Are the Exercises You’re Performing Helping or Hurting You?

Golfers are always looking for the best exercises that will add yards to their drives, improve their posture and increase their shoulder turn. These days it’s not hard to find golf fitness tips in magazines, on the internet and even on the weekly television broadcast.

The question we must ask is whether or not these exercises are right for you?

Many assume that if an exercise they see a Tour player performing, it must be the secret they need towards improving their game. During the US Open, I saw a few videos on social media showing exercises used by some of the players including Justin Thomas and champion Brooks Koepka. I even had clients send me the videos asking for my opinion.

Each and every exercise has it’s place. The most important factor you must understand is whether or not they’re given to the right person for the right reason. Here are some factors I consider when writing workout programs for my clients. You should also use these considerations when trying to improve your overall fitness and golf game as well.

Anytime I start with a new client, there are 3 things I’m going to want to know about.  

  1. What is their injury/medical history?  

  2. How long have they been training consistently?  

  3. What are their goals?  

When choosing exercises for your program, keep in mind your medical history, injuries and surgeries you may have had in the past alongside any pain you may be experiencing now. Certain medical conditions may dictate the frequency, intensity and/or duration for a safe training program. Previous injuries may result in avoiding or modifying certain movements, like spinal loading or overhead pressing, for example. Similarly, pain is a message from the body telling you that it doesn’t feel “safe” in its current environment.  It’s in your best interest to modify painful movements until the body is ready for them again.

Like a well built house, a good workout program is built on a solid foundation.

By the time most players reach the Tour, they have been training consistently for many years. This allows them to safely do advanced variations of a surplus of exercises. If you’re new to fitness, or haven’t been training as consistently as you like, it would be best for you to focus on basics like proper form, breathing, creating tension, and proper separation of the body’s extremities. This will allow you to safely progress to more advanced exercises and result in even more benefit from them when properly prescribed.

Exercises should be a part of your program to improve a specific aspect of your ability to move and perform. Ask yourself, what are your goals?  Do you want to hit the ball farther? Is flexibility at the top of your list? Maybe you want to lose weight and improve your body compsition?

Choose the right exercises to help you move closer to your goals every day. Professional players often have specific goals and choose exercises intelligently in order to reach them. If you’re not sure where to start, I would recommend choosing exercises that help you move well without pain, increase flexibility, strength and power and improve aerobic capacity.

After gathering this background information, the next thing I’ll do is a movement assessment.  There are tons of different assessments out there that help uncover a ton of information. I’m a big fan of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), and I also like watching clients perform common movements that I would like them to train.

There are several specific movements that I am going to want to train in almost every program I prescribe in order to improve overall golf technique. These movements include squatting, hinging, pushing and pulling, along with the ability to disassociate the upper and lower body, and rotation of the hips and torso.

Once I’ve done a movement assessment, I can determine where to place each and every one of my golfers on my personal exercise continuum. For each movement you train, you should have a series of progressions and regressions to fit each client. In each program, for example, I would like everybody to perform some type of hip-dominant exercise. For some clients that may be a toe touch progression and for others, it may be a single arm kettlebell swing. Professional golfers are some of the best movers in the world and have several hours per day to focus on their training. If you don’t have this luxury, make sure your exercise choices match your ability to move safely and effectively.

Exercise selection should reinforce the good movements players have in their swing or the changes they are trying to make. This is where it becomes extremely important to consult with the player’s instructor. Many traditional exercises train the body primarily in the sagittal (forwards and backwards) plane.  However, what I hear from most teachers that I work with, is that players need a better ability to control lateral movement and produce more rotational movement.  Knowing this, for most clients, I need to program exercises that help them improve outside of the sagittal plane we just mentioned.

Ask yourself, what swing changes are you trying to make? Professional players are often trying to make very specific changes to their swing. Make sure the exercises you choose match the deficiencies you’re addressing within your game.

Most golfers know that they can improve their ability to play by working on their body in the gym.  The best players in the world take their fitness seriously. For me, it’s always fun to see what exercises they perform and the carryover it might have on the course.

Remember, you need to ask yourself whether those exercises are the right fit for your workout program. By answering the questions above and gathering some information, we can make that decision and build a workout program that allows us to play at our absolute best!

Unlocking Your Swing Installment 8: Loss of Posture

Perfection: the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible. (via Google)

The goal of the playing golf is not to reach perfection, but it is to get as close as possible. The mechanics of our swing only provide half of the equation towards a great golf swing. The other half is determined by the way we move and control our body. If you struggle with either sides of this fence, we can all but guarantee that your swing is far from optimal.

Today, we'd like to discuss the swing characteristic known as loss of posture. In the video below, Joe breaks down the importance behind having adequate upper body mobility to ensure that your posture deviations aren't coming from range of motion restrictions.

Lack of mobility, stability or strength can all lead to the loss of posture in the golf swing. Loss of posture is defined as any significant alteration from the body's original setup angles during the golf swing. If you struggle from inconsistent contact and suffer from tons of block and/or hook shots, your posture is probably altering throughout the swing.

As we mentioned earlier, the mechanics behind your swing could be the culprit behind your issues. If this is the case, we highly recommend seeking out a credible swing coach within the local area. If you lose your posture during your swing, focus on improving the following to help you near perfection in your swing.

  • The ability to touch your toes.
  • Good squat mobility.
  • Good core and hip strength.
  • Good hip and shoulder mobility.

While Joe touched on the upper body exercises we like to use to combat posture restrictions, Frank discusses two drills that he uses to teach proper hip position combined with true upper back rotation. If you can't rotate through your hips and thoracic spine properly, you'll never golf up to your potential until addressing these issues.

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 7: Reverse Spine Angle

Reverse spine angle: three words any golf swing or fitness coach dreads hearing.

An excessive amount of backwards and left lateral bending (for a right handed golfer) during the backswing is what we refer to as reverse spine angle. Excessive spinal motion typically places a lot of torsional forces on the spine that we simply can't absorb through our vertebrae. With repetitive motion through the golf swing, this force can lead to back pain and discomfort over time. 

While reverse spine angle causes pain, it also creates difficulty initiating the downswing. A poor club path and lack of lower-half engagement will lead to poor ball contact and decreased power output. These two factors alone could lead to a frustrating day on the course.

Now that we understand what reverse spine angle is, it's time to troubleshoot the causes behind it.

Reverse spine angle occurs when:

  • You don't have the ability to separate your upper body from your lower body.
  • You lack hip internal rotation on the downswing leg.
  • Lack of strength and stability through the core and hips throughout the swing.

These videos demonstrate how to better control your body, which will have great carryover to the swing overtime if you have true movement discrepancies.

The kettlebell arm bar is designed to help improve thoracic spine rotation, upper body dissociation from the lower body, and shoulder stability. All three of these are key to a powerful swing. 

The Technique:

  • Lay on your back. Hold a kettlebell in one arm and bend the same side knee.
  • Drive the leg with the bent knee into the floor to initiate your roll.
  • Keeping your knuckles facing the ceiling, bring that same leg over your body and place it on the ground.
  • Drive the pelvis of your top leg into the floor to maximize thoracic rotation.
  • Hold for 15 seconds and roll back to the start position. 

The ability to reach the top of your backswing because of lack of mobility or stability of the shoulders can cause the reverse spine angle.  The reach, roll, and lift exercise challenges strength, stability, and mobility of the upper extremities.

The Technique:

  • Start in a quadruped position (on hands and knees) and sit back onto your heels.
  • Make a fist with one hand and place your head on it. 
  • Take the other arm and reach out in front of you as far as possible with your palm facing down.  
  • When you can't reach any further, rotate your palm up to the ceiling.  
  • Once your palm faces upward, lift your arm off the floor as high as you can without bending your elbow.
  • Repeat for 5-8 per side.

Learning how to extend the hip without moving the lower back is key towards avoiding reverse spine angle. Prone hip extension off a table is a great way to teach true hip extension. By using a table, as you can see in the video above, you're providing feedback to the torso to ensure that you don't extend the lumbar spine. If you feel your stomach push into the table while moving the leg, you're compensating with lower back motion. Perform these for 8 on each side.

Pallof presses are a great way to develop anti-rotation stability, which will help develop a strong midsection throughout the entire swing. In the video, you could make the exercise more challenging by changing your foot position. The narrower base of support you have, the more difficult the press will be. Perform this for 8 to 12 reps per side each set and make sure you control each rep.

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 6: Early Extension

A successful golf swing requires excellent body control. Control over your body allows for accuracy at ball strike while providing power. Doesn't sound like a bad combination if you plan on landing in the fairways.

However, limited motion and/or stability along the kinetic chain could cause us to lose posture. This leads to loss of power and more golf balls ending up on the wrong fairway.

Early extension is a common golf characteristic that is characterized by our hips moving closer to the ball during the down swing.  As the hips move forward it cause the upper body to lift up. This false sense of dissociation leads to poor ball striking and limits your ability to create power with the lower half.

Alongside lack of power comes frequent blocks or shanks. When your ball lands on the fairway next to the one you are playing, early extension may be the culprit. While early extension could be the result of poor ball address or clubs that are too long, your mobility is the common culprit we see.

  • If your lead leg lacks internal rotation, you won't be able to fully rotate during the downswing. This forces you into early extension in order to bring the club face to the ball.
     
  • Thoracic rotation limitations, or poor disassociation between the trunk and hips will prevent you from maintaining posture throughout the swing. Trust us, it's frustrating when you can't figure out why you slice each shot you take from the tee box.
     
  • Lack of hip strength and core stability can also cause you to change your posture throughout your swing as you compensate to generate power throughout the swing.
     
  • Finally, the inability to reach overhead without compensation will cause you to early extend. This forces you to change your posture in order to get to the top of your back swing. 

If you suffer from any of these mobility limitations, we have your needs covered.  The videos below give you insight on how to improve your movement quality. The better you move, the better you'll be able to swing the golf club.

When it comes to hip restrictions and the inability to dissociate the spine from the hips, here are three great drills that cover all of your basis towards correcting these issues:

If your early extension problems are more stability-driven, anti-rotation chops are a great way to better develop strength and stability at both the core and pelvis. Here's a video that breaks down two of our go-to variations.

When all else fails, early extension habits could simply come down to bad swing mechanics. Stay tuned in the near future, where Adam Kolloff will explain how to correct early extension when practicing on the range!

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 5: Fix Your Grip

The way you grip the golf club can dictate whether you're landing in the fairway or searching for your ball in the deep rough courtesy of a nasty slice.

This week, we'd like to discuss the quite often overlooked positioning of your hands at ball address. In the video below, Adam Kolloff, Director of Instruction at the Jim McLean Golf School at Liberty National, provides us with insight on proper grip as well as a quick drill to assess whether your positioning is correct or not.

While grip technique is going to help improve your performance on the greens, it's important to improve your wrist strength and mobility. You don't want to put a ton of work into lowering your handicap, just to have a bad divot or tree root injury your wrist at contact. To combat this, you should be implementing wrist Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) into you daily movement agenda. Wrist CARs can be performed anywhere, take no more than two minutes to complete numerous reps, and will help solidify any range of motion gains you will see over time. 

Want to learn more about how we prescribe mobility drills and the importance behind each one we use? Sign up for our newsletter and receive your complimentary Virtual Kinstretch Class. Fill out the form below to receive yours when released.

Unlocking Your Swing Installment 4: Sway

The next installment of the Unlocking Your Swing series comes from our good friend Kirk Adams, the Head Performance Coach at Golf & Body NYC. Kirk, who works with golfers of all levels, has provided us with the reasons why you might sway during the golf swing and some great drills to correct issues you might be having. Check it out!

Everyone wants to hit the ball farther.  Longer drives off the tee means hitting shorter irons onto greens. shorter irons mean tighter approach shots.  Tighter approach shots mean more made birdie putts and you’re collecting the most money in your foursome at the end of the round!

One of the most common swing faults we see limiting golfer’s distance is excessive lateral movement away from the target in the backswing.  This excessive movement is called sway and it’s bad for your handicap.

Better players, even Tour pros, can get away with some lateral movement in their backswing. In fact, some movement of weight and pressure towards the trail leg is beneficial. However, for your average player, excessive movement can cause several problems. Sway moves the player’s center of pressure too far towards the trail leg, which causes a poor pressure shift to the lead side in the downswing. This can lower club head speed and steepen your angle of attack which with a driver, will cause you to lose distance.  It can also create an inefficient swing sequence and an out-to-in club path leading to the dreaded slice.

Sway can be caused by several factors. Poor technique, injury and ball position can all cause excessive lateral movement in the backswing. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the potential physical causes. The first is poor right hip internal rotation (for a right handed player). If a player is not able to rotate into their right hip as they take the club to the top of the swing, because of joint or muscular restriction, lateral motion is going to dominate. Limited hip internal rotation is one of the most common things I seen when screening golfers. If you feel hip rotation is causing your sway, there are several ways you can work to improve it. I would start with some directed stretching and soft tissue work and add the following exercises to your workout:

Sway can also be caused by the inability to create separation between your upper and lower body in the backswing.  Proper separation makes it easier for the lower body to laterally stabilize while making your shoulder turn.  Players who have a hard time creating separation often have limited spinal mobility and a loss of flexibility in the large muscles of the upper back.  This is another common limitation I see in the players I work with.  Here are two of my favorite exercises to increase your ability to rotate and create separation in your backswing.

The last potential physical cause of sway is a lack of strength and stability in your gluteal musculature (your butt).  Both the glute maximus and medius are responsible for stabilizing the pelvis and preventing lateral movement when aggressively loading into your backswing.

There are a lot of great exercises for these muscles, but for golf, it’s important to challenge them laterally similarly to the challenges they face in the golf swing.  Try adding these exercises to your workout to strengthen your hips and eliminate distance stealing lateral movement.

As you improve on the drills I've provided above, you can then start to incorporate further golf-specific exercises that Frank provides in the video below. Remember, it's important to own your movements in a controlled setting prior to attempting the more dynamic movements he provides.

About the Contributor

Hey guys, thanks for reading!  I'm Kirk.

I am the Head Performance Coach at Golf & Body NYC. My goal is to help my clients play better and enjoy the game for a lifetime.  Prior to that, I was a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Penn State University where, along with volleyball and soccer, I worked with the men's and women's golf teams.

Like you, I want to be healthy, strong, look good at the beach and play great golf.  Along the way, however, there's been aches and pains, missed workouts, and bad rounds.  So I've dedicated myself to learning as much about golf, fitness and nutrition as I can.  I want to be a little better tomorrow than I am today and this is where I want to share with you what I learn.

I want to know how can I help you be healthier, stronger, and play the best golf of your life. To learn more, follow me on Instagram and e-mail me your questions.  I'll see you on the first tee!

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The Movements You Should Perform Everyday - Part II

Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs), as we know from last week's post, are staples in our daily routines. They train our joints throughout their full range of motion and help us feel better overtime. To piggy back that, I'd (Joe) like to tell a story about my own personal experience with CARs.

Last April, after completing one of my sessions, I felt an odd twinge in my lower back. I decided to do some stretching to try and alleviate my symptoms. However, this exacerbated the pain and made it worse than it previously was. I thought to myself "let's call it a day and see how it is later," and left.

Then something bad happened.

Each step I took my pain got progressively worse.  This continued until I was barely able to stand or bend forward. I was struggling, and needed help.

After deadling with this pain for a month, I took the Functional Range Release (FR) course, hosted by Dr. Andreo Spina. Through this course, I learned many valuable tools, including CARs. This revelation allowed me to create a daily routine for mobility training that compliments the physical activity that I do, whether it be training or sports.

After a few months of consistently doing CARs and training my mobility restrictions, I was finally pain-free. Along with this, I was also able to touch my toes effortlessly. As silly as that sounds, it's something I haven't been able to do consistently in years.

Now that I was feeling better, I slowly began lifting weights again. While continue my daily routine, I built my strength capacity to the point where I was able to deadlift 300-pounds again (the primary exercise that brought on my lower back pain).  

Now don't get me wrong, I still deal with the occasional flare-up and injury. However, they tend to happen in a predictable fashion with two main culprits being responsible. 

  • When I get lazy with my mobility work, the stiffness and pain I used to deal with likes to rear its ugly head.
  • When I push myself too hard in the gym past the appropriate dosage needed to achieve an adaptation.

These setbacks always reminds me that I need to train my mobility with more intent. Believe it or not, every time I get back on the wagon, my back always feels better.  

Moral of the story? Whether injured or not, it's in your best interest to train mobility seriously. Weight training is great, but it's not the only answer to feeling better. Our bodies are designed to move often. Your body will surely let you know if you've been abusing it for too long, trust me.

This week's video breaks down the second half of the daily CARs routine I practice. Check it out below!

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Unlocking Your Swing Installment 3: Slide

Over the past two weeks, we've broken down the static swing characteristics that could be present in your golf swing. You can read those here: S-Posture and C-Posture. Today's post features an awesome collaboration with Adam Kolloff, Director of Instruction at the Jim McLean Golf School at Liberty National, who helps break down what a slide is and how it can alter your swing. Enjoy!

A common mistake in the golf swing is sliding on the downswing. The slide characteristic usually occurs when you haven't learned how to rotate efficiently with the lower half. Today, I'd like to break down how I diagnose and correct sliding, which I see in most golf swings.

While analyzing swings, I often check how far the lead hip travels laterally prior to impact, which helps me assess whether or not the golfer is sliding. The following clip will demonstrate a swing without slide and a golf swing with slide. Focus closely on the lead hip at ball impact with both swings. When the lead hip travels to the outside of the foot prior to impact, that's a slide.

When sliding, we create a false sense of rotation. When we compensate with lateral movement, the result can lead to fat or thin shots, heel contact, pushes, and hooks.

There are several ways to improve a slide. To start, you should focus on proper balance prior to rotation with the lower body on the downswing. In the video below, I break down three of my go-to drills to help eliminate the slide in my clients swings.

Here's a recap of each drill and the key points that you should be concentrating on:

1.) Feet Together

Start off with a narrow stance (about one club head width apart) and practice 3/4 shots without losing balance. This will be challenging at first for those of you that slide, because you won't be able to maintain balance at ball strike and follow through. You should practice this drill until you can consistently maintain balance through the finish.

2.) Static Hip Rotation

Setup to the golf ball and rotate your hips as much as you can while keeping the club head behind the ball. It's important to understand that you're not moving your club in this drill, just the hips. This drill will help you feel the lower body rotate independently of your upper body. The more rotation you can feel, the better. Remember, we're looking for rotation, not lateral movement.

3.) Slam the Heel

Swing the club back and lift the lead heel in the backswing. On the downswing, focus on driving that same heel into the ground and rotating through the lead hip. This will help you firm up the front side, forcing rotation through the hips. Golfers that slide typically do not understand how to do this. Continue to practice this drill until you can consistently create a firm left side after impact. 

Another way we can improve our ability to avoid sliding is through medicine ball drills in the weight room. Two of the best ways to create context for proper hip rotation are through Split Stance Anti-Rotation Medicine Ball Scoop Tosses and Medicine Ball Scoop Tosses, which you can see in the video below.

Keep in mind, there might be situations where these drills will not fix your slide. In these cases, you might have a mobility restriction that needs to be addressed. While your best option is to seek out an evaluation to assess your movement capacity, here are two drills that you can perform to help improve your current limitations over time. Keep in mind that these are not quick fixes and have to be performed consistently to really make a true change.

About the Contributor

Hey there, I'm Adam. I am a class A PGA Professional that teaches full time as the Director of Instruction at the Jim McLean Golf School located at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, NJ. I was recently selected by Golf Digest as one of America's Best Young Teachers. Prior to moving to New Jersey, I lived in Miami and worked under Jim McLean at Trump National Doral for 3 years. In 2015, I published a book with Jim McLean called The Ultimate Guide to Trackman Swing Analysis. It’s been widely used by golf professionals across the U.S. and around the world. Teaching is not just my job, it's my passion! Here's the link to my Instagram and website, where I post drills that can help you improve your golf swing.

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