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Healthy Golfer: The Hips Don’t Lie - Australian Golf Digest Healthy Golfer: The Hips Don’t Lie - Australian Golf Digest

If you’re serious about increasing swing speed, now’s the time to work on hip rotation

Whether you’re throwing a punch, smashing a forehand winner in tennis or launching a hockey ball into the back of the net, these activities all have one thing in common with the golf swing – they’re hip-driven. For success in many sports, getting the hips moving correctly with speed and power is crucial.

In golf, a lack of hip mobility and strength can lead to swaying or sliding. Lateral movement of the body to and from the target isn’t necessarily awful. In fact, some really good golfers are known for moving off the ball (Hal Sutton and Louis Oosthuizen, to name two). However, when amateur golfers sway going back or slide going forward, it typically leads to inconsistencies in achieving centre-face contact between club and ball.

A lack of good hip function also is a power killer, says Janis Thornton, a Golf Digest Certified Fitness Trainer. “Our hips are the powerhouse in the swing,” she says. “When we take the clubhead back, we should load the trail leg and have internal rotation of the hip. That internal hip rotation is the secret sauce to powering the golf swing as this allows for the transfer of energy and the generation of power from the foot all the way through to the clubhead.

“When you can get proper internal hip rotation, you channel more force through your swing, which sends your ball farther down that beautiful green fairway. Proper hip rotation also gives you better control and accuracy.

“Our trail leg isn’t the only place we have internal hip rotation. There’s also internal hip rotation on our lead leg when we follow-through. If the golfer moves the lead foot on the follow-through, that lead hip might not be able to tolerate the internal rotation. Think about when you swing; does that front foot move?”

In a moment, Thornton is going to give you some exercises to train your hips for a faster, more functional golf swing. But first, she wants you to take a quick test that she often does with her clients at JT Fitness and Golf in Cave Creek, Arizona.

“Stand straight with your feet facing straight forward. Turn your feet inward, one at a time, pivoting off the heel without moving the rest of your leg or body. That movement is internal hip rotation,” she says. “It’s the inward turning of the hip joint. How far can you turn your feet inward? Test each hip and make sure you can rotate internally at least 40 degrees.”

If that’s a struggle for you (and we’re guessing it is), follow this workout routine provided by Thornton. There are five exercises, and here are the keys and sets/rep recommendations for each:

1. Standing internal rotations

  • Stand with feet facing forward.
  • Get into golf posture (hinge at the hips as if you’re going to hit a 7-iron).
  • Rotating back on your trail leg, put your weight onto your back foot. Feel a stretch in your hip area. Hold for 5 seconds and back to starting position.
  • Rotate to your lead leg. Put your weight on your front foot. Feel the stretch in your hip area. Hold for 5 seconds and go back to starting position.
  • You can do all reps on 1 side or continue to go back and forth.
  • 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps each side.

2. Supine hip windshield wipers

  • Lie on your back, bring legs up with 90-degree knee bend.
  • Make 2 fists with your hands and place them between your knees.
  • Squeeze your knees.
  • Press your feet outward, keeping the bend in your knees and hips.
  • As you press out, hold for 3-5 seconds and release.
  • 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps

3. Internal hip clam shells

  • Lie on your side, bending at the hips and knees.
  • Lift your top leg so it’s parallel to the ground.
  • Moving at the hip, lift your foot up towards the ceiling. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps. Do exercise on each side.

4. Supine internal hip rotations

  • Lie on your back, with knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
  • Have your feet wider than mat width, arms out by your sides.
  • Drop one knee inward keeping your shoulders on the ground.
  • To have a greater stretch, take your free foot and gently place on your knee and push down.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 5-8 times.
  • Do 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps each side.

5. Seated windshield wipers

  • Sit on your mat with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean back onto your hands.
  • Place feet out wider so your knees can fall inward.
  • Let your knees fall side to side like windshield wipers.
  • Do 8-10 reps on each side. 2-3 sets. 

 getty images: Raycat