You’re a golfer right? Which means someone has inevitably told you that you need to keep your left arm straight, your butt back, your torso tilted, your eye on the ball, your change in your left pocket, the shadow behind you, the target in front of you (what the bleep does that even mean??) and ect. etc.
It also means some fitness professional has, either in person, on a webpage, or through print magazine, told you that you need to activate your glutes (another head scratcher), stretch more, keep your spine limber, stretch more, get strong lats, stretch more and etc. etc. But I would be willing to bet that no one has ever told you to do more pushups, bench press more and just how important your chest is to the golf swing.
Most golfers that work with me, either in person or through remote programming, will see a solid amount of shoulder and chest work, and the response is usually, “Wait. We’re doing bench press?” (Don’t worry; it’s almost always dumbbells b/c it’s just easier on the shoulders.) And then I get the opportunity to say in person what I’m about to write out for you fine folks on the internet.
“Yes. We’re going to bench press, and shoulder press, and mobilize the heck out of them too, because they’re outrageously important to what you’re trying to do better, and that’s swing a golf club.”
And now my favorite part: the WHY.
Go ahead and get in your golf posture like you’re gonna rip one. No, seriously, go ahead and get there, I’ll wait.
Now then, take yourself to the ideal impact position by shifting slightly toward your lead side and rotating into that front hip. Likely you’ll feel your hip gain a slight bit of tension, but notice what your chest now feels like; both pecs should feel highly engaged, and ideally quite firm. This is called contraction my friends, and if you feel that happening, you can bet it is important to the swing. Here is a primo example of this position:
Thanks for the demo Rory.
The process of the pecs (see what I did there?) during the golf swing goes something like this: they start slightly contracted at address, and the lead side will stay engaged as the arms take off on the backswing, but the trail side will now stretch open as the hands go overhead to the top of the backswing. Now, as the lats (primary) and shoulders and arms (secondary) really start to pull those hands back down, that lead side pec will continue to tighten and fire, and as the hands get to about waist high, that trail side pec (right side for right handed golfers) starts really contracting and explodes through impact.
I maintain that the trail side pec has a strong bit to do with the “keeping of speed”. Often times we’ll see guys go from 0-120 on the downswing and then lose some speed before impact. I don’t have the scientific data to support this, but I believe that weak pecs play more than a background part in this. If the chest is strong, then the final push through impact can be supported by it.
If you think you may fit this category, here are a couple of exercises to help.
The first is simple, just start pushing stuff. Push-ups or regular dumbbell bench press are an ideal place to start. Push-ups are awesome if there are no wrist or shoulder issues, dumbbell bench (and going even further to an incline dumbbell bench) is an ideal replacement if such maladies are currently present.
For the pushup, you’ll see my feet together, and I like to think about squeezing my heels, knees and glutes together the entire time. This helps stiffen my lower back and helps prevent the losing of my core position, which is something we desperately don’t want to do on this exercise. Another thing to think about is keeping the head back, and not reaching the nose for the ground.
Bench press is pretty self explanatory, just lower and raise the weights. A couple of things to think about though, make sure you’re not arching your lower back too much, and ideally we are exhaling on the raise of the weights. Other than that, notice the hand path on the video and it’s also ok to turn the palms towards each other, that can be easier on the shoulder also.
The second exercise I’ll give is more of a fly, but a specific variation of one. This will be performed from a hinge position, so similar to a golf swing in posture, although our feet will be staggered for balance.
The pressure will be on the lead foot, and the ”reach back” to the anchor will be slow. This is called an eccentric exercise, and forces the muscle to lengthen under tension. This is also something I use with folks to help loosen up their pecs, if they happen to be really tight. I usually start with about 20lbs and if it feels good, have my folks increase from there.
Give these two a try if you want to start adding in some chest stuff and start keeping that speed down through the hitting zone. There is no replacement for being strong, but it’s also vital that we have strength in the right areas. It wouldn’t do you much good to have a bulked up neck, and no strength in your lower back, for instance. These will help you get strength in an area that is often underestimated and incredibly important.
Get after it!