What is “golf fitness”?
Realistically, there is no such thing as “golf specific fitness”. At the end of the day, the better a person is as an athlete, they easier it will be for them to improve their game, and the greater their potential as a golfer. Some questions to ask yourself are: do I have full range of motion where I need it? Do I have stability in all areas where I need it? Can I perform any required movements with good form and without discomfort? Can I also perform these movements with increased resistance or in a forceful, athletic manner? If the answer to any of these is “no”, then you are limiting your potential as a golfer. The golf swing is a fast, athletic movement, and if you don’t have a full range of motion or aren’t stable, then you’re setting yourself up for injury. If you have difficulty performing certain movements due to coordination issues, or if you have any difficulty producing force during these movements, then it will be challenging for you to make adjustments in your swing and have them translate to the golf course.
How come some of the exercises don’t resemble a golf swing?
Just because something doesn’t look like a golf swing doesn’t mean it isn’t beneficial for your golf game. Yes, a portion of your training should involve ingraining motor patterns that resemble what you’re working on in the golf swing, however the purpose of exercise is to make your body function the way it was intended. There is something called “The Pillars of Human Movement”, which essentially covers all of the movements you can expect to encounter over the course of a day. The Pillars are: Level Change (squat variations, hinge variations, lunge variations), Pushes and Pulls (both horizontal and vertical), Rotation (the one that will likely most resemble a golf swing), and Locomotion (speed, agility, quickness). At some point in the golf swing nearly every one of these Pillars is involved at one point or another. Here are a few examples:
- Learning to hinge properly (such as in a deadlift) will help promote good posture at setup and correct movement of the pelvis throughout the golf swing.
- Squat and lunge variations will help drive off the trail leg to start the downswing and “post up” on the lead leg during the follow through.
- Having good control of various pushes and pulls (chest press, rows, shoulder presses, etc) will help with proper stabilization and movement of the scapulae (shoulder blades) to help control the club and keep it on plane during the swing.
- Improving speed, agility, and quickness will help ensure stability and efficiency while shifting weight in the golf swing, creating a more athletic and consistent move.
- Rotating properly will help improve consistency in the swing, keep your shoulders on the proper plane, ensure that you don’t have to compensate to gain extra length in your swing, and allow you to effectively turn into the ball.
Why do we put such an emphasis on fitness?
To put it simply: because it’s really important. If your body can’t do what you want it to do, the road to a better golf game will be a long and frustrating one. It’s extremely important for your golf coach to know what you can and cannot do physically, because without that information it is possible that you may be asked to do something that your body currently is not capable of. The purpose of fitness involves many steps, but all are geared towards making it easier for your golf coach to help you improve your game.
- First, mobilize any joints that don’t have a full range of motion. For example, many people today have tight hips and limited shoulder mobility from spending time behind a computer. Immobile shoulders make it tough to get your hands (and therefore the club) in a good position at the top of the swing, and immobile hips make it very difficult use your lower body effectively to generate power for your swing.
- Second, stabilize any areas that are moving more than they should. For example: knees wobbling during a squat could indicate that your lower body may be too active during the swing, causing a sway or slide that makes it difficult to develop a repeatable swing.
- Third, improve function of properly mobilized and stabilized joints. Once we know that a part of the body is capable of doing something, then we can then start to train proper movement against resistance. The better your body is at responding to that resistance the more likely it is that it will perform correctly during the golf swing. Learning to perform multiple types of movements in multiple directions will allow you to have much better control over your body and allow you to make the adjustments that your coach suggests with much less difficulty.
- Fourth, greatly improve force production and overall athleticism. Once you are able to move properly and control what your body is doing we can improve your performance and add a lot of versatility to your game. On the fitness side we can give your body the tools to do what is required to hit a certain type of shot, that way when your golf coach introduces something new you are much more capable of immediately understanding the concept and performing what is asked of you.