Loss of flexibility, strength and conditioning can be a real problem for older golfers. Here, Trent Malcolm, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, provides a tailored improvement program especially for older golfers.
Could your body be limiting your golfing potential?
By Trent Malcolm
Are you trying to change your golf swing and finding it difficult to get into the positions your coach is asking for? If this is the case then maybe your physical make up is slowing your progress. Perhaps you are too stiff around your back or shoulders, maybe the co-ordination/timing of your body movements is a little off or maybe you are swaying and sliding in your swing? A conditioning program specific to your body and your swing priorities can fast track your golf improvement and reduce the likelihood of injury.
In a standing position with your arms across your chest, rotate your shoulders around as far as you can without moving your head laterally (Figure 2). Pause for a second and rotate to the opposite side. Gradually increase the range of this dynamic stretch as you complete 20 repetitions.
Does the timing and co-ordination of your swing feel a little out?
Bishop also says “A physical issue or poor swing concept can produce timing and sequence problems in the swing. The upper body has furthest to rotate in the back swing so should lead the motion followed by the lower half. This is reversed in the downswing. Think of any throwing or hitting motion you have ever performed and you will better understand the correct sequence.”
The following movements work on increasing rotation into both left and right hips and are designed to give you the feeling of improved hip release (for better sequencing) from the top of the back swing.
In figures 3 and 4, imagine your pelvis and spine make up a steering wheel and the column it is attached to. Turn the steering wheel (your pelvis) to the left and the right in isolation (no lateral movement) to improve the co-ordination and range of motion of your pelvis.
The next exercise (Figure 5) is a lot more advanced, and the previous steering wheel analogy can also be used here. In the position shown, turn the steering wheel (your pelvis) to the right, pause for 5 seconds then turn to the left. Your upper body is working hard to stabilise your shoulders and the muscles through your trunk to your pelvis are creating this rotational movement.
Both these exercise are designed to help you dissociate your upper and lower body, important in good swing mechanics.
Does your body move too far laterally throughout your swing?
Lower body strength is imperative in golf. Bishop says “The lower body is the foundation of the golf swing. If you lack strength in your lower body you will not be able to provide the stability and balance necessary for your upper body to rotate, which can lead to unwanted lateral movement and inconsistent ball striking”.
Stand with a broomstick across your shoulders, your feet wider than shoulder width apart and your toes turned out 45 degrees. Squat down and rotate your shoulders, ensuring your back is flat and head focused forward (Figure 6). Alternate your shoulder turn after each repetition. In this position your inner thighs (the adductors) are targeted, to help stabilise your lower body throughout the swing and the turn of the shoulders will also help improve the range of your back swing.
In the next exercise, lie on your back with your heels up on the ball and raise your buttocks off the ground to form a straight line from your ankles to shoulders (starting position). Now raise your right leg (about 20 cm) and rotate your pelvis to take your leg over to the opposite side (Figure 7). Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and return to the starting position; alternate legs. This more advanced exercise will increase the strength of important muscles around the outside of your hip (like gluteus medius) that resist lateral movement in your swing.
There are two important questions you need to ask yourself: what am I trying to improve in my golf swing, and could this be related to my body’s physical limitations? To maximise your golfing potential, a golf-specific exercise physiologist will design an exercise program which integrates information from your coach and golf-specific physiotherapist. If most tour players are doing it to enhance their performance and reduce the likelihood of injury, why shouldn’t you?
Trent Malcolm is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist specialising in golf-specific strength and conditioning. He consults to the Australian Institute of Sport Golf Program, Women’s Golf Victoria, the Melbourne Golf Injury Clinic and the Sandhurst Club (in association with the PGA of Australia), working with some of Australia’s finest young talent as well as numerous international touring professionals. He is a regular contributor to Golf Australia magazine and designs golf-specific exercise programs for people online.
Note: Before commencing any conditioning program it is recommended you consult a Medical or Allied Health Professional