Guest Post by Jerry Shumway, Performance Coach at Urban Golf
So, you want to hit those golf balls further or you want to be more consistent on the golf course but nothing seems to be working. If you’ve tried YouTube videos or you’ve even taken a few lessons and nothing seems to be creating lasting change in your golf game, then it’s time to commit to creating change in the thing that swings your golf club: your body. When it comes to golf fitness, it’s important to focus on “The Big Three,” as well as having the appropriate ratio of mobility, strength, and power in both our lower and upper body. If you take the necessary steps to program your body in the gym, you will undoubtedly see long-term results in your golf game.
“The Big Three” of golf fitness are posture, pelvic awareness and x-factor. First, we need to make sure we have appropriate thoracic spine extension as well as lumbar spine flexion. This will allow us to rotate in posture and remain in posture throughout the swing while also protecting our spine. Another way we protect our spine is by having adequate pelvic awareness. Pelvic awareness is the ability to tilt the pelvis anteriorly (forward) and posteriorly (backward). Most golfers live in anterior pelvic tilt, which shortens the hip flexors and lengthens the hamstrings. If you watch Rory McIlroy’s swing, Rory is the King of X-factor. X-factor is the ability to move your upper and lower body independent of one another. This is what allows you to create separation throughout the swing.
Many amateur golfers spend hours banging balls hoping to find the swing that will allow them to drive a ball 300 yards. If that’s your goal, stop watching the YouTube videos and start doing some squats. Strength and power in the lower body is what allows us to use the ground to create force that we deliver into the golf ball. Movements such as squats, lunges and step-ups are great ways to train the lateral and vertical movement patterns that are present in the lower body during the golf swing.
Movements such as Romanian deadlifts, hamstring curls, and single-leg glute bridges are great ways to train the glutes and hamstrings, which are responsible for stabling the pelvis and and extending the hips through impact. Don’t forget about plyometrics, or power movements, as lower body power is crucial for increasing clubhead speed and paired with improved contact will lead to more distance. You can pair your lower body strength movements with a lower body power movement such as box jumps, skater jumps, kettlebell swings, or broad jumps. By improving your lower body strength and power, that will create a more efficient swing because it will allow you to remain balanced throughout the swing while appropriately using the ground to create more force.
Another one of the most common changes amateurs are looking to make is to fix their slice, which often stems from an upper-body-dominant golf swing. This shouldn’t lead you to believe that the upper body shouldn’t be extremely active in the golf swing and appropriately trained. Your core, which is made up of more than just your “six-pack abs,” are any muscles that work to stabilize your spine. These core muscles should be trained in many different ways, including anti-flexion, anti-lateral flexion, rotation, and anti-rotation.
Examples of good core exercises are planks, deadbugs, suitcase carries, cable torso rotations, and shoulder taps. Upper body training is also a great opportunity to improve upper body mobility while building strength and power. Cable machines can also be a great tool as we can train our upper body through a full range of motion. Free weights such as the bench press, shoulder press, and rows are incredible ways to build strength, but if mobility is your limitation you should consider including more cable work. Standing with a stable base while rowing or pressing a cable machine allows us to create big turns, just make sure you stay in posture throughout the movement.
Plank exercises are a great way to strengthen your core so that you can be at your peak the next time you're on the golf course.
When it comes time to train upper body power, you should definitely incorporate medicine balls. A lighter ball, such as one that is around 4-8 pounds, should be used as speed is what you are looking for here. Medicine ball chest passes, shot puts, slams, and hip tosses are all great ways to implement these tried and true exercise devices into your training routine in order to increase your upper body power.
When training for sport, we look less at the muscles we’re training and we look more for the patterns we’re moving in. Golf, such as life, exists in 360 degrees. Often, many amateurs are doing training styles such as “push-pull-legs,” with many of their movements happening in the sagittal plane. Movements all occur in either the sagittal plane, where movement is forward and back, the frontal plane, where movements are side to side, or the transverse plane, where movements are rotational. We need to think about total-body, unilateral training in all three planes when programming for ourselves. That’s the secret to effective functional and sports performance training. The best way to do that is to include more lateral squats, lateral lunges, curtsy lunges, rotational step-ups into your programming.
When training your glutes and hamstrings, push yourself to train unilaterally with single-leg glute bridges and single-leg Romanian deadlifts. As for your upper body, cable machines will allow you to turn your typical upper body movements into more lateral and rotational movements. Down-the-line press, low-to-high press, cable rows, and cable pull-downs are all great options to include in your next training session.
Lastly, but most importantly, you must train unilaterally. This means training one side of your body at a time as that can help put your body in stances that require you to create stability. Include more split stance and single-leg movements into your training, which will challenge your balance and allow you to create more symmetry throughout your body from left to right.
When you’re planning your next golf training session, you definitely want to make sure that you take into account these recommendations so that you’ll see results the next time you tee off. One of the best ways to monitor your progress as you look to improve your performance on the golf course is by using the ZOZOFIT app with the ZOZOSUIT so that you can track changes to your physiology throughout your training sessions, and see both measurable and actionable results over time.
About the Author:
Jerry Shumway grew up in Ventura County, California in a golf family, and if you went to his grandpa's house, golf was on T.V. 24 hours a day. Shumway played football at Azusa Pacific University before transferring to finish his education at University of Arizona with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Human Development. Jerry received his Master's degree in Strategic Communication at Pepperdine before beginning his training career at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California.
Shumway now works as a performance coach at Urban Golf Performance on the westside of Los Angeles where he gets the privilege of working closely with coaches, recovery specialists, and golfers of all ages and abilities while helping them achieve their golf goals. What Jerry loves most about his job is that golf can be a catalyst for health, and in pursuing golf goals, Urban Golf Performance members find themselves prioritizing their health as a result.