Golf is a game of skill. But it’s also a game that requires the body to produce a significant amount of twisting (also known as rotational) force.
From the ankles and knees through the back, hips and shoulders, twisting force transfers from the ground up and culminates in the club producing fast speeds that enable the ball to be hit high, straight and far. From this perspective, it’s easy to understand why serious golfers should not only work on their swing but also take time to perform exercises that build upon rotational strength and power.
The challenge is finding the most applicable rotational training for the golf swing that also help to reduce the risk of injury. Here we present the start of a well-rounded rotational exercise program.
Begin with simple mobility exercises
Before you build strength, it’s vital to increase rotational mobility. Attempting to perform rotational exercises with any degree of speed or force without first addressing mobility is a recipe for disaster. Your body must be able to move freely to reap the benefits of rotational training as well as reduce the margin for injuries.
For golf, you want to increase mobility in the hips, the mid and upper back, and the shoulders. Here are some key exercises for each:
The figure 4 stretch for hips
Lie on your back and cross one leg over the other. Use the non-crossed leg as a “lever” to pull the other leg toward you, creating a stretch in the back of the hip. Hold for about 15 seconds.
Upper back extension with rotation on a foam roller
Simply getting on the floor and lying over a foam roller placed in between your shoulder blades does wonders. Once on the roller, extend and rotate your torso in both directions to free up the mid and upper back.
Simply cross one arm across the body. Use your other hand to grab the back of that upper arm and pull and pull it across the body, creating a stretch in the back of the shoulder. Hold for about 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Move on to rotational strength training
Once you’ve attained rotational mobility, you can advance to rotational strength training to create body twisting forces that can increase swing speed and control to absorb the forces generated.
If the body accelerates, it needs to have the ability to decelerate or damage will occur. It’s no coincidence that many golfers often suffer from injuries because they don’t have the ability to absorb the forces they create during their swing.
In the GOLFFOREVER program, we break up rotational strength exercises for golf into two categories:
1. Exercises that control rotational force.
2. Exercises that produce rotational force.
Here are examples of each:
- Stand sideways to a cable or tubing anchored at about chest height and pull the arms to the chest taking up the slack of the tube to build tension.
- Then reach your arms out in front of your body to create the rotational force.
- Remember, this is a control exercise, there is no body turn — simply fight the tension.
Over time, the body adapts and develops strong core muscles that can withstand the rotational forces this exercise creates. It is a critical element to build twisting control deceleration ability, as well as a key fundamental to building rotational power.
Whole Body Rotation
The setup is similar to the one above, but with a major difference: the body turns as one cylinder unit.
- Stand sideways to the anchored tubing holding the grips in front of the body.
- First, turn the body toward the anchor point so the tubing has slack.
- Then, with a full-body turn, rotate your body away from the anchor point so the tubing builds up tension.
- It’s critical to rotate the body as one unit from the hips—think of your navel as the center point that first turns toward the anchor point and then away from it.
- Attempt to master this rotational pattern first with slow controlled speed. Over time, you can pick up speed as well as use tubes that offer more resistance.
Practicing this exercise will fine tune a safe and efficient rotational pattern, as well as increase your body’s ability to twist with greater speed and power.
Rotational training for golf is one of the most important things you can do to increase clubhead speed and reduce the risk of injuries. It takes time and consistency, but remember: change only comes with commitment.
Bill Fabrocini PT, CSCS
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.