What are the best kettlebell exercises for golfers? Whether you’re a golfer or a personal trainer looking to get golfers into better shape and perform better, the following article will either provide you with some ideas on kettlebell exercises to implement, or how to analyze your athlete and build them from the ground up. Of course, this only scratches the surface when it comes to kettlebell training for golfers.
Kettlebell training is perfect for golfers that want serious and advanced golf power, improve their golf game, stay injury-free, and create a fluid swing.
Without further ado, to figure out what the best kettlebell exercises are, we need to start looking at this from the ground up. You first need a stable strong base, as everything the golfer does starts here.
Feet and Ankles
A strong firm base starts with the feet and ankles, if you have feet or ankle problems, they will affect everything else that hinges on this area. Kettlebell training in bare feet will greatly improve feet mobility and strength. Specific ankle exercises should be implemented to strengthen and work on the mobility of the ankles. Some deep static squats with lateral movements are great for this.
Next are the calves, there is not much emphasis on the calves, yes the heel comes off the ground at the end of the follow-through, however, as the name implies, it’s a follow-through, not a push-through, so no explosive action from the calves. Having said that, you should never neglect an area, but you need to be aware of what the focus points are. Bodyweight calf raises are great for ankle mobility, so here you kill two birds with one stone. Bodyweight or kettlebell squat style get-up is the next thing that is great for ankle mobility, it’s also great for the hips, so we have those covered with one great exercise. If you add a kettlebell to the get-up then you have shoulder stabilization and strength covered as well, very early on in the analysis we’ve already discovered that the kettlebell get-up is a great exercise for golfers to include in their training.
Following is a great video on some get-up variations for exactly that.
An important part of a firm base and stabilization are the knees, weak knees will cause issues like instability, not having enough strength to support rotational power generated by the torso, and plenty of other issues that will prevent the execution of a good back- and downswing. Squats and get-ups, when done right, are going to be good for the knees, not explosive, not high reps, just quality reps focussing on range and strength. The hamstrings play an important part in knee stabilization, there are plenty of exercises to work the hamstrings, the ham sandwich is a great exercise but very difficult and usually leads to cramps, the next best thing for some dynamic work is the kettlebell swing.
The thighs of course play a big part in providing a good solid base, no need to have legs like the hulk, but you want some strength in those thighs to provide stability, especially for the knee. Some deadlifts hip hinge and squat style will be good, whereas the squat style will focus more on the anterior, the quads, the hip hinge style will focus more on the posterior, the hamstrings, and glutes. Just enough training to create some strength in the upper leg is good enough, no need for extremely heavy lifts.
Next, between the lower- and upper-body we’ll find the all-important hips on which a lot hinges (pun intended).
No golf swing is going to look good with weak or tight hips. Good flexibility and mobility of the hips are super important for a good golf swing, especially to get the hips following through into the pivot. Get-up variations and lunges are great to work on strength and flexibility at the same time. Kettlebell swings and kettlebell get-ups, which we’ve already covered, are great for the hips.
We’ve covered the lower-body and the hinge connecting the lower- to the upper-body, now it’s time to look at the core.
Once you’ve established a good stable, firm, and strong base, then you have the core, or rather the torso, this needs to be strong and have good rotational skills. As the backswing, downswing, and follow-through is rotation, this needs to be put as a priority, and proper mobility at the thoracic spine is going to be the most important. Issues with the thoracic are going to be felt in the knees, hips, and lumbar area as they will try and compensate.
During a swing the golfer will be in a slight hip hinge, therefore good strong posterior muscles like the gluteus maximus and erector spinae are going to be extremely important, as a sore back will cut any golf game short. There isn’t much lateral flexion going on during a swing, so things like the quadratus lumborum take a backstep on the list of priorities. Although there isn’t much pulling other than at the leading latissimus dorsi during the downswing, the lats are important, especially for the protection of the shoulders, good lat activation also provides a more solid base to swing with. Again, not the biggest priority, but should not be forgotten and certainly included in the training program.
Diagonal patterns force you to engage your abs and obliques by resisting the forces pulling you in the opposite direction, not only will this power your swing, but it will keep your back protected through high-speed swings.
Of course, locking out the arms is easy, so everyone seems to think anyway, but if there are issues and you want a better lock-out (straight arm), then you need to start looking at strengthening your triceps. If you have a problem with tight biceps (opposing muscles) then you need to look at stretches.
Below is a great clip of Luke Donald’s golf swing in slow motion.
The deltoids are used to raise and stabilize the arms, you’re not going to want super strong and big deltoids that get in the way, but you want to make sure they’re strong enough to do what they need to with ease, that is, to raise the arms and keep them stabilized. Those shoulders also need good mobility to create a good range of motion. the kettlebell halo and standing pull-over which are both shown in the videos below are perfect.
Golfing without strength is like a speed train without brakes. You’re going to crash.
~ Taco Fleur
Wrist and Grip Strength
There is lateral flexion of the wrists during the swing, but even if there wasn’t, you would still need strong wrists to maintain a solid straight wrist when required. If you’re experiencing wrist issues it might be time to start looking at strengthening them. If you can’t hold on to the club while swinging, or it almost feels like you can’t, it will show in the power you will generate, as it won’t be as forceful as one would swing with strong wrists and grip. Kettlebells are great for grip and wrist strength due to the nature of their design. There are also plenty of exercises to focus on just wrist strength and isolation training.
Balance and Coordination
Without a doubt, you don’t just need strength, rotation, flexibility, and mobility, you also need balance and coordination, without it you might hit a couple of inches too low, too high, or miss the ball altogether. Due to the fact that the kettlebell can challenge the athlete from every plane imaginable, the kettlebell is one of the best exercise tools to work with. And I’m not just saying that because I’m biased, you name me any other exercise tool that allows you to swing it, circle it around the body, create a figure eight and juggle it!?.
In summary, if you’re a golfer, then you want to train with kettlebells to increase your cardio, endurance, strength, power, and rotational plus overall mobility. Your cardio and endurance to be able to last the full rounds, your strength and power to hit the ball further, to hit more accurately, and most importantly, to feel like it was a breeze at the end of a tough game.
Last but not least, train to strengthen muscles that safely accelerate and decelerate the powerful golf swing movements. One-dimensional bodybuilding-type workouts aren’t going to cut it. Kettlebells are also amazing tools to build grip strength so you can hit harder without fear of letting go of the golf club.
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