The perfect swing is the holy grail of golf. Golfers will readily spend thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line clubs with the hope that they'll increase the distance of their drive and decrease their handicap. What many golfers don't realize is that the quality of their club is not what will ultimately lower their handicap. Instead, it's the golfer's overall strength and flexibility that will improve their swing and shave strokes off their game.
As with any sport, a tailored training regimen that focuses on the muscles most utilized by the player is best. In golf, attention should be given to core strength and flexibility to reduce overuse of the arms and wrists, as well as prevent strain on the lower back. In addition to strengthening the core, golfers should strive to improve flexibility in the feet, ankles, hips, and thoracic spine to increase their rotational range-of-motion. Simply put, the farther a golfer can wind the body while maintaining good alignment, the more powerful his or her swing will be, and the farther the ball will go.
Practice these five exercises to master the perfect swing:
Standing Wood Chop
This exercise integrates the movements of the hips, back, and shoulders, while increasing strength and improving flexibility. It's best performed with a cable system, like a resistance band, but can also be done with a medicine ball or free weight. Place the resistance band beneath your left foot. Slightly bending your knees, pull the band overhead to your right, like you're about to swing an axe. Perform 8-12 repetitions, then rest for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat one to three times.
This exercise can improve the range-of-motion, strength, and power of the hips by working them in the frontal plane with side-to-side movement. Keeping perfect posture throughout, take a large step to your left, shifting your weight to that side. Your left leg should be bent while the right leg is extended to the right. Make sure to keep your toes pointing straight ahead. Alternating legs, perform 8-12 repetitions then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat one to three times.
Glute Activation Lunges
These standard lunges can be used to improve mobility in the hips, which can result in greater strength and a more powerful swing. Start with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Take a giant step forward, bending your front leg at a 90 degree angle (or until your thigh is parallel to the floor). Your back leg should remain strong and straight. Step back into a standing position and repeat 8-12 times. Alternate legs one to three times, resting in between.
Front Plank/Side Plank
This series helps to activate core muscles, which promote stability and strength in the torso. Lying face down, place palms flat on the floor. Tuck your toes under, roll your shoulders onto your back, away from your ears, and push away from the floor. Keep your back flat and engage your abdominal muscles. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds and release back down onto the floor. Repeat three to five times.
For side plank, start by lying on your side with your legs stacked. Rest your body on your forearm, shoulder directly over your elbow. Lift your hips so that your body is in a straight line. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds and lower back down. Repeat three to five times on each side.
Supine Spinal Twists
These twists are an excellent way to increase core strength while enhancing torso mobility. If performed correctly, the shoulders will also receive a good stretch. Begin on your back with your feet raised and bent in a 90 degree angle, or so that your claves are parallel to the floor. Extend your arms out wide, with palms facing down. Slowly lower your legs to the right side of your body, keeping your knees together. Hover above the ground for about 20 to 30 seconds, then return to center. Switch sides and repeat one to three times.
Remember that with any physical conditioning, consistency is key. If you incorporate a regular regimen of sport-specific strength and flexibility exercises into your workout schedule, you should begin to see your performance improve within a few weeks. Combine your workouts with whole foods and plenty of water, and you'll be well on your way to the perfect swing.