Working out to play golf these days is all the rage. Tiger Woods, who resembled an action figure back in the day, started the trend and plenty of the game’s biggest names have followed suit. That is a good thing. Getting fit for golf is beneficial, while golf leading to our overall fitness is great. But it can be overdone. Some exercises may not be right for you physically, and others are not great for a golfer.
For golfers (such as myself) with an injury that they are working to recover from, care must be taken to ensure that our golf exercises don’t affect our rehab and that our rehab workouts are good for our golf. Depending on the injury, it’s best to rehab and recover in the offseason, and then when you start preparing for the course again, find exercises that are going to improve your flexibility and strengthen your “golf muscles”. But in the meantime, here are five exercises to avoid prior to and during the golf season.
Sit-ups and Crunches
Just about every source recommends staying away from sit-ups and/or crunches. A golfer needs to protect their spine from unnecessary flexion, and crunches can often increase back pain. What’s good here for the abs isn’t necessarily good for the health of your back—and speaking as someone who is recovering from a back injury, I am glad to hear that sit-ups aren’t the answer.
Leg extensions have always been for me (someone with an aversion to the weight room) as a place to start because you are seated to do the exercise. You put your leg in the apparatus against a pad and extend your lower leg to build strength in your quadriceps (thigh muscle on the top of your leg). Five knee surgeries ended this exercise for me, and the desire for golf improvement should end it for you.
Leg extensions build your quadriceps, which is already stronger than your hamstring at the back of the thigh and weak hamstrings can lead to poor golf posture. In addition, the compressive force of the leg extension movement occurring under the kneecap can wear down the cartilage and contribute to patellofemoral pain.
Seated Lat Pulldowns
When in rehab for my lower back injury, I did plenty of seated lat pulldowns—basically sitting on a rowing machine-type apparatus and pulling down weights from over my head to build strength in my core.
According to Ron Kaspriske at GolfDigest.com, this popular gym exercise can ruin your golf posture: “When your pelvis is locked down, the back muscles being trained to rotate and ‘round’ your spine, which can lead to a steeper, armsy golf swing.”
Biceps Preacher Curl
You might need to pray you don’t get hurt doing this one. You perform the biceps preacher curl by sitting and leaning over an angled bench and then doing bicep curls with a bar. According to Walter Lis, from ChicagoGolfReport.com, the exercise is not good for you. “The thing I don’t like about this is the forward shoulder position it puts you in,” says Lis. “You get a lot of unnecessary stress in the shoulder capsule and over stretch the biceps tendon and rotator cuff. It leads to muscle imbalances by pulling the shoulder blades forward, and it can also hurt the neck.”
Heavy lifting of any kind during the golf season is generally frowned upon by fitness experts offering advice on which exercises to avoid, and the chest press is another on that list. According to Chris Costa at GolfWRX.com, the chest press is actually counterproductive during the golf season as “hypertrophy has a tendency to decrease flexibility.”
Costa recommends a band trunk rotation, which involves using a machine or stretch bands at chest level with feet planted and rotating of the trunk.
“This exercise is an eccentric, isometric chest activator,” Costa says. “You use your pec muscles to assist in stabilization while you’re focusing on increasing rotational flexibility and maintaining strength.”
I picked this one up during my back rehab and continue to use it as a flexibility warm up before each golf round. I really find that it works—as opposed to the other five exercises that can hurt your golf game.