The first frost hit and all the courses are closing up. You pack your clubs away for the season and ask yourself, “How do I keep up the momentum I achieved at the end of the season?” As a strength and conditioning coaches and Certified Coaches with Titlist Performance Institute (TPI) there are 3 main qualities we like to work on with our golfers in the off-season; 1. Improve range of motion and mobility in the hips and upper back 2. Build strength 3. Convert that strength to power. The combination of these three components can translate into a longer drive, lower score, and less aches and pains during your game. In this 3 part series we will break down each of these qualities to give you some practical information you can get started on right away. So let’s get started...
Part 1: Move Better!
- Improve ROM and Joint Mobility
Have you ever worked with a golf pro and just couldn’t feel what they were asking you to feel from a particular drill? They repeat their coaching cues of “turn your shoulders” , “turn your hips” , etc but you couldn’t seem to do it. Sometimes the problem isn’t that you don’t understand what the coach is asking of you, but simply that the mobility needed at each of the joints involved is sub par. If you are like most of our golfers, you sit in your car on the way to and from work combined with sitting all day when you get there. This can wreak havoc on the mobility at your hips and upper back. Mobility at both of these segments is extremely important for being able to get into the right position for a better golf swing. Below we’ve listed three of our biggest bang for your buck mobility exercises to help loosen up the hips and upper back.
- Hip/Quad Stretch
Being seated for an extensive period of time can cause your hip-flexors to become locked down and restrict extension of the hip. When you can’t extend the hip you will find it extremely difficult to, as Tiger Woods described it, “activate the glutes” Without this hip extension, you will be less likely to finish your swing correctly, standing tall, hips extended for more power.
To perform this stretch, place your back foot on an elevated surface and push slowly into the front of your hip. Try and stay as tall as you can and don’t lean back or arch your lower back. You should feel this stretch in your quad and hip on the down leg. Hold for 45-60sec on each side.
- Side Lying Diagonal Reach
The thoracic spine, your upper back, is another area that’s suffers from being slouched over for 8 hours a day. Your upper back needs to be able to rotate to about 45-60 degrees to get into the best position for your swing. If you can’t rotate through your thoracic spine well enough, your lower back will have to pick up the slack and over rotate which can lead to swing faults and possibly low back pain. Make sure you concentrate on moving from your upper back and not your lower back or shoulder joint.
Lay on your side with the top knee bent at 90 degrees, supported by a med ball or pillow. Place the hand that’s closest to the floor on the bent knee to keep it in place. Next begin to turn reaching your free hand toward the ground behind you while rotating from your upper back. If you are performing this correctly the up knee should not lose contact with the med ball and your hand should be in a diagonal line with your knee. You should feel a stretch through the upper back, chest and shoulder, NOT through the lower back .
- 90/90 Hips
Internal and external rotation of the hips is arguably one of the most important movements in the golf swing. Lacking internal rotation of the lead hip can cause you to slice and poor external rotation can be costing you power as you attempt to rotate through the swing. The seated 90/90 hip stretch is a fantastic way of killing two birds with one stone.
Begin seated on the ground and position one leg in front of you so that it is at 90 degrees while the other leg is behind you also at 90 degrees. While keeping your chest up tall, try to pull yourself forward over your front leg keeping your belt buckle pointed straight ahead. While in this position you are working external rotation of the front hip and should feel a stretch on the outside part of your hip. Keeping your legs in the same position, remain tall and rotate toward the back hip. Feel free to support yourself with your hands on the ground. You are now working on internal rotation of the back hip and should feel a deep stretch in the hip. Perform 6-8 reps per side and then switch which leg is in front and repeat.
While this is certainly not ALL we do with our golfers it is a fantastic place to start and can benefit anybody's game. An assessment is needed to truly determine which movements are right for you. Remember there is no tip or drill that can fix a flaw in your swing that is due to mobility. Give these 3 movements a shot and let us know what you think. You’ll be in a better position to hit the ball further and with less pain than you were before. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we break down some of the best strength training movements to help your improve your game and maintain the mobility you worked hard to gain.