Strength training and muscle building are important elements for a decent golf game. Not only does fitness improve accuracy, but it also builds and maintains powerful, long drives. Here are five reasons hit the gym before the green.
1. Build explosive power for successful line drives.
Golf is a sport that centers on explosive power. Boston-based Titleist Performance Institute trainer Paul Gozbekian said the muscle groups you might train for a powerful jump to get the basketball in the basket capture the same explosive power you need for a strong line drive.
“How we train golfers isn’t really different from how a person might train for any other sport, like football, baseball, or basketball,’’ said Gozbekian, who works as a personal training manager at the Equinox on Dartmouth Street. “A lot of a golfer’s distance and power they use to get the ball off the tee is strongly related to their vertical leap.’’
2. Golf is a total body sport.
At Equinox, Gozbekian will assesses a person’s strength, flexibility, mobility, as well as their ability to separate the upper from the lower body, otherwise known as rotatation. These are all essential elements to make or break a golf game.
After a physical review and analysis of a client’s golf swing, Gozbekian builds a custom training program that helps people meet their individual fitness and golf goals.
“Golf is really a total body sport,’’ said Gozbekian. “That being said, most people are going to need work in the mid-thigh to mid-thoracic spine range. So we build glute strength and those deep core muscles to build strength and stability, while we also look to improve mobility in the hips, upper spine, and even as specific as the ankles, shoulders, and wrists.’’
How Gozbekian trains the golfers isn’t really different from how he would train someone for any other sport, but training assessments at Equinox really depend on the conditioning level a person comes in with, and Gozbekian said a lot of the golfers he sees are just getting into a fitness routine.
3. Mobility and flexibility improve swing rotation.
“Golf is usually a part of their business or leisure activities, so as a result we will see a lack of joint mobility or flexibility in the shoulders, and a lack of mobility in the hips or thoracic spine, even as far down as the ankles,’’ said Gozbekian.
Flexibility, as far as joint and muscle mobility, is a really big issue, but simply static stretching won’t get the job done.
“When you do those long, static stretches, they get the muscle to relax, but we don’t want it to. We want the muscle loose and alive and ready to fire off that golf ball,’’ said Gozbekian. He encourages clients to loosen up or work on flexibility with more active activities such as yoga that start with smaller and easier motions and then move into deeper stretches that allow the hips, ankles, spine, and shoulder areas to really open up.
4. Prevent common injuries.
That lack of mobility is often what causes injuries for golfers, specifically in muscles involved with rotation. Back is the primary problem area, according to Gosbekian. Remember Tiger Woods? He’s out for who knows how long for various back problems.
“Typically for about 50 percent of golfers that start out have an injury there,’’ said Gozbekian. “Actually, it’s probably more than that, because that’s who is formally documenting their back injuries and back pain. There are probably more people dealing with this discomfort, who are managing the pain taking an anti-inflammatory before and after.’’
While the Equinox team always refers clients out to a medical professional for lower back pain longer than a couple of weeks, the team will work with physical therapists, and then take the client through a series of strength and mobility training to help relieve back pain by encorporating back strengthening exercises.
Other injuries to watch out for? Tennis elbow, wrist and neck issues. “These all tie back to a lack of strength and mobility,’’ said Gozbekian. “If you don’t have the strength and mobility, your body will make up for that one way some how.’’
Gozbekian describes how he sees clients that think they’re rotating, but they actually have a lower spine curvature because they can’t rotate their thoracic spine. “It might feel like they’re rotating, but they’re really just arching their lower back. If you look at the way the body is positioned, it will definitely highlight why they’re experiencing lower back pain and injury.’’
Here are some conditioning exercises to get you started:
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
A previous version of this article said that Gozbekian runs the Titleist Performance Institute at Equinox. Gozbekian is certified through the Titleist Performance Institute, but works as a personal training manager at Equinox.