Lately, I have been working with many golfers who are finding that Pilates has greatly improved their strength and flexibility and as a result, increased their golf score. Pilates exercises can not only improve your golf game, but they can also help keep you free of injury. Performing pilates exercises regularly will improve your abdominal strength, alignment, balance, coordination and posture.
How is Pilates especially beneficial to golfers as well as to all those involved in other rotational sports such as tennis? Developed by Joseph Pilates, Pilates is a movement methodology that revolves around principles of control, breath, centering, precision concentration and flow. The exercises are core-based, which means that all of them require the active participation of your abdominal muscles, your back muscles, and often your gluteal muscles. In Pilates, you use your own body weight to develop strength and flexibility, particularly in your core and deep stabilizing muscles. In addition to strengthening the core, all exercises that emphasize opening the side body and increasing spinal rotation (particularly in the thoracic spine) are extremely beneficial to golfers. Because golf is a mind-body sport in which precision of movement determines the success of a shot, Pilates exercises can help you to achieve precision and fluidity in your swing.
A golf swing is a complicated movement that “applies compressive forces approximately eight times one’s body weight” at the moment of impact. A golf swing requires the recruitment of many different muscle groups throughout each phase. Core and pelvic stability, spinal flexibility, joint mobility and muscle balance are all key factors in improving a golfer’s overall performance and preventing injuries.
Golf also requires repeating the same essential movements. As a result, some muscles become overused and others weaken, causing an imbalance. These muscle imbalances can affect the legs, hips, arms, shoulders, and the lower back. It can also affect your game, particularly for those over the age of 50. Your drives may be shorter and less accurate, your stamina may decrease, and the potential for debilitating strains, pulls and tears becomes much higher. Many golfers are now turning to Pilates as an essential training tool that keeps the body in balance and actually improves performance. Studies show that about 60 percent of amateur golfers get hurt playing golf and about 50 percent of pros retire because of golf-related injuries.The strength and power required for golf depends on the balance of “length-tension relationships” in your joints. If your joints are stiff, these relationships are out of balance and your range of movement becomes inhibited. Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility.
Golfers need to work on rotation, balance and stability. These three basic Pilates exercises should be a part of every golfer’s routine to help your golf game.
Pelvic tilts increase mobility in your pelvis, hips and lumber spine. Lie on your back with knees bent, arms at your side. Exhale and tilt your pelvis back until your lower back touches the ground. Then inhale and tilt your pelvis toward your upper back, forming a small arch in your back.
The bridge exercise strengthens your gluteal muscles, important in increasing the power and stability of the golf swing. Your pelvis, lower back and core will be strengthened and stabilized by this exercise as well. The basic bridge exercise consists of lying on your back with knees bent. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale flatten your spine pressing evenly into your heels and curling the tailbone off the mat, then continue to peel the spine up one vertebra at a time until the weight is evenly between your shoulder blades. Take a breath in at the top and then exhale again as you roll or peel the spine from the top to the bottom releasing the tailbone last so you come back to neutral position.
Side Lying Leg Circles
The purpose of this exercise is to increase mobility of the hip joint, which will improve your hip turn on the backswing and downswing and reduce lateral motion. Lie on your side with your supporting arm extended over your head. Inhale and lift your top leg as far away from your bottom leg as possible without losing stability in the pelvis. Exhale and circle the top leg while you body stays as steady as possible. Repeat eight to 10 times, reverse the direction of the circle and repeat eight to 10 times, then switch to the other leg and perform the same routine.
“Patience and persistence are vital qualities in the ultimate successful accomplishment of any worthwhile endeavor” – Joseph Pilates
“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness” – Joseph Pilates
Perfect Your Swing!
Nikita Chugani, PMA®-CPT