Whether it’s twisting the body on a drive, rotating the hips during a back swing, or squatting down to pick up the golf ball, golfers are constantly twisting and turning their bodies. Golf requires your dominant side to constantly reproduce the same swing over and over, several times per hole for several hours at a time. Not surprisingly, this can lead to some fairly drastic asymmetries in the body.
Whether you’re a pro or a recreational golf player, Pilates will help you hit the ball stronger, straighter and for longer.
Due to its repetitive nature, golf can cause our muscles to become overused, fatigued and sometimes weakened. These weaknesses can stem from poor core strength, lack of flexibility and restrictions through our joints and spine. In the worst cases these weaknesses may lead to injury, however they can also cause pain in your back swing, reduce power and accuracy in your drives and reduce your endurance over the day. This is where Pilates for golfers can offer a great solution.
So why Pilates?
Pilates is a low impact form of exercise that help improve overall strength, posture, flexibility and holds a specific focus on breathing effectively during exercise. Pilates, like golf, is primarily based on movement from the centre (core) of the body. Our core includes the trunk, shoulder girdles and pelvis. Rotating through the hips and trunk are part of every single golf shot, so a strong core and a good level of flexibility helps create more powerful golf shots.
Pilates is also a great tool to help athletes with injury prevention and recovery. One of the game’s greatest ever players, Tiger Woods, includes Pilates in his training schedule to help keep his body in balance and functioning as one strong unit.
Some of the benefits of a consistent Pilates routine can include:
- Improved core strength which comes from targeting those deep muscles of our core. Golf is centred around the rotation through our trunk, with a stronger core comes increased balance, power and a controlled swing.
- Improved mobility which helps our joints move better and more freely. Golfers often notice enhanced mobility through their shoulders, spine and hips.
- Improved breathing. Focused and effective breath work during exercise helps us use our muscles to their full potential.
- Improved strength and posture also leads to good balance. Better balance helps the body perform as one strong unit, setting up a good foundation for an effective swing.
Pilates Exercises for Golfers:
Here are some beginner Pilates exercises that you can start incorporating into your golf routine or warm-up:
1. Thread the Needle: (helps improve mobility through the shoulders and trunk)
- As shown in this article, come into a 4-point kneel position on the floor.
- Open one hand up to the ceiling and thread it all the way under the opposite arm on the floor, allowing the spine to twist, whilst keeping your hips level.
- Then return the same arm back to the ceiling and repeat this process 8–10 times on each side.
- Using a big inhale and exhale helps throughout this exercise.
2. Bird Dog: (helps improve trunk stability and activates the deep stabilising muscles through our core)
- Focus on your breath and core strength to keep you nice and stable when performing this exercise.
- Coming back into a 4-point kneel, lift one arm and the opposite leg off the floor (into the bird dog position). Hold at the top for 2–3 seconds before placing both hand and knee back on the floor into the 4-point kneel position.
- Continuously repeat this exercise on both sides for 45–60 seconds
3. Glute Bridge: (targets your posterior chain – glutes & hamstrings – whilst stretching out the hip flexors on the front of your hips)
- Lie down on your back, with feet hip distance apart and arms relaxed by your side.
- Slowly peel your hips up off the floor one vertebrae at a time, until your knees/hips/shoulders are all in one line.
- Focus on squeezing your glutes at the top, and then slowly peeling back down one vertebra at a time. The whole process, up and down, should take about 7–9 seconds.
- Perform this exercise for 30–45 seconds, with a strong emphasis on squeezing your glutes together at the top.
4. Side Plank with Thread the Needle:
(helps with mobility through the spine and improves core strength)
- Core strength isn’t just about the ‘six pack’, it also the muscles along our waist called our obliques.
- In this exercise, you’ll come to come to a side lying position, leaving the bottom knee on the floor and extending the top leg out straight to help support you in the side plank.
- From there, your bottom forearm/hand is supporting you on the floor and your top hand will shoot straight up to the sky. Like the first exercise, we’re going to thread the top hand under the space we’ve created from the floor to our bottom hip and then send that arm back up to the sky.
- Perform this exercise for 20–30 seconds each side (depending on Pilates experience).
Remember that in order for a Pilates program to be effective, consistency is key. We generally recommend golfers should aim for 3–4 sessions per week to realise useful benefits.
Pilates is about more than just a strong core. It can help improve the mind-body connection, which is crucial for success in a sport like golf where strategy, concentration, and staying calm are so important. A regular Pilates practice will help your muscles get stronger, your joints move more freely and improve your mind-body awareness, which will all help improve your golf game.