We don’t normally think of golf as a high-impact sport, like football or hockey, but it can still cause injuries.
Think about it. When we play golf, we repeat the same movements, whether we’re twisting our bodies to swing a driver, leaning over to sink a putt or crouching to measure the green. In doing so, we tend to overuse some of our muscles while others take a back seat. These muscle imbalances can cause back, shoulder and other body pains and can lead to injury – muscle pulls and tears.
Then, our game suffers.
Let’s face it, golf requires a lot of patience and practice to play well. Add in some pain or injury, and we grow frustrated, wishing we could hit the ball farther and straighter, and had the endurance to make it through all 18 holes.
To face these challenges, many golfers – from weekend amateurs to pros like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods – have discovered the power of Pilates to help them strengthen and balance their muscles, gain better body control, boost their performance and avoid injury.
Here’s how Pilates can help you improve your golf game:
1. Better Balance Means More Control
Better balance gives you better control over the golf club and the ball – and it starts with a strong core. Pilates exercises focus on strengthening the muscles in the center (core) of your body – your deep abdominal, back and pelvic floor muscles. A strong core gives you better posture and helps you move more efficiently.
Pilates also strengthens and lengthens all your muscle groups (arms, legs, back, shoulders) in a balanced way. By incorporating proper spinal and pelvic alignment, exercises target major and minor muscle groups evenly without overworking one and underworking another. By strengthening and lengthening muscles at the same time, you increase your flexibility and range of motion. With a balanced musculature, you gain better spinal mobility and body control while reducing the chances for injury and chronic back pain.
2. Focusing on Abs Avoids Back Strain
When golfers swing a club, they tend to overuse their back muscles, which can cause a lot of strain. The missing ingredient is stronger abdominal muscles. If you focus on engaging your abs when you swing the club, you’ll hit more powerful, accurate shots and reduce the chances for back pain or injury.
Pilates is all about building a strong, stable core, and body/muscle awareness is an important piece of the puzzle. By practicing Pilates, you not only strengthen your abdominals, you learn how and when to engage them for maximum effect.
3. Strong Glutes, Hamstrings Boost Power
While strong abdominal muscles play a critical role in improving your golf game, the power of your swing also depends on building strong glutes and hamstrings. You can strengthen these muscles, particularly at their connection point, by practicing a variety of Pilates exercises, including bridging and hip dips, as well as squats and lunges. Strong glutes and hamstrings help you power swing from your lower body so you can drive the ball farther and straighter, and avoid overworking your back, hips and shoulder muscles.
4. Shoulder Mobility Improves Performance
A poorly executed golf swing – with an over-reliance on the wrong muscle groups – can put a lot of stress on your shoulder muscles and joints. In fact, rotator cuff injuries are among the most common golf-related injuries. Pilates strengthens your shoulder girdle in a balanced way to create stability and give you more power. It also increases flexibility in your shoulders, giving you a greater range of motion. Together, these two factors give you a more fluid swing and enable you to hit more powerful and accurate shots.
5. Proper Rotation Prevents Back Pain
Swinging a golf club involves a lot of twisting, so proper rotation is key to a successful drive. Pilates not only strengthens your core muscles, it increases your flexibility and spinal mobility to give you greater rotation. It also teaches you body awareness so you engage the right muscles to properly rotate your body without strain or injury. Ultimately, better rotation gives you an efficient and powerful swing.
Don’t let injury or frustration keep you from the pastime you love. Use Pilates exercises as a training tool to rebalance your body, strengthen your core and improve your flexibility. These elements will combine to improve your golf game while keeping you strong and healthy. For more information on how Pilates can help your golf game, learn more about our Pilates for Golf workshops.