The number one mistake golfers (and ALL athletes) make in the gym is mimicking their sport-specific movements with resistance.
Basketball players: are you jumping with a weight vest? Baseball players: are you swinging a weighted bat? Runners: are you running with ankle weights? Golfers: are you doing golf swings with a weight or resistance band?
The first rule of training for a sport is: Don’t mimic your sport in the gym!
I see it all the time; people grab a weight or resistance band and start going through the motions of their golf swing. They think they are adding more power and more strength to their swing and I love their enthusiasm; however, it will only DECREASE performance.
This is ESPECIALLY true for the golf swing which is the most fine tuned movement in all of sports.
The concept of mimicking athletic movements with added resistance seems to make sense. The required muscles get stronger in the exact positions the sport requires and you get to practice the movement at the same time.
Unfortunately, this is extremely detrimental to the movement. This has been proven in every sport. Multiple times.
- Weighted bats decrease bat speed
- Weighted clubs decrease club head speed
- Jumping with a weight vest decreases vertical jump height
- Sprinting with ankle weights decreases foot speed
- Throwing a heavy discus or shotput decreases distance with a regulation weighted one
The reason it doesn’t work isn’t because the muscles aren’t getting stronger, but because it throws off the fine-tuned neurological sequence of the movement.
Your Golf Swing Is Imprinted On Your Brain
Your golf swing is a very precise athletic movement. Everything has to be done with great precision and exact timing:
- how your weight shifts on your feet from front to back and left to right
- when, how much, and how fast your lower and upper body turn in relation to each other in the takeaway and again in the downswing
- your elbows bending and straightening at the right time
- your wrists releasing at the right time
- where your eyes are focused
A golf swing requires every muscle your body to be utilized in a specific sequence, in specific ranges of motion, and in correct tension relationships to all the other muscles.
To maintain speed and efficiency your brain automatically links all these precise movements, tension relationships, and their timing together. The best golfers don’t have to think about their swing, they just go out and their body automatically knows what to do. The sequence is imprinted on their brain.
Adding weight to the movement causes your body to change the entire sequence and balance of the movement in order to achieve a similar outward appearance. The result is a muddled neurological imprint of the movement. The two sequences get confused in your brain so even though the muscles may be physically stronger, the movement is more inefficient.
The best way to train for sports is to leave your sport specific movements for practice time. Instead, train in ways that activate and encourage the correct muscles to fire without mimicking your sport.
Great Exercises to Improve Your Golf Swing
- Deadlifting activates the glutes and encourages more athletic movements being initiated from the hips. It creates a more stable base for your swing, helps correct early extension, and encourages a hip first rotation rather than arms first.
- A split-stance single-arm cable decline chest press trains stability in the lower body with the lead leg being in golf posture and stability and transfer of force in the core while the upper body rotates and presses. This helps train stability in your lower body and core throughout your swing. It also encourages upper and lower body separation which is critical for a good swing.
Neither of these look like a golf swing but they will have an immediate and positive impact on your game. Even when working with medicine balls to increase rotational power, I never have a client mimic their golf swing. I always have them in a split stance, kneeling, or they add a stepping motion to it. Small differences allow me to disassociate the gym movement from the swing in their brain and still get the benefits for their swing.
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Ryan Blackburn is the owner of Orlando Golf Performance in Orlando, FL. He works with golfers on every major tour as well as college and amateur players. He holds multiple certifications in the field of functional movement and athletic performance.