Your Fitness Check

By on 25th March 2016
Your Fitness Check

We have a very simple three-step fitness check for you to complete. You can do this at home or during your warm-up on the driving range or golf course.

The three areas that we want you to be familiar with are:

  1. Your posture
  2. Your mobility
  3. Your glute activation

1. Assessing your posture

In general the majority of people have some variation from a normal or ideal posture. Some variations are therefore common. Many top golfers have obvious postural variations. Diagram 1 displays what is regarded as a good posture. Don’t worry if you do not resemble this posture — as we have said, several top golfers display some common posture abnormalities. The important point however, is to exercise or train to improve flexibility and strength in the appropriate muscles that have deviations from normal. Most, if not all, professional players now work closely with strength and conditioning coaches to ensure that any postural imbalances are addressed in their conditioning programme. This will not really change their shape and posture, but what it does is to make tight muscles more flexible to do their work and weak muscles stronger to stabilise and generate power.

By identifying what variation from ideal or normal you have, you will be able to note what muscles you will need to stretch or strengthen on a regular basis. We have studied sports players’ physical shape and posture for over twenty years now and you too can benefit from this experience. You will then have a more personalised training programme suitable to your needs. Remember you do not need an expert to do this you can simply do this by standing sideways in front of a mirror or have a friend check your standing posture. You will then be able to identify the stretch and strengthening exercises most appropriate for you.

Check your posture by standing sideways to a full length mirror in your bedroom. You will need to stand normally and breathe relaxed for 2-3 breaths and then look and assess your posture.

Diagram 1: Ideal Posture

Diagram 1: Ideal Posture


Diagram 2: Lumbar Lordosis

Diagram 2: Note the forward tilt of the belt line – This indicates an excessively arched lower back

There are two key areas to assess:

  1. Your shoulders. Are they rounded towards the chest?
  2. Your lower back. Does your lower back show a large curve into your back over your buttocks? Your belt line will tell you. Notice the forward tilt in the belt line in Diagram 2.

If you answer ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to any of the above, then you will need to stretch and strengthen certain key muscles.

Fitness Check Table

Fitness Check Table

Check the table above for the appropriate exercise. You can work on your postural weak links by repeating the exercises suitable for you more frequently. These will then be your own personal exercises and they should be completed regularly. Take 5 minutes each day or every other day to complete these exercises and over 3-4 weeks you should feel better. If you have excellent posture it does not mean that you will not have your own individual exercises to complete. Assess your flexibility and you will likely find that you have a tendency for either a rounded shoulder posture or a low back arch or both perhaps.

2. Assessing your movement ability

Can you squat?

Did you know that the squat test helps us identify the type of exercise that you need to complete, 80% of people cannot deep squat properly. Yes, 8 out of 10 people are limited in how they can squat. Contrast this to the top golfers, The majority of good golfers can deep squat. Is there a message here? Well yes there is. The message is clear: By becoming more mobile you will be in a better position to play better golf.

The squat test is an excellent way of:

  1. Mapping your physical mobility progress
  2. Identifying what exercises you will need to do to become a more mobile and eventually, a better player

The aim of the overhead squat test is to see which test you can get lowest in a squat. If you can get lower than a thighs to parallel position then you display very good movement mobility. If not then the simple stretch and strengthen exercises will be good for you.

The Overhead Squat Test

Diagram 3: Start of the overhead squat test

Diagram 3: Start of the overhead squat test


Overhead Squat Finish

Diagram 4: Position at end of overhead squat

4 common imbalances

As you squat down, check if any of the four common compensations occur.

  1. Do your heels rise?
  2. Do your knees buckle inwards?
  3. Is your torso or upper body falling forwards?
  4. Are your arms falling forwards?

If you answer yes to any of the four compensations above, you are quite normal. By engaging with exercises that will help improve your squat depth and efficiency of movement, you are getting ready to play better golf.

If your heels rise, you need to stretch your calves. Always ensure you do so before and after playing as well. If your upper body tilts excessively forward as you move down in the squat, then you need to stretch your calves and your lats (upper back), and also strengthen your pelvic core. If you cannot get below a thigh’s parallel position, then you will need to complete all the exercises mentioned above.

3. Assessing your glute activation

Most golfers are unaware of the importance of the powerful glute muscles in the swing. Unfortunately, these muscles are poorly activated due to our sedentary lifestyles, where we no longer have the opportunity to activate these powerful muscles on a regular basis. One of the key principles outlined in our previous post “Plan your Training Programme with these 9 Principles” was ‘use it or lose it’. This is pertinent to our use of the gluteal muscles. If we are not actively using them in our daily routine, then we will not be able to recruit and use them in our golf swing- thus, we are firing on a limited number of cylinders.

We will use the Bridge test to assess whether you can fire or activate your glutes.

Lie on your back with your arms on the floor or across your chest. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and with your feet flat on the floor, try to move your hips up to form a bridge.

Can you hold this position for a count of ten? If you can do so, and do not feel your hamstrings tighten, then you have good glute activation. Stop if your hamstrings start to tighten. This tells you that you have poor glute activation.


Glute Bridge

Diagram 5: The Bridge – A test for how well your glutes work

4. Assessing your core muscles

Now that you have:

  1. Assessed your posture
  2. Tested your overhead squat ability
  3. Tested your glute activation

You are now much more aware of your exercise needs.

Do not be worried if you have found that your posture is less than ideal, that you cannot deep squat or that your glutes don’t work as well as they should. You are normal if all the above is true for you.

A training programme to address these weak links would be ideal. Different routines to combine stability, strength, power, and mobility training with your golf swing practice. This is an excellent method of ensuring that while you are activating those inactive or dormant muscles, you will be also honing their stability and power into your golf swing development. You could also choose to complete your training programme for 10 minutes as a resetting routine on the evening or day after a long round of golf. Remember that playing golf is an asymmetrical activity. By this I mean that you are not stressing the muscles and joints of your body equally – for example, if you are a right-handed player, you will want to brace the left lead leg on your downswing and follow through. The hip joint of the lead leg will need to be firm, while the opposite hip will want to rotate and drive through during the downswing and follow through. Thus, while one hip flexor is stretched, the other is actively holding the lead hip joint in place.

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Dr Liam Hennessy

Academic Director at Setanta College
Dr. Liam Hennessy is fitness coach to three time Major winner Padraig Harrington and a member of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Advisory Board. Liam is a former international athlete and world renowned S&C coach, working in top level European soccer, international rugby, and the Olympic Games. Liam is currently the Academic Director with highly regarded global sports institute - Setanta College

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About Dr Liam Hennessy

Dr. Liam Hennessy is fitness coach to three time Major winner Padraig Harrington and a member of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Advisory Board. Liam is a former international athlete and world renowned S&C coach, working in top level European soccer, international rugby, and the Olympic Games. Liam is currently the Academic Director with highly regarded global sports institute - Setanta College

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