I have worked in the fitness industry for seven years. It is an industry that breeds misinformation, conflicting information and fads.
Trainers hold base-level qualifications that teach them how to make their clients become rigid, non-athletic bodybuilders. This is fine if your client purely wants to transform their bodies aesthetically – if they want to look good on the beach – however, when it comes to sports performance, injury rehabilitation and restoring natural function to the body (which most people need), this type of training is highly inefficient and in most cases detrimental to making progress. How do I know this? I used to be one of those trainers and I used to train myself that way.
Here are three reasons why beach-body training is killing your golf game.
1. Strength Specific
Where are the mobility exercises? Strength training can be highly beneficial for golf and the general wellbeing of your body. However, most people lack movement range of motion or mobility due to lifestyle (notably sitting for hours). Strength training may increase your ‘strength’ and make you feel ‘wiped’ when you leave the gym, however for the majority of club golfers it really doesn’t do much to make you swing the club better. Generally speaking, increasing mobility yields the best improvements for most golfers and strength training is mostly not specific to these types of gains.
General gym training is based around ‘isolating’ parts of the body, loading more and more weight and training them to ultimate fatigue, for the single desired result of ‘targeted’ muscle hypertrophy or bodybuilding/bodysculpting. How often do you hear references to “leg day”, “chest day” or “back and biceps day”? When I referred to misinformation at the beginning of this article, this is what stands out most. The body does not work in isolation. So how does it make sense to train it in isolation to improve performance? The answer is that it doesn’t. (Exceptions are made for specific and targeted corrective exercises, however not for general strength training.)
Body parts work together in synergy. Picture the golf swing. It is a dynamic movement where everything is moving together to create a two-second co-ordinated movement. Another negative result of ‘isolation’ type training is that your body is always so sore, tight, fatigued, over-trained and constantly trying to recover as a result. This is a horrendous physical base from which to swing the golf club. When we ‘isolate’ parts of our body we also ‘neurally train’ (brain train) our bodies to move that way. If our body parts are designed to work in synergy, you can imagine how this type of training makes our bodies ‘clunky’ and unco-ordinated. The final significant negative effect that beach training has on the body is that it totally neglects our core (no, crunches are not core training!). Sitting on benches and isolating body parts shuts off the deep core muscles that stabilise our spine and pelvis and are responsible for linking segments of our body together functionally.
3. Thoracic Rigidity.
A healthy functioning thoracic spine (mid-back) is so important for golfers. When we beach train our body (isolate parts of the body and lift as heavy weights as we can), over time our thoracic spine becomes stiff and rigid. Stiff and rigid t-spines do not rotate and do not allow the upper and lower body to dissociate from one another and are a major contributor to shoulder and back pain. I’m sure you can appreciate this is a highly significant physical limitation for a golfer in terms of swing/body mechanics, power generation and injury avoidance.
I encourage you to think about your own training and ask yourself, “Am I training for the beach or for my golf swing?” Some isolation strength training is not bad for you, however if this is all that you’re doing week in, week out (or year in, year out) then your golf game isn’t going to get much better and your likelihood of sustaining an injury will only increase.
– Lauren Sanft is a Titleist-certified golf fitness instructor and director of Golf Fitness Co. laurensanft.com.au