In golf-specific fitness training, it’s pretty common to see exercises such as deadlifts, lunges, cleans and kettlebell swings. These exercises build the big muscles — quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals — that contribute to powerful hip extension force for a more explosive swing.
When performed correctly and advanced progressively, all of these exercises have their place in a strength program. However, trainers sometimes forget to focus on the foundational platform on which all these muscles must work: the feet.
The feet are critical to all sports, but are especially important in rotational sports such as golf because they provide a solid foundation to generate a twisting force through the body. Lack of mobility and/or stability in the foot’s joints puts a golfer at a significant disadvantage when trying to maximize distance.
A foot arch that collapses when loaded during the setup position, or a stiff trail foot that prevents weight shifting during the swing, completely alters swing mechanics and will likely lead to dysfunctional ailments. So, it’s critical to spend time to develop a dynamic foot structure that can move freely in a controlled manner to optimize force transfer.
This can be accomplished by beginning with two simple exercises that mobilize the ankle and trail foot in both the front and back direction, as well as side to side. When possible, try to perform these exercises with bare feet.
Side to Side Leg Swing:
- Lean up against a wall with both feet behind you until you feel a slight stretch in the calf muscle.
- Bring one foot in front of you and begin to swing that leg side to side. The foot that remains behind you is the one that will be mobilized as the front leg swing turns the body from left to right and back with each swing.
- As you get comfortable with this exercise, focus on the feel of the rear foot and how it rolls from the inside to outside edge—very much like the way it should move during the weight transfer in the golf swing. If the rear foot feels stiff and does not roll freely from edge to edge, that’s a key indicator that you need to spend some time doing this exercise consistently.
Once the feet are mobilized and moving more freely, it’s time to work on balance and control. This next exercise is a bit more challenging, but pays off with big dividends once you master it.
The Single Leg Cork Screw:
- Balance on one foot and face forward. If you have difficulty balancing on one foot, you may need to spend more time working on your balance skills. If you need assistance with your balance, place one hand on a wall or any nearby stationary object. You can also use a golf club.
- Turn your entire body in one direction. As you rotate begin to get a sense of how the foot on the floor turns and shifts to the edge. Then rotate your body back to the center and completely through to the other direction. Feel how the foot rotates to the other edge.
- As you progress through repetitions, try to increase your control as the foot rolls from edge to edge. It’s quite challenging, especially if you remove the support hand.
Practiced on a daily basis, your ability to roll your feet as well as heighten your awareness of the rotational force moving upward through your hips will improve. It’s an excellent exercise to enhance the body connection from the foot upward, and therefore a vital exercise to improve your golf swing.
As with all the exercises in the GOLFFOREVER program, we spend a great deal of time teaching the correct techniques using our visual illustrations and videos.
Watch these exercises a few times until you develop a feel for how to properly execute them and we promise that if you spend a little time working on your feet, you’ll see positive changes in both your swing and the way your body performs in all walks of life.
Bill Fabrocini, PT, CSC is a clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy and a sports performance training coach. Mr. Fabrocini has also written numerous articles that have been published in prominent journals including the National Strength and Conditioning Journal and the American Council on Exercise Certified News. Learn more about Mr. Fabrocini here.4