Developing Power for Golf, Part II: Upper Body Strength
Often times, golfers will focus on lower body exercises or strength while neglecting the upper body. Otherwise, golfers may be scared because the thought is, “I do not want to get too bulky” to swing a golf club. That’s one of the myths with strength training in general that has no basis, but I want to make golfers aware that strength training is extremity beneficial. Just like lower body strength, upper body strength matters for the golf swing. One of the big takeaways for upper body strength is developing acceleration or increase club head speed with the arms. Other improvements from upper body strength is improved rotational power from the mid back/thoracic spine and shoulders. It’s true that the hips start the down swing, but the upper body finishes the golf swing especially the impact position when club meets the golf ball. This article will give guidance on how to build up upper body strength, maintain that strength, and turn that strength into power for the golf swing.
The focus/main idea is to start developing a baseline of strength for the upper body that translates to the golf swing. Some of the exercises will be single arm or unilateral. Other exercises with be with both arms or bilateral. The goal is to improve upper body strength helping club head speed, working towards a reduced risk of injury, and preparing the upper body to handle the repetitive motion along with forces involved in the golf swing. Another benefit of upper body strengthening is being able to maintain an athletic posture in the golf swing from start to finish aided by lower body strengthening mentioned in the previous article. This article is a starting point to develop a routine along with simple, basic exercises to aid in improvements for upper body strength. All of the exercises will have key points and guidance on how to do the exercises given safely with sold technique/body mechanics. Once again, this is to help knock strokes off an individual’s golf game, getting stronger and fitter, and improving an individual’s quality of life/health.
Here are six exercises for upper body strength and power development:
Both Arms/Bilateral Movements
1) Bench Press (Dumbbell Bench Press Shown)
Key Points: Start with your shoulder blades and back on the bench lying flat with both feet touching the floor. Bring the dumbbells to the chest around shoulder width apart, then push the dumbbells up towards the ceiling and lower the dumbbells down after getting to the top. Repeat the sequence.
2) Horizontal/Straight Line Pull (Face Pulls Shown)
Key Points: Start with the pulley at chin height, then bend the knees while keeping the trunk tall/vertical. Grab the pulley and grip the handle with knuckles up on both hands shoulder width apart. Bring the handle towards the chin while bending the elbows keeping the arms out to the side. Bring the arms forward and gradually straightening the elbows away from the chin. Repeat the sequence.
3) Vertical/Up and Down Pull (Lat Pull Down Show)
Key Points: Start with the arms overhead on the bar at shoulder width apart seated on the bench. Keep the trunk tall/vertical, then pull the bar down towards the chest in front of the body. Bring the elbows down into the armpits and bent, then gradually straighten the elbows while taking the arms overhead with the bar going back up. Repeat the sequence.
Single Arm/Unilateral Movements
4) Single Arm Bench Press (Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press Shown)
Key Points: Start with your shoulder blades and back on the bench lying flat with both feet touching the floor. Bring the dumbbell to the chest with the arm that will be using the weight while the other arm is in a relaxed position on the side of the bench. Use the arm with the weight to push the dumbbell up towards the ceiling while the non-active arm stays by the side of the bench. Lower the dumbbell down with the arm using the weight after getting to the top. Repeat the sequence.
5) Single Arm Row (Single Arm Bent Over Dumbbell Row Shown)
Key Points: Start by putting the leg on the side without the weight on the bench and bend the knee. Keep the trunk flat and almost parallel to the bench along with the arm not working gentle pressed against the bench for support. Keep the arm using the weight straight at the start then bring the arm into the armpit bending the elbow while pulling the shoulder slightly back. Start to straighten the arm with the weight and bring the shoulder forward to the start position. Repeat the sequence.
6) Single Arm Pull Down (Half Kneeling Single Arm Pull Down Shown)
Key Points: Start with the non-active side knee bent and foot flat on the ground while the non-active arm stays at the side of the trunk. Keep the trunk tall and put the active side leg down on the ground or a pad with the knee bent. Start with the active arm straight overhead then pull down the weight down towards the armpit/rib area with the elbow bent. Let the active arm go back to the start position with a straight elbow and finishing with the arm back overhead. Repeat the sequence.
There are many variations of all six of these exercises, so do not hesitate to stop in for further training and performance of upper body strength to develop a plan for improvements in your golf game.
– Andrew Roberts, PTA, CSCS, TPI Level 1