Exercises to Improve Your Golf Swing
Every golfer wants to have a stronger golf swing, more distance, better ball-striking. One important way to do so is through improving physical fitness. However, there’s more to it than simply hitting the weight room and pumping some iron. Indeed, before discussing what types of workouts may be best for one’s golf game, it is important to understand three principles of physics that are essential to a long and accurate golf shot.
Physics at Work
As described in a recent video produced by NBC Learn, these three principles are:
- centripetal force
- the double pendulum effect
The following discussion briefly explicates those principles, as explained by NBC Learn.
First, torque is a turning force that changes the rate of rotation in an object. The mechanics among us can easily relate to this principle, as it is readily observed every time a wrench is used to tighten or loosen a screw. The longer the wrench, the less force necessary. In a golf swing, the same can be said of the length of the shoulder turn in the back swing and the force created by one’s hip turn in the down swing. The deeper the backswing and the stronger the hip turn, the greater the force generated in one’s golf swing.
Second, centripetal force is what makes an object move in a curved motion, and the further away from the center of the rotational motion, the higher the speed. An everyday example of centripetal force is that of opening or closing a gate. While the turn at the hinge is miniscule, the end of the gate is covering many feet per second. Centripetal force is created in a golf swing when one anchors his lower body and pulls the wrists inward: all the while the end of the golf club is moving at significant speed around that anchor.
Third, the double pendulum effect is a little more complicated. A pendulum is a weight suspended from an anchor that can swing freely under the influence of gravity, like on a grandfather clock. In a golf swing, there are two pendulums. One is the arms that pivot around one’s anchoring shoulders, and the other is the golf club, which pivots or swings from the wrists. When one’s swing permits the body and club to move pendulum-like throughout, one’s swing can feel effortless.
Exercises Consistent with the Science of a Golf Swing
Drawing out a few of the phrases from the foregoing physics lesson should get the wheels turning in thinking about helpful exercises to improve one’s golf game: “deeper backswing,” “stronger hip turn,” “anchors his lower body,” and “pulls the wrists inward.” These phrases hint at what areas of the body need work, and the manner in which to exercise them.
Flexibility, i.e. “deeper backswing”
Golf Digest recommends T-Spine Twists to improve one’s flexibility, and therefore one’s turn, in the golf swing. This exercise is like medicine ball rotations or mason twists, but with a little golfer flair to ensure proper posture. One should sit down, knees bent, feet on the ground, lean back about twenty degrees, and hold a club across her chest. Then, one should tighten her abdomen, and rotate her body left as far as possible and then right as far as possible. The rotational force should be generated from one’s mid-back.
Core, i.e. “stronger hip turn”
An exercise golfers should consider in strengthening their core is the Side Plank. In addition to adding core strength, the Side Plank should help eliminate imbalances and weakness around the torso and hips. To execute the exercise, one should lie on his side, then place the lower elbow directly underneath his shoulder, now resting his weight on that forearm. In addition, he should pull his shoulder blades together and keep his abs tight. Finally, lift the hips to make a straight line from head to toe. Hold.
Triceps, i.e. “pulls the wrists inward”
The act of pulling one’s wrists inward and then rotating through the golf swing is controlled largely by one’s forearm and triceps muscles. A good workout for strengthening one’s triceps is the Triceps Chop. This exercise requires use of a cable machine, a common feature at most gyms. Attach the rope-like apparatus to the cable hook. The rope allows for both hands to grip and pull down on the cable at the same time. Face the cable machine. Grip the rope in both hands, one on each side of the cable clip. Stand erect with feet shoulder-width apart. Maintain good posture while pulling the cable down in front of one’s body. The burning feeling in one’s triceps should be immediately apparent.
Hamstrings, i.e. “anchors his lower body”
According to Golf Digest, most golfers have weak hamstrings, which are essential in anchoring the golf swing and providing the stable thrusting point from which the hip turn ignites. One can strengthen her hamstrings by doing Split Squats. These are done by first taking a step with one leg while leaving the other leg in place. From this position, one should place her hands behind her head, keep the back erect, squat down and then push back up. After a number of repetitions, the back leg should be stepped in front and the motion repeated.
Fitness’s Role in the Golf Swing
Physical fitness cannot replace time spent on the golf course. However, every golfer interested in getting better should add proper exercises to his training regime. Tiger Woods was described by his golf coach at Stanford University, Wally Goodwin, as “one of the strongest athletes … at Stanford, maybe the strongest pound for pound.” Goodwin said this proved helpful for Woods, especially when needing to come from behind to win, because he could take confidence in the fact that he was in better shape than his competitors (Charlie Jones and Kim Doren, Be the Ball: A Golf Instruction Book for the Mind, 13-14, 2000.). Another great example of physical fitness among the ranks of professional golfers is Rory McIlroy. McIlroy is currently the world number one golfer, and he has attributed his stretch of consistently strong play in part to time he has spent in the gym. Video footage of McIlroy’s workout regime is also available online for those interested in expanding on the workouts discussed here.
Ultimately, like the mechanics of a golf swing itself, there are many ways in which to improve one’s play on the course. Physical fitness is one important means, and by combining a proper understanding of the physics of the golf swing, with exercises that enhance those processes, one should be well on his or her way to lower scores and better rounds.
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