Is your exercise selection hurting your golf?

Exercise selection is an incredibly important variable in your training, in fact I’m going to say it…the most important! You must select the appropriate exercises to help you achieve your goals. As your reading this blog lets go ahead and assume your primary goal in any strength and conditioning program. As golfers (and therefore athletes) we are not entering the gym just to get strong; there are other priorities such as developing movement quality, mobility, stability and power in multiple planes. As such we must choose exercises that:

–  Develop muscles and movement patterns they won’t develop in competition or practice (promote balance and develop weak points)

–  Exercises that will have maximal carryover to their on-course performance

–  Minimise or reduce the likelihood of injury while training

–  Are easy to coach and cue

I have a question for you….How will this make me a better athlete?

Simply ask yourself this question each time you make an exercise selection, if you can’t answer this question it’s probably an exercise you should avoid.

In this article I’ll give you several common exercise selection errors I see golfers make and propose some much more useful, useable alternatives that I bet get you better results!

1. Chest fly with dumbbell or cable. Chest flyes work the pectoral muscles in isolation, without the support of the triceps, deltoids and other stabilising muscles around the shoulder joint. Working in isolation in this manner is not a natural movement (the pecs never work in isolation from the shoulder and triceps), and is not functional to the golf swing.

Instead, improve horizontal pressing strength and power for athletic benefit by doing push-ups. This an effective method not only of building pressing strength but core stability too.

2. Tricep pressdowns/ kickbacks. Ramsay McMaster was a massive proponent of tricep strength for golfers. However, like the flye, kick backs have little performance benefit. Dips for those that can handle them (good old push-ups for those with cranky elbows or shoulders) improve tricep, chest and shoulder strength. Because  more muscle mass is being employed over more range of motion more strength and power gains can be developed.

3. Upright rows. Upright rows place the shoulders in internal rotation, this is not an ideal movement pattern for golfers as the set-up and swing generally require the shoulder to be externally rotated. The internally rotated position of the upright row also places unneccesary stress on the shoulder joint and as such they should be avoided by overhead athletes especially. The face pull is a great alternative that places the shoulder joint under much less stress and develop the vital postural muscles of the upper back.

4. Leg press. The leg press on a leg press machine or the plate loaded version is great way to develop hypertrophy, and to a certain extent strength, however the core activation and stabilisation element of a squat. The ability to stabilise load through core activation is important for transfering strength and power into the golf swing.

5. Leg extensions. Leg extensions train the qudriceps in isolation from the hip and force them to contract in a non functional manner (when in the golf swing or real life do you need to extend the knee to lift a lift balanced on your ankles!?) Single-leg moves will train both knee extension and hip extension simultaneously in a much more functional manner. Make these frontal plane or lateral moves for added carryover to the golf swing and bonus points!

6. Shrugs. Shrugs have the same issue as many other exercises on this list i.e. small range of motion, isolation exercise, that doesn’t train a useful movement pattern (useful to golfers anyway), they therefore have limited functional carryover to the golf swing. Shrugs have another mistake problem too; that is they place much greater upper trapezius strength relative to the lower traps this is detrimental to the proper scapular function and overhead movement quality vital to the golf swing.

Instead replace shrugs with prone trap raises which focus more on the lower and mid trap, promoting better overhead positioning, scapular control and addressing those imbalances

There are many other facets and factors affecting exercise selection such as exercise order, workout length, workout split, sets and reps protocols, exercise experience, exercise variety, etc. But to cover all of these here is beyond the scoop of this article (well beyond one article of reasonable length anyway) so I’m sure we’ll revisit this topic and cover these points in more detail at some point.

4 thoughts on “Is your exercise selection hurting your golf?

  1. Dave Stevens

    Great Article! I love the easy to follow methods along with the videos, it makes me want to go to all of your videos. These exercises are great for improving performance and reducing the likelihood of injuries, so many golfers today just go out and try to copy the pros swings without thinking about the consequences. Cheers Mate!


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