The golf swing is a complex motion that involves the entire body. This complicated rotational movement uses as many as 32 individual muscles. Like any other physical skill, repetition using the proper form is the best way to improve. However, the dedicated golfer can rapidly increase their skill level by supplementing the basic swing drills with exercises specifically designed to strengthen crucial muscle groups and optimize their response.
Breaking Down the Swing
The three basic components to this movement are called the back swing, the down swing, and the follow through. Most of the power needed to drive the ball across the course is generated by the forward swing component. The back swing stretches key muscles to maximize their ability to generate power in the down swing. A properly executed follow through is necessary to reduce the possibility of injury by allowing muscles to reach their full biomechanical configuration before returning to their resting state.
The power for the swing is built up in three areas, the trunk, the arms, and the wrists. Force generated through the trunk is mainly a translation of rotational force around a pivot and is primarily a function of building momentum. This needs a strong base and a stable pivot. The pivot points are the spine and the hip joints.
The bulk of the propulsive power is generated through the arms, where contraction of the muscles greatly increases the velocity of the club. The seemingly inconsequential contribution of the wrist is important for stability and to properly direct the forces the swing has built up
Muscle Groups Getting into the Act
The major muscle groups used in the trunk are the lateral rotators of the spine and hip. Most of these muscles are part of what is commonly referred to as the core group of back and abdominal muscles. These muscles initially rotate the trunk laterally from left to right in the back swing. After which the group on the other side contracts to rotate the trunk from right to left to power the downswing. Hip and thigh muscles help stabilize the spine and assist in the rotatory motion.
Muscles in the chest, back, and upper arms are used in the downswing to generate propulsive force. This power is translated through the speed built up in the golf club. The main movers of the arm are the pectoralis muscles of the chest and the deltoid muscles of the shoulder and teres and latissimus muscles of the back. Finally, the fine tuning of the direction of the swing is controlled by the muscles of the forearm and wrist.
Training Strategies to Improve Power and Speed
The goals of supplemental training are to improve muscle strength and increase response time. Strengthening core muscles is important, so abdominal exercises and balance drills will help stabilize proper form. Weight lifting is optimally concentrated on the muscles of the chest, shoulders and upper back where power is generated. Most people who do not do manual labor tend to have weak forearm and wrist muscles, so these should be targeted as well.
Isometric training is incorporated into supplemental training to improve response times. Golf swing velocity is best transmitted to ball speed by making the contact time as short as possible. This needs fast muscle responses, so drills to improve speed of muscular contraction are necessary. By balancing both strength and speed, golfers will quickly see improvement in their game.