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!