Boiling Down Golf Fitness Training – What You Need to Accomplish

Whether you’re currently in a golf fitness training program or are looking to start one, the goal is probably one of two things.

Hit the ball farther.

Or,

make better swings to lower your score. 

In the last 6 to 8-years, golf fitness training programs have developed from a few obscure exercises into complex programs. For all of the complexity, there are two basic concepts we need to keep in mind if we want to accomplish goals.

Looking at a typical golf fitness training program and you see the following components.

  • Assessment
  • Corrections
  • Strength
  • Power

I call these components facets and wrote more about them in How to Build a Superior Golf Training Program. Looking back at that post I want to revise the content somewhat, but the aspects remain the same. 

Each of the facets has their place in a golf fitness training program, each facet building and leaning on the each other. 

But when you boil down a training program there are some underlying concepts that you need to keep in mind regardless of what facet you’re currently working on in your golf conditioning program. 

For each facet, we need to keep the concepts of mobility and stability in mind. 

The building blocks of a golf fitness training program are mobility and stability. For every exercise you do in golf conditioning program, you need to know what joint is responsible for mobility and which part of the body is in charge of stability.

Let me explain why in more detail.

Boiling Down the Program

Let’s boil down the steps of a golf fitness training program to get the main components, and then build it back up to see why these components need to remain in your mind during your workouts.

We’ll start at the beginning.

Assessment Facet

I’m going against the grain and say that the assessment facet isn’t necessary to reach the end goal. Because, if you do a correction exercise for something that doesn’t need correcting, well, you’ve corrected it. So check that off the list. 

Before you say

“WTF, in all of your other articles all you talk about is if you’re not assessing you’re only guessing.”

Let me add that doing a correction for a perfectly functioning movement pattern is only going waste your time. There are worst things you can do than reinforcing a good movement pattern with a correction exercise.  

I believe in mobility assessments because we can attack the most inadequate faulty movement patterns first and speed up the process so you can play better golf faster. But, an assessment by itself isn’t going to make you hit the ball farther or swing better. 

It’s a significant step that you shouldn’t skip, but it boils out of the broth quickly once you start doing exercises. 

Power Facet

Let’s move to the other end of the golf training program, the power stage. 

Increasing power is what makes us hit the ball farther, it may or may not, lower your golf score. 

The two aspects of power are:

  • Strength 
  • Speed

either one will increase power if the other remains at least constant. 

This is the end game of a golf fitness training program and one of the more important (but not the only) factors in hitting the ball farther.

But to increase your power, you’ll need more strength or be able to swing faster. Don’t worry about power until late in your training program.

Strength Facet

Increasing strength leads to increased power and more distance. Improving your strength might also allow you better control of your golf club and body movements.

But strength by itself can be harmful too. 

Adding strength to a bad movement pattern is only going to strengthen the dysfunction. Read more here.

Without training to increase power output, adding muscle can slow the golf swing down. Swinging hard usually slows a golf swing down, you’ll need to add power exercises that train the muscles to move faster. Think swing fast over swing hard for more distance. 

Strength isn’t something you need to worry about during every exercise. It’s important but not as important as the concepts in the correction facet.

Corrections Facet

In the corrections phase, we concentrate on improving our mobility and stability so we can increase our range of motion and move more like athletes. 

Mobility and stability are the two concepts that we must keep in mind throughout a golf fitness program. 

Regardless if we’re doing strength or power exercises, we need to know what is meant to move and what is staying still to support the movement. 

The Two Ideas to Keep in Mind

Always keep mobility and stability in the back of your mind during your golf fitness training.

Mobility and stability are essential to a good golf swing. 

Without good mobility, your range of motion will be limited or cause you to add a hitch somewhere in the swing. 

Poor stability will add extra movement to the golf swing causing loss of distance, mis-hit balls, or poor direction.

Having a better conceptual understanding of mobility and stability as they relate to the golf swing will make you realize why you need to focus on them during your workout. Furthermore, you’ll see how mobility and stability are important when you reach the strength and power phases of your golf fitness training program.

What Happens if You Don’t Have Mobility?

Mobility is the easier of the two concepts to grasp.

Mobility is the amount of movement that occurs in your joints. Some joints only move back-n-forth, and others that have much more freedom of movement i.e. rotation. I’m not going to get too deep into this topic; you can get more information by reading about Bob in this article.

Sometimes, mobility is confused with flexibility. Mobility is the range of motion of joints, while flexibility is related to the length of muscles. 

Mobility and flexibility have an interesting co-dependence. Without mobility, your flexibility may be limited. Without flexibility, your mobility may be restricted. It’s important to flesh this out, but that is beyond the scope of this article. 

Mobility & the Golf Swing

The golf swing has a lot of moving parts.

Watch the swing of a professional golfer, even those that don’t have the ideal golf swing, and look at all of the moving parts. The feet, ankles, knees, hips, torso, back, neck, arms, shoulders, wrists, and hands.

At some point in the golf swing, every joint bends or rotates. Oddly at some point, every joint is also stable and is held in place. 

That said, I don’t think it will take much to convince you that increasing the range of motion of your joints will improve your golf swing. Either by making the swing longer or more fluid.

Besides being detrimental to the golf swing, limited mobility can cause injury during the golf swing. The golf swing is violent, and the body finds itself in positions that aren’t functionally common causing joints to compensate for those that have limited mobility or lack a full range of motion. 

When considering our goals of hitting the ball farther or lowering our golf score, it’s easy to see that a joint with a limited range of motion (poor mobility) will decrease power and velocity of the golf swing. Also, not being able to have a fluid, smooth swing, is going to affect how the club hits the golf ball causing mis-hits and directional challenged ball flight (read hooks & slices).

What Happens If You Don’t Have Stability?

It’s a little harder to conceptualize stability. 

Stability is the ability to control movement (or lack of movement) of a joint.

It’s often confused with strength, this isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s not the whole story either. 

I like to think of stability as a clamp, a vise, or even a door frame. 

golf fitness trainingLet me explain the later, a door frame. Imagine a door on hinges attached to the door frame.  

If we have old rusty hinges, this is like having poor mobility. 

But, if the wood in the door or door frame is stripped so the screws can’t grip the wood, then that is a form of poor stability. We can also think about a poorly constructed door frame or wall that isn’t built strong enough to hold the door in place without wobbling, that is also a stability issue. 

You can relate the weak connection of the hinge to weak connective tissue such as ligaments, or the poor framing to weak muscles. In either case, the movement of the body part (the door) will cause the joint (the hinge) to move around and not swing in the right plane of movement. 

The door won’t fit tight against the door jam, just as we can’t get the clubhead back to the ball in a square position.

Stability & the Golf Swing

You can now imagine a golf swing where a joint can’t remain in a fixed position, or that there isn’t enough strength to bend or rotate it correctly. Like trying to hit a nail with a hammer when the wrist can’t support the weight. The outcome is either a poor strike or a complete miss.

Same with the club and golf ball.

There will be mis-hits (toe, heel, fat, thin), the club will be at an improper angle for a strike (slice or hook), or the joint doesn’t have enough leverage to wallop the ball (loss of distance). 

Remember the professional golfer making the swing, how all of the joints both move and remain stable at some point in the golf swing? 

You might have the mobility to make a full turn at the top of your golf swing like the professional, but the body joints that need to remain in place at some point don’t have the stability to provide leverage to make that move. 

Your choice is a short backswing or lose posture to gain more shoulder turn. 

Lack of Stability Can Mimic Lack of Mobility

That’s the crux.

Without being assessed, it’s difficult to determine if you have a mobility or stability issue. 

All you know is that you can’t make a full turn. Is it because you can’t rotate your T-spine? Or is it because the muscles that need to support the body to rotate your T-spine aren’t up for the job? 

Going through an assessment will tell you if it’s one or the other or maybe both, thusly speeding up the process. But you can do both mobility & stability corrections to solve the problem too.

What You Need to Think About During Exercise

During your golf fitness training keep in mind the ideas or concepts of mobility and stability. All exercises require both, so you need to know what has to move and what needs to hold firm at each point in the exercise.

Muscle activation can be the issue. I wrote about muscle activation and how important it is to exercise. 

Stability is often that problem; you don’t have control of the muscles needed to keep parts of your body stable so others can rotate. 

This is why fitness professionals use pattern assistance exercises.  

The tension on the loops bands subconsciously makes the muscles responsible for holding the body in place activate. In effect, it turns them on.

Keep doing the exercise, and you’ll start to consciously activate those muscles.  

It can be a simple matter like activation that’s causing a stability problem. 

This is why it’s important during your golf fitness training to know what the purpose of the exercise is other than it helps with rotation or strength.

What Is Suppose to Move & What Isn’t?

In your golf fitness training, don’t go through the motions. You need to do more than see an exercise on FaceBook, watch how to do it and repeat it. That’s good and all, but you also need to know more of what is behind the exercise. 

Why do you start the exercise in the tall kneeling position?

It’s not a random choice, there’s a reason why.

The purpose is to keep the lower body stable and activate his core so only his T-spine rotates and to make sure the lift works his anterior core instead of the other core muscles that could take over the lift. 

In this case, the athlete needs to know that his lower body is to remain stable, not to rotate during the exercise. He needs to feel the muscles activating and holding his lower body stable. Yes, the tall kneeling position takes a lot of the effort out of the exercise, but he can feel those muscles working and that is the point. 

The athlete can now take this cable press to lift from the tall kneeling position to the standing position and instinctively activate the muscles that will keep his lower body stable.  

Now that he has done the work in the gym, he can take it to the court. He receives a pass from the point guard, his lower body is already square to the basket, and in one motion he can elevate more efficiently because he has trained his body to prepare for the action. 

Now Add Weight & Speed

Knowing the key concepts of mobility and stability will prepare you for the next steps your golf fitness training. Add weight and speed to the exercises or similar exercises while remembering what needs to remain stable and what needs to move. 

And you’ll not only be able to move correctly, you’ll be able to do it with more power. 

The Basics Should Never be Forgotten

Why do you see professional golfers in the gym doing tall-kneeling and half-kneeling cable chops and lifts when you’ll think their ability is way beyond those exercises? 

It’s because they’re re-enforcing good habits and remembering how it feels to activate muscles that need to remain stable and to keep joint mobility. 

Even the best athletes in the world still do the what we consider the most basic exercises. 

They progress through exercises from the most basic to the compound to re-enforce mobility and stability patterns. 

With the popularity of social media, we see professional athletes do all kinds of new and different exercises and workout routines.

What we can’t forget, is that videos of this nature are what turns the dial. Trainers publishing a video of Jordan Speith doing a push-up or Rory McIlory doing a half-kneeling chop isn’t going to get people to share the video. Top notch trainers invent different exercises for their professional athletes because they’re trying to get a 1/10th of a percent improvement by trying new things. 

What we don’t see is the videos of professional golfers who can drive the ball 315-yards still doing basic correction exercises if for nothing else other than to get the feel of what parts of the body need to remain stable while some other part is rotating.  

Trust me, these golfers still do those exercises, trainers are always regressing programs to include basic movement exercises. We just don’t see the videos.  

Mobility and stability will always be the biggest part of golf fitness training.  

Don’t forget to go back and add basic mobility and stability correction exercises to your golf fitness training programs, they’ll never go out of style.  

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Cover photo by John Ranaudo of Fitness Orlando.

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