Building the X-Factor in your golf swing
After reading my blog post from last week regarding the important components of the golf swing for achieving distance, you should have a better understanding of which parts of the golf swing are necessary in order to hit the ball further. However, you may have been left wondering 'What can I do to help myself'. Well, look no further, as below are a few great exercises and stretches you can easily do at home on your own to improve your mobility and strength, which is sure to help your spine out not only on the golf course, but in your day to day life!
This exercise is an wonderful, gentle mobilization exercise for the whole spine, but in particular the low back. While doing this exercise, be sure to move through a pain-free range of motion, that is, if you encounter pain during any portion of this movement, on the next repetition try to avoid going as deep into the stretch to prevent pain from recurring.
This exercise is excellent for not only improving shoulder mobility, but for improving thoracic spine (mid-back) mobility, both of which are essential for a good golf swing! While this video demonstrates the exercise on a foam roller placed lengthwise along the spine, I recommend beginning on the floor. Once you have improved your shoulder and spine mobility to the point on the floor where you no longer feel a good opening through the chest muscles, then progress to performing the exercise on the foam roller.
Thoracic Spine Rotation Self Mobilization
This exercise is great for developing rotational mobility in the thoracic spine (mid-back), which is a vital component of the golf swing. The joins in the thoracic spine are oriented in such a manner that they encourage rotation, however unfortunately because of many chronic occupational postural strains rotation becomes severely limited in these joints that are supposed to allow us to rotate! Of note while doing this exercise, if you find it difficult to isolate movement to the thoracic spine while on your knees, you can sink back to sit on your heels which will effectively 'lock' the low back, ensuring you are focusing on achieving rotation in the thoracic spine.
The bird dog is a great exercise, as it looks to stabilize the core while moving the arms and legs. Being able to stabilize the core while moving the arms and legs in opposite directions is critical in improving your 'X-Factor'. What is important about this exercise to remember, is that the pelvis MUST stay stabilized for the duration of the exercise, and the core MUST stay engaged throughout the exercise. And, as always, don't forget to breathe!
This exercise is great for developing strength in the gluteal musculature, which is essential for propelling the swing to begin the upswing, and for transferring weight from the trailing leg to the lead leg during the downswing. In addition to being a fantastic exercise for the gluteals, it is also excellent for training core stabilization. To ensure you get full benefit from this exercise, brace your core prior to lifting the buttock off the floor, and really focus on squeezing the cheeks together as you lift the buttock up off the floor.
This is again a fantastic exercise for the core musculature. It is such a great exercise because it requires strong core stabilization while moving the arms and legs (which, again, is exactly what we are going in the golf swing!) Throughout the golf swing we are focusing on having a strong core, while permitting mobility through the hips and shoulders, and this exercise trains our bodies to separate these two activities! One important note, is to ensure you go through the progressions listed in the video, as there is a tendency for the low back to arch when performing a stage that is too challenging for the core musculature, which puts the spine at risk of injury.
This exercise focuses on developing strength in the oblique muscles, who are responsible for rotating the torso. When doing this exercise, it is imperative to keep your spine braced throughout the exercise. Failing to brace the spine can turn this exercise into a movement that is potentially harmful to the spine.
This movement was highlighted in my last post as being essential for hitting the ball further. And while it isn't often a muscle group we associate as being important to the golf swing, it sure should become one! This video is a bit lengthy, but if you skip ahead to 0:46 you can start right at the exercise!
This exercise is essentially a mobilization in the direction of the golf swing, looking to emphasize the rotation and separation between the shoulders and the hips. While this exercise is demonstrated for a right handed golfer, us lefties will just have to do the mirror image movement for the same effect! And in fact, we should theoretically perform this exercise in both directions, in an effort to keep our spines mobility equal.
While these exercises will primarily feel simple and not too fatiguing, if done regularly come spring and golf season, you will be sure to notice not only an improved mobility throughout your golf swing, but hopefully a few yards will be added on to your drive as well!
Disclaimer: Prior to beginning any exercise program, it is always best to consult your health care provider to ensure these exercises are safe and appropriate for your level of fitness.