What is golf fitness?
This page is aimed at anyone who wants to understand more about the relationship between a player's golf fitness and their golf swing.
Anyone who says that golf is not a physical game is wrong. Just ask someone who has tried to play with an injury to their ankle, knee, hip, glute, back, arms, neck…the list goes on. The problem is that no-one knows what exercises to do and how to do them to improve ‘their’ game. If they look up information on the Internet they are bombarded by generic exercises programmes which are not golf specific and not individualised to their bodies.
“My philosophy regarding golf fitness revolves around the way each individual moves; the movement patterns someone exhibits in a basic, functional movement test will be reflected in their golf swing”.
What is the golf swing?
The aim of a golf swing is to repeat a coordinated sequence of muscle activation to produce a fluid movement. For the majority of people there are 3 interrelated key parameters needed to achieve this: MOBILITY; STABILITY and POWER.
Before we discuss these key parameters, it is important to highlight that everyone has an individual swing and individual physical limitations (inhibitions). These inhibitions are often the cause of swing faults. The reason for these swing faults is because your body inevitably gets itself into its most comfortable position to produce the greatest amount of power it can. Mostly, this is not a successful position for effective and efficient power production. Golf specific fitness frees your body's inhibitions making a natural swing easier and complements you and your golf coach’s aims to improve your golf swing.
Golf mobility is a combination of agility and flexibility. You need to be ‘actively’ flexible enough to get yourself into an optimal position in each stage of your golf swing. Most flexibility tests require passive flexibility (someone else stretching you), which is irrelevant to golf. Agility is related to the muscles firing in the correct pattern to produce a smooth and dynamic movement. Golf mobility tends to be more of a problem for male golfers.
Stability is best highlighted through this example. If you try and swing a club as powerfully as you can, it is difficult to keep your balance. This is due to the inhibition of the muscles stabilising the relevant body parts (see below)
Research has shown that during the golf swing the body is subjected to interchanging patterns of stability and mobility. Titleist’s philosophy centres on this. Renowned author Gray Cook simply states that the requirements on the joints during a golf swing are as follows:-
- Ankle mobility
- Knee stability
- Hip mobility
- Lower Spine (Lumbar) stability
- Mid Spine (Thoracic) mobility
- Shoulder (Gleno-humeral) stability
- Neck (Cervical Spine) mobility
Power is force (strength) x velocity (speed). Power is the final piece of the puzzle. Research has shown that with an individual of any age or gender you can improve their power output.
Power is dependent upon two factors:
- The bigger the muscle mass the more force (strength) you have the potential to produce. This is the main reason why, in general, men hit the ball further than women. What you should not infer from this is you need to look like a body builder to hit the ball off the planet. Another misconception is that as muscles become stronger they become more inflexible. This is only true if you don’t stretch regularly and at the appropriate times. Muscles activated during the golf swing should be as flexible and strong as possible.
- The more effective the motor unit recruitment (firing of the muscles) or the better coordinated the agonist-antagonist interactions are the more power you will produce. When the myelination of the nerves becomes complete in your mid teens, your maximal potential to produce velocity (speed) during the golf swing is preset. However, most people never achieve this. Through improving the coordination of the firing patterns within the muscles this maximal velocity can be unlocked.
“When you achieve efficient and effective mobility, stability and power output; the golf swing is efficient and effective. My aim with all players is to work on their weakest area first. If you can build that area into their strongest, then they have the physical potential to play better golf”.
If you have any questions regarding golf fitness and its influence on the golf swing, please contact me.