By Angie Hurley, CSCS, CAT(C)

For the last 2 decades, top golfers have been taking golf from game to sport.

Starting with Tiger Woods, and currently with Rory McIlroy, golfers have been advancing their skills, and their game on the greens, by working hard in the gym.

Golf is a Complicated Sport

Golf requires a very specific chain of movements across multiple joints in the body. Each segment of the golf swing builds on the previous segment, allowing for greater energy to be carried from the backswing into the downswing, like a sling shot.

Currently, Rory McIlroy seems to have the kinematic advantage with his unique but precise timing of movements within his swing. Of note, is McIlroy’s fastest hip rotation ever measured by Titleist Performance Institute at 720 degrees per second, 200 degrees per second faster than the PGA Tour average.

Exercises to Maximize Your Golf Swing Potential

While the precise technique and timing of the golf swing is better left to golf coaches, each phase of movement does have specific physical components that can be trained in the gym.

The backswing requires torso and shoulder range of motion as well as lower body stability. While the downswing creates force and transfers energy from the pelvis to the torso, to the arms, and, finally, the club head.

Focusing on improving the following components can maximize your golf swing potential:

  • stable base of support
  • dissociation of the pelvis and the torso
  • internal rotation of the lead leg
  • shoulder and thoracic spine range of motion

Within each of these components, proficiency in the following areas will enhance your game and prevent injury:

  • Stability
  • Mobility
  • Dissociation
  • Strength
  • Power

Stability

Stability is the ability to control and maintain a joint position. Having stability allows the next segment in the chain of movement to operate optimally. On the other hand, if stability is lacking, the transfer of force production will be lost and misdirected.

Key areas for stability in golf include the pelvis, torso and shoulders.

Exercises

Mobility

Mobility is being able to move in a controlled manner through a full range of motion. Being able to control our body through a greater range of motion means less incidence of injury, increased efficiency of movement, and greater force production.

The key areas we want to be mobile in for the golf swing are the hips, mid torso (or thoracic spine), and shoulders. Mobility through the hips and mid torso means there is less demand on the low back to compensate, preventing many of the injuries, aches, and pains that may keep you off the greens.

Exercises

Dissociation

Dissociation has been a big buzzword in strength training for golf. In golf, it refers to the separation of the pelvis movement from the movement of the torso. Dissociation combines both previously listed components: stability of the pelvis combined with the mobility of the torso (back swing) and stability of the torso with the mobility of the pelvis (down swing and force generation). While one joint is in motion, the other is acting as an anchor point for force to generate and build. 

The following TPI drills test if you have the capability to separate torso movement from pelvic movement.

Torso on pelvis dissociation: With soft knees, hinge at the waist, rotate through the torso while keeping the hips stationary and square (facing forward).

Pelvis on torso dissociation: with soft knees, hinge at the waist, hands crossed over chest, rotate hips while keeping torso stationary and square.

Exercises:

Strength

Strength is the ability to generate force. Strength is also required to stabilize a joint. According to Dr. Sasho McKenzie, the slight squat into the lead leg at the start of the McIlroy’s downswing allows for more ground reaction force under the lead foot, facilitating velocity and momentum through the rest of the swing.

Therefore, strength training should focus on the shift of weight laterally, pushing off from the floor to create upward force, and rotation strength.

Exercises:

Power

Power is the ability to do produce force as quickly as possible. When we think of training for power, we should be thinking of quick explosive movements like plyometrics including jumps and throws. Therefore, at its core, the golf swing is a complicated, multi-joint explosive power movement.

Exercises:

To learn how to safely and effectively add these exercises and more into your training repertoire, check in with us at JKConditioning.

We can help you take your golf game from subpar, to under par.

Thanks for reading!

~Angie

I had spent a fair bit of time in gyms in my teens and twenties but I turned away from the gym to focus on activities that I enjoyed more. What keeps me at JKC is that I do really enjoy it. I always feel that I’ve accomplished something when I leave at the end of my workout. The environment is really positive and focused on challenging yourself whatever your level of comfort and fitness. I’ve also seen results that I’m really happy with; having someone who really knows what they’re talking about to guide your workouts makes them way more effective and focused than just “going to the gym”.

Shortly after I started at JKC, I sustained a fairly major injury that took me off my feet for several months. When I started to get back to activity, it was very difficult. Jon and Thomas worked hard to tailor my workouts to my goals and what I could do. With their help, I’ve been steadily building back strength and function.

I’m 43 and started at JKC just over a year ago. I started at JKC because of multiple recommendations from existing clients. There are 2 main elements that distinguish JKC for me. Firstly the sense of community. I’ve been to multiple gyms in multiple cities/countries, you just  can not manufacture the sense of community and support you get from other gym goers and the team. It’s very motivating and happy to say I’ve made some friends at JKC.

The other major distinguishing factor for JKC is the expertise and passion of the team. Jon, Thomas and Craig craft highly personalized programs based on my fitness goals and know how to push me best without being pushy. They pay close attention to ensuring my form is solid before encouraging me to take on more weight for the exercise. Plain and simple they love what they do and it shows.

I recently turned 40, and I have been training at JKC since the summer of 2020. My partner Michael had already been training at JKC, so it came highly recommended. We had set up a home gym at the start of the pandemic, but needed to mix it up after the first lockdown. JKC differs from other gyms because of the personalized workouts. Jon, Thomas and Craig are great at challenging me to do more than I would on my own.

I started at JKC in January of 2014 and I’m 67 years old. When I had my Initial Assessment, I knew – almost immediately – that Jon knew what he was doing and what he was talking about. I was overweight, out of shape, and in serious need of someone, like Jon, who could get me back on a fitness/conditioning routine that suited me, my age, my less than acceptable physical condition, my sometimes intermittent RA, and my need for a structured, consistent and yet flexible training and conditioning program that would work for me.

Fundamentally, if I made a choice at all with respect to JKC – it was to continue to come back each week. I have not been in a lot of gyms. To be honest, they used to intimidate me. What makes JKC different is their approach to each and every one of their clients. Jon and Thomas – and now Craig – tailor each training regime to the particular needs of each client. That ensures that the training regime will suit each client upon the start of training and changes as the client improves. It adjusts for any physical setbacks such as injuries and it adjusts for success. It is just that simple.

It is also the consistent encouragement that comes from Jon, Thomas and Craig. That voice that comes to you while you are in the middle of a particularly difficult set – rear-foot elevated split squats comes to mind immediately – that says “good job” or “keep it up” or “just a couple more reps.” To know, in that moment, that you are not alone and the trainer is paying attention to what you are doing. That is priceless for me.

My original reason for joining JKC was to get some sage advice to help with my running. I had been looking for awhile, came across Jon, met for an assessment, and was quite happy with how that all went. Apart from the running specific strengthening and conditioning approaches, JKC is different from other gyms as I am a fan of the small group sessions where everyone has their own goals and individualized programs. As well, the run coaching is super. All the coaches go the extra mile to make sure you get the best out each training session. They are fantastic motivators! My favourite memory is deadlifting 330lbs. Making a lot of great friends and meeting some really cool people is pretty high up on that list, too.

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