10 Exercises for New Golfers
In this episode, I wanted to break things down very simply for those of you that might be new to the game of golf or simply newer to the idea of getting in the gym to help your golf game. Regardless of whether you are just learning how to swing a club or a kettlebell, mastering these basic exercises will give you more strength, balance, confidence, and awareness of how your body works. All of this will absolutely transfer over to better control, endurance, and strength on the course.
We’ve often talked on the podcast about the 5 main components that you should include in your workouts (Push, pull, squat, deadlift, rotate) but today, I’m going to share some of my favorite specific exercises to start with. (NOTE: If you would like to learn more about the 5 Main Components mentioned above, check out our 4 part video series “The Golf Fitness Roller Coaster” )
Remember, you don’t need to over complicate things. Until you are at a much higher level of training, you need to master the basics.
There are tons of ex’s that could have been added to this list, but I thought 10 would be good to start. Is this a definitive “Best Exercise List?” No, I don’t think there really is such a thing, but being competent in these 10 exercises will get you started on the right track.
One last note, you’ll often hear me talk about including mobility, sprints, swing speed training, etc. For this episode, I’m not including any of that stuff. To keep it simple, we are simply focusing on the strengthening exercises.
Doing the following exercise properly can and will help mobility if you focus on posture, form, and full ranges of motion. I don’t really worry too much about sprints and swing speed training until I know that the golfer has some of these tools in their box.
1. The Plank
This is a great drill to teach the concept of tension.
Keep the hands/forearms parallel to each other, NOT rotated inward.
Squeeze the quads, glutes, pull shoulder blades down/back, tighten the abs to pull hips off the floor.
(note: my elbows could be a little further forward, more under the shoulders to make this even a little more effective)
I mentioned the Paloff Press in the episode, but it is not in the video. I will include that at a later date.
2. Split Squats DB
Squats are hard for many people. Splits squats are easier to start
Less stress on the back
Lots of variations (DB, KB, Bar, elevate a foot)
3. Goblet Squats KB (heels up 1st)
Easier that barbell squat
Great improving trunk/core activation (hold bell slightly away)
Really opens hips (glutes, groin)
Creates awareness of posture
4. KB Deadlifts (DB, sumo, single leg)
Easier to get people in position
Can start w/ bell on a box (height adjust)
Find it easier to teach hip hinge (can go to wall if needed)
Can add serious weight (2 KB) or progress to barbell
Complete work for the back of the body (glutes, HS, shoulders, back)
5. 1-Arm DB Press (1/2 off the bench)
Easier on the shoulder
Great for reducing imbalances R/L
Forces you to work the midsection
When partially off the bench, really increases trunk activation and even hip mm/glutes
6. DB Row at Bench
Everyone should know how to do a real row
Great for showing you proper shoulder/shoulder blade mechanics
When done right this exercise is great for creating trunk activation, true tension, grip strength, back/posture
7. Hip Extension/Hamstrings Curls on Ball
Exercise that should be pretty easy, but almost everyone has trouble with
Glutes and Hamstrings (underutilized in most people)
A bit of an unnatural move – teaches you how to lock out the hips (“plankish”)
8. Low Pulley Row (anti-rotation and with rotation)
We need more pulling in general
Love using the pause in rows to teach lat and scap positioning/activation
9. Seated Shoulder External Rotation (“Costanzas”)
Often an eye-opener for new clients as to how weak their rotation is
Stabilizes the shoulder in the right position
Easy to focus on the shoulder blade position and create real rotation
10. Trap 3
Great for the shoulders/shoulder blades (scapular muscles)
Will show you your limitations in lifting your arm overhead
Most people feel very restricted
Emphasizes control of your low back and trunk
You’ll notice a few things that you might be questioning.
Why are there are not a lot of rotation or lateral motions? Remember, you need to build a base first.
Where are all the ab and core exercises? When you really learn how to create tension in your body during these type of exercises, there is less need for a bunch of auxiliary “core” exercises.
If this was helpful, then I would definitely encourage you to go check out the video series we put together on the essentials you need for your golf fitness program:
The Golf Fitness Roller Coaster
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Jeff Pelizzaro: The 18Strong podcast, episode number 176: 10 Great Exercises for the New Golfer.
Announcer: Welcome to the 18Strong podcast, where you get direct access to the world’s greatest experts on training harder, practicing smarter, and playing better golf. Now, here’s your host, Jeff Pelizzaro.
Jeff Pelizzaro: What’s up, everybody? Welcome to the 18Strong podcast. Thanks for joining us this week, where we are talking about exercises this week.
I know that there’s a lot of golfers listening, serious golfers. There’s a lot of fitness professionals, medical professionals, that might be listening to the show. But we’re going to scale it back a little bit this week, and I want to talk to those of you out there that might be, maybe, newer to golf, maybe newer to the training side of things, and aren’t quite sure where you need to go, where you need to start.
Oftentimes, it can be really overwhelming. You get involved in something new, and you don’t know where to start. You don’t have anyone kind of guiding you and telling you what to do. And so, what we’re going to do today is go through some of the top 10 exercises that I would prescribe for someone that I’m seeing for the first time. You know, it could be somebody, again, that is pretty fresh to the game of golf, but more so even, a little fresh to the training side.
I want to always start with very basic-level stuff, but it can also be very challenging. So it doesn’t mean that, because you’re starting with some of these, what some people would look at as maybe simpler exercises … Simple isn’t bad, simple can be good, and simple can get very hard, if done right.
So, in the past, you’ve probably heard us talk about five main components that I like to put into a fitness program. And if everybody kind of abided by these five things, most people would be doing a lot more smart and structured programming when they’re in the gym. And those five things are: pushing, pulling, squatting or lunging, deadlifting or some sort of hinging activity, and then some sort of rotation. And then, depending on what else you have going on, you know, some other extra activities, corrective exercises, mobility work, other more isolated activities.
But it’s a big philosophy here at 18Strong that you don’t need to overcomplicate things, and until you’re at a much higher level of training, you need to master the basics. And really, for most people, I find that sticking with the basics, maybe varying it a little bit, is absolutely golden when it comes to making sure that they’re functional. Making sure that things are working right. Making sure that they’re actually truly getting stronger, not just bouncing from one exercise to another exercise, to keep things entertaining.
So, if you want any more information on kind of the philosophy behind the five things to put in a program, and really, what I consider to be the important pieces to go into a full-blown golf fitness program, we put together a video series called The Golf Fitness Rollercoaster. Because I know a lot of you are on this rollercoaster of getting into shape, kind of scaling back on exercises, maybe gaining a few pounds, and wanting to lose the weight, and getting serious about your training program, then kind of backing off, serious about your practice.
I like to call that the golf fitness rollercoaster, so we put together a video series at 18Strong.com/rollercoaster. You can go watch that, it’s a four-part video series. You’ll get emailed different videos over the course of a couple of days. And it’ll kind of walk you through the basic premise of my philosophy and our philosophy here at 18Strong, if you want any more details there.
But, in regards to today’s program. The following are exercises that you would most likely… If you kind of look through most of my programs that I’ve put together for newcomers or people that are kind of restarting at the beginning of the year, these are going to be exercises that you’ll pretty much always see either exactly, or some variation, in the programs that I design for these people.
Oftentimes, when somebody is just starting, we would say that they have a low training age, or a low training IQ, meaning that maybe they don’t have a lot of experience in the gym. And the same would go for somebody out on the golf course, a high handicap, or somebody just starting. It would kind of be like they have a lower golf age, or higher handicap is a way to say that.
But, there’s tons and tons of exercises that I could have put into this show, but I thought that just 10 would be good to start. So, it’s not that I’m saying, “These are my favorite 10 exercises, these are the only top 10 exercises I would ever do.” It’s definitely not a definitive.
There’s some times that I’ll go with other exercises, depending on a possible client’s needs, or how creative I want to be that day. Or, you know, simply because I thought of something else at that moment when I was designing that program, that I felt would suit the needs of that person, and get them to where they need to be. So, again, these are not definitive, “You have to do this the first time you ever step into a gym, or the first time you start a golf fitness program,” but they’re definitely staples in the programs that I put together.
Also, in other episodes, you’ll hear me talk about a lot of mobility drills. You’ll hear me talk about doing high intensity kind of activities, or sprints, and working on swing speed, using the SuperSpeed golf clubs to work on swing speed, and creating some power movements. I’m not necessarily including that stuff in today’s episode, because I want to start even more basic than that.
I want to start with, simply, some strength exercises that you can use to help learn how to control your body, learn how to balance your body. Learn how to really go through proper movements, and be able to handle, and make your joints move in the directions that we really want them to move and to work. And to balance out what you have going on in your program.
So, doing these exercises, I have found, with clients — even when I don’t have time to go into a lot of detail oriented corrective exercises or mobility drills with people, sometimes that situation just isn’t available — I find that, when emphasizing these strength exercises, or variations of, and really focusing on their posture, really focusing on their form, and really focusing on going through full ranges of motion with every exercise?
I notice that that improves their mobility. That improves their balance. And I don’t worry so much about sprints and swing speed training until I know that somebody has these tools, and has these basic fundamentals, in their toolbox, and they’re able to handle a little bit of load on their body.
You’ll also notice that I’m not going to include a whole lot of rotation in this list, because I feel that you have to, as my buddy Jason Glass would say, you have to earn the right to rotate. So, if I find that somebody can’t do a lunge, or can’t do a squat, or can’t do a deadlift, or hinge properly, I’m not going to go ahead and throw a bunch of load on them, or have them load or swing or rotate at very high speeds. Because I know that they don’t have the fundamentals, they don’t have the foundation built to be able to then really rotate with power, and rotate safely.
Now, speaking of rotating safely, and preventing injury, our buddy Tiger Woods is back on the course at Torrey Pines this week at the Farmers’ Insurance Open, and you can keep track of what’s going on at that tournament with the PGA Tour mobile app. If you’re not using it yet, I suggest you go download it from the app store right now.
You’ll be able to follow along, you know, whoever it is that’s your favorite: Tiger, Jordan, J.T., any of those guys that are playing this week. And scroll through, we’ve got guys from Web.com, you’ve got the Canadian tour, the Mackenzie Tour. You can follow all these guys on the PGA Tour mobile app. You can check the stats of each player, you can see even some social media stuff.
You can see the layout of the course on the app itself. So, there’s tons and tons of new features that they unleashed last year, and has made the app so much better, so much easier to use. So I highly recommend going and checking out the PGA Tour mobile app. So, whether you have an iPhone, a Blackberry, a Samsung, whatever it is you use to make phone calls, check the internet, check scores, go get it on that device, and you will not be sorry.
All right. So, let’s get into this topic of our top 10 favorite exercises. And I’m going to go through all these, and I know it’s a little difficult to kind of visualize exercises via podcast, but I think you’re going to get the gist. And also, I have put together some videos of the different exercises, over on the show notes page, which you can find at 18Strong.com/favorite-exercises.
The very first one that I put on the list is one that you’ve probably all heard of: the plank. You’ve, most likely, you’ve done a plank before. But the reason I wanted to throw this in first, and even a variation of, kind of a standing variation, is because the plank really is one of the best exercises to teach you how to create tension in your body.
And the more I learn from people that we’ve had on the show, from the courses I’ve been to, and just from the literature that I’ve read, the more you learn how to create tension, and understand what your body is doing during an exercise, the better off you’re going to be. Everyone needs to learn how to create some sort of tension in their body, in the joint that’s working, but also in the surrounding structures in their body, in order to get the most benefit out of the exercise.
Pavel Tsatsouline and Dr. Andreo Spina are two guys that I have read quite a bit of, and have learned from. And they speak of the term “irradiation.” And irradiation is basically like, just tensing up everything possible in your body. And the more you tense it up, the more you’re teaching your body to neuromuscularly hold on to the contraction in your muscles, and recruit more muscle fibers in a given movement, or given area, during an exercise.
So, when you’re doing a plank, I often find that people are not creating this irradiation of the body and the muscles. And what they’re pretty much doing is just getting in a position where they’re propping up on their elbows, and just kind of trying to hold that, without focusing too much on certain areas of the body.
So, if you don’t know what a plank is, again, go to 18Strong.com/favorite-exercises, you’ll see the videos of the different exercises. But just to give you a description: it’s when you’re laying on the ground, and you’ll be basically on your elbows and on your toes, with your body in a nice straight line. And typically, that’s what you’ll see, is people will just kind of prop up into that position, and you might see their butt hiking up in the air a little bit, you might see their butt dropping down a little bit.
But what I want you to concentrate, is on your setup first and foremost. So, I learned from our buddy Brian Bradley from Egoscue that a big component that people mistake is their arm position. So, when you’re lying on your stomach, and you’ve got your elbows on the ground, you’ve got your fists in front of you, most people kind of bring their fists in, and actually clasp their hands together. And what that’s doing, is it’s kind of rotating your shoulders inwardly, so internal rotation. But it’s kind of causing you to round your shoulders. So, again, it’s kind of like rounding out your posture, and kind of that slumpy position.
We want the absolute opposite of that when we’re doing a plank. So, what I want you to do in your plank is, first, just lying on the ground with your toes on the floor, kind of like you’re going to do a pushup, but you can still have your body laying on the ground. You’re going to put your elbows on the ground, but you’re going to bring your hands, and you’re going to kind of rotate your hands outwardly, almost like kind of a windshield wiper motion, until they are straight out, til they’re parallel with each other, but they’re straight out from your elbows.
So, your hands should almost be kind of resting a little bit in front of your shoulders. Your elbows will be on the ground, kind of a little bit below your shoulders. And that’s a proper position, where they’re parallel, or even twist your hands a little outside of your elbows. Again, for a better description, go to the videos.
And what that’s going to do, is that’s going to kind of set your shoulders into a better position. It’s going to pull your shoulders back, it’s going to get your shoulder blades locked in. And this is a huge component for what we need to do when you’re golfing. You know, if you’ve ever thought to yourself that your shoulders are rounding, even just at your desk, or standing around, walking around, thought that your shoulders round forward, your head sticks forward? This is a great way to start to signal to your body how to keep those shoulder blades in a good position.
So, you’ve got that set, you’ve got the shoulder blades set. Next thing I want you to do is squeeze your thighs as hard as you can, with the muscles themselves, I want you to squeeze your thighs, and your knees should kind of pull up off of the floor. And then I want you to squeeze your butt as hard as you can, almost like you’re pushing your hips, kind of thrusting your pelvis, into the floor. So, you squeeze the thighs, the knees come up off the floor. You squeeze your butt and your hips kind of press into the floor.
And then the last component here. You’ve already got your shoulder blades kind of locked in, the last component is, I want you to tighten up your stomach, and feel yourself being pulled off of the ground by the contraction in your stomach. So you’re tightening up that stomach and pulling yourself up.
What this is going to do is create a massive amount of tension in your body. So you’ve got your thighs squeezed, you’ve got your butt squeezed, you’ve got your trunk squeezed, you’ve got your shoulder blades locked in. And I even tell people, “Take your hands, and make strong squeezing your fists, or grab something to squeeze onto.” And you’re going to feel yourself start to shake nearly immediately.
So, when I hear people tell me that they did a plank for a minute, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes? I just kind of shake my head and think, “Well then, you didn’t do a real plank, because you’re just kind of propping yourself up and holding that position.” If you’re doing it this way, and you’re squeezing as tight as possible, then you’re going to be shaking left and right, probably from about the 5-10 second mark, and you’re definitely going to be exhausted.
So, this is kind of the basic baseline exercise that I want you to work on, to be able to create some tension. And then you’re going to utilize that in the rest of the exercises. The other kind of little add-on exercise that I would throw in here, that I love using, and it’s kind of a standing plank, is the Palov Press.
And that’s basically where you’re standing up, you’ve got a cable attachment, and you pull the cable off with just a single handle, and you have your hands stretched out right in front of you. And you’re basically just, you’re kind of holding a plank position while you’re standing. So, again, you’re squeezing your butt, your thighs, your trunk, your abs, your shoulders are locked down, you’ve got your arms straight out in front of you, and you’re holding a certain weight, whatever that is on the cable machine that you can.
And you can either do one of two things: you can press back and forth, and it’s just standing forward and pressing your hands from your chest straight out, trying not to let that cable pull you, and rotate you. So this is a great, what we would call “anti-rotation exercise.” And so, again, you’re learning how to create this tension.
The other thing I really like to do, and have been using with players a lot lately, is simply getting them in that position, having them hold the arms fully extended outward, in front of them, and fighting that rotational piece, and holding for 20-30 seconds. And that really is kind of an endurance exercise, teaching you how to create that tension in the body, and in the trunk, and prevent rotation when you don’t want rotation. That’s a big piece of learning how to then eventually rotate more properly, when your body can stabilize like that.
Okay, next on the list is one of my go-tos all the time, and that is the split squat. And typically, I’ll start people really with no weight whatsoever, but then I’ll go to dumbbells, just to work on some balance, and you know, make sure that they can get through the right range of motion.
Look, squats are a great exercise. But I find that the split squats are a little easier for people to perform, and regular traditional squats, especially barbell, you know, backloaded squats, are not great for some people. I find that it kind of bothers my own back, it bothers a lot of people’s backs when they do them, and that may be a sign that they’re doing something wrong, obviously. It may be a sign that another joint isn’t working properly, and they need to work on that, and they need to fix that.
I find that split squats are a lot easier for people, especially just kind of learning these motions, to get into, and to do with a little bit of assistance, if needed. You know, when I work with clients, it can range from the age of, let’s say, 14, 15, 16 years old, all the way up to in their 80s. And so, some people are going to need assistance, some people are not. And everybody starts at a different level.
So, these are much less stress on the back. You can use the squat rack for a little bit of assistance in getting down. And if you don’t know what a split squat is, basically it’s … Kind of picture what a lunge looks like. You’re going to stand with one foot in front of the other, not necessarily in a straight line, kind of widened stance, just a little bit. You don’t want to go too narrow, you want to have a little bit of balance there.
And you’re basically letting your whole body go down towards the floor. You’re bending the front knee, the back knee is dropping down towards the floor. And when you come down, you’re kind of letting the front knee go a little bit forward, and it’s basically like a lunge, but you’re pretty much staying in the same space. So you’re not alternating, or going back and forth.
I like these also because there’s a lot of variations that you can use. Eventually, you can go to, like I said, the dumbbells. You can use kettlebells. You can do this with a bar on your back, and it’s much less stress on the spine, and it’s much less stress on the hips. So, I like this exercise because it suits so many people. You can also throw in variations of raising the front foot up, or raising the back foot up, and doing some different things to get a little bit different stretches, and you know, target a couple different areas, there.
And, it also just simply works balance. So, balance is a huge key for many of you, and being able to stand just in this stance is going to challenge that a little bit. Going up and down in a split stance like this is definitely going to challenge it.
And then it’s a unilateral exercise, which I think is very important to include, especially in a golfer’s routine, because there’s traditionally so many imbalances in your body. You know, you’re constantly swinging just in one direction. Typically we’re right-hand dominant, or left-hand dominant, right-leg dominant, left-leg dominant.
So you’re going to find that there’s already imbalances between your sides. And this is going to help kind of, first, make you aware of them. But second, it’s a way where you can start to figure out how you can kind of equalize those a little bit.
So, split squats are definitely one of my favorite lower-body exercises. It’s going to hit the quads a lot, it’s going to get the glutes, it’s going to get a little bit of hamstring. But again, when you learn how to create some of that tension that you were in the planks, it’s also going to create some of that core strength and stability that you’re not going to get from the knee extension machine, or some of these other, you know, leg machines, which I know a lot of people rely on because they’re easy to get into.
The split squats are surprisingly more difficult than people realize. Many times, when I test somebody on their split squat, and they haven’t done it in years, or they’ve never done it, they’re surprised at how mad they are at doing this exercise. And so, if that’s you, I would recommend, check out the video, and try a split squat. See if you can do it with the same form that you see in the video. And if not, it’s something that you should definitely think about working on.
Number three is goblet squats. And I especially like to use a kettlebell when I do a goblet squat, and typically I’ll start with the heels raised up just a little bit. So, a goblet squat is basically a squat where you’re holding a weight kind of up at your chest level, out in front of you. Some people will use a dumbbell, and some people use a kettlebell. I’ll use both, but as I mentioned, I kind of like the way that the kettlebell feels in the hand. You grab it by the horns, and hold it out in front of you.
It’s definitely easier to do a goblet squat than it is a barbell squat, for most people, simply because of the way that the bell will kind of create a little extra stability and balance. But also, I find that you’re able to just position yourself and control yourself a little bit better than if you’re holding on to a bar, back behind your back.
So, what you’re going to do is grab the kettlebell, you’re going to hold it in front of you, and I tend to have people turn their toes out just a little bit as they go down into a squat. The bell’s going to help keep you upright a little bit, and it’s really great for improving your trunk and your core activation, if you hold the kettlebell or dumbbell just kind of slightly away from you. Don’t rest it up against your chest, just hold it away from you a little bit and it really kind of turns everything on, gets the shoulders, gets the arms working.
And as you go down, you’re going to feel this really opening up your hips. You’re going to feel it kind of working the inner thighs a little bit. And it’s going to create a lot of awareness of your posture. You can start as light as you want, and you can get pretty darn heavy with these things, depending on what kind of dumbbells and what kind of kettlebells you have. But you can end up using this as a pretty serious exercise.
That’s why, all of these exercises on this list I like so much because you can use them at the beginner level, and you can use them at a high level. It just depends on how comfortable you are, and how much weight you want to then add on to these.
But the goblet squat I think is a great way for helping to progress somebody to maybe a barbell squat, maybe a front squat, a dumbbell squat. I think it’s just a really simple way to kind of introduce the whole squatting motion, which is a lost art as far as I’m concerned, in our population. And especially in the United States. Getting down into a low squatting position is typically very difficult.
If you find that this is hard for you to do, as I mentioned, raising your heels up an inch, even two inches, is typically going to make it easier ’cause it’s going to take some stress off of the ankle. So, if that’s the case, try to do it with the heels elevated a little bit.
All right, moving on to number four, is the kettlebell deadlift. And I obviously love deadlifts. I think that they’re a very important exercise for golfers to learn, because of postural factors. Learning how to hinge from your hips, not bend around at your back, or over arch your back, because that’ll put a lot of extra undue stress on your spine in the golf swing. As well as, having that hip motion and being able to control that is going to allow you to prevent some of that early extension, and really just feel grounded in your golf swing.
So, the reason that I like the kettlebell for the deadlifts is, first of all, it’s just easier to get people in position. So, a deadlift is basically, if you’re standing straight up and down, and you’re holding a weight either in front of you … In this case, it’s going to be holding a kettlebell, and I’m going to start with a single kettlebell.
Two hands on the top of the kettlebell, in front of you. Your feet are kind of spread out, shoulder width apart or so. And you’re going to be hinging from your hips, so your butt and your hips are going backwards. You’re going to be kind of bending in half a little bit. Kind of an athletic stance with the lower legs, almost like you’re sticking your butt back to sit on a box, or kind of a higher box.
But I like this because it allows you to get in the position a little bit easier than if you were using a barbell, or even using like a dowel rod. You know, sometimes we’ll start with something very light, a PVC pipe or something like that, to help with the motion. But I like the way that the kettlebell hangs in between the legs, and you can hold on to it.
You can also start with the kettlebell on some sort of a platform or box, in between your legs, which limits how far you need to go down. It limits the motion, and really allows you to feel the posture and get a small range of motion working properly, rather than worrying so much about going down and getting the kettlebell to the floor.
Many times when we’re doing a deadlift, the issue is that the person doing the deadlift tries to go down too far, and their body is not ready to handle it, so that results in rounding of the back, hamstrings are tight, and they just don’t know how to get into that position. So maybe putting a box or something in between the legs is good. It’s a great way to teach the hip hinge, and if you have to, you can adjust.
So, like, if you have a barbell, it’s tough to move around the gym. But if you have a kettlebell, you can walk over to a wall, stand in front of the wall with your butt facing the wall, and slowly just kind of step out an inch or so, and try to push your butt back to touch the wall. And then, when you can touch, push, you know, walk out a little bit further, and push back, letting your upper body move forward, your butt goes backwards, your weight goes in your heels. So it’s a good way to be able to just kind of teach the deadlift, and work yourself into it.
Again, with kettlebells, you can make this very, very heavy. You can end up going with two kettlebells, holding them in front of you, which can definitely increase the weight that you’re allowed to go to. You can progress to a barbell. I like to kind of move into what we would call a “sumo deadlift” with the barbell, where your hands are still kind of inside your knees, that seems to be a comfortable position for people.
But again, the deadlift is complete work for the back, the back of the body, actually. So, the upper back, the shoulders. You’re holding that weight, you’re holding your posture. It’s a definite glute exercise, where you’re working on hip extension. It’s working on the hamstrings, allowing them to stretch a little bit while under tension, which is very important for your body to learn how to do. So, all of these things are pieces that we kind of miss in our daily life, so the deadlift is a huge piece.
The fifth exercise that I really like is the one-arm dumbbell press. So, we’ve kind of touched on some of these things already, you know, the push, the pull, the squat, the deadlift, the hinge. So, we’re just kind of going down that list of those main things, and these are just exercises that you can just kind of plug into those.
So, number five here is the one-arm dumbbell press. And a dumbbell press is a little bit easier on the shoulders than doing your traditional bench press. I don’t do a regular bench press with a whole lot of my clients these days, simply because a lot of the clientele that I work with, their shoulders are already kind of rounded forward, it’s hard for them to get a good proper position, and hands on the bar, without some sort of torquing of the back or of the shoulders.
And so, I just find it to be unnecessary, when I can do the same things with dumbbells. And also, you get a little bit more of that stabilization factor of the shoulder, when you’re using a dumbbell, either single or double.
So, it’s a little easier on the shoulder, and it’s great for reducing imbalances, again, from the left to the right, because you have to stabilize on just the one arm. You have to focus on just the one arm when you’re doing this.
Another little trick that I like to do: once I see somebody is comfortable with doing a press, a single-arm press, I’ll take them and have them shift their body just a little bit off the bench, towards the side that they’re doing the lift with. So, if they’re getting ready to lift with their right arm, I’ll have them shift their body a little bit to the right. So the right shoulder blade is kind of partially off the bench, the right glute is partially off the bench, and they have kind of a wide stance with their foot.
And this really creates some torque through the midsection. So, not only are you getting the pressing benefit — you know, the shoulder, the chest, and getting that motion — but it’s really forcing you to stabilize. ‘Cause if you let your midsection go weak, that dumbbell will kind of pull you and rotate you, and you’ll fall off the bench.
So, you have to really kind of stabilize with the hip, the abdominals, the obliques, all of that. And so, it’s a great exercise to, again, kind of an anti-rotation exercise. So it really increases your trunk activation, and even your hip muscles.
This can be done on a big exercise ball, as well, but I’m always a little bit leery. Once you start going a little bit heavier, you know … My rule is, when I get to 35 pounds, 40-pound dumbbells, I tend to go back to the bench. Because, unfortunately, I know a guy, a friend of mine, who was at the gym, pressing too much weight on one of those big exercise balls, and believe it or not, the ball popped, and he fell, and both elbows came crashing down with probably like 60-pound dumbbells in his hand, and he snapped both of his wrists.
So, a little forewarning. Again, that whole risk versus reward thing. You know, you see guys standing on the big exercise ball doing squats, and on these balance discs, and all this other stuff. I just don’t get it, because the risk never outweighs the reward. And if you ask my buddy about doing presses on the ball with a 60-pound weight, that risk definitely wasn’t worth what he got out of it. So.
All right, let’s take a little break here, and I want to say thanks to our sponsor for today’s episode, SuperSpeed Golf. As I mentioned, our exercises today, we’re talking about strength exercises, we’re talking about different pieces you can put into your program. But one of the big things that we do end up working on our golfers with is speed. And everybody wants more speed, you want to hit the ball farther. And I use the SuperSpeed Golf OverSpeed Training System, because it’s the best one out there.
It’s three different weights of clubs, and you basically go through protocols on swinging both left-handed and right-handed, and it helps to basically take the governor off. Just like on a go-kart, if you were to take the governor off, and it just lets it go as fast as possible. These kind of do the same thing for your brain and for your body.
At this moment, your brain and body only know how to swing as fast as you know how to swing. But when you use these clubs, and you use the different weights, the one that’s slightly heavier, the one that’s slightly lighter than a regular driver, your body is able to speed up, and go a little faster than it normally would with your own driver. And then, you’re able to teach your brain that, “Hey, I can swing a club much, much faster than I think I can.”
And so, after you do these protocols, and you do it repetitiously, you’re going to start to notice a drastic improvement, not only in your speed, but in your balance, in your tempo. And you’re going to notice that you don’t have to try to swing as hard, to hit the ball as far as you want to hit it.
So, go to SuperSpeedGolf.com, check out all their different products. I know they’ve got a couple different things on there, they’ve got the radar that’ll tell you how fast you’re swinging. They’ve got a new balance disc, to work on a little bit of stability when you’re doing some of these drills. And of course, they’ve got their different combo packs of the actual SuperSpeed golf clubs. So, go to SuperSpeedGolf.com and be sure to use 18STRONG to get your discount.
Okay, so getting back into our exercises. The next one, number six, is your standard dumbbell row, with one knee on a bench, one leg on the ground. It’s probably something you’ve seen. If you haven’t seen it, this is a straight-up traditional exercise that I think is often done completely incorrectly, and it’s going to provide a huge amount of benefit.
So, basically, you’ve got one knee on a bench, you’ve got that same hand on the bench, and then you’ve got a dumbbell in your other hand, hanging off the side of the bench. I want you to kind of spread your feet out so you’ve got a nice width, a nice balanced base of support. And then, the problem that I tend to see is that most people don’t stabilize their trunk in this position.
So, if you’ve got a nice balance, you know, right to left weight, or pressure through the ground, and through the bench, then you want to basically square off your shoulders and kind of pull the shoulder blades down and back a little bit. So you kind of set the shoulder blades. And then you’re going to do your row from there.
Typically, you’ll see people kind of rotating their whole trunk. And when I say that, I’ve done this with some rotation before, but typically I like to do this in more of a stationary fashion. Many people just use the rotation for momentum, so they can swing more weight. What I want you to do is: stabilize your shoulders, so they’re basically parallel with the ground, and then your arm is basically just driving up and back. Kind of the elbow is going up and back, keeping that shoulder blade kind of locked down.
When this is done right — and you’ll see this in the video, if you go to the show notes page — it’s going to stabilize your trunk. You’re working on keeping a nice flat back. You’re not arching too much, you’re not rounding too much. And you’re not letting your shoulder blade kind of fall forward towards the floor, or rotate backwards.
So you’re creating a lot of true tension in your body. You’ll feel your legs working, you’ll feel your trunk working. You’ll feel that arm on the bench working. But then, you’ve got that dumbbell in your hand — you could do this with a kettlebell, as well — and I want you to squeeze that grip as hard as you can. Again, creating a tension in your arm, as you’re pulling backwards.
So this is working on your grip strength, it’s working on your back, it’s working on your posture. It’s working on all these very important pieces that you need to stabilize yourself during your golf swing. So doing just a simple row with these little tweaks will make all the difference in the world.
Okay, number seven. We’re going to go into an exercise with the big ball. And this I call “hip extension,” or “hamstring curl,” on the ball. So, you’ve got the big ball. You’re going to lie on your back on the ground with your feet on top of the ball. And so, this is going to be definitely a hamstring exercise, and it’s going to be a hip extension exercise.
The full-blown exercise would be you lying down on the ground, your feet and kind of, basically, your Achilles and the bottom of your calf are on top of the ball, and you’re going to lift your hips up in the air until your body’s in a completely straight line. So you’re again creating that tension, creating that tightness. You’ve got your arms kind of spread out on the floor for some support to start, and that’s going to give you a nice good base.
So, once you get your hips up in the air, and I want you to really work on getting that straight line, basically from your shoulders down to your ankles. You’ve got a nice straight line. If you can’t do that, then I want you to just keep working on that motion there, until you can get those glutes to kind of pull you up.
And it’s not an arching of the back, it’s a squeezing from the glutes, kind of like you’re pinching a coin between your cheeks. Terrible visual, but pulling your hips up towards the ceiling until you get that nice straight line. Once you’re in that position, you’re then going to try to roll the ball backwards, towards you. So, your body’s going to move up even higher, as your heels come back towards you.
Now, the kicker here, and this is where most people go wrong, is when you bring your heels back toward you, I want you to keep that straight line at your hips. So, your hips are going to go up towards the ceiling even more while your heels come back. Your hips are not going to drop down or stay at the same level while you roll back. So, you don’t want to bend at the hips and see your knees going up. You want your hips going up in the air as well.
So this is an exercise that really, guys, should be pretty easy, but almost everyone that I give this to, the first time, they have trouble with it. They start to notice their hamstrings are cramping, and they feel like … It’s almost an eye-opening exercise, because it doesn’t look like it should be that hard. It’s, you know, there’s no weights to it, there’s no real heavy lifting. But it’s all about the posture, it’s all about the form. It’s all about the tension that you’re creating, and how you’re doing these motions.
The hamstrings very rarely are put in that shortened of a position under tension, and that’s where the cramping comes from. So the first time you do this, if you get some cramping, know that that might be normal, but we want you to work through it. Cramping, to me, is muscle confusion. It’s your muscle not understanding what the heck is going on, and when you get to that point, if you can fight through that …
And be careful here, but if you can fight through that, or if you’re doing like an extended hold, I want you to know that you doing that is teaching your body how to then deal with it, and how to get better at that. So the more you do these, the less you’ll get that, and the stronger you’ll get that muscle in that position.
It’s kind of like, if you were to perform a bicep curl, as hard as you could… And I encourage you to try this right now: perform a bicep curl as hard as you possibly can, squeeze your bicep as hard as you can. You’re probably going to notice that it’s going to start cramping up. That’s muscle confusion. If you did that on a regular basis, first of all, it’s great at teaching your body how to create more tension at the top of that curl. But, you’re going to get used to it.
Same thing’s going to happen with your hamstrings. And it’s going to prepare your body to take up more stress. So, it’s a bit of an unnatural move, but if definitely teaches you how to lock out the hips. And again, it’s kind of a very plank-ish style exercise. I kind of like that word, “plank-ish.” So, using this is really going to help you create a lot of tension throughout the body.
Number eight. I’m going to go with another rowing exercise. And again, the row is a big one because it’s kind of the back side of the body. It works the lats, it works the shoulder. It’s going to work a lot of the trunk. So, I’m going to throw in a low pulley row.
So, if you took a cable machine, you’ve got the pulley all the way down to the ground. You’re using one arm, and you’re just basically performing kind of the same row that you did when you were on the bench, but this time you’re standing in a little bit of a golf posture. Main, I like to think, more like a deadlift posture, as you’re getting into that.
But first I want you to try it as you row, to do it without any rotation of your trunk. So your feet are square, and you’re doing a row, and it’s just your arm moving. Everything else is stationary. You’ve created that tension, you’re pushing your feet in the ground. You’re almost feeling your glutes kind of tighten up, your stomach is tight.
Your shoulders are down and back, and you’re pulling with just that one arm. Squeezing the handle as much as you can, creating that tension in your arm. Creating that tension in your back, creating that tension in your shoulder blade. And I want you to feel that, and I want you to feel the resistance of that rotation. So, don’t rotate with it.
Then, once you get the hang of that, you can try the opposite way, and you can do it with a little rotation. And for this, you can do it either square-footed, where, again, the lower body is staying nice and stationary, and you’re in a very controlled motion, pulling on the rope, but rotating the upper body with it now. So the hips are staying, the lower body is staying fairly still.
You can kind of rotate a little bit into that hip. If it’s your right arm you’re rowing, rotate a little bit into that right hip, kind of like you would in your golf swing. And then I like to have a pause at the end of my rowing motions most of the time, just to feel that squeeze. And then you can slowly let it out. Typically, you’re going to go back with a little faster movement, and then release with a little slower movement.
And then you can even try it with your feet a little stagger stance, and you can play around with that, too. And, you know, work on rotating into the hip as you’re kind of pulling. But again, work on creating the tensions first. Create the stability of the lower body, and then work into the rotation, and really feel the control there.
The last two exercises I’m going to give you are actually shoulder exercises. So, when we talked about the five big things to include in your workout, we talked about the push, the pull, the squat or lunge, the deadlift or the hinge, and then some sort of rotation.
This would fall into a little bit more of that extra category that I mentioned, but I do think that the shoulders, specifically kind of the rotator cuff, the shoulder blade area, are definitely under-utilized in training programs, and often kind of overlooked when people look at, you know, what a body needs to be doing. And especially in our golf swing, we need to be able to rotate and utilize the shoulder and shoulder blade very well in the movements of the swing.
If the should blade’s not doing what it needs to do — and it’s not really the shoulder blade that’s doing it, it’s the muscles around it, but to not get too technical here — if the shoulder blade and the whole shoulder complex are not working the way that you need them to work, that’s often when other things go awry. That can lead to, believe it or not, back pain. That can lead to elbow pain. That can lead to, you know, wrist and forearm issues.
Because if the shoulder’s not working, something else has to give, or take up the stress. And so, in many, many situations where someone has golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow, a lot of times we end up looking up towards the shoulder to see what’s going on with the mechanics there.
And most people don’t have a whole lot of great control over their shoulder blades, which you might notice in the Golf Fitness Rollercoaster series. When we go through the daily motion routine, we talk about just moving your shoulder blade in a circle every day. And the first time I do that with people, it’s often very clear that one side is more coordinated than the other, and it doesn’t surprise me when people often have pain either at their shoulder or at some other area on that less-coordinated side. So, just a little sidebar there.
So, the first exercise here, number nine in my list, is shoulder external rotation. And I’m going to go specifically with a seated version of this, which many of you may have not ever seen or done. The first time that I did this, or saw this exercise, I was kind of like, “Whoa, that’s kind of different. It’s kind of a weird posture that you’re getting into.”
And we have affectionately referred to these as the “Costanza exercise,” for all of you Seinfeld fanatics out there, because there’s an episode where George is kind of on the couch in a provocative position, taking some pictures. And it just kind of reminded me of him on the couch, the way that you have to sit for this exercise.
So, you’re sitting kind of sidesaddle on a bench, with one foot up on the bench, and that same arm is going to be, that elbow is going to be resting on your knee. You’re going to sit in a real, real tall posture. Again, this is a great one to go check out the video for. Sitting up in a real tall posture. The elbow is kind of resting on the knee, so it’s stabilized there.
And then you’re going to work into a rotating motion, where you’re basically starting with the hand straight up toward the ceiling. You’re going to let the hand drop down towards the floor, so the arm is rotating and you’re letting the shoulder rotate.
What you have to do here, the reason I like this so much, is: first, it’s an eye-opener for new clients, as to how weak their rotation is, and how much control they don’t have over it, which is actually a very, very big deal when it comes to other exercises and your golf swing. But having the arm stabilized there on the knee is good because it allows you to simply focus on the rotation. And then it’s really easy to focus on your shoulder blade position and create true rotation.
So, the natural inclination is, as you let your hand fall forward down in front of your body, for your shoulder blade to kind of raise up and to kind of round out that shoulder. And that’s not what we want. We want your shoulder blade to stay down and back, and we want that arm, and the upper arm, and the hand, to rotate forward without that shoulder blade really moving, to create kind of that isolation there.
So, it’s a great way to really isolate that. Again, it really works on your posture, and you can really focus on creating some of that tension throughout that whole exercise. If you’ve ever struggled with the chicken wing in your golf swing, this might be a really good exercise for you, because it helps with that rotation, and helps prevent that flying elbow when you’re either rotating through the ball. Or if you have kind of a weird elbow move in the backswing, this is a definite strengthener for those muscles that help to rotate, and get you into a better position.
All right. And then the last one, number 10, is kind of a strange name. We call it a “trap three,” and this is again kind of an upper shoulder, shoulder blade exercise. And the way that I’m going to have you start this one is on a bench that’s inclined to about 45 degrees. So this would be a trap three prone on a bench.
You can do this standing up, without a bench. You can do this on the floor. You can do this many different ways. And it’s a surprisingly hard exercise. Usually, when I first have somebody do this, I don’t use any weight. And as any client of mine can attest to, anytime I start an exercise without a dumbbell or a kettlebell, or something, they know that it’s going to be uber hard, because I’ll either go with no weight, or grab one of the powder blue dumbbells, which is always kind of a shot to the manhood of anybody using that. But, you know it’s going to be a hard exercise when there’s no weight in your hands.
You’re going to lie flat on this bench, which is inclined to 45 degrees. Your head’s going to be off the top of the bench, so you’re not resting your chin, and you’re just going to kind of get in a nice, tense posture. You’re going to tighten up the abdominals, you’re going to kind of press your hips into the bench a little bit. And you should feel like you’re almost standing, and kind of just lying on the bench, not squatting or sitting on the bench.
And what you’re going to do is pretty much raise your arms — and you can do this either both arms at the same time, or just one arm at a time — you’re going to raise your arms into kind of the YMCA position, and I like to keep the thumbs up towards the ceiling. And you’re going to go up as high as you can, you’re going to pause there, and then you’re going to come down nice and slow.
The whole time, I want you holding your shoulder blades back, holding them down, and just kind of keeping that tension there, making sure that you can hold that position. And then you’re going to slowly raise the arms back up as high as you can get them without arching at your chest, without coming off of the bench. You’re going to keep the abdominal muscles nice and tight.
And you’re going to notice whatever limitations you have in this motion. It seems pretty easy, it seems like you’re just supposed to be raising your arm over your head. But you’re, most of the time, you’re going to feel like you’re not going hardly anywhere.
And that’s a sign that you need to start working on, first of all, just motions that are moving backwards like this. But that your shoulder blade may not be working very well. That your rotator cuff might not be working very well. That you just don’t have the strength in some of the muscles that hold the shoulder blades.
And it can even be that your upper back, your thoracic spine, is not moving the way that it needs to. And so, working on this is definitely going to help improve some of that stuff. So, most people are going to feel really restricted when you do this, but the great thing is, it emphasizes a lot of the control of your lower back, emphasizes control of your trunk. And again, it teaches you how to create that tension in your body.
So, those are the top 10 exercises, or at least a list of 10 phenomenal exercises that I like to keep in, or put into, a lot of the newer programs. Especially for a newer golfer, especially for somebody that doesn’t have a lot of background in training. You’re going to be surprised at how well this stuff works to simply get you understanding what your body’s doing.
And I’m a big believer that if you are able to control your body better, if you’re able to understand what your body’s doing, control it, make adjustments in these exercises? It makes it so much easier when you’re trying to control these things in your golf swing, or you’re trying to feel balanced in your swing, or you’re working on different postural issues that you might have, you have back pain.
All of these different things that relate to your golf swing can be definitely improved. And I’ve seen it, firsthand, with myself, with golfers that I work with. That we don’t touch anything with a club, we simply do some of this type of stuff, and they come back and they report huge improvements, simply because of the awareness of the body. They started working muscles that they didn’t realize needed to be worked, or didn’t realize could be worked, throughout some of these things.
So again, just a quick recap on the exercises. Number one was the plank. I also threw in the variation of the Palov Press, which is more of the standing version of plank with some resistance into rotation from the cable. Number two was the split squats, starting with dumbbells or no weight whatsoever. Lots of variations you can do there.
Number three was goblet squats. Specifically I like using the kettlebell, but the dumbbell works just fine as well. Number four is the kettlebell deadlift, to start getting you in nice good position, and progressing eventually maybe to the sumo deadlift with the barbell.
Number five is the one-arm dumbbell press, and when you’re ready, you can kind of shift slightly off the bench. And be aware, if you’re using a big ball for this exercise, not to go too heavy there. Number six was the dumbbell row at the bench, one leg on the bench, one arm on the bench. Really working on the posture and stabilizing, and on the tension.
Number seven is the hip extension, slash hamstring curl, on the ball, where you’re basically bridging up into the air and rolling the ball underneath you. Number eight is the low pulley row, both in a stationary square position, an anti-rotation movement, as well as a rotational movement. You know, kind of progressing and trying both of those variations.
And then, number nine and 10, the shoulder exercises. The first is the seated shoulder external rotation, or the Costanza, as I like to call it. And number 10 was the trap three, where you’re lying prone on a bench, and you’re doing the YMCA motion, with a very light dumbbell if anything. Really, I rarely see anybody progress up past the five, eight, maybe 10-pound mark when doing it with a lot of great control.
All right, this episode actually went way longer than I was anticipating. I was hoping to kind of bundle all this up quick, but there were a lot of details in there that I realized you guys needed to have. And so again, I really encourage you to go over to the show notes page for this episode, which is 18Strong.com/favorite-exercises, or episode number 176. You’ll find it over there.
But what I want you to notice, and a few things that you might be questioning regarding this list, is that: first, there’s not a lot of rotational or lateral motions that I put into this list. And that’s done by design. I don’t like to get people doing a lot of rotational stuff until they build a base, until they build the foundation, the platform, that I know that they can rotate on.
So, you know, we talk a lot about the OverSpeed training, we talk a lot about power exercises. But first and foremost, I want to make sure somebody can control a split squat. I want to make sure that they know how to do a deadlift.
Now, does that mean that I won’t have somebody go and try to swing, and do some SuperSpeed clubs? No, not by any means. I mean, they’re already swinging a golf club, so it’s not like that’s going to be a detrimental factor. But as far as what I’m concerned with, is getting them stronger, getting a big foundation built.
You’re also going to notice that I didn’t throw in a lot of core and abdominal exercises. And that’s by design, as well. When you really learn how to create the tension in your body during these types of exercises? You know, when you’re doing a deadlift, you’re doing a split squat, you’re doing a row, you’re doing some of these other presses. When you really learn how to create tension in your body, and you can target the trunk and the midsection, you’re going to get a lot more effective core stabilization than if you go and you do 100 crunches.
Now, there are certain times, and oftentimes, when I’ll put — again, in that extra section in a workout — I’ll put some sort of a trunk or abdominal exercise in there, or something that relates to how they work their hips and stabilize with their hips. But, it’s not necessarily for, you know, getting better abs, and getting the six-pack. It’s more, “What’s going to be functional for this person?” And many times, it comes from teaching them the proper way to create the tension in these other exercises.
Now, quick caveat is that, if you were to talk to 10 different fitness professionals, golf fitness professionals, strength coaches, whoever, and you ask them what their 10 most important exercises are, you’re going to get 10 different answers from all 10 people. And that’s cool. That’s, there is by far no single way for everybody to agree on one way to do something or another, and that’s the beauty of this show, is we get to bring in all these different experts to teach us what’s working for them.
This is what I find has worked for me, has worked for my clients. And they’re movements that I find a lot of people do improperly, need some extra instruction on. And I’d like to keep it as simple as possible and get them started with this stuff, before jumping into anything crazy and breaking out all these different super minuscule different exercises, working on all these different little pieces, when I know that they can’t do some of this basic stuff.
So, I probably sound like a broken record by now, but this stuff doesn’t have to be overdone. It doesn’t have to be overcomplicated, especially for the majority of the population. Unless you’re that 1% uber super elite athlete that has a very extensive training background, I don’t see the reason for creating super detailed and overblown programs, when most of us just want to feel better, move better, hit a ball further, and feel stronger at the end of 18 holes.
So, let’s focus on the important stuff. Again, if you’re looking for something fancy, something golf-y, but you’re not good at these exercises, you’re putting your efforts in the wrong place. To me, this stuff is like working on your short game. You know, it’s very important to do. But let’s face it, it can be boring. It can be hard. You’ve got to put the work in.
It’s not sexy like going to the driving range and banging drivers, or breaking out the rubber bands and pretending to swing a golf club with resistance attached to it. It’s just, it’s not the cool stuff that you’re going to see on Instagram, but it’s the stuff that’s going to take you to that next level.
If this was helpful, then I would definitely encourage you to go check out the video series that we put together on the essentials that you need to create a great golf fitness program, and to get yourself off of this whole rollercoaster of, “I don’t know what to do. I want to work out, I’m good with my workouts, and then I’m off my workouts. I’m eating well, I’m not eating well.”
All of that stuff to kind of create a little more clarity around this whole, what can be a confusing topic, if you let it be. So we want to kind of break that down and simplify it. So again, go to 18Strong.com/rollercoaster to check out that video series. It’ll ask you for your email, and then you’ll be emailed the different videos over the next few days.
Again, guys, thanks for showing up on the 18Strong podcast. Hopefully you learned a few things today. And we’re here to just basically provide as much information that we’ve been able to gather over the years with clients through the professions that we’ve had on the show, and we want to just continue to bring the boiled-down info to you.
I want to say thanks again to the PGA Tour mobile app. If you don’t have that, go download that now, so you can keep track of everything going on this weekend. And again, thanks to the guys at SuperSpeed Golf, which is by far one of our greatest tools in the toolbox. So go to SuperSpeedGolf.com, and don’t forget to use the code 18STRONG.
All right, that’s all I’ve got for you guys this episode. I’ll catch up with you next week. Train hard, practice smart, and play better golf.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to the 18Strong podcast, at www.18Strong.com, and remember: train hard, practice smart, and play better golf.