A lot of discussions around the golf fitness world is often regarding the kinetic chain sequence of muscles throughout the activation, motion and completion of the complete full golf swing.
If you will do a small test for me:
Take a swing right now, club or no club, simply perform a nice and slow swing with your eyes closed.
Feel the muscles, the joints and the kinetic or if you will the chain reaction. As long as your swing does not look like an unfolding of a lawn chair, you should feel, the tension/loading/stretching in some – hopefully most of these areas:
inner and outer thighs,
the hip flexors,
the glutes (butt),
hamstrings when loaded into the backswing,
latimuss dorsi and rhomboids in the back,
rear and outer deltoids on the the shoulders,
rectus abdominal (some call obliques but not really),
upper and lower abdominal,
maybe a little in the chest…
Do this a few times for me, can you feel the swing, feel the torque, squeeze, rotation, transitions, extensions and contractions?
Mind-muscle connection is one the most important elements to improving not only your golf game with swing alterations, understanding of the movement of the swing and consistency but developing an athletic physique when performing exercises. As well as fundamental correct sequential movements such as the hip hinge when performing deadlifts, squats, vertical choppers etc. I will cover this in another article and how vital it is to training and for golf.
There are several minor muscle fibres that need to fire from the very beginning of the take away, however today I am going to provide a simpler way to understand the key major muscles required to be strong and flexible as a NECESSITY to develop a powerful, consistent, injury free golf swing.
In no particular order, below are (non conclusive) muscles, their basic muscle-skeletal function, their importance in the swing and some examples of proper exercises that when done properly with correct intensity, application and range of motion will illicit neurological changes to your physique and game.
Now you may be aware of the often promoted squat exercise to build leg power, and yes the squat (if done properly) can be used. However, most trainees put too much weight on the bar, limiting the ability to perform deep, full range of motion squats. Butt to heels is more often than not the ultimate way to perform a squat for real development (size) and functional strength. If too much weight is on the bar, the tendency is to rely too much on the hips and the knees. Too many athletes suffer from ACL injuries and incorrect squat form can be partially blamed. Correct form will also build strength in the lower back and core stabilizer muscles.
Exercises; Deep Squat below parallel, Lying Stability ball leg curls, high one leg step-ups.
An often forgotten muscle, but a vital component of the golf swing. We need them to resist against in the back swing and wind up the coil. We need them to be a part of the firing mechanism to instigate the down swing, and provide stability through impact. Quite a lot for something you barely look at. So what moves are best? The squat is good, but there are less drastic exercises such as glute ham raises that work the posterior chain the supporting muscles. Glutes are often worked best in bi-plexes or tri-plexes that work them in a fatigued state.
Exercises; Stability ball one leg lateral raises, dumbell sumo stance squat, One leg glute pushdowns from chin machine.
Now the great thing about developing good shoulders for power and consistency for golf, is they are a great muscle to assist with obtaining a well developed athletic physique. Male or female, we all should have nicely rounded, toned strong shoulders. They do not need to be the size of a monkeys head, but developed none the less. You only need to do the small test earlier to feel the role the shoulders play. They provide stability throughout, and when we have good mind to muscle connection with them, they provide bigger turns, and width throughout the golf swing, and all important leading strong side at impact to generate power and crisp squeezed iron shots. However we must be wary on loading too much weight onto the joints and over-repetition to eliminate injuries, we do this working in multiple planes of motion, and ensuring fully stretched muscles on every move.
Exercises; One arm dumbell throws from floor, overhead shoulder flys with dumbell or tubing, low to high rear cable delt flys.
The stretching and the loading on the back does take most of the torque during the kinetic chain reaction of the swing. If, as mentioned earlier, we have stronger denser legs, less torque and pressure is loaded onto the the lower lumbar region. In addition bio-mechanically we rotate (ideally) around a central axis from top to bottom through the spine. I have always imagined for every swing, turning my back to the target around a flag pole pierced through me from head to toe. Therefore we must build solid, strong, agile muscles to support this task, and I was not blessed with a naturally wide set frame, so mind-muscle connection and clever training protocols to develop size and strength must be adhered to. Again pre-exhausting the back muscles followed by a secondary exercise responds very well, similar neurological response as the shoulders do, therefore bi-plexes targeting connected muscles (one exercise followed by another), as well as one arm exercises to balance out the strength and lessen dominance due to a weak side.
Exercises; Bent over barbell or dumbell rows followed with minimal rest to straight arm cable pulldowns. Dumbell lawnmower starters. Seated alternating cable or tubing pulldowns followed by reverse grip push ups.
Please remember an exercise is simply an exercise, it changes its purpose and effectiveness depending on where it placed within a program, and the examples and muscles discussed above are NOT the ONLY muscles to be worked. Others play major roles, some smaller muscles too, this is especially important when we understand the need of a fully developed balanced physique that provides the ability to make swing changes, create mind-muscle connections, reduce risk of injury and aid a smooth, consistent golf swing that knows when to resist and when to accelerate.
Alex Fortey was a Professional golf tour player, and is a strength and conditioning golf professional who provides custom specialized programs, coaching and training to develop athletic golf physiques for club golfers to tour wannabe professionals.