If you are a golfer, congratulations. You have picked a sport that will promote health and fitness for your entire lifetime. Eighteen holes of golf burns about 1,500 calories, and the golf swing itself is quite a workout, especially when you do it upwards of 18 times in a single day.
For most golf enthusiasts, improving their backswing is a never-ending pursuit. But too often people focus on strength in their arms, thinking that will make for a better swing.
Not so, says Sean Cochran, personal trainer to pro golfers like Phil Mickelson. The key to bettering your swing is to develop mobility and flexibility in your hips, core and spine.
“Honestly, I don’t care how strong you get,” says Cochran. “If you can’t turn and you can’t rotate and you can’t maintain the spine angle, you have no chance. ... Many golfers lack the hip mobility and core strength to execute a consistent golf swing.”
So, let’s take Sean Cochran’s advice and work on those three areas, with the goal of loosening up and improving our range of motion. Of course, remember to chat with your doctor before taking on any new fitness activities.
Hips: Hip hinge
Mobility in the hips helps your backswing and reduces chance of injury.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Holding a golf club with one hand, put it in the middle of your back (club head pointing up and touching your back and head).
Slowly bend forward at the hips, keeping your back flat with the club touching your head and back.
Bend your knees and lower your free arm until your hand hangs just below the knees.
Pause, then slowly stand up straight. Repeat.
Core: The bridge
Flexibility and strength in your core is, as Cochran puts it, “the engine of the golf swing.” This exercise works several muscles in your core at the same time.
Lie on your back with knees bent and pointing to the ceiling. Keep your back relaxed — don’t arch or press it to the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles, but don’t tilt your hips.
Raise your hips until they line up with your knees and shoulders. Hold for three breaths.
Lower slowly and repeat.
Spine: Wall angel
This exercise targets the thoracic spine (the area between your shoulder blades). Stiffness is this area makes your backswing less efficient and can contribute to shoulder problems.
Stand up straight, back against a wall, feet together.
Place your arms flat against the wall at your sides (bent position and forearms angled out) with elbows at chest level and hands just above shoulder level.
Raise the arms up, keeping hands and forearms pressed lightly against the wall.
Extend up as far as you can (staying in the shoulder plane) while still touching the wall.
Return to starting position and repeat.
A regular regimen of exercises to loosen and strengthen your core, hips and spine will create the physical capacities that a good backswing requires. And when your friends notice your improved swing and ask, “What happened?” you can show them your new golf exercises.