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A Guide to Golf Fitness for Teens

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In this series of five articles, I will be offering guidelines for golf-specific physical activity aimed at five different golfing demographics:

This article covers the physical activity that’s best for teens interested in the game of golf, a period in which many changes start happening in the body. Hormones go crazy, which normally leads to growth spurts, acne and unpredictable mood swings amongst a whole host of other adaptations.

A teen’s body often feels strange, ungainly and uncomfortable to live in. Combine this self consciousness with a lifestyle that is increasingly centered around computers, phones and school work, and the solid upright posture that was demonstrated during their preteen years can rapidly disappear.

poor posture

The increasing use of mobile phones is slowly dragging the posture of teenages forward, in and down.

As trainers and golf coaches, we like to see good posture not only from a golf swing mechanics point of view, but also to ensure proper functional movement of the spine and the major joints in the body. A sloppy standing and seated posture will almost always be reflected in a golf swing with funky compensatory movements and poor control in basic gym exercises.

The first stop for any young teen who comes into either our golf academy or Australian state program is a postural analysis, followed by education and prescription of corrective exercises. It might not be glamorous or particularly fun at first, but we consider it absolutely essential for future development.

training posture

Randall working with an elite golfer on deep core control using pressure bio-feedback.

Once some postural education has been carried out, we move on to the basic gym exercises: push, pull, squat, lunge and brace. We prescribe an even balance of these exercises to ensure equal development and good awareness and control of the body in movement.

At first, these exercises use just bodyweight or very light loads, and almost always come with a high volume of repetitions. As mentioned before, the body is still growing throughout this period and it isn’t advised to repeatedly load the skeleton with heavy weight. The objective at this point is not to build a muscle-bound freak who pounds the ball 300 yards. We are still very much in the phase of developing a well-rounded athlete who has great body awareness, control and resilience to injury. We also recommend continuing to play other sports, as this will help develop coordination, joint stability and cardio-vascular fitness.

SLPP21

Mastering the fundamentals of gym movements is really important in the teenage years.

Neglecting the pillars of physical development — postural awareness, an introduction to the gym and participation in sports outside of golf — can lead to some worrying adaptations. “Reverse upper spine” and “crunch factor” are two fairly gruesome-sounding movements that we see leave their mark on the bodies of teen golfers on a regular basis. They are both attributed to poor body awareness and/or lack of strength when swinging the golf club. Lateral curvatures in the spine and injured shoulders and wrists are all too frequently the result.

adaptation 3

A teenager displaying an adaptive shortening of the muscles in the right side of the body from hitting too many practice balls.

The best practice is to see a good, golf-specific trainer or physio in your area who can set you down the right path. In the mean time, click on the image below to get access to a basic bodyweight posture and functional movement program that will get you started.

Exercise guides for this program are available on the Golf Fit Pro app. Check out the app and a host of other golf fitness programs, products and services here: www.golffitproshop.com

Light Program

Click to enlarge.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Ball

    Jun 5, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    The last pic of the boy’s right shoulder dip:

    That’s a perfect body for golf! Why are you criticizing it? He’s built himself to get to that place! Don’t ruin it by trying to balance it back! He’s a golfer! This is what happens, and how you want it to be.

    • Eh

      Jun 5, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Actually, repeated use of a single side of the body can result in injuries due to the drastic strength gap between the two halves in the long run.

    • TR1PTIK

      Jun 5, 2015 at 11:58 pm

      I really hope you’re kidding. There is nothing healthy about a posture that is so out of whack. You may think that it’s the perfect body for golf and something to strive for, but I guarantee that anyone who fails to address muscular and skeletal issues such as those depicted will have their golfing careers cut short.

      You seem to be very naïve and uneducated on the subject so please refrain from posting such ridiculous comments in the future.

  2. Ball

    Jun 5, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    First pic:

    He had a really good view, didn’t he?

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Clement: Laid-off or perfect fade? Across-the-line or perfect draw?

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Some call the image on the left laid off, but if you are hitting a fade, this could be a perfect backswing for it! Same for across the line for a draw! Stop racking your brain with perceived mistakes and simply match backswing to shot shape!

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The Wedge Guy: The easiest-to-learn golf basic

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My golf learning began with this simple fact – if you don’t have a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, it is practically impossible for your body to execute a fundamentally sound golf swing. I’m still a big believer that the golf swing is much easier to execute if you begin with the proper hold on the club.

As you might imagine, I come into contact with hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. And it is very rare to see a good player with a bad hold on the golf club. There are some exceptions, for sure, but they are very few and very far between, and they typically have beat so many balls with their poor grip that they’ve found a way to work around it.

The reality of biophysics is that the body moves only in certain ways – and the particulars of the way you hold the golf club can totally prevent a sound swing motion that allows the club to release properly through the impact zone. The wonderful thing is that anyone can learn how to put a fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, and you can practice it anywhere your hands are not otherwise engaged, like watching TV or just sitting and relaxing.

Whether you prefer an overlap, interlock or full-finger (not baseball!) grip on the club, the same fundamentals apply.  Here are the major grip faults I see most often, in the order of the frequency:

Mis-aligned hands

By this I mean that the palms of the two hands are not parallel to each other. Too many golfers have a weak left hand and strong right, or vice versa. The easiest way to learn how to hold the club with your palms aligned properly is to grip a plain wooden ruler or yardstick. It forces the hands to align properly and shows you how that feels. If you grip and re-grip a yardstick several times, then grip a club, you’ll see that the learning curve is almost immediate.

The position of the grip in the upper/left hand

I also observe many golfers who have the butt of the grip too far into the heel pad of the upper hand (the left hand for right-handed players). It’s amazing how much easier it is to release the club through the ball if even 1/4-1/2″ of the butt is beyond the left heel pad. Try this yourself to see what I mean.  Swing the club freely with just your left hand and notice the difference in its release from when you hold it at the end of the grip, versus gripping down even a half inch.

To help you really understand how this works, go to the range and hit shots with your five-iron gripped down a full inch to make the club the same length as your seven-iron. You will probably see an amazing shot shape difference, and likely not see as much distance loss as you would expect.

Too much lower (right) hand on the club

It seems like almost all golfers of 8-10 handicap or higher have the club too far into the palm of the lower hand, because that feels “good” if you are trying to control the path of the clubhead to the ball. But the golf swing is not an effort to hit at the ball – it is a swing of the club. The proper hold on the club has the grip underneath the pad at the base of the fingers. This will likely feel “weak” to you — like you cannot control the club like that. EXACTLY. You should not be trying to control the club with your lower/master hand.

Gripping too tightly

Nearly all golfers hold the club too tightly, which tenses up the forearms and prevents a proper release of the club through impact. In order for the club to move back and through properly, you must feel that the club is controlled by the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. If you engage your thumbs and forefingers in “holding” the club, the result will almost always be a grip that is too tight. Try this for yourself. Hold the club in your upper hand only, and squeeze firmly with just the last three fingers, with the forefinger and thumb off the club entirely. You have good control, but your forearms are not tense. Then begin to squeeze down with your thumb and forefinger and observe the tensing of the entire forearm. This is the way we are made, so the key to preventing tenseness in the arms is to hold the club very lightly with the “pinchers” — the thumbs and forefingers.

So, those are what I believe are the four fundamentals of a good grip. Anyone can learn them in their home or office very quickly. There is no easier way to improve your ball striking consistency and add distance than giving more attention to the way you hold the golf club.

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Clement: Stop ripping off your swing with this drill!

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Not the dreaded headcover under the armpit drill! As if your body is defective and can’t function by itself! Have you seen how incredible the human machine is with all the incredible feats of agility all kinds of athletes are accomplishing? You think your body is so defective (the good Lord is laughing his head off at you) that it needs a headcover tucked under the armpit so you can swing like T-Rex?

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