Are you looking to improve your golf swing? In this article, I’ll outline various exercises you can easily do at home that will help with your golf swing.
Golf is a very difficult sport. Many suggest that it’s a great way to ruin a good walk. However, for those of us that take some perverse enjoyment in trudging around attempting to hit a little white ball into a small cup hundreds of metres away, there are some small additions that could improve your golf game.
I am not going to attempt to coach anyone on their swing – that’s what the local pros are for.
I’m talking about some of the biomechanical limitations of the body that can be worked on to improve your swing.
It is important to recognize that this probably won’t improve your putting or chipping, and won’t necessarily fix your slice. But if you find you are lacking 10m on the driver that you used to have, or start to fatigue in your swing at the back end of 18 holes then these exercises may be beneficial for you.
We can break this into 2 key groups – flexibility and strength.
In this article we will focus on flexibility, but watch this space because there will be some information on useful strength exercises to come.
Flexibility is Needed for a Great Golf Swing
The main areas that golfers require flexibility for a long, flowing swing in the hips, shoulders and the thoracic spine. Good flexibility through these joints allows the body to rotate further on the axis that the club travels around.
More rotation means a longer arc for the club to follow which has numerous benefits. These include hitting the ball further and potentially a better swing rhythm.
So lets look at some exercises.
Many golfers I meet, lack flexibility in their thoracic spine (the part of the spine between your neck and lower back).
Sadly we tend to stiffen up through this area as we get older, however with some stretching it can be improved.
Without ample rotation in the thoracic spine the entire swing relies on only hip and shoulder movement. Consequently the club head will have a much smaller arc to work within.
Often people don’t realise how restricted they are through their thoracic spine because they tend to compensate with extra neck or shoulder movement.
It’s very easy to check how much thoracic rotation you have. Simply sit upright on the edge of a chair or table, place your hands together with straight arms out in front, then twist as far as you can.
Very good thoracic rotation would be getting your chest to 80-90 degrees of rotation. Anything less than 45 degrees of rotation would be a considerable restriction to your swing.
Using a foam roller or thoracic wedge is an easy way to help loosen up the thoracic spine. Jamie has explained how and why here
Another simple way is to practice rotating whilst sitting in a chair. Grab the top of the chair with one hand and the front corner of the chair with the other hand. Then use your arms to twist your spine to a gradual stretch. Try to keep your head facing where your chest is pointed to avoid over stretching your neck.
Shoulder Flexibility for Your Golf Swing
This one seems fairly obvious. If you can’t lift your shoulders up high enough then both your backswing and follow through will be compromised.
Golfers are generally aware that this is an issue because the golf swing itself will feel blocked.
Unfortunately shoulders can be complicated in their restriction and it can be due muscular tightness, joint tightness or a lack of muscle strength in key groups. If this is the case you should look at getting a physiotherapy assessment to identify where the issue is coming from.
Having said that there are some gentle stretches you can do to help with shoulder flexibility.
Anyone working at a desk should be doing this several times a week. Stand in a door and lift your elbows to shoulder height then lean forward at the chest.
There should be a stretching sensation through the chest but no pain in the shoulders.
If you have shorter arms and can’t reach both elbows to the door don’t panic – it actually works better than for if you have really long arms. Conversely, if you do have very long arms like myself you may need to just do one arm at a time.
Posterior shoulder stretch
The posterior (back) part of the shoulder can limit your backswing on your non dominant hand or the follow through of your dominant hand. It is a little bit complicated so I have added a video to make it easier to follow.
Remember for both the stretches you should feel a stretch but no pain.
Hip Flexibility for Your Golf Swing
The hip joints are a major contributor to rotating the body in a golf swing. Particularly the front hip has to rotate hard into internal rotation (inward rotation) during the follow through of a golf swing.
Unfortunately all hip joints aren’t designed equal and there is a large variation in what would be considered “normal” internal rotation flexibility.
Hip position is often related to your genetics and what activities you did growing up.
For example people that grew up doing lots of ballet will have a larger than average hip external rotation (outward rotation), but poorer than average hip internal rotation.
In these people the bones in the hip have grown into this position as a result of practicing standing in “turn out” where the heels are together and toes pointed outwards.
It can be very difficult to improve internal rotation flexibility for these type of people because it is a bony alignment issue.
Luckily most golfers have sufficient bony alignment to get adequate internal rotation, however many (particularly if you are older) have tight hip joint musculature or ligaments restricting the movement.
There are 3 main stretches of the hip that you should focus on. Gluteals, hip flexors and the hip joint capsule.
Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees. Bring one knee to your chest and across your body. Aim that knee at the opposite shoulder then pull the same foot towards the floor. You should feel a stretch in your buttock muscle on the leg you are holding. It is allowed to be uncomfortable or tight but shouldn’t be sharply painful.
Kneel on the knee of the side that you want to stretch. Place your other leg in front with your knee bent to 90 deg. Tuck your bottom in like you are pulling your tailbone in and under.
Hold your bottom tucked in and under then push the hips forwards. You should feel a stretch in the thigh and hip of the leg that you are kneeling on. Your back foot doesn’t necessarily have to be on a chair like in the photo, that is to add a quadriceps stretch in.
Hip joint stretch:
Lie on your back with one knee bent up so that your foot is level with the opposite. Let the knee that is bent fall out to the side. You should feel a stretch in your groin on that side. If you want more stretch it is ok to put a 1-2 bag of rice or weight on that knee.
It is important to remember that these exercises are a guide only. If you have any pain or considerable restriction in the movements you are attempting then it would be worthwhile consulting with a physiotherapist to further assess the problem. Then we can tailor a exercise program to your needs.