I am going to explore what I think is the single best exercise for golfers. To begin, I like to think I am fairly open-minded and willing to change when it comes to training and coaching. As my experience has grown I have changed my opinion on certain things but many of the principles I believed in when I started training/coaching have remained quite constant.
The Hip Hinge – The Best Exercise For Golfers
One of my unwavering beliefs is that everybody, regardless of sport, or training goals should learn how to hip hinge (aka deadlift) proficiently, and build up a good level of strength in the movement. Whilst it’s great for the general population who want to improve general “fitness”, and quality of life, it also happens to be the best exercise for golfers. I teach it to everybody I train.
If I think about how I can help golfers, and strip it down to the bare essentials I consider necessities, I generally think of two main concepts. It’s easy to fall into traps when trying to break complex matters into independent parts as nothing in the body or movement happens in isolation, but I think it’s a good way to challenge one’s thinking and clarify thoughts.
So what do I feel like I really need to develop in a golfer I’m going to be working with, either in person or one who is going to be following an online program?
- The ability to get into a good athletic posture and maintain it.
- Increase ground force.
- The ability to carry out an athletic rotational motion.
- Reduce injury likelihood.
The hip hinge mainly helps greatly with points 1,3,4 above.
Hip Hinge Benefits
- The hip hinge is how we take our bodies from standing upright into a position to address a golf ball. If you cannot do it, it is likely your address position in the golf swing is sub optimal for power production and injury prevention.
- Being able to achieve good range of motion and strength in the hip hinge provides us with many of the physical qualities required for a powerful, high quality swing.
- Training the hip hinge with progressively heavier weights is a great way to increase the potential ground reaction force you can produce. Although the weight is being held in our hands, it’s the amount of force we push into the ground with our feet, powered by our legs, dictates strength level. This is critical for producing CHS in the swing. CHS is a very strong indicator of handicap.
- The hip hinge is a an excellent exercise for strengthening the muscles that run along the rear side of the body, making it a great choice for reducing the risk of injury to the lower back, the most commonly injured area for golfers. It also does a superb job of strengthening the hamstrings, glutes, upper back, grip, and shoulders. There is very few muscles that aren’t strongly stimulated during a heavy hip hinge. All this while teaching excellent lifting mechanics that can be applied to scenarios in everyday life.
- Because of the huge number of muscle groups being stressed at once, the hip hinge is an extremely useful for those looking to gain muscle mass, burn fan, and learn how to use their bodies as one coordinated unit (like we do in the golf swing). This cannot be replicated by weights machines which you see in many gyms or with isolation exercises. There is also a considerable demand on the heart and lungs, as you need to pump blood to a huge amount of working muscles.
One caveat to performing the hip hinge / deadlift is that changes in technique, can significantly increase stress to the structures of the lower back, and reduce the load placed on the large muscles of the hamstrings, glutes, and lats. This is something we want to avoid. The main mistake people make performing the movement is flexing or rounding at their lower backs as opposed to hinging at their hips. I would not let this put you off experimenting with the exercise though. Our spines are not as fragile as some people like to think, and as long as we concentrate on good form, and build up weight appropriately, there is very little to worry about. The best way to safe guard our back against injury is not to avoid loading it, but to gradually strengthen it by exposing it to progressively more stress over time. In simple terms this means don’t be afraid to do exercises that stress your back, we need stress to get stronger. Just become proficient with your technique, and build up the resistance you are using gradually over time. Then, you will start to realize why it is the best exercise for golfers.
Hip Hinge Benefits
The video below shows the hip hinge being carried out with a barbell employed as the means of resistance. A “Hex Bar” is also a great choice, and I generally opt for this variation when possible. It generally makes technique easier to learn, and allows for greater power outputs. Dumbbells and Kettlebells can be great for learning technique, but generally become either too light to keep driving strength adaptations, or become too difficult to grip in the case of Dumbbells. The technique is very simple in theory, but often not easy for people to master.
- Master the movement without any weight first. The dowel hip hinge is an excellent drill to help with this.
- Elevate the bar off the ground in some way. Do not try to lift the bar from the ground at the beginning.
- As you gradually increase in mobility, stability, and control, load can be added and a bigger range of motion can be employed.
- Take regular videos from a side on position to evaluate your technique.
Here is a new updated video, which covers many of the same concepts, but also shows common mistakes.
How Much Weight Should I use?
This is a difficult question to answer, because each variation shown above, will be harder or easier based on the level of elevation of the bar. A simple way to ease yourself in is the guide below guide. A nice experiment for you to try is to plot your current deadlift / hip hinge strength VS your CHS and watch the trend as your deadlift / hip hinge strength increases.
(Remember a regular barbell is 45lbs / 20kg, which you include when adding up the weight you are using)
While a great movement to master, the hip hinge is just one element of a comprehensive golf training program. If you would like to find a comprehensive program to look after your golf fitness, check out the:
Over 1,000 people of varying ages, fitness levels, and golf ability have used the programs to date and feedback has been very positive.
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