4 Drills to Aid in a Pain-Free Golf Game

Last summer, my buddy Joe Gambino and I found ourselves at the driving range and/or course on what seemed to be an every-other day basis.

I love the game of golf.

The weather, the scenery, the Sam Adam's Summer Ale that made up for the triple bogey on 11, everything about it.

While we're far from world-class golfers, it is something that we both thoroughly enjoy in our free time. Another thing we enjoy is helping people move pain-free and allowing them to enjoy their life. The more we work on one another's swings, the more we've been able to see that our work in the weight room can correlate to success and quality movement on the golf course.

People tell me all the time that their age is getting to them. I don't believe this statement one bit. Age is just a number. Seriously. The only time age becomes the limiting factor is when we allow it to be. It's not our age that inhibits our ability to move and initiates pain, it's our lack of movement and poor-quality of movement that does. 

With that, here are four movement drills that can be done prior to playing a full-18, going to the range, or just in the weight room itself.

Quadruped Extension-Rotation

Shoulder and hip separation is a primary factor in regards to how far we can drive the ball from the tee box. The thoracic spine (T-spine), or your upper back, plays a crucial role in our ability to create this separation.

If mobility is limited through our T-spine, we'll find a way to compensate. These compensation patterns typically present themselves through excessive hip or lower back movement.

From a movement standpoint, alone, repetitive motion through compensating joints is a recipe for discomfort and injury. One way to address thoracic rotation limitations is through the quadruped extension-rotation drill, in the video above.

To execute the movement properly, I set up in the all-fours position, and sit my hips back to my heels without arching my lower back. From here, I gently place one arm behind my head while pushing the opposite hand into the floor. Each rep is a slow, controlled rotation through the upper back where I make sure my eyes follow my elbow. This allows me to rotate through my full range of motion, rather than just throwing my shoulder back as far as I can.

If you feel this on the front side of your shoulder, you're doing it wrong and overtime can possibly cause irritation to structural tissue that surrounds that shoulder joint. It's important to watch your elbow throughout the entire movement to ensure the rotation is coming through your T-spine.

Reverse Crunch

The reverse crunch is my personal favorite anterior core drill.

As unorthodox and strange as this movement looks, it has huge benefits not only to golfers, but to anyone that wants to improve the way they move.

While this is a killer exercise on your abdominals, it also requires a great deal of oblique recruitment when done correctly. Rotational power is enhanced through our ability to use our obliques effectively.

Reverse crunches also enable us to posteriorly-tilt (tuck) our pelvis by giving us the proper feedback to do so. It's critical to be able to posteriorly-tilt our hips effectively when off the golf course because there is a ton of torque and compressive force unleashed on the body with every swing we take. If we're unable to absorb these forces effectively, your hips and lower back will suffer on an everyday basis, whether on or off the course.

In the above video, the use of the blue pad below my knees forces me to initiate the movement through my core, without using momentum from my legs. You'll also notice that I'm "anchored" in with the help of a kettlebell. Dumbbells, and other heavy objects work just as well in this scenario. The lighter the weight you use for the reverse crunch, the tougher the exercise will become.

When performing each rep, I think of pulling my knees as far as I can between my elbows under control. While descending, I'll tell clients that there's a piece of glass under their backs and I don't want them to break it. This emphasizes the idea that being able to control this movement as much as possible is critical for optimal core development.

Glute Bridge with Overhead Reach

This is one of my favorite warm-up drills because of it's ability to kill two birds with one stone. While we begin to activate our glutes, we're also gaining clean thoracic spine extension and rotation. 

I'm a big fan of this drill because of it's ability to subtly mimic our backswing. Although we're only reaching with one arm at a time, we're still getting good length through our upper back in order to create that separation I spoke about earlier. 

It's also a fairly simply movement to coach. I'll tell my clients to squeeze their butt as hard as they can while reaching up and across their body with one arm.

It's important to really brace your abdominals in this position, however, in order to avoid arching the lower back. This creates false mobility through the upper extremities, and can even cause pain and discomfort due to the force being placed on the spine. Just like with any other exercise we perform, it's important we execute all of these drills with highly-effective technique.

You'll typically see golfers, and other rotational sport athletes that are more dominant in one direction rather than the other. Because we only rotate in one direction over and over and over again, we create an imbalance between our strength and motor control on both sides of the torso.

While the obliques are responsible for aiding in rotational power, they also play a key role in stabilizing our torso in an instable environment.

Pallof press variations provide us with an instable setting, which forces our obliques to, "turn on". This is known as an anti-rotation drill because we are resisting the band's attempt to force our body into rotation. The tighter I squeeze my glutes and midsection throughout this movement, the more stable my torso remains while pressing.

I love teaching the Pallof press initially in a wide-stance position. This pulls our center of gravity closer to the ground, and allows you to feel whether your body is rotating or not. As you get better, you would simply narrow up your stance to make the Pallof press even tougher. 

Of course, durability on the golf course goes far beyond just the four exercises listed above. Each golfer's anatomy dictates their deficiencies, as well as their strengths. Although it's impossible to tailor a program to a reader I've never assessed in person before, if you start with these four drills on a consistent basis, you're well on your way to a pain-free 18.