If I had to choose one exercise that would help the majority of golfers add power to their golf swing, it would be the deadlift.
Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) instructors say “Glutes are the king of the golf swing” because the power generated from the ground needs to be transferred to the upper body and the glutes need to be strong and hold the correct position throughout the swing in order for the transfer to efficient.
Besides power transfer, the glutes are used to stabilize the pelvis during the golf swing and to add in power generation at impact.
There are many exercises that will strengthen your backside, but the deadlift (when done properly) adds muscle quickly.
But there are so many other reasons why the deadlift is the best golf exercise beside the fact it strengthens the gluteus maximus.
For instance, let’s think about the most common fitness goals:
- Fat lost
- Muscle gain
- Improved fitness
The deadlift strengthens all of the lower body muscles from the calfs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, and lower back muscles.
The deadlift helps solidify the hip hinge process.
Besides the lower body and core, the deadlift works the shoulders, forearms, and your grip.
What is the best way to lose fat?
Grow lean muscle.
When you increase muscle mass, you will burn more fat even when resting.
The deadlift also helps your overall body conditioning, it’s a multi-joint exercise that works and strengthens the muscles and tendons that operate the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
Multi-joint or compound exercises such as heavy deadlifts have the following benefits to overall fitness levels:
- Exercises that work multiple joints will have a larger overall fitness effect on the body.
- Compound exercises work more muscles in one exercise.
- The more joints that are worked, the more your nervous system will be stimulated and increase body coordination.
- Stimulating your nervous system and stabilizer muscles will improve coordination and balance.
- Adding stress to the tendons and connective tissue will strengthen and prepare your body for high-speed golf swings.
Besides all of the above, the deadlift strengthens the muscles used to increase power and speed in the golf swing.
Lexi Thompson is a good example of how the glutes add power to the golf swing. As you can see in the photo below, she contracts her glutes at (and after) impact to add more power to her swing.
The deadlift strengthens the pelvic stabilizer muscles that will allow your upper body to more easily rotate on a stable base. It also reinforces proper hip hinge mechanics that will help you improve your golf posture during your golf swing.
The deadlift is a very useful exercise for sure.
What Specifically Does the Deadlift Do for Golfers
In the golf swing the glutes and hamstrings to stabilize your body during the backswing. During the downswing, they’re used to generate and transfer power up from the ground into the upper body.
The deadlift teaches the body how to move in that fashion. During the first part of the lift, the glutes are holding the pelvis in a stable anterior position as it unhinges while the legs lift the weight.
For the second part of the deadlift, the glutes help to tilt the pelvis into a posterior position as the hips lock out the weight.
The glutes also help stabilize the pelvis as you lower the bar to the ground in control (this isn’t CrossFit where we drop weights to the floor).
For those reasons, I think the deadlift is the best golf exercise to add power to your golf swing if I had to pick just one.
It isn’t mentioned often, but deadlifts strengthen your core muscles too. The glutes also work to protect your lower back during the deadlift, just as they do in the golf swing.
When I do deadlifts, usually my forearms give out before my legs or back does. So deadlifts are more than a lower body exercise.
The deadlift works so many muscles we use in the golf swing.
However, before we get into how to perform a deadlift let me discuss who shouldn’t do a deadlift.
Who Shouldn’t Do the Deadlift
If you have been diagnosed or suspected of having osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis you should consult with your medical professional before trying a deadlift.
In fact, you should consult with a medical professional before doing any exercise.
Can You Touch Your Toes?
If you can’t touch your toes, you should work on that before trying to deadlift.
The proper form of a deadlift is dependent upon a backward shift of your pelvis.
Bending forward to touch your toes requires the same backward shift of the pelvis.
If you can’t touch your toes you will compensate by moving your knees forward or dropping your hips.
Both of these turn a deadlift into more of a squat. The deadlift should look like the deadlift, not like a squat.
So try to touch your toes first.
Before trying a deadlift you should be able to hinge from the hips and not bend from the waist.
Here’s an article on the hip hinge. You should master the hip hinge before attempting a deadlift.
A Note on Rounding Your Back
Don’t worry about rounding your back when you touch your toes.
Rounding the back during a toe touch is okay. In fact, not rounding the back in a toe touch is a demonstration of significant dysfunction, because normal weight shifting, body mechanics, and alignment have been distorted when you try to touch your toes with a straight back.
But, rounding the back in a deadlift is a recipe for disaster.
Your upper back shouldn’t be rounded and a slight saddle should remain in your lower back during the deadlift.
Don’t worry, there’s more discussion on deadlift form below.
Why the Deadlift is the Single Best Golf Exercise
Everyone can do it.
I don’t care what shape you are in, whether you weigh 90-pounds, or are obese, you can do a deadlift.
Maybe you won’t be able to lift 200 pounds but don’t worry about that, the total amount of the lift is not important.
So with a deadlift, we have an exercise that uses multiple joints, strengthens muscles used in the golf swing, and anyone can do it.
You stand in one place, no need to balance on one foot or try to stand on some wobbly-ass device, you don’t have to jump or run, and the most out of shape person can still perform a deadlift.
That is why it is the best golf exercise.
Even though push-ups and pull-ups are great exercises, most people can’t do them for a full set without modifying them.
Not so with the deadlift.
I have included a great video from the Buff Dudes on how to, and how not to, perform a deadlift.
Let’s go over two important rules before we try the deadlift.
Yes, this is a strength exercise.
However, that doesn’t mean I want you trying to lift 300 pounds.
Rule 1: Start low and work your way up.
Remember the TMF set rules. The first set is completed at half the weight. This is to get your form down, warm up the specific muscles you will use in the exercise, and get your head in the game.
Rule 2: Don’t drop the Goddamn bar.
Stay in control on the way back down. This isn’t CrossFit or the CrossFit games.
You shouldn’t have so much extra weight on the bar that you can’t control it on the way down.
Ok watch the video now and I will have some notes afterward for you to read. Remember to watch the part where they should you what not to do. That is probably more important than the first part of the video.
How To Do A Deadlift
In my opinion, deadlifts are best done with a bar and plates, or better yet, a trap bar (I need to get one of these, it is so much easier to maintain proper form using a trap bar).
You can use kettlebells or dumbbells, but these limit the amount of weight available to lift.
Here are some notes to remember.
- Barbell: on the floor, over your mid-foot, at the start of each rep.
- Stance: heels hip-width apart, narrower than your stance on the squat.
- Feet: flat on the floor, weight evenly distributed across the foot, toes turned out about 15°
- Grip: narrow, about shoulder-width apart, with lightweights palms facing you.
- Arms: vertical when looking from the front, slightly incline back when viewed from the side.
- Elbows: locked before and during the pull, until lockout. Never bend them.
- Chest: up to avoid back rounding, but don’t squeeze your shoulder-blades together.
- Eyes: look at a spot somewhere about 5 to 8 feet out in front and keep them focused there during whole lift.
- Shoulders: in front of the bar from the side view, relax your shoulders and traps.
- Shoulder-blades: over your mid-foot when looking from the side, don’t squeeze them!
- Head: inline with the rest of your spine, don’t look up, don’t look at your feet either.
- Lower Back: neutral, with a slight natural arch. But no rounding or excess arching.
- Hips: setup looks like a half squat, hips higher than parallel. Don’t squat your deadlifts.
- Setup: bar over mid-foot, shoulder-blades over the bar, straight line from head to lower back.
- Breathing: take a big breath at the bottom, hold it at the top, exhale then inhale at the bottom.
- Pulling: don’t jerk the bar off the floor, pull slowly while dragging the bar over your legs. This is important. Again, Don’t yank the bar up, lift slowly.
- Lockout: lock your hips and knees. Don’t lean back at the top.
- Lowering: hips back first, bend your legs once the bar reaches your knees.
- Bar Path: vertical line over your mid-foot when looking from the side. Looking from the side if you trace a line as the bar travels from the floor to the lockout position, and back down, it would be a perfectly straight line. The further out away from your body the bar goes the heavier it will seem and the more likely an injury could occur.
- Between Reps: don’t bounce, rest a second, lift your chest, breathe, pull again.
That is quite a bit to remember, but once you get to it and complete a couple of sets, it will seem old hat to you.
What Weight Should You Start With?
Well, that depends, I always start low and keep adding weights each day that I complete all of the sets without an issue.
Begin with the bar weight, 45-pounds.
Put stable platforms under the ends of the bar to elevate it like it would be if the bar had 45-pound plates on it.
This will make it easier to get into the proper position.
If that weight is easy for you, add some plates to the bar.
Again, it isn’t about how much you can lift. Lifting a lot of weight with the improper technique is a sure way of getting hurt.
Progress slowly. Make sure you have the proper form down.
Watch the video a few times to get the hang of it.
Once you do four sets, you will see why the deadlift is the one best golf exercise.
Do four sets of eight with the first set at half-weight.
Catch your breath between sets.
If you aren’t out of breath or if your forearms aren’t burning then move directly into the next set.
Once you can comfortably do all 4 sets of 8 it is time to increase weight.
At first, I would go up 5- or 10-pounds on each side.
Eventually, you will hit the point where 2.5 pounds per side is enough.
If deadlifts are not on my weekly workout program, I make sure I do at least one deadlift set a week.
I think they’re that important.
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