If you want to use fitness training to improve golf, GYROTONIC® training has the tools.
GYROTONIC® training is a great tool to help golfers improve their game. PGA Tour coach David Rasmussen who took one look at the picture to your right and immediately knew how Gyrotonic training would benefit his clients. Dave went on to become a GYROTONIC® instructor and working together with system founder Juliu Horvath, developed the teacher training “GYROTONIC® for Golfers”, which I’ve had the pleasure of taking.
So let’s get more specific with the help of Golf Digest Magazine.
Golf Digest online has a weekly feature, Fitness Friday. These seven posts from the series illustrate specific examples of postural, muscular and joint issues that confront golfers and include exercises or stretches that would help correct these issues. I’ve taken the concepts of these exercises or stretches and applied Gyrotonic training to achieve the results these golf experts are seeking.
1. Eliminate your slouch, desk jockeys. (Balanced Arch)
Golf Digest: In order to hit the ball solidly, many golf instructors emphasize the importance of remaining in your address posture as you swing through the impact zone. But if you think about, trying to maintain your posture probably isn’t a good idea if the posture you’re in at address isn’t very good to begin with. Unless you consciously work at it and give yourself reminders, you’ll soon find yourself sitting with your shoulders rounded, your chest closed in, and your glute (butt) muscles deactivated. This all-too-familiar posture eventually manifests into the way you stand over the ball and swing the club.
There is no GYROTONIC® exercise that fails to address proper and healthy posture. So let’s look at the roots, the Arch & Curl that is central to Gyrotonic and GYROKINESIS® training. Specifically, we’re looking at the balanced arch, as shown above. In the balanced arch, you maintain a “shoulders over hips” position, which is an important aspect of a proper address position. With your fingers interlaced behind your neck and elbows high, you’re strengthening your shoulder girdle muscles along with the extensors of the spine, as well as actively opening the chest and anterior shoulder muscles. In addition, you’re narrowed at the pelvis, engaging your hip abductors (the gluteus medius and minimus) which are vital in maintaining your address position without the knees falling in, the pelvis going into a “tucked” position or the height of the torso from the ground decreasing (known as “dipping” in golf terms).
2. Opening the hamstrings (Scissors)
GD: Your hamstrings help support the body while you swing. Wherever you are right now, get into your address posture and then feel the back of your legs. If you can’t feel your hamstring muscles working to hold that posture, you’re probably going to struggle to hit the ball solidly.
Do we address hamstring length in Gyrotonic training? Heck, we have a whole series called The Hamstring Series.
If you watch the video on the Golf Digest article, you’ll see Ron Kaspriske (@ronkaspriske) demonstrate a hamstring stretch that, as is true with most traditional weight training exercises, is a “there and back” exercise. Instead, in Gyrotonic training you’ll move continuously from one hamstring stretch to the hamstring stretch on the opposite leg. Not only are you actively opening your hamstrings (eccentric contraction as your leg rises toward the sky) but you’re teaching your body to properly use your gluteus maximus as the prime mover in hip extension. You get the added benefit of opening your hip flexors, like the psoas, during the downward portion of the motion.
When watching Ron’s video, also note that as he leans into the hamstring stretch he flexes from the hip only, the rest of his body remains stable and still. When performing scissors, your core muscles work to maintain the stability of the pelvis, keeping it in line with your rib cage, neither moving from side to side nor tilting anterior or posterior. And that’s exactly what you need to have a stable address position as you move through your backswing and follow through.
3. Coiling the body from pelvis to shoulders (Single Spiral)
GD: From a swing-mechanics standpoint, David Leadbetter (@davidleadbetter) says the core muscles should initiate the backswing. The chest and the big back muscles should feel as if they are twisting and torquing as they coil over the right leg. Although the hips also will turn back, they shouldn’t turn nearly as much as the upper body.
Among the things we love to do in Gyrotonic training, spiraling is high up on the list. The motion shown left is “single spiral” another of the primary motions. As the Golf Digest article says, the hips turn but not nearly as much as the upper body. The spiral develops from the bottom up. Also, there’s no collapse. Essentially, the structural integrity of the entire body remains intact. We coil, we don’t “turn”. The opposing knee remains vertical, it doesn’t fall in, exactly like in the “correct” picture from the Golf Digest article. Your entire body has muscular activity, from ankles up to your neck, working together in unison to create and maintain the spiral. And that kind of purposeful, active and strong spiral is what you’re seeking in your backswing.
4. Strengthening and mobilizing your ankles
GD: It has been said that a good golf swing starts from the ground up, but that could be bad news if you regularly wear dress shoes or sit for most of the day. A common issue that can develop is poor ankle dorsiflexion (aka “lazy ankle”). If the ability to hinge the joint so your toes point upward is restricted, it can cause problems in your swing, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@).
Ankle dorsiflexion is what we call a flex foot shape. The names of the foot shapes in Gyrotonic training come from their ballet origins. One key benefit of using Gyrotonic exercises to improve your ankle mobility is the compound fluid motions you perform with the entire pelvis and leg complex. There are no isolated motions which is great, because in the real world, and on the golf course, your ankle’s strength, stability and mobility affect everything up your kinetic chain. Holding a flexed foot (or smoothly transitioning from flex to a pointed foot/ankle) while moving through hip extension, hip flexion, knee extension & flexion and internal & external rotation of the hip teaches your body the ability to maintain ankle strength & stability while other parts of the kinetic chain are in motion. And as Ben Shear states, if you want to improve golf, you have to improve your ankles.
5. Weak extensor and rotator muscles in the backswing (Long Arm Combo with Spiral)
GD: To take the club back properly, you need to coil your upper body against a relatively stationary lower body while maintaining the radius of the swing arc, Dave Leadbetter says. The former is a key to synchronicity and power, and the latter helps you hit the ball solidly without having to make split-second adjustments during the downswing to get the club back to the ball. Many golfers struggle to coil or maintain their swing width because the rotator and extensor muscles of their torso are weak, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear.
To strengthen spinal extension with rotation, the article suggests a reverse chop using resistance tubing. As an improvement, the photos above show the end range of a motion using the spinal/torso extensors and rotators seamlessly. As an addition, since each arm has an independent weight stack, there is more shoulder stabilization needed than in the reverse chop. Also, if you notice the left knee, as I spiral to the right, the knee does not fall in, engaging the glutes medius and minumus. Being able to maintain the activity of those muscles in rotation is crucial to properly coiling your body in your swing.
6. Hip strength and mobility (Weaving)
GD: Watch Rory McIlroy hit a tee shot and you can’t help but notice how fast his hips rotate counterclockwise when he starts his downswing. They look like they snap toward the target, leaving his upper body and club in the dust. Most golfers don’t have that kind of explosive hip action when they swing down, but even modest improvements in the way you move them can yield noticeable results in how far you hit the ball, says Dave Herman (@), a trainer to many professional golfers.
If you watch the first video of Dave Herman going through hip mobility exercises, you’ll see he performs three separate exercise, one leg at a time, to cover the three planes of motion the hip joint can move through. Why do that when you have the possibility to smoothly move, in a single motion, through (cracking my knuckles to type this part): hip abduction with external rotation through hip extension, into internal hip rotation with adduction, adding in unilateral knee flexion and bilateral hip flexion, with (from point 4 above) ankle dorsiflexion into plantar flexion. *whew* So the three planes of motion Dave covers (sagittal, frontal and transverse) are all covered in a single, continuous motion that also requires your core musculature to stabilize your pelvis and spine. And this is just ONE exercise from the hamstring series.
7. Forearm rotation (PNF)
GD: Golf-and-fitness instructor Karen Palacios-Jansen (@kpjgolf) says improving forearm rotation is going to help not only in squaring the clubface for straighter shots, it also is one of golf’s speed accumulators. That means your ball will go straighter and farther. “Forearm rotation produces a tremendous amount of clubhead speed through the hitting area,” she says.
It’s good for a golfer to understand the motions of the joints of the shoulder and arm so they can understand how they affect and support each other. There are two “rotations” of the forearm, supination (palm toward ceiling) and pronation (palm toward floor). In the “Yes” picture in the article, the right forearm is in pronation. But at the top of your backswing, your forearm is in supination. You want to teach your body how to move smoothly from one to the other, without extraneous motions like the wrist flexion shown in the “No” picture.
In addition to the forearm rotation, in this motion the activity starts in the spine, moves through the rib cage to the shoulder where the shoulder joint externally rotates. The elbow is also flexed. Once again, this describes the position of the shoulder and arm at the top of the backswing. And let’s not forget the opposing arm: internal rotation and wrist pronation, which describes the left arm in the backswing and the right arm in the follow through. Moving seamlessly from one position to the other with the entire torso active and the hips narrowed and abducted will train the entire body to move as a single unit. No more isolation exercises that you then have to try to put back together in your swing.
BONUS: Putting it all together (The Wingmaster)
Speaking of putting it back together, talking about all these individual motions/exercises that address different muscular and postural imbalances to help improve golf would be incomplete without an exercise that directly mirrors your swing. So I introduce to you: The Wingmaster.
No training to improve golf can be without standing exercises. The Wingmaster is my favorite choice for standing exercises on the Tower Handle Unit. We start in address position, noting the neutral spine and the shoulders over hips positioning. As I spiral in the second picture, you can see how the Wingmaster guides you to move your entire shoulder girdle evenly. You can also see that, like in point 3 above, the hips turn right, but not as much as the rest of the upper body. With the Wingmaster on your shoulder blades, you will learn to spiral without your left shoulder rising up toward your chin. In the third photo you can see that the neutral spine is still in place. Also, the left knee is still strong, not collapsing in toward the midline (hello again g. min & med). The motion is continuous from left to right for balance and the resistance can be varied to achieve different purposes.
All this and more to improve your game through Gyrotonic training.
These are just eight examples of motions we use in Gyrotonic trainingthat can help your golf game improve. And since there are many hundreds of exercises on the Tower Handle Unit, there is much, much more. No need to have this little piece and that little piece, no need to have isolated exercises for one purpose. Instead you can move fluidly through all the ranges of motion of all the joints that are important in your golf game.
And the game of life.
You can improve your golf game by finding a GYROTONIC® studio near you.
GYROTONIC and GYROKINESIS are registered trademarks of Gyrotonic Sales Corp and are used with their permission.