The PGA tour has changed dramatically since I was a kid. Golfers are flying all over the world to participate in tournaments, creating long, never-ending schedules. Golfers are much more athletic and powerful than in the past. More and more golfers are strength training with heavy weights in an attempt to keep up with the field of powerful young golfers. As a result of this more and more golfers are becoming injured.
The golf swing is inherently a very powerful, asymmetrical, and stressful movement on the human body. Even if the swing is done in a textbook fashion it still creates a large amount of compressive force in the spine. If you lack the adequate mobility and strength to properly control the forces that you create, this could lead to injury. If you can imagine the golfer as a racecar, increasing the engine strength to go faster without upgrading the brakes and suspension for control could be disastrous.
When it comes to strength and conditioning programs for golfers the same rules apply. Every individual golfer is different and needs a program that’s geared around their limitations and strengths.
The first thing to focus on is the golfer’s mobility and stability. The ankle, hip, upper back, neck, shoulder, and wrist are mobile joints in the golf swing. Focusing on exercises that will help increase range of motion, strength, power, and control of the muscles that surround these joints will result in faster club head speed and hopefully yardage. This can only occur if the stable structures like the foot, knee, lower back, scapula, and elbow remain stable with the muscular endurance to do so. In the golf swing, this should be a perfect harmony. Mobile joints generate and dissipate the forces of the swing while the stable joints create a foundation to transfer power.
Now, when speaking of transferring power and control we cannot forget about balance. Proper weight transfer and balance is the difference between amateurs and professionals. Golf is a sport that is played on very uneven surfaces that require a tremendous amount of balance to efficiently transfer weight and power through the correct body segments. Poor balance will create a loss of control. If we think about the racecar again, this loss of balance is similar to losing control of the steering-not good! On top of that the golf swing is a very asymmetrical, awkward motion that will eventually create muscular imbalances and limitations in motion that need to be addressed. Balancing this with corrective exercises that will regain mobility and strength in the opposite motion is very important.
Strength training done incorrectly without specific goals can lead to further dysfunction and compensation, which is true for any asymmetrical sport. Based on these concepts and the individual limitations and strengths you can build a correct program that helps balance the golfer and prevent future injury. Look for sport-specific resources, such as the Golfer’s Performance Program at the HSS Performance Center.
Jamie Osmak is a certified strength and conditioning specialist at the Tisch Performance Center. Jamie is a Level 1 Certified Golf Fitness Instructor through the Titleist Performance Institute, as well as a USA Track and Field Level 1 coach and corrective exercise specialist with a degree in Exercise Science from Rutgers University.