Pilates For Your Golf Game

Golf follow through swing

How Pilates
Improves Your Golf Game

While Reducing Risk of Injury

 

Golf is generally regarded as a low-risk sport. Yet, this wildly popular, lifelong pursuit is associated with a surprising number of debilitating injuries. According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, 40 percent of amateur golfers and 60 percent of professional golfers suffer traumatic and overuse injuries while playing golf.

Rocco Mediate is a prime example. The winner of 6 PGA tournaments, he is considered one of the best putters in golf. However, plagued by severe back pain before and after major back surgery, it is Pilates training Mediate credits for saving his golfing career.

“Pilates never compromises your back,” says Mediate. I’ve got more motion in my shoulders, midsection and legs. I can repeat my basic swing more often. Pilates is going to add five, six, seven … years to my career.”

Jill Lieber, Male Athletes Get No Pain, Big Gains
From Pilates
(USA Today, Aug 17, 2003)

Golfers are constantly torqueing their bodies. The shoulder and upper body must rotate one way, while the lower body rotates in the opposite direction. Nearly every muscle and joint in the body is involved, and they must all act in one coordinated movement.

Also, golfers swing from one side only, using the same muscles over and over again, usually on their dominant side. This inherent asymmetry ultimately creates muscle imbalances that affect the legs, hips, arms, shoulders and, most often, the lower back. As a result, drives get shorter and less accurate, while the potential for incapacitating muscle strains, pulls and tears becomes much higher.

Why Pilates for golf?

Fundamental to an effective golf swing is proper posture, flexibility, stability and strength. Rocco Mediate is joined by the likes of Phil Mickelson, Kelli Kuehne, Annika Sorenstam, Tiger Woods and many other professional golfers who recognize that the focus Pilates places on posture, fluidity and control of movement directly transfers to the movement skills required on the golf course.

Core Strength

Pilates is particularly helpful to golfers because it is based on movement from the center of the body, as are most shots in golf. In Pilates, this center is referred to as the “core” and includes the trunk, shoulder girdles and pelvis. Building core strength improves hip rotation, range of motion in the shoulders and back stability, all leading to more accurate and powerful golf shots.

Balance

To overcome the many muscle imbalances caused by the one-sided nature of the golf swing, Pilates exercises work both sides of the body to equalize strength, achieve optimal alignment, and bring the body back into balance to create a smoother, more powerful swing.

Flexibility

In addition to building core strength and balance, Pilates practice simultaneously increases flexibility. Flexibility is essential for all aspects of golf conditioning. By increasing rotational flexibility and correcting muscular imbalances to improve posture, drives become longer, straighter and more accurate.

Stability

A stable body provides a solid framework for all movement and activities. Stability in the pelvic and shoulder girdles leads to better balance transfer in the golf swing and greater core-connected power for club head speed.

It is important to note that attempting to improve golf strengthening or power without first achieving flexibility and stability is likely to be ineffective and can cause injury. Pilates helps the golfer achieve flexibility, stability and strength in the correct order.

Concentration

Concentration is one of the founding principles of Pilates, and every movement requires you to concentrate on exactly what your body is doing. Improved concentration helps fine-tune your golf swings and make the most out of your game.

Because golf and Pilates share these identical principles, Pilates is undoubtedly the ideal training partner for anyone in search of a fitness program designed to improve their golf swing while minimizing likelihood of injury.

Putting it all Together

Below are diagrams of the muscles groups that must be triggered to optimize a golf swing. It consists of three phases: the backswing, the downswing and the follow through.

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References:

  1. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine: “Golf Injuries.”
  2. Lieber, J., “Male Athletes Get No Pain, Big Gains From Pilates,” USA Today (Aug 17, 2003).
  3. The Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle Fitness (July 2015).
  4. Davies, C & DiSaia, V., “Golf Anatomy,” Human Kinetics (2010).