From a biomechanical perspective, the golf swing is a complex and unnatural movement that works the whole body—but not in symmetrical patterning. Addressing physical limitations through a series of Pilates exercises can help create symmetry and coordination, improve muscular endurance and increase range of motion. Pilates exercises establish coordinated muscle-firing by retraining core muscles, including deep stabilizers, hip flexors and extensors, hip abductors and adductors, and spinal flexors, extensors and rotators.

Both golf and Pilates are mind-body activities that share some of the same basic principles. Golf swing principles are fluid motion, precision, accuracy and power, whereas Pilates principles focus on control, concentration, centering, precision, flow of motion and proper breathing.

A golf pro can help correct a golfer’s technique by altering stance, grip and hip turn ratio. But the underlying fault in any golf swing is in the body itself. The way the ball is hit correlates to physical limitations, such as lack of flexibility, poor rotation, hip instability, general hip or leg weakness, shoulder girdle instability, weakness in the wrists and forearms, and poor core strength. Correcting the golf swing at the time of the swing will not improve the physical cause. The underlying limitations need to be addressed at their physical source, and the body needs to be retrained in order to improve the swing, prevent injury and increase overall performance.

Correcting Physical Faults
These are some of the most common faults in a golfer’s swing:
*backswing sway
*chicken winging
*reverse spine angle or dipping
*lower body lunge
*casting
*poor swing rotation

Each of these faults has a negative effect on the golf swing and a corresponding physical cause. Assessing each problem and defining its cause will enable Pilates professionals to create a program of corrective exercises to improve the golf swing and reduce injury. This first part of this two-part Pilates for golf series details how to help correct backswing sway, chicken winging and reverse spine angle or dipping.

Backswing Sway
Backswing sway occurs when a golfer’s hands drift too far away from the body, pulling the torso on the backswing. This causes too much lateral movement, and the flight path of the ball will likely be a slice or a hook. The causes of backswing sway are lack of balance and an inability to rotate the upper torso.

To correct backswing sway, focus on Pilates exercises for balance that stabilize core muscles and shift the body weight. Create proper foot alignment, and use balls and foam rollers to improve balance. To enhance upper torso rotation, stabilize the pelvis and increase range of motion with torso rotation Pilates exercises. Placing a golf club or pole behind the head across the top of the shoulders and rotating just the upper torso will help increase flexibility and eliminate this problem.

corrective Pilates exercise

core twist with hip rotation

benefits

This increases rotary motion of torso. Use fitness ring, but keep it level and on same plane throughout the movement, in order to stabilize angle of spine in rotation. Reverse movement may be awkward at first but will increase body awareness and improve balance both on and off golf course.

alignment

Stand with feet hip distance apart. Hold fitness ring horizontally, and place it at center of chest, at bottom of rib cage. Press shoulder blades down, and lift elbows until level with ring.

Pilates movement sequence

 

 

step 1: Inhale, and rotate torso to target side.
step 2: Exhale, and swing torso around to nontarget side, keeping ring parallel to floor and shoulders level.

repetitions

Repeat movement 10 times.
Now, start exercise on nontarget side of body, rotating to target side, and repeat 10 times.

notes

To increase upper-body rotation, work with full range of motion, emphasizing starting point of rotation on target side.

Chicken Winging
Another common golf fault is chicken winging, which occurs when a golfer lifts the nontarget elbow on the backswing. This movement changes the angle of the club and the swing path, and the player ends up smothering the ball or hitting the top of it. The cause of chicken winging is shoulder girdle instability.

Use Pilates exercises to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder girdle and minimize range of motion for hypermobile joints. Focus on Pilates exercises that strengthen the infraspinatus, teres minor and posterior deltoid.

corrective Pilates exercise

bow and arrow

benefits

Stabilizing shoulder joint and working muscles through shoulder girdle both concentrically and eccentrically create awareness of how to strengthen the kinetic chain and work through center of joint to maintain crucial joint alignment.

alignment

Stand with feet hip distance apart. Hold fitness ring vertically at chest level. Press shoulder blades down, and lift elbows to chest level. Turn torso and head toward nontarget side.

Pilates movement sequence

 

 

 

 

step 1: Inhale, and stabilize shoulder girdle. Exhale, and pull ring toward target side, hinging from shoulder; keep elbow and wrist on same plane.
step 2: Inhale, and press ring to nontarget side.

repetitions

Repeat 10 times before starting exercise on target side.

notes

Pay close attention to positioning of elbow and wrist. Watch for any break in the kinetic chain. This Pilates exercise, when executed properly, will also strengthen forearms and help reduce wrist and elbow injury.

Reverse Spine Angle
Reverse spine angle (also called dipping) pushes the body weight to the golfer’s front foot. This causes the hips to slide laterally, instead of rotating. The result is that the ball path distance is diminished.

Creating hip stability will correct this problem. Pilates exercises to strengthen the core muscles in the pelvis and the rectus abdominis, external obliques and hip flexors should be the focus for a golfer with this limitation.

corrective Pilates exercise

standing hip balance control

benefits

This Pilates exercise teaches the relationship between balance and counterbalance. The different segments of the Pilates exercise increase hip stability and improve core alignment and fitness.

alignment

Stand with feet hip distance apart. Hold top of fitness ring in both hands. Round torso, keeping hips directly over heels, and place bottom of ring on floor, with ring in vertical position. Torso alignment places hips, knees and ankles in vertical plumb line. Pull shoulders away from ears, keeping head in line with spine, and gaze toward legs.

Pilates movement sequence

 

 

 

 

segment 1
step 1: Inhale, and press circle down without swaying hips or leaning back.
step 2: Exhale; pull navel to spine, and round torso upward to release press on ring. Use core muscles and stabilize hip position. Activate full length of rectus abdominis to maintain body design; do not allow back to flatten.

segment 2
step 1: Maintaining core alignment, lift both heels up and balance on balls of feet.
step 2: Inhale, and lower target heel to floor.
step 3: Exhale, and lift heel, rolling to ball of foot.
step 4: Inhale, and lower nontarget heel to floor.
step 5: Exhale, and lift heel, rolling to ball of foot (both heels are now lifted).

repetitions

Repeat each segment 10 times.

notes

During segment 1, you will be correcting body from swaying front and back. Movement must be performed with no angle movement from hip to knee to ankle.
During segment 2, you will be stabilizing hip sway from side to side. Heel must lower directly under hip, with no release or shift into opposing hip.


Pilates Corrective Exercises for Golfers, Part 2

 

References & Resources
Chek, P., 1999. The Golf Biomechanic’s Manual C.H.E.K. Institute
Cochran, S., 2006. What should i know about biomechanics of the golf swing? EzineArticles.com
Corey, K., 2006. Total Core Fitness. United States: Barron’s Educational Series.
Draovitch, P.,& Westcott, W., 1961. Complete Conditioning for Golf. United States: Human Kinetics.
Horowitz, S., 1999. Golf Fitness. Maryland: You Can Be Fit, Inc.
Kochno, T., 2004 – 2005. Golf faults: Golf swing faults and resulting injuries, Florida, Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation International.
Kochno, T., 2004 – 2005. Swing mechanics: Overview of golf swing mechanics, Florida, Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation International.
Mann, S., 2002. Golf Performance and Pilates, Biomechanics of the Golf Swing: Everything from the Ground Up. Pilates Center of Naples
Martin, L., 2006. Why Are you Still A Hacker? Understand the Purpose of the Golf Swing: The Fundamentals of Ball Contact and Flight Path. lakeside press.com.
Metz, J., 1999. Managing golf injuries, The Physician and SportsMedicine, 27, No. 7.
National Golf Foundation, www.ngf.org
Pedersen, M., 2006. A golf-specific workout will energize your golf game, EzineArtcles.com
Shamus, E., & Shamus, J., 2001. Sports Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation. New York: McGraw –Hill.
Simpson, R., & Kaspriske, R., 2004. The anatomy of power, golfdigest.com.
Simpson, R., & Kaspriske, R., 2004. The body’s prime movers, golfdigest.com.
Wolkodoff, N., 1997. Physical Golf. United States: Kickpoint Press.