Golf Fitness: The Importance of the Squat
The squat in action. Stick your rear out as far as you can, then lower it until your hips are below your knees. Hold at the bottom for a count of two, then stand.
Golf is a game of athleticism and technical skill. While we can practice the technical skill at the driving range and through countless hours out on the various beautiful courses here in Indonesia, it’s difficult to build athleticism. Athleticism is that special combination of strength, coordination, balance, reflexes, quickness, etc. that we often associate with “god given talent”. It requires just the right attention and variety to improve our athleticism, unlike technical skills that require lots of repetition.
Step 1: Getting ready and in position for the squat.
Fundamental to most athletic movements, and certainly golf, is generating power through the hips. A consistent, strong and accurate swing requires excellent translation of power from the legs, through the hips, channeled properly through the core into the arms through the shoulders. It’s a complex movement. Ideally we build athleticism through complimentary complex movements that activate similar muscle pathways.
The squat is indisputably the most fundamental of all strength movements. Think of a baby. Once we learn to hold our heads up and roll over we turn our focus to the squat, which leads to crawling and eventually standing. There are many ways we can enhance the basic squat to achieve athletic benefits. For improving our golf game I believe he Overhead Squat is the most beneficial.
Let’s build our technique first before we consider adding weight. This is the same as learning a proper golf swing before – if ever – trying to swing hard. Take a driver. Hold it up over your head so that your hands are spread wide and you have 12-20cm of space between the top of your head and the shaft. You don’t want your hands so wide that it pinches on your wrist, nor so close that the shaft is over 20cm above your head. Next, bring your shoulder blades together as if you were pinching a finger between them. This creates a shelf behind your neck which will bear the weight of the club. Then, rotate your elbows so that the insides of your elbows are facing forward. Lastly, make sure the shaft is lined up with the crown of your head, which is just behind the middle of your head and over your heels.
Your feet should be straight ahead, placed about shoulder width apart. To initiate the squat, first, put your butt as far back as you can. When you’ve stuck your butt out as far as you can, then lower it until your hips are below your knees. Hold at the bottom for a count of 2, then stand. Work to keep the shaft of the club over the crown of your head, shoulder blades pinched, elbows turned forward and your chest up. If you have writing across your shirt, someone should be able to read it the whole time. Don’t let your chest lower to your knees. It helps to push the knees out to the side as you squat. So at the bottom of the squat your knees should be just outside the outside edges of your feet.
Step 2: The squat in action. Stick your rear out as far as you can, then lower
Most people will find this challenging for their shoulders, hips, balance, and, after 20+ repetitions or so, their legs. Your shoulders and hips should have the flexibility to achieve an upright torso position. By tightening your abs, engaging your shoulder blades and pushing your knees out you can help engage the position.
Complete 50 of these as a warm up before the driving range. Then again, after your work on the range or round of golf, complete another 100. This is also a great non-golf day exercise. Try 10 sets of 20. Once you are comfortable holding this position through 200 squats with just a driver you can begin adding a little weight. Use a simple 15 or 20kg barbell at first, without any extra weight. Always ensure you’re achieving the optimal positioning and technique before adding any more weight.
Remember, like our golf swing, the goal is to move gracefully through the movement. Don’t sacrifice movement quality for weight or you will have lost the majority of the benefit and you may even develop detrimental habits.