Six Exercises Every Golfer Should Know and Everyone Else Should Try

For golfers, a “good swing” is at least as attractive as a “good putt.” That’s because strong glutes are essential to golf.

The three muscles that make up the back—the gluteus minimus, medius, and maximus—help move the hip joint and stabilize the pelvis.

Hip stability is critical for golfers as they swing and follow through, says Corey Gregory, a Granville, Ohio, golf coach who has worked with golfers such as Scott Stallings and country music star Jake Owen. And whether you play golf, strong glutes are key to maintaining balance and posture.

Weak or tight glutes can affect the spin of your golf swing, which in turn can cause a loss of power and distance, says Mr. Gregory. “Tiger Woods used to say that if he didn’t have a burn in his back, he would feel it in his back,” Mr. Gregory said. A sedentary lifestyle is a common cause of gluteal dysfunction, he says, adding, “Then the lower back muscles compensate.”

We produce power from the ground up, says Mr. Grigory. If you have a strong, stable posterior chain—all the muscles along the lower body—your power won’t flow during your swing. “When you complement it with a strong core, there’s a seamless flow of power from the lower body to the upper body,” he says.

These exercises will improve the golf game of both pros and beginners. They also help prevent soreness, whether you’re a runner or a cyclist who spends most of the day at a desk, or someone who’s new to exercise.

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Front Squats

Why: Mr. Gregory believes it is the best move for golfers. “It teaches us how to use land to produce additional energy,” he says. This exercise strengthens all the muscles of the back, especially the quadriceps, and works the core.
How can: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward. Raise each dumbbell to rest on each shoulder, one end of each weight facing forward. Your elbows should remain high, triceps parallel to the floor throughout the movement. Keep your chest high by pulling your shoulders back and down as you bend your knees and plant your hips back and down. Try to keep your thighs parallel to the floor. Press into your heels to return to a standing position. Repeat one to three times 10 to 12 times.
Option: A more traditional front squat uses a barbell. Research shows that barbell front curls put less stress on the lower back and knees. Stand in a deadlift behind a bar that is raised to the middle of the mat. The hand placement may feel awkward at first. Hold the barbell in your palms so that the bar rests on the meaty parts of your shoulders above your collarbones. Your fingers should be pointing towards you and stabilizing the bar rather than holding it. Keep your chin up and your triceps parallel to the floor.

Mr. Gregory performs a front squat using dumbbells.


Photo:

Eric Wagner for the Wall Street Journal

Isometric Single Leg Glute Bridge

Why: It’s a great, equipment-free way to strengthen your glutes, as well as your quads and hamstrings. “The extended stance has a positive impact on the golf swing,” says Mr. Gregory.
How can: Lie on your back, bend your knees, place your feet hip-width apart on the floor, and open your arms like a T. Raise your right leg and keep it straight, leg bent. Push through your left heel to lift your butt and lower your back off the floor. Your body should be in a straight line from your left knee to your shoulder at hip level. Squeeze your stomach at the head. Count for 10-15 seconds. Lower slowly. Repeat 10-12 times, then switch the raised leg. Complete sets one through three.

Mr. Gregory demonstrates an isometric single leg glute bridge.


Photo:

Eric Wagner for the Wall Street Journal

Single-Leg Stiff Leg Deadlift

Why: This exercise combines stability and strength while activating all the muscles of the back. It also trains one-leg balance and works the small, stabilizing muscles in the calves and feet.
How can: Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and balance on your right leg. Bend your right knee slightly, lower your chest toward the floor, and lift your left leg off the floor behind you. Align your left leg with your torso as your body leans forward. Keep your hips square and your lower back arched. Your arms may hang below your shoulders. When the dumbbell is slightly above the floor and your body is almost in a T shape, pause and slowly return to the starting position. Complete 10 repetitions and switch legs. Do one to three sets.
Options: If you have difficulty balancing, start with no weights and try to master the movement. For challenges, rotate your torso as you reach the bottom of the movement. If you’re balancing on your right leg, drop your right arm down and point your left arm toward the sky. Hold for five seconds and return to the starting position.

Mr. Gregory does a stiff leg delfting with one leg.


Photo:

Eric Wagner for the Wall Street Journal

Bicycle Crunches

Why: It focuses on coordination while training the core muscles, especially the obliques.
How can:
Lie on your back, hands behind your head. Raise your shoulders off the ground. Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and alternately extend your legs to just lift off the ground. As you extend each leg, twist your body so that your elbow touches the opposite knee. don’t give up. Just look up from the lifted knees with your hips toward the ceiling. If you feel any pain in your lower back, do not lower the leg so low. Complete one to three repetitions of 10 to 20.

Mr. Gregory works his inclines with bicycle crunches.


Photo:

Eric Wagner for the Wall Street Journal

Isometric lower back extension

Why: This exercise targets the lower back, glutes, hamstrings and core and is great for improving posture.
How can: Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight and arms out in front of you. Place your eyes on the tip of your nose and keep your head in a neutral position. Simultaneously raise your arms, palms down, and feet 3-6 inches off the floor. Stop if your back hurts. Engage your core and try to squeeze your back and shoulders at the top. Hold for three to five seconds, then slowly lower. Rest 10 seconds in between and repeat five to 10 times. Complete two to three sets.
Option: If this is difficult, start by lifting only the arms and then the legs.

Mr. Gregory has a modified extension at the rear.


Photo:

Eric Wagner for the Wall Street Journal

Walking Lunges

Why: Mr. Gregory tries to jump 800 meters every day. “This exercise strengthens the legs and also helps golfers build cardiovascular endurance during long days on the course,” he says. He recommends using them toward the end of your workout.
How can:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Kick your right leg forward and reach your left arm forward, bringing your body in line with your knee and leg until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Do not let the knees go past the toes. Bend your left knee to about 90 degrees. Swing the right arm forward and press your right foot to step the left foot forward. Get drowned. Keep your spine tall as you lean forward. Start with 50 to 100 lunges and work your way up.
Options:
If this is difficult, you can step your feet together before starting to lunge on the opposite foot. Add a lower body twist to the lunge to activate your core.

Mr. Gregory will do the walking.


Photo:

Eric Wagner for the Wall Street Journal

Email Jen Murphy at [email protected]

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