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Pilates for Golfers

If you’ve worked with golfers (or those who aspire to play), you know the game is not just for leisure seekers. Golf requires force, flexibility and control. Golfers can benefit greatly from working with a Pilates professional who understands not only how the body works but how the right movements address specific needs on the green.

Since golf is a single-sided physical activity, it’s essential to begin by assessing each player’s individual muscular imbalances. Pilates can be exceptionally useful in correcting asymmetries in a golfer’s build. Mental focus can also improve, owing to the concentration required to move through the fluid movements of Pilates while preserving stability.

Golf-Specific Movement

The golf swing includes several phases:

  • address: the moments before swing initiation
  • backswing: the movement of the club head from initial address to the top of the arc swing
  • downswing: the club head’s movement from the top of the arc toward the golf ball
  • impact: the moment the club head contacts the golf ball
  • follow-through: the movement of the club head past impact

During the initial address, a golfer isometrically contracts the forearms, wrists and hands to grip the club. Core musculature stabilizes the lower-extremity muscles to maintain the position. During the backswing, the rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulders and obliques, while the spinal extensors and hip rotators are used to rotate the torso. During the downswing, the rotator cuff, trapezius, core and hip muscles maintain torso stability as the pectoral muscles draw the arms down and the leg muscles transfer weight from back to front, enabling the player to make a powerful yet controlled impact. The hip and trunk musculature supports the body during follow-through, and the rotator cuff decelerates the golf club.

A client who golfs will likely have limited torso flexibility, as well as inadequate rotator cuff and core strength. Incorporating Pilates exercises into a golfer’s conditioning program will promote greater freedom of movement during the swing phase. Pilates will also fine-tune the delicate balance of strength and control that is so essential to a successful golf swing. Pilates, like golf, calls for a stable torso while the extremities fluidly rotate, flex and extend in multiplanar movement.

Sequence for Golfers

1. Gluteal Press and Squeeze

Goals: to strengthen the core and hips and to open the chest.
Begin lying supine with palms face down, 4 inches lateral to hips. Place feet underneath knees, and position Pilates ring between legs just proximal to knees. Inhale, draw bellybutton downward, squeeze Pilates ring, and press hips toward ceiling as you exhale. Pause at top of bridge position, then slowly relax halfway to floor as you inhale. Repeat the squeeze and press 15-20 times. End by gently hugging knees to chest for 30 seconds.

2. Shoulder Internal Rotation

Goals: to strengthen the shoulder and scapula musculature and to encourage a lengthened posture.

Begin seated with legs positioned in soft diamond, soles slightly touching. While holding Pilates ring with both hands in front of chest, inhale, lengthen spine and draw scapulae back. Next, exhale and draw bellybutton toward spine while squeezing Pilates ring. Keep neck relaxed. Be careful not to roll shoulders forward while pressing ring. Perform 12-15 repetitions.

For more exercises in this sequence, plus photographs of the moves, please see “Sample Sequence: Pilates for Golfers” in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2011 issue of IDEA Pilates Today.


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