Most casual golfers who experience pain, or even just have a few bad games, assume there’s something wrong with their swing. But while poor swing mechanics might be the cause, it's more likely a sign of weakness and inflexibility.
Golf is ballistic, involving sudden moments of exertion. It's also one-sided: Players swing 75 to 100 times from one side of the body, which can often create muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. (If only we were all ambidextrous and could play righty on the front nine and lefty on the back nine.)
So before you consult a swing coach, take a close look at your physical fitness. Chances are, the key to a better game on the links is a better off-the-course training program that creates the flexibility and mobility to execute a proper swing. (Remember: If you think you're injured, or you're feeling pain during a workout, immediately stop and consult a doctor.)
Here are 10 basic exercises that will help loosen any golfer's hips, stabilize your shoulders, and help you build power and strength in your golf swing.
Pete Williams is a NASM-certified personal trainer and the author or co-author of a number of books on performance and training.
1. Seated Rotations
Why you should do it: These will improve your rotational mobility, a key component of the golf swing.
How to do it: Sit straddling a bench, or squeeze a pad or towel between your knees. Hold a club behind your back with your arms, so it sits in the crook of your elbows. Set your palms flat on your stomach and maintain your posture. Without moving your hips, rotate your torso to the right and hold for two seconds. Return to the starting position, then continue to the left and hold for two seconds. Alternate sides, 10 to a side.
2. Standing Ys
Why you should do it: Improves shoulder mobility and also counteracts the negative impact of sitting.
How to do it: Stand bent over at the waist with your back flat and chest up, as if you were about to do a deadlift. Hold a golf club with a supinated grip (palms facing up). Pull your shoulder blades back and down and raise your arms over your head to form a Y. Return to the starting position. That's one rep.
Pro tip: Make sure to initiate the movement with your shoulder blades, not your arms.
Why you should do it: To prevent “golfer’s elbow” and reduce the risk of shoulder injury.
How to do it: Start standing up. Bend forward at the waist and set your hands on the ground so you're on all fours. Slowly walk your hands out into a pushup position. Then, making sure to keep your knees straight, walk your toes toward your hands.
Once you're starting to feel a stretch, walk your hands back out and repeat for a total of 10 reps.
4. 90/90 Stretch
Why you should do it: This move opens up your shoulders, helping to build flexibility and mobility.
How to do it: Lie on one side with the bottom leg straight and the top leg bent with inside of knee on ground. Rotate your trunk back attempting to put the top shoulder blade on the ground. Hold two seconds, return to start position and repeat for 10 reps. Switch sides.
5. Lateral Pillar Bridge
Why you should do it: This opens up the hips, preventing back pain.
How to do it: Lie on one side with your body in a straight line and your elbow under your shoulder, feet stacked. Push your hip off the ground, creating a straight line from ankle to shoulder. Hold this pose for three seconds. Do 10 reps on one side and then 10 on the other side. Be sure to keep your head in line with your spine—don't sag or bend.
6. Medicine Ball Parallel Throw
Why you should do it: Medicine ball throws will improve your ability to store and release energy and improve your swing speed.
How to do it: Stand facing a solid wall (so, not glass or sheetrock) about 3 feet away. Hold a medicine ball at waist level. Rotate your trunk away from the wall. Then, in one motion, initiate the throw by thrusting your hips toward the wall, followed by your trunk, arms, and the ball. After the ball bounces off the wall, catch it with one hand under the ball, the other hand behind it, and arms slightly bent. Repeat for 10 reps, then switch sides.
7. Medicine Ball Perpendicular Throw
Why you should do it: This will build up your core power, which will help your swing speed and muscle balance.
How to do it: Perform this like the medicine ball parallel throw, except start with your hips perpendicular to the wall. Rotate your torso 90 degrees away from the wall, and then rotate 180 degrees and throw the ball at the wall, catching it on the rebound.
Repeat for 10 reps, then switch sides.
8. Physioball Pushup
Why you should do it: Pushups on a physio ball challenge the scapular stabilizers, which are vitally important for shoulder and back movement.
How to do it: Start in a pushup position, with your hands on a physioball and feet on the floor. Lower yourself so your chest barely touches the ball. Control the ball as you push up, pushing your chest as far away from the ball as possible. Do a set of 10.
9. Dumbbell Bench Press - One Arm
Why you should do it: This movement not only builds strength but also shoulder stability.
How to do it: Lie down on a bench, with your left glute and left shoulder blade on the bench and right glute and right shoulder blade off the bench. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and hold on to the bench above your head with your left hand. Slowly lower the weight until your elbow is horizontally level with your shoulder. Return to the starting position. Complete 10 reps and switch sides.
10. Glute Bridge
Why you should do it: It might look awkward, but the glute bridge is perfect for activating those muscles you've been sitting on all day before hitting the links.
How to do it: Lie face-up on the floor with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze a rolled up towel between your knees. Fire your glutes and bridge your hips toward the ceiling, so that only your shoulders and heels remain on the ground. Lower your hips to the ground and repeat for 10 reps.