simultaneously accelerating. This causes the hip component of the swing mechanics to decelerate. The action then transfers energy to the core as the stabilizing muscles help to speed up the shoulder movement. The end result is the generation of shoulder speed which is roughly 50% quicker than the hips.
For club golfers, the most common problems in the golf swing occur when the transferring of energy breakdown between the lower and upper body components of the swing. The most significant issue that amateur golfers face is “sliding hips,” which is a direct result of minimal or no rotational force through the hips. The golfer then tries to compensate but, in doing so, slides their hips getting in front of the ball, causing a slice.
Another difficult problem with the golf swing is that sliding hips cause an excessive tilt of the spine at address. When your spine is bent, the muscles become imbalanced and cause your core and spine to become asymmetrical, leading to a lack of power through poor energy transfer. Asymmetry needs to be addressed immediately as it can lead to joint problems in the back and hip.
Over Spinning The Hips
The second most common issue amateur golfers face is what we call “spinning the hips.” This happens when the hips spin so fast that the upper body can’t catch up, and a “lag” is caused. The lack of energy transfer is caused by a timing problem in the swing dynamics and can significantly reduce your power and club head speed.
Have you ever wondered why some golfers of more a diminutive stature can still bomb the ball 300+yards? It’s because distance is directly related to how fast you can swing the club, not how much power you can generate. The same rings true for tennis players; the faster you can swing the racquet, the more power you can generate in your groundstrokes.
Balance and Muscle Patterns Affect Power
Esteemed Finnish doctor, Vladimir Janda, was responsible for categorizing muscles into two separate functional groups; Muscles that are predisposed to tightness and muscles that are prone to weakness.
Generally speaking, muscles predisposed to tightness are directly correlated with postural problems, while the weaker muscles are linked to problems with functionality. The work of Janda has proven itself over time to be very valuable in helping coaches identify areas of the swing that are affected by weakness or tightness.
Muscles predisposed to tightness
- Elbow flexors
- Upper Traps
- Hip adductors
Muscles predisposed to weakness
- Lower traps
- Elbow extensors
- Tibialis anterior
How To Strengthen Your Postural Muscles
Because the golf swing is a such a complex movement, functional strength and conditioning exercises must be incorporated into your program.
An example of postural imbalance is your shoulder mobility might be influenced by a lack of strength and flexibility in your lower back muscles. Alternatively, a lack of mobility in your back could directly result from weakness and muscle imbalances in your hips adductors. Ask any good golf coach, and they’ll tell you that the perfect postural address position is a blend of stability and mobility.
Mobility, flexibility, and strength are all influenced by conventional training methods like weight training, preventive stretching movements, balance training, and stability measures. However, the problem with traditional training programs is that they tend to neglect strengthening muscles in the core and as such, golfers suffer from poor posture.
When training postural muscles, less weight and more reps are used, while the larger muscle groups like your quads use strengthening exercises with more weight and fewer reps. Remember, first and foremost, you MUST develop core strength before you can consistently produce an efficient golf swing.
Postural Balance and Muscle Strengthening
Did you know that your posture plays a significant role in how much power your swing can produce? In fact, I would hazard a guess that most club golfers have no idea just how important their posture is when it comes to generating power in the golf swing.
You can’t run like Usain Bolt if your posture stability is weak or nonexistent. The same is true for the golf swing; it’s impossible to swing effectively and efficiently without having strong core muscles and a rock-solid posture. I’ve seen high handicap club golfers improve their posture and literally gain 25-30 yards off the tee and 10-15 yards with their long irons.
If you’re seated in your chair, try this quick demonstration. Sit slumped with your head slightly pushed down and forward, and then try to lift your arm up. Now twist your head to the left and your body to the right, just as you would during your backswing. Now repeat those same actions but keep your back and neck straight and your chin slightly up. Ask yourself, which of the two motions produced the greatest and easiest range of motion?
When it comes to muscle imbalances in the swing, some can be difficult to identify, and many are not obvious. Below is a short list of some physical limitations that can disrupt your swing.
- Lack of neck rotation can make it challenging to keep your head over the ball
- Weak core muscles make it nearly impossible to transfer energy to the upper body to create power
- Tightness in the hamstrings prevents a golfer from achieving the perfect postural and address position
- Limited shoulder mobility can cause a breakdown and “lag” between the upper and lower body
- Weakness in the shoulder and upper traps can lead to a reduction in power and club head speed
Unfortunately, most club-level golfers don’t realize that these problems are caused by physical limitations and can be fixed once an appropriate strength and conditioning program has been designed and implemented. Far too many golfers turn to anti-inflammatory meds and other prescription drugs to help alleviate their pain and injuries.
Most postural issues with the neck, back, and hips don’t magically appear overnight. They cause secondary and often more long-term injuries as the body subconsciously compensates for the imbalances. The good news is that by performing some simple exercises on a daily basis, golfers can overcome their postural imbalances allowing them to build a rock-solid swing from the ground up.
The 18th Hole
The golf swing is one of the most complex technical sporting actions out there; the sheer amount of coordination, timing, power, speed, and explosiveness needed, makes the technique borderline impossible.
That’s why golf is such a wonderful game; it’s the pursuit of perfection that keeps golfers coming back. Club golfers see their favorite PGA Tour players bombing 300-yard + drives off the tee and want nothing more than to emulate them; unfortunately, they just try to swing harder and harder.
Strength and conditioning exercises are the most fundamental component for improving ground-up power in your golf swing. So instead of spending countless hours trying to improve your swing dynamics, start dedicating some time to getting your body in peak physical condition.
Trust me, once you begin improving your strength and flexibility, your golf swing will improve, and your overall health and well-being will be at an all-time high.