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Exercises and Skill-Building Techniques

10:30 AM - June 30, 2016 by Dr. Daniel Quek

 
This second part of the article provides exercises and skill-building techniques. This section focuses on skill-building and exercises that will help the novice golfer reach greater heights in this sport. For the toolbox of tips that will help you develop your very own version of the Mega Swing. For exercises that will help you develop a stronger back and a more flexible core, refer to the exercises outline in this article.

Powerful Exercises for Golfers 

Golf, like any other sport, requires a specific kind of physical conditioning. Luckily, you can get in good shape at home without having to buy expensive gym equipment. 

Physical conditioning for this sport has two main goals. The first goal is to improve your overall performance by increasing your strength, balance and flexibility. 

The second goal (which is no less important) is injury prevention. You will not believe how many aspiring golfers quit the sport because of particularly bad injuries. I’m sure you understand the kind of stresses that our joints and muscles have to endure during a long game of golf. 

A particularly bad swing can send you to the ER, especially if your body is not aligned properly and you do not follow the protocol for a proper swing. 

Many non-golfers seem to think that injury is not possible in golfing. This is a sad misconception and if you do give in to this misconception, ironically, you become at risk for injury during play. 

These are the main reasons why I’ve dedicated a section to different exercises before we get down to skill-building. You can’t play a good game of golf if your body isn’t up to the rigors of the sport. You will only be exposing yourself to possible injuries and having injuries can prevent you from practicing your swing (which in itself is a horrid situation!). 

Try practicing at least some of these exercises before you tee off - these exercises are guaranteed to make you stronger, flexible and more balanced than before. Yes, there will be times when you will feel exhausted after a golf-centered workout, but trust me on this one - you will not regret it! 

The Golfing Back 

As a new golfer, you should always practice a straight, relaxed posture when teeing off. This exercise will help you develop just the right posture for comfortable, injury-free golfing. 

1.    For this exercise you will need a driver or any long club that reaches all the way to your backside. Grip the golf club and swing it all the way to the back, so that the club head comes into contact with your posterior.

2.    Slowly reach for the part of the shaft that is closest to the club head. Feel free to adjust the angle of the golf club so that the club head is pressed against your right pocket area.
 
3.    Lower your body slightly by bending your knees. As you bend, move forward and press both ends of the golf club to your back. Adjust your spine so that it is gently straightened. 

4.    Lean forward a little more, as if you are about to make a swing. 

5.    Release your club and grip it with both hands in front of you.

6.    Try swinging the golf club without adjusting your posture. Avoid slouching when swinging your golf club. Your back should be straight while being at an angle. 

There is a difference between straight and vertical. A vertical back is straight and perpendicular to the floor. A straight back for golfing is at an angle relative to the floor. You can maintain a straight back without bending your back. 

To extend your reach, use your arms and shoulders, though I would advise against overextending your shoulders as this could cause problems during the upswing. 


The Chest Relaxer 

Your chest muscles affect your overall flexibility while swinging. Unfortunately, a significant majority of teens and adults have very tight ‘mirror muscles’ (muscles that you notice when looking at yourself in the mirror). Mirror muscles include the chest muscles. 

If you have tight chest muscles, you will feel sore while playing golf more quickly. The “Chest Relaxer” will help you loosen your chest muscles - and all you will need is a chair! Here are the steps: 

1.    Find a clear spot to perform this exercise at home. If you do not usually perform exercises like stretching and lifting, you may want to take it easy on your first try. 

Normally, this simple stretching exercise is performed on a flat floor, without any aids. However, if you have minimal exercise, it may do you some good to put the following in place: 

a.    Lower back support - a rolled up piece of cloth can be placed under the small of your back. This cloth will support your lower back as you lay flat on the floor. 

b.    Rubber yoga mat - This is an additional provision that you may want to add to the exercise if you have never tried stretching on the floor. 

c.    Neck support - You can also roll a small towel and put it under your head, just above the nape, to support your head during the exercise. 

2.    When all of your equipment are ready (should you choose to use neck and back supports), place a chair near your feet. 

Lay flat on the floor, with your shoulders, chest and back relaxed. Let the flatness of the floor shape your back as you lay down. 

3.    Place your heels on top of the chair and slowly adjust your position so that the midpoint of your calves is on the chair. While adjusting your position, make sure that your palms are flat on the floor. 

4.    Keep your feet straight and close together as you straighten your calves and hips. You should be able to create a perfect 90 degree angle with your hips and knees. 

5.    Now lift your arms and place them near your head. Your elbows should also form 90 degree angles when you change their position. 

6.    Maintain this position for as long as you can. You will notice as you progress through this exercise that all your tense muscle fibers will begin to react to the change in your posture. 

You will feel a lot of sensations around your shoulders and chest. This is normal and is a sign that you’ve performed the stretch properly. 

7.    Time yourself the first time - how long can you stay in this relaxing position without breaking proper form? 

Supermans & Modified Supermans 

Supermans are amazing for building core and back strength. It is one of the most challenging core workouts I know because it requires all your upper body muscle groups to work in harmony to achieve the upward movement. 

I am going to teach you how to perform regular supermans and modified supermans. Modified supermans are recommended for those who have weak or painful back muscles. Don’t force yourself to perform regular supermans if your body isn’t ready for them!

1.    To perform regular supermans, lie on your stomach, with your legs straight and feet apart. Straighten your arms and place your hands as far away as possible from your head. Don’t bend your elbows; keep your arms perfectly parallel to the floor. 

2.    Perform a two-count and raise your upper body and legs simultaneously, leaving your core muscles to balance the two large groups of muscles. Hold for five seconds before releasing. 

3.    The recommended repetition for this exercise is 15 - 25. It really depends on your fitness level. People who are relatively fit can perform 30 repetitions easily, with energy to spare. If you can only do 10 for now, that’s perfectly alright. 

The important thing is that you are beginning to condition your body specifically for golfing. However, if you feel that you can do more, don’t just add a few repetitions to your first set. 

Instead, set a fixed number of repetitions for one set and perform another set afterward. You can proceed in a number of ways to keep things interesting and challenging. Here are some set variations that you can try: 

a.    Set 1 - 10 repetitions, Set 2 - 10 repetitions, Set 3 - 10 repetitions 

b.    Set 1 - 12 repetitions, Set 2 - 10 repetitions, Set 3 - 8 repetitions 

c.    Set 1 - 8 repetitions, Set 2 - 8 repetitions, Set 3 - 12 repetitions 

d.    Set 1 - 30 repetitions, Set 2 - 25 repetitions, Set 3 - 20 repetitions 

The number of variations that you can try is endless. If things get too easy, you know how to shake things up: increase those sets and reps! 

4.    To perform a modified superman, simply place a small cushion underneath your chest and belly to facilitate the upward movement. 

You can also put a rolled up towel in front of you so you do not accidentally knock your forehead on the floor during the negative phase (negative - downward). 

Some people are unable to tolerate the completely flat surface of a floor and recovery from a single repetition becomes next to impossible. 

If you can’t perform because of weak back muscles or core muscles, use an extra cushion to make things easier. When you have built up enough strength in these two main areas (core and back), you can do away with the cushion to challenge your body even more. 


Balance Exercise 

Increased balance is a plus when you are playing golf because you will be able to deliver a more accurate and powerful swing without unnecessary movements. 

You will notice that in your first few games, your ability to twist and bend will be challenged considerably and you will feel sore after a few shots. 

The reason for this is quite simple: you have yet to condition your body to balance itself efficiently for a straight game of golf. That’s why I am sharing with you in this section an extremely useful balancing exercise. 

Perform this exercise daily, even if you are not playing weekly. The benefits of this exercise (actually, all of the exercises in this book) will be felt after a few weeks. Do not expect instant results! Expect great results after a period of time. 

1.    Get a golf club and place it firmly behind you. Follow the steps outlined in the very first exercise in this book. When you are done aligning your spine, look straight and keep your back vertical in relation to the floor. 

2.    While looking straight ahead, slowly lift your right leg and bend your knee. Your hips and knees should form a straight, 90-degree angle in mid-air. 

3.    Hold the 90-degree angle in the air for thirty seconds before gently lowering your leg. 

4.    Switch to the other foot and perform the same set of steps, being careful not to break your posture. 

Grip both ends of the golf club firmly but do not rely too much on the shape of shaft to maintain a straight spine. There should be effort on your side to maintain a straight spine. Do not lean back on the golf club! 

5.    The recommended repetitions for this exercise are 20 to 30 repetitions per workout. If you can do more repetitions, by all means, do so. 

However, if your form is already suffering after 20 repetitions, stop and relax before continuing. Like other exercises, this balancing exercise would be of no use to you if your posture is incorrect or poor. 

Stand beside a mirror so you can check the alignment of your back and the leg performing the repetition so you can be sure that your form is ideal. 


Seated Rotations 

Performing seated rotations is a great way to align the spine and build some core strength without stressing the other muscle groups. If you find other core exercises too difficult, then seated rotations will definitely benefit you. Here are the steps: 

1.    You will need a chair and a golf club for this exercise. Sit on the chair, with your legs far apart (but not too far apart, mind you). Place the golf club on your shoulder area and use both forearms to gently support it. 

2.    Gently rotate your torso to the right until one end of the golf club is almost touching the back of the chair. Perform the rotations slowly and gently so you do not strain your back. 

3.    Perform the same rotation on the other side. The recommended number of seated trunk rotations per set is 15. Try to perform at least 3 sets. Feel free to rest 3-5 minutes after every set. 


Front Planks on Stability Ball 

The stability ball/Swiss ball/medicine ball is a large inflatable ball made from plastic. Due to the shape and composition of the ball, it takes a considerable effort to remain perfectly balanced on top of it. 

The natural instability of the Swiss ball and its tendency to roll around are perfect for someone who wishes to build their core strength. You can purchase stability balls online or you can visit your local gym if you don’t want to have one at home. Here are the steps: 

1.    For this exercise, you will need a yoga mat and a stability ball. Place the stability ball on one end of the yoga mat before starting the workout. 

2.    Place both forearms on the stability ball and extend your legs. Keep your feet together and your back straight. Your head should be slightly elevated. Look straight at the opposite wall and maintain this head position until the end of the workout. 

3.    Each repetition of this exercise is measured in seconds. Each time you are able to hold the starting position for five seconds, you count one repetition. 

If this seems too complicated, hold the plank position for thirty seconds before releasing. Try to accomplish an equivalent of three minutes on the stability ball. 


Weighted Trunk Rotation on Stability Ball 

This is a more challenging variation of the torso rotation. Instead of performing rotations while seated on a chair, you will be twisting your torso while lying on a stability ball. Here are the steps: 

1.    For this exercise you will need a stability ball, yoga mat and a medicine ball (4 to 6 pounds is heavy enough for most people). 

2.    To begin this exercise, sit on the stability ball with feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly roll toward the front part of the yoga mat until your lower back is fully supported by the stability ball. 

3.    Stabilize your position before doing anything else. When you are comfortably stabilized and you can easily move about without falling off the stability ball, have someone hand you the medicine ball. 

4.    Hold the medicine ball above you, with both arms as straight as possible. 

5.    Slowly rotate your upper body while keeping your arms straight. Rotate to the right first. After rotating to the right, move slowly to the center before rotating to the left. Always go back to the center before moving to the opposite side. This will ensure good form and will also help prevent any accidents while on the stability ball. 

6.    Don’t forget to breathe properly while performing this exercise. Inhale through the nose deeply when you are the center and exhale through your mouth as you move to the left/right. 

7.    Maintain a neutral spine while performing these exercises. Both legs should be at 90 degrees until the exercise is finished. Proper foot placement will help you stabilize your upper body as it moves to and fro on the stability ball. 


Arm Swings with Resistance Bands 

Resistance bands have long been used in various sports to condition and rehabilitate individuals with injuries. 

Arm swings using resistance bands will give you the advantage of being able to practice a sideways, swinging-like motion while conditioning and strengthening your core muscles. 

Using a stability ball in this manner also helps develop your natural balance, which is essential for a good game of golf. 

1.    For this exercise you will need a yoga mat, stability ball, a thick resistance band with two handles and a medicine ball. 

2.    First, attach the resistance band to a door post using the necessary anchoring accessory. Next, spread the yoga mat on the floor and place the stability ball at the center. 

Seat yourself on the stability ball, with knees at 90 degrees. Place the medicine ball in between your knees and hold it there with moderate pressure. Clinching a medicine ball in between your legs will help stabilize your body during the actual swinging motion. 

3.    The starting position of your hand should be at the center of your chest. Each hand should hold one end of the resistance band. 

4.    When you are ready stretch the resistance band to the opposite direction. Perform this action slowly and feel the resistance on your shoulders, arms and chest. 

Hold for three counts before slowly returning to the center. Perform fifteen repetitions on one side before shifting to the other side.

You can either change your position on the stability ball or you can modify the anchoring of the resistance band so you can pull the band toward the opposite direction. 


Muscular Rows with Resistance Bands 

Golfers need strong back muscles to support the upper body during a swing. Large weights are not ideal for older individuals and women who have not prior physical condition, so this is the safer route for developing strong back muscles specifically for golfing. 

1.    For this exercise you will only need resistance tubing with two handles and a door anchor. 

2.    Attach the resistance band to a door post using the anchoring accessory. The anchor should be positioned at the lowest possible point.

3.    When the resistance band has been set up properly, it’s time to perform the muscular rows. Stand a few feet away from the door anchor and gently lean forward while keeping your spine neutral. Slightly bend your knees and lean forward at the waist to maintain a neutral spine. 

4.    There are two kinds of rows you can perform using an anchored resistance band: double rows and alternating rows. Alternating rows are easier to perform because each side has a few seconds to recover before contracting again. 

Perform a row by slowly pulling the resistance band toward your back pocket area. Your arms should not bear all the resistance during the positive phase of the movement. Actively use your back muscles to pull back the resistance band. 

Gently move your hand back to its original position before moving on the next hand. The same principles apply to double rows. Perform the negative and positive phases of the movement slowly and don’t forget to breathe! 

I cannot stress this enough because I have seen many people hold their breath while performing these exercises. 

Holding your breath might seem like a good idea but it is really bad for you physically because you are losing vital oxygen while performing an exercise. 

The body needs as much usable oxygen as it can get during exercise and holding your breath will prevent your body from getting what it needs to perform well. 


Developing the Mega Swing 

This is the part of the book that many of you have really been waiting for: the Mega Swing! The Mega Swing is unique for each golfer. There is no single swing that can be learned and applied uniformly by all golfers. 

Your Mega Swing will be slightly different from mine and it will change as your overall skill in golfing progresses. This part of the book will provide you with essential principles, tips and guidelines so you can devise your own Mega Swing the soonest possible time. 

I.    The first thing that you should always remember before taking a shot is that you have to be balance. 

You can balance yourself well by aligning your feet and your body parallel to the ball but at the same time, the shot itself should be at a slight angle, directed at your target area. 

This is the main reason why we devoted a significant amount of time to balancing exercises and core-strengthening exercises. You need a strong but flexible core to make powerful, accurate shots. 

The quality of your swing is directly affected by your ability to turn and rotate your body to generate the energy needed to send your golf ball aloft. 

When you are swinging a club, you should also remember that every part of your body is part of the kinetic chain that generates that explosive swing. 

This means that every part of your body is affected by a swing, including your head. So whenever you swing, make sure that your torso, shoulders and head are part of the follow-through. 

The follow-through is that short period of activity that follows a shot. If you practice follow-through correctly, you will be able to protect yourself against injuries, too. 

II.    Golf instructors often mention “fixed points” in the body that will serve as pivot points when you take a shot. There is actually a bit of confusion when it comes to identifying these fixed points on the body. 

Many novice golfers make their heads the fixed point. This has bad news written all over it because our heads are supposed to turn toward the direction of the shot. 

If you don’t turn your head when you swing, your run the risk of injuring your neck. Having a stiff neck is considered lucky - some people pull muscles and are unable to move properly after a poor shot. 


The real fixed points when making a swing are actually the collarbones. The collarbones are located just below the shoulders and they are close enough to the center of the body to be used as good reference points. 

“Fixed point” doesn’t mean you can’t move your collarbones or your chest. It just means that when you do twist during a shot, the fixed points should remain level from start to finish. 

There should be no drastic shifting of the fixed points of your body. If there is a drastic shift, then it’s possible that your shot will not be as accurate as you had intended. 

Another fixed point worth mentioning is your waist. As you move down to take a shot, your waist should remain level as your torso rotates.  

III.    As I have mentioned earlier, there is no single way of carrying out a Mega Swing. An effective Mega Swing is created by the golfer himself, based on his physical capabilities and experience with his own set of golf clubs. 

You can try to emulate other golf players in the beginning, just to get the hang of the different swing styles. However, in the long run you must analyze the results of your own swinging and figure out which ones are effective for specific situations. 

If you blindly emulate golf players without understanding why they swing in a certain way, then you will not advance your own golfing skills. 

Now, when it comes to determining the height of your golf swing, it pays to use the clock as a reference. Imagine that there was a giant clock behind you with just one long hand. 

The long hand represents your arms, firmly grasping a golf club. The big question now is: what height will you utilize to create the outcome that you want? 

You can imagine the different golf club positions on the giant clock behind you. 

Do you hit the ball at 3 o’clock? Do you take a chance and putt the ball at 8 o’clock? The only person who can accurately answer these questions is you. 

Why? Because even your golf instructor does not have full knowledge of your physical capabilities and accuracy. 

Experiment with different upswing heights whenever you play and you will soon have working knowledge regarding the most appropriate swings for specific situations. 


IV.    One common mistake that beginners make is that they try to scoop the golf ball off the tee before setting it aloft. This scooping motion can be hard to see (even the person making the shot may not be aware of it) but it does happen and it should be avoided at all cost. 

Scooping up a ball with any type of golf club will result in an increase in the loft or height of the golf ball. Unless you are intending to for a higher arc during a shot, adding a scooping motion will most likely misdirect your golf ball. 

My advice would be to train yourself to hit the side of the golf ball instead of its underside. Visualize your club head approaching the side of the ball as you swing down. 

Your club head has to make contact with the sides and never the top of the golf ball. If you slice down and hit the top of the golf ball, the ball will jump off the tee instead of flying across the green. 

V.    To generate the highest level of swing power in every shot, you have to align your body the right way. The most ideal alignment will require you to rotate your body away from the ball so that your opposite shoulder is five to six inches past the ball. 

Your golf club at this point should be at an angle of 25 to 30 degrees relative to the ground. This position will generate a ton of power during the downswing. If you’re lucky, you will be able to send your golf ball flying at speed in excess of two hundred kilometers per hour! 

VI.    As we have discussed in an earlier section, your ability to grip your golf club also affects your swing. In golf, it’s all about the quality of the swing. 

No other element has a bigger impact on your game as your control of the club and the force that it generates when you hit the ball. Here are some guidelines that will help you grip your golf club more effectively: 

a.    If you are planning to putt the golf ball a few meters only, your thumb should be close to the rest of your fingers. 

If you are aiming to send your golf ball aloft because it has to travel several hundred meters, your thumb should be extended as far as it can go across the grip of the golf club. 

b.    If you are right handed, grip the club with your right hand first. The opposite applies to left-handed people.  

Your glove (which has special nubs) are designed to keep your golf club in your hands during a swing. It should be worn on the hand that is closest to you during a swing. 

c.    When you grip a club near the top of the shaft, make sure that your four top fingers are able to wrap around the grip of the club. Ideally, your first two fingertips should be able to touch the side of your thumb. 

The same principle applies to your second hand. To lock your grip and to prevent your golf club from flying accidentally during an upswing, place your pinkie on top of the index finger of the other hand. 

This is called the Verdon grip and most pro golfers use this grip because it’s sturdy and effective in most cases. If you wish to swing with an even more secure grip, all you need to do is to place the pinkie finger of your second hand underneath the index finger of the first hand. 

The index finger should lock the opposing pinkie in place,  which secures the shaft of the club even more snugly. This type of grip is called the interlocking club grip. 

Women golfers prefer this grip because it provides added protection from accidents during the upswing. If you have a weak grip, using the interlocking grip would be a good idea as it takes a bit more effort to dislodge the index finger from its position during the upswing (and subsequently, the downswing). 

d.    If you are feeling adventurous and would like to try a more advanced grip, there is just one more variation that is worth using out on the green: the ten finger grip. 

Have you ever seen a pro baseball player grip a baseball bat? Well, that’s how you are going to grip your golf club. We will do away with interlocking index fingers to make way for a sturdy, advanced grip that provides more speed. 

But like everything in life, there is a downside to using the ten finger grip. The ten finger grip requires more wrist adjustments to ensure an accurate shot, due to the positioning of the fingers. 

So with this fact in mind, I highly recommend that you only use the ten finger grip when you have mastered the Verdon grip and the interlocking grip. These two intermediate grips can easily be used by novice golfers to improve their swing. 

VII.    Believe it or not, there is actually a way to improve your aim when you are playing golf. The secret is actually in the positioning of your feet. 

Your left foot should be closer to the tee and should be pointed at the 10 o’clock position. The other foot on the other hand, should be shoulder-width apart or even further and the opposite foot should be pointed at the 1 o’clock position. 

Of course, you need to be oriented first to your general target direction. Your right foot will be oriented primarily to your target direction while the left foot will be oriented toward the golf ball. 

Let’s break down the form so we can understand why you have to do it this way. When you point your left foot at the 10 o’clock position you are actually creating a fixed pivot point that will prevent your body from suddenly moving sideways in the wrong direction. 

That’s why the left foot is always nearer the tee, because you are trying to plant your body and orient it toward the right direction. 

The compass or navigator is the right foot. It is pointed away from the tee because it is oriented toward the target direction or target area. 

When you swing down and hit the golf ball, your golf club will follow the path set forth by your two feet. The golf club will be limited in its downward path by the left leg/left foot and the direction of the follow-through will be set by the positioning of the right/outer foot. 

It might sound a bit complicated but as you continue practicing golf, you will realize that this is one of the best ways to orient your body during a shot so you can properly aim before swinging down hard. 

VIII.    Should you bend your knees when you take a shot? Pro golfers have their own styles, based on what works for them. But for us average players, the standard answer to this question is yes. 

However, the bending should be limited to the fixed pivot point (the foot closest to the ball). Bending a knee before making a shot ensure that the kinetic chain (or simply, the path of the energy that will power the swing) will not be interrupted. 

When you are about to gear up for a shot, bend the knee closest to the ball and as you swing down, bend the knee a bit more to make rotation easier. 

As you rotate during the shot, keep your pivot point (your foot) planted to the ground as your knee bends and rotates to match the movement of the swing. 


References

McCord, Gary & Keipert, Steve “Golf for Dummies” Australia: Wiley, 2011

Continued Next: The Best Golf Swing Tips Designed for Beginners

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