Can Golf Fitness
Training Hurt Your Game?
There has been a big push toward golf fitness in the last few years and while I have always been a firm believer in the importance of strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness for general health and improved sports performance, I have some concerns about how it is being implemented with golf.
My first concern is that personal trainers are creating workout routines with the goal of improving strength, quickness, and flexibility specifically for a golf swing, but this may be ignoring an important tenet of working out, which is overall body balance. By this I mean you want to strengthen the body as a whole rather than focusing on, or over emphasizing, some muscles while neglecting others. Imbalance may set a body up for posture issues and injury.
My second, and much larger concern, is that trainers don't understand the golf swing. The big danger is that they may come up with some exercises that may strengthen muscles to move in ways they shouldn't be moving in a swing. It may be that training muscles to move improperly won't have negative effects, but I think the potential for problems should be a serious concern to anyone using these types of workouts—I certainly wouldn't do them (the incorrect exercises)!
You may be thinking that I am referring to some trainers at big mall gyms that don't know anything about golf, but that isn't it. The reason I am writing this page is that I recently saw Nick Faldo demonstrate an exercise on TV that he had seen a top tour professional doing in one of the tour's mobile gyms.
The movement was to lift a weighted ball above the head while on one's knees, turn ninety degrees to the right (right handers) and throw the ball straight down to the ground as hard (quickly) as possible. The purpose of this exercise is to try to increase the speed of the downswing.
The problem is that the arms don't swing straight down in a golf swing and this exercise is strengthening the muscles for an incorrect swing motion. Hogan mentioned in Five Lessons that the forward swing motion is similar to a Short Stop in baseball making a side arm throwing motion to first base. Even golfers with the steepest of backswings don't come close to swinging straight down in the forward swing!
This particular exercise is training a golfer to increase their block tendencies, which is the opposite of what you want to be doing. How many other incorrect exercises are there that your golf swing can potentially fall victim to?
I'm not saying don't use a trainer. Using a qualified fitness trainer is great, but consider focusing on increasing flexibility because it will probably provide the greatest rewards for your golf game. If you want strength training, I suggest asking for overall strength training (or body toning) rather than risk harming your golf swing due to the possibility of getting a few incorrect golf specific exercises!
Remember, Tiger hit the ball further as a skinny kid than a bulked up stud! The big question is, did his workouts contribute to the injuries that have short circuited his career?
Casey Eberting Golf Instruction
Tulsa / Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
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