Spring Train Your Swing
As spring weather is upon us, the time has come for golfers to dust off their clubs and prepare for golf season.
Some have been lucky enough to play in warmer climates over the winter, but most have not swung a club since the fall. As a result, many golfers may find themselves swinging through aches and pains as they start the season. Although this makes it difficult to improve performance, it is not too late to start. Golfers who implement strength and mobility training now can help prevent injury and improve their performance on the course.
Swinging on a Strong Foundation
For most golfers, it is no secret that strength is associated with hitting distance. In theory, the stronger the force behind a swing, the farther the ball travels. Yet studies have shown that stronger golfers are not only hitting the ball farther, they are actually scoring better on top of it. This is due to the positive effects of strength training on motor control, stability, and endurance.
Motor control is the ability to coordinate and regulate intended movement patterns. This is of high importance for golfers. By strengthening the proper movement patterns necessary for an ideal golf swing, golfers can expect a greater amount of motor control during the movement. In turn, this allows golfers to have a better feel for their swing and make adjustments to mechanics when necessary.
Given the dynamic nature of the golf swing, having stability to resist unnecessary movement and maintain center of gravity is key to improving performance. Golfers who lack stability often feel off-balance and have poor body control and weight shift during their swing. This can produce inconsistent swing patterns and frustrating missed shots. The strength in a golfer’s legs, core, and arms provide a stable base of support for the golf swing. In turn, this adds efficiency and reliability that improves striking consistency.
As an added bonus, stronger golfers have better endurance and are less prone to injury. Strength training builds resilience in muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and other connective tissue. In general, a stronger golfer can endure more strain on their body without breaking down. This translates to being able to take more swings or walk the course without causing fatigue and affecting performance. Strengthening the legs and core with exercises such as squats, planks, and resisted trunk rotation are a great starting point for most golfers. By doing so, golfers can expect a more consistent, fatigue-resistant swing pattern.
Unlock Potential with Improved Mobility
Mobility is the ability of a given body part or segment to go through a given range of motion during a particular movement. It is thought of as a blend of flexibility and stability. This often comes into play when evaluating golf swing mechanics. For instance, a golfer may be told they need to improve their hip “flexibility” if their swing appears to lack hip rotation. However, it is possible he/she could have adequate hip flexibility, but lack stability to support the available range of motion during the golf swing. Regardless of the reason, such impairments can produce a golf swing that lacks mobility in the hips.
An ideal golf swing demands different range of motion requirements in various segments of the body as well. Restrictions in joint movement and muscle flexibility lead to compensation patterns developing during the swing. For example, limitations in shoulder mobility can cause golfers to “wing” their trail arm during the backswing. This makes it difficult to keep the golf club on a smooth swing path, and may even contribute to lifting of the trunk during the backswing. Similarly, limitations in back, hip, wrist, and other parts of the body cause faulty swing mechanics as well. When it comes down to it, lack of mobility makes the golf swing less efficient and consistent. This, in turn, wreaks havoc on the score sheet.
Aside from lackluster performance, limitations in mobility can also lead to injury. This is especially true given the repetitive nature of the sport. If a golfer “over-swings” and moves into a range of motion their body cannot manage, they put themselves at risk for injury. A simple start to addressing this concern is to incorporate at least a 10-minute warm-up routine before playing a round of golf. This may include taking light practice swings, a brisk walk, or dynamic leg and trunk stretches. By doing so, studies suggest that injury rates can reduce by 50%. If a short warm-up can have such great effects, imagine the benefit of performing such a routine on a regular basis!
Construct a Plan and Follow Through
The relationship between strength and mobility deficits differs for every golfer, and so does its effect on swing mechanics. The best way for golfers to appreciate this is to see it for themselves. For this reason, many turn to video analysis software for guidance. Experts use this technology to analyze swing mechanics, identify deficits, and focus training to correct them. That way, golfers tailor their strength training workouts to address weak spots unique to them. In similar fashion, mobility work and pre-round warm-ups are personalized to develop a more consistent, injury-resistant swing pattern.
Many golfers also rely on physical therapists to point them in the right direction. Consulting a health professional who is familiar with the physical demands required for golf is an excellent starting point for golfers looking to capitalize on the improvement in performance and reduction in injury. This is especially true for golfers who are prone to or are already battling injury. Because of their expertise in movement analysis, physical therapists are able to guide training and make efficient use of time. This provides golfers with a comprehensive approach to strength and mobility training, warm-up routines, and swing drills.
The key to improving fitness for golf is knowing where to start. A quick internet search provides an abundance of information, but knowing what is relevant can be difficult and/or time-consuming for golfers to determine. This often leads to inefficient use of time and a lack of commitment. By utilizing resources and constructing a plan, golfers can expect to make the most of the coming golf season.
By Cody Lindsey, PT, DPT | Edgebrook Physical Therapy