Golf Conditioning

By David McGill

  • Your golf swing might look correct to your coach’s eye. How can you and your coach be sure that your body is functioning correctly internally to safely perform this movement?

  • Do you feel upper or lower body pain during or after playing, otherwise preventable with the right exercise-therapy approach?

  • Would you like golf-specific exercise conditioning from a specialist service to complement your coaching, improve your game and prevent injury?

Many recreational golfers ask the question: ‘Why physically condition myself using strength and flexibility exercises for an activity that I only play a few times each week?’

Statistics show that 53% of male and 45% of female golfers suffer from lower back pain whilst 30% of professional golfers play injured (American Journal & Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine). They only refer though to the spinal injuries but don’t include the shoulder, upper and lower body injuries that many golfers suffer due to lack of rotational flexibility and essential strength in these body areas.

Using selective, progressive strength-conditioning exercises, many aforementioned upper and lower body injuries which commonly occur in golf are preventable. However, acknowledgement by the player (and where applicable, their coach) of the importance of correct exercise conditioning, plus a player’s commitment and willingness to do so will be an influential factor in preventing injury, otherwise prompting a recurrence.

Whether you play at a highly competitive level or just friendly recreational games at your local club, golf requires selective, sufficient physical conditioning from all who play.  The ability to maintain balance and correct posture whilst powerfully hitting the ball places great pressure upon a player’s body. To play the game effectively, safely and to fully enjoy the experience; speed, power, strength, balance and accuracy are vital, achievable by correct training conditioning.

Whilst swinging a golf club, your body moves rapidly and three-dimensionally using many muscles in the upper and lower body to generate the power needed to strike the ball. Your muscles have other responsibilities too, such as keeping you balanced, posturally aligned and finely altering your body position to ensure the accuracy of the shot.

Most golfing shots are performed either at maximum or close to maximum speed, starting, ending and often exceeding the limits of the player’s spine’s ability to rotate.  In elite golfers, the golf swing can generate clubhead speeds of over 120mph.  Considering how many shots, holes and rounds are played in a game of golf, this high-speed movement will be performed many times.  Back pain and associated problems commonly occur as a result of the powerful twisting and spine bending motion in the tennis swing, along with a lack of the upper body flexibility, strength and stability to perform this movement correctly and cope with such physical demands.

Repetitively using one side of your body to swing your club causes tightness to increase disproportionately in certain muscles.  Muscles are designed to work together in pairs with equal length, strength and tension.  So, if one muscle tightens, its opposite muscle will lengthen, weaken, become inactive and be prevented from performing its essential purpose. This affects a player’s ability to generate power when hitting the ball, interfering with performance regardless of the practice they put in. If they neglect this issue, it will inevitably lead to postural misalignment, pain, injury, prompting frustration!

Added to this problem, many recreational golfers, whether working or retired, tend to sit for prolonged periods at a desk, in a car or on a sofa in front of the TV.  By doing so each day, certain muscles will tighten, which then prevents the activation and functioning of other important muscles essential for correct postural alignment and joint stability during the dynamic golf shots. Muscles most commonly affected by this are the stomach and bottom which are the key ones essential for a safe, effective, spine-friendly golf-club swing. If unable to assist as intended, these weakened muscles force the brain to compensate, activating and utilising other muscles such as the lower back, not only to maintain posture but to also generate the high-velocity movement required for hitting the ball with the club. A tee-off may look great physically yet this doesn’t necessarily mean that the right muscles are activating and working to perform this movement. These compensatory movement patterns will remain ingrained in a player’s swing/ shot and, like a vicious circle, despite their effort, pain and injury will eventually occur. With the right training guidance, however, this is preventable.

Every recreational and professional golfer wants to improve their game.  Some will spend much on golf clubs and/or have private lessons to try and perfect their swing.  Despite this, performance and progression will be hindered on the fairway if strength and flexibility remain limited and muscles continue activating in place of weak, dormant ones during the high-velocity movements.

A golf coach can observe and correct a player’s ‘biomechanics’ where extrinsic body movements on the course are visually apparent. Through no fault of their own, coaches are often unaware of a player’s intrinsic ‘pathomechanics’ where internal faults with sequential muscle activation, musculoskeletal alignment and range-of muscular flexibility will otherwise prompt the body to adapt to be able to swing their club to hit the ball.

For golfers who seek the guidance of personal trainers or instructors to exercise and improve their game, many trainers may still encourage the use of seated or lying resistance exercises that only work muscles in isolation rather than involving them concurrently in their intended muscle groups. The aforementioned exercises also overlook and fail to adequately activate key muscles essential for correct alignment, stability and body functioning during golf, ultimately leading to pain and injury.

Golf and many common daily activities we do involve a standing body position requiring three-dimensional movement and simultaneous activation of groups of muscles. Exercisers however are often encouraged to do seated or floor-based, isolative muscle strength and abdominal exercises.  Despite their effort (and increased isolative muscle strength), these exercises aren’t specific to the concurrent, whole-body, multi-directional functional movements required in golf and won’t contribute significantly to their improved athletic ability or performance on the green.

Contrary to this, ‘functional training’ is often loosely referred to these days by many in the fitness industry. Unfortunately, it is subject to misinterpretation. Many trainers or coaches are quick to prescribe ‘whole body’ multidirectional exercises such as lunges and high velocity, rotational medicine ball throws. Such exercises are exciting for those they train and have the potential to be effective when initially prepared for using Corrective Integrative Exercises.  All too often though, these ‘functional,’ whole body, high-intensity exercises prematurely prescribed by trainers exceed the physical preparedness and capability of the exerciser and recreational golfer.  This will cause the player or client’s body to compensate, prompting faulty movement patterns, discomfort and injury, inhibiting participation and performance.

An expert trainer will correctly precede exercise by identifying and assessing any muscle strength imbalances, dormancy or faulty movement patterns. Utilising specific ‘corrective’ exercises will help to selectively strengthen a “weak muscle link” that your body may have, allowing you to restore proper muscle balance, activation and function. This is essential for playing golf safely and preventing injury (prehabilitation).

At Bodyrefine, our Corrective Exercise Specialists are qualified to treat and train the body as a unit. For all new clients who come to us in pain or injured from former activity; instead of assessing and treating in isolation the site where the pain is felt (your symptom), we identify, address and eliminate the root cause of WHY the symptom occurred in the first place, preventing a recurrence.

If you see a physiotherapist for shoulder pain or back pain, you’ll possibly be given exercises or have massages to address issues specific to the isolated, affected area. Following assessment of the whole body, Corrective Exercise Therapists provide selective exercises and stretches to address weaknesses and excessive tightness in all areas of the upper and lower body, for which the shoulder and back will ultimately suffer. By not addressing the entirety of the body, both will repeatedly suffer, benefiting little from the isolative exercise otherwise prescribed or massage received. Likewise with neck, back, hip and knee pain felt.

At Bodyrefine, we precede our specialist, bespoke training (general or golf-specific) with a detailed assessment of our clients to identify postural misalignments and dormant muscle activation. It also allows us to establish a safe starting point for selective, corrective strength and flexibility exercises. Our primary objective is to ensure your muscles function properly with correct postural alignment, lessening the risk of further injury or physical complication.  Using our established, reputable, unique and effectively proven training approach, we’ll then introduce your body to progressive, whole body, multi-directional strength and dynamic flexibility exercises, suited to your physical condition. These are highly beneficial for safe, efficient and effective golfing performance.

Contact Us for a Complimentary Consultation

By submitting this form I agree to my details being used in sole connection with the intended enquiry. Please check our privacy policy to see how we protect and manage your submitted data.