By Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., and Rita La Rosa Loud.
Quincy, MA – Several years ago we conducted a number of studies with recreational senior golfers who wanted to play longer and stronger. We worked with Dr. John Parziale, one of New England’s leading physicians for golf enthusiasts who have experienced various injuries associated with the explosive swinging action required for powerful golf drives. Although our study participants’ issues included injured knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists and necks the most common problem was low back pain, as is the case for adults and older adults in general.
Our prior research with General Motors had demonstrated that properly designed strength training programs can significantly increase low back strength, improve low back function and reduce low back pain. We wanted our golf study participants to experience the same encouraging results with one additional benefit, namely a more powerful golf swing (faster club head speed) for longer drives. Indeed, the 77 participants in our senior golfers study increased their driving power by six percent after just eight weeks of basic and brief strength training. Perhaps even more important, they had reduced low back discomfort and were able to play golf for longer periods of time and more days a week. In fact, none of the golfers who performed regular resistance exercise experienced any golf-related injuries during the playing season.
In addition to feeling better and playing better, the golf study participants made some major physiological improvements. Although their bodyweight did not change during the eight-week strength training program, they actually lost four pounds of fat and added four pounds of muscle for an eight-pound improvement in their body composition. Their muscle gain was matched by a major increase in muscle strength, including a 50 percent improvement in their leg strength. These golfers also experienced significant reductions in their resting blood pressure readings (both systolic and diastolic).
So how did the study participants achieve such excellent results? They performed one set of 12 Nautilus machine exercises, two or three days a week. Although the exercises cumulatively addressed all of their major muscles groups, four of the exercises specifically strengthened the low back and midsection muscles. The entire training session was completed within 40 minutes, including several Stretchmate exercises for enhanced joint flexibility.
If you would like to experience this golf conditioning protocol, you are welcome to try it out at our Quincy College Health and Fitness Center. Just call at Wayne at 617-984-1716 to set up a couple of (free) trial exercise sessions.
If you prefer to train at home, we recommend the following exercises performed with dumbbells or elastic bands, to strengthen the major muscles used in the golf swinging action.
Squat Exercise for the front thighs, rear thighs and gluteal muscles of the hips. Stand tall with feet wider than shoulders-width apart, holding dumbbells by sides. Lower your hips downward and backwards until your thighs are about parallel to the floor (you may touch your buttocks to a chair seat if you prefer). Raise yourself up to a standing position while exhaling. Be sure to keep your knees above your feet rather than letting them extend too far forward. Use a resistance that enables you to complete about 15 repetitions (about four seconds each) in approximately one minute.
Chest Press Exercise for the chest, front shoulder and rear arm muscles. Lie face up on a bench or piano stool, holding the dumbbells with straight arms directly above your chest. Lower the dumbbells to chest level then press them back up to the arms extended position while exhaling. Use a resistance that enables you to complete about 15 repetitions (about four seconds each) in approximately one minute.
Bent Row Exercise for the upper back, rear shoulder and front arm muscles. Stand with a staggered stance and place your right hand on a bench or piano stool so that your back is parallel to the floor with strong arm support. With your left arm, pull the dumbbell to your chest as you exhale. Use a resistance that enables you to complete about 15 repetitions (about four seconds each) in approximately one minute. Switch arms and repeat with the dumbbell in your right hand.
Standing Side Twist for your midsection muscles. Stand tall with your right side towards a closed door, and one end of the elastic band secured in the door. Fold your arms and hold the other end of the elastic band in your left hand. Slowly turn your torso toward the left (counter-clockwise) against the resistance of the stretching elastic band while exhaling. Do about 10 repetitions (about three seconds each), then reverse sides and repeat.
These four relatively easy to perform resistance exercises should provide general muscle strengthening to improve your golf swing driving power. Just be sure to check with your physician before beginning a new physical conditioning program.
About the Authors: Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., teaches exercise science and conducts fitness research at Quincy College. He has authored 29 books on exercise, including Complete Conditioning for Golf. Rita La Rosa Loud directs the Health and Fitness Center at Quincy College, and has also written exercise and fitness books.
Reprinted from the April 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News.