What Exercises Can I Do to Improve My Golf Game?

You Can Have Lefty’s Calves too!

In February, the world saw a photo of Phil Mickelson golfing while he was wearing short pants. Many golf fans knew that the golfer, (also known as Lefty), was excelling at the age of 48 partly because he has become physically fit via exercising, but few people were prepared for what the photo showed.

“Phil Mickelson's calves are the most improbable golf trend electrifying the Internet—but we're really impressed,” reported this Golf Digest magazine article. “Twitter freaks out over Mickelson's giant calf muscles,” reported this Golf Channel article.

If you look at the photos of Mickelson’s muscular calves, you can see why so many people were impressed, but the photos demonstrate something more important -- you can improve your golf game via very specific exercises. These exercises are de-facto golf training aids.

What exercises should you do to improve your golf game? The first step in answering that question is to explore which muscles are the most important muscles affecting your golf swing. Then do the appropriate exercises to strengthen those muscles.

Please don’t tell Mickelson this, because we’re afraid he might show us photos, but many golf swing experts think that the most important muscle in golf is the gluteus maximus muscle, which is also commonly known as the glutes or the buttocks. In her article “Tips From The Pros: The Most Important Muscle In Golf,” certified golf fitness coach Carolina Romero says that strong glutes protect the spine during a golf swing and reduce the chances of spine injuries.

“Additionally, without strong glutes, it’s almost impossible for us to recruit our lower bodies during the downswing,” Romero wrote. “This will result in a loss of swing speed and an inefficient golf swing sequence in which the upper body leads, wasting the energy and potential power that the lower body could bring into the mix.”

The gluteus maximus is also listed as one of the crucial muscles used in a golf swing in this article. The others are the forearm, the pectoralis major or chest muscle, the latissimus dorsi (the back’s widest and most powerful muscle), and the external abdominal obliques, which are on the side of the torso and cover “the sides of the ribs from under the arm to the crest of the hip.” Also, the Golfweek magazine article “What Are the Main Muscles Used in a Golf Swing?” lists shoulder and back muscles, the abdominal muscles, and the quadriceps muscles as crucial.

Now that we know what muscles golf swing trainers think are important, we can pass on their recommendations about the most important exercises you should do.

Exercises For Glutes

Romero’s exercises for glutes include:

  • Hip Flexor Stretches: The photos in Romero’s article show her putting one knee on the ground. Then, you “tuck your tailbone into your spine,” bringing the hips forward to intensify the stretch. Hold your position and then do the same exercise with the other knee on the ground.
  • Contract Buttocks: Lie on your back with your hands “palm up” under your buttocks. Then, contract one side of your buttocks muscle 10 to 20 times before trying to contract the other side of the muscle 10 to 20 times. Do three sets of these contractions.
  • Glute Bridges: Lie on your back, bend your knees, and then lift your hips. “At the top of the movement, tuck your tailbone in and squeeze your glutes,” Romero writes. Do three sets of 12 to 20 repetitions.

Many other exercises can strengthen your glutes. The Golf Digest article “Best Golf Exercises To Improve Your Game” recommends:

  • The Mini-Band Walk Forward: You put stretch bands around your legs. The photos and description provide more detail.
  • Glute Bridges: Romero recommended these too, but this article reports that they also strengthen your lower back and hamstrings.
  • Lateral Squat: This exercise also strengthens the quadriceps.

Exercises For The Back

The lat stretch exercise for your latissimus dorsi is a fabulous exercise according to this Golf Loopy article because it improves the mobility along the side of your torso. This helps "you to make a better, fuller shoulder turn in the backswing and a more powerful downswing." The exercise has seven steps that involves twisting your body while holding a pole. The article has a very helpful video.

Exercises For Obliques

Five exercises to strengthen your abdominal obliques are:

  • Bird Dog Crunches
  • Single-Leg Side Plank with Leg Raise
  • Spiderman Crunch
  • Side Plank Swipers
  • Single-Leg Toe Touches
  • The videos detail how to do these exercises

Exercises For The Chest

Geared toward men, but several recommendations for exercises that could improve the strength of a chest are:

  • Barbell, dumbbell, or machine decline presses.
  • Dumbbell or machine decline flies.
  • Weighted or machine dips.
  • Barbell, dumbbell, or machine chest presses.
  • Dumbbell or machine chest flies.
  • Barbell, dumbbell, or machine incline presses.
  • Dumbbell or machine incline flies.
  • Pullovers or close grip pulldowns.
  • Dumbbell front raise with arms converging at the midline of the body.

Exercises For Forearms

Lifting weights are key to strengthening your forearms. Weightlifting exercises, as well as two pullup-type exercises, are:

  • Dumbbell wrist flexion
  • Dumbbell wrist extension
  • Dumbbell reverse curl
  • Farmer walks
  • Pull-up bar hang
  • Towel pull-up hang

Exercises For Calves

In case you're less interested in strengthening the parts of the body that are most crucial for your golf swing and more interested in emulating Mickelson, we have exercises for that too. The Golfweek article "Calf Building Exercises" has three. They are:

  • Calf Raises: "Just step on a block with your feet (heels as well) firmly flat on the block and then push up on your toes resembling a stance on your “tippy-toes.”
  • One-Leg Calf Raises: This is for if you want both calves to look like Mickelson's.
  • Squatting: This exercise's effectiveness is boosted when you place a medium weighted barbell on your shoulders.

These exercises could make you so strong that you, like Phil Mickelson, will be tempted to post photos of your sculpted calves on the Internet. Good luck!

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