6 of the Best Off-Season Shoulder Strengthening Exercises for Golfers

Millions of people of all ages and varying skill levels play golf.  Golf is a low-impact sport.  However, most golfers are at risk for injury.  This is due to the complex nature of the swing requiring extreme flexibility, strength, and coordination.  Most golfers fall short in these areas.  Shoulder injuries are very common in golfers.  This article teaches you 6 exercises to strengthen your shoulders, reduce your risk of injury, and improve your golf swing.

Phases of the Golf Swing

Golf Swing
5 phases of the golf swing

The golf swing is divided into 5 phases:

  1. The backswing – from address to top of swing;
  2. The downswing – from top of the swing to horizontal positioning of the golf club (early part of downswing);
  3. The acceleration phase – from horizontal club position to ball impact (late part of downswing);
  4. The early follow-through – from impact to a horizontal club positioning and;
  5. The late follow-through – from horizontal club position to completion of the swing.

Shoulder Muscle Activity During the Golf Swing

Different shoulder muscles are active during the 5 phases of the swing. There is high activity of the middle, lower, and upper trapezius of the trailing arm during the backswing.  This helps your scapula retract and upwardly rotate.  Weakness of these muscles leads to rotator cuff, bursa, and biceps tendon irritation.

Your rotator cuff muscles in your trailing arm are also highly active during the backswing.  These muscles stabilize the shoulder joint as the larger muscles (your pecs and lats) produce high forces to move the club with speed.

Muscles of the golf swing
The muscle activity during the golf swing is complex and coordinated.

Your serratus anterior in the trailing arm shows high activity during the downswing. This helps stabilize your scapula and produce protraction for added power.  Many golfers and overhead athletes demonstrate weakness of this muscle.  Therefore, dedicated strengthening exercises for this muscle are imperative for long-term shoulder health.

One of your rotator cuff muscles, the supraspinatus, is highly active in the lead arm during the backswing.  The lead arm also shows high activity of the trapezius, serratus anterior, and rhomboids during the downswing and acceleration phase of the swing.  As you can see, many muscles around your shoulder contribute to the golf swing.  A well-rounded shoulder exercise program addresses all of these muscles.

A Proven Golf-Specific Exercise Program

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh investigated the effects of a total body exercise program in recreational golfers.  Golfers performed a golf-specific conditioning program 3–4 times per week for 8 weeks during the off-season.  The program included stretches for the hips and upper back.  Strengthening exercises focused on the core and shoulder.  Power exercises with medicine balls and kettlebells were also included.

Shoulder, trunk, and lower body flexibility improved after the 8-week program.  Balance performance was also significantly better.  Trunk rotation speed during the acceleration phase of the swing showed large improvements.  This corresponded with increased club speed, ball speed, carry distance, and total distance.  These results indicate that a golf-specific exercise program improves strength, flexibility, balance, and performance in golfers.

6 Simple Shoulder Strengthening Exercises for Golfers

The 6 exercises described below are sample exercises from this proven off-season program.  These exercises focus only on the shoulder musculature important for an effective golf swing.  Perform each exercise 3 times per week.  Begin with 3 sets of 10 repetitions and progress up to 15 repetitions per set.  All exercises utilize resistance bands and can be easily done at home, in the gym, or on the golf course.

Band Rotational Row

Band ER in 90 Degrees

Band IR in 90 Degrees

Band Scaption

Band Serratus Punch

Band Reverse Fly

See Your Physical Therapist for Help Getting Started

Golf is a fantastic game that brings happiness to millions of people worldwide.  However, the nature of the golf swing and its repetitive nature leave golfers prone to overuse injuries.  Low back pain and shoulder injuries are the most common in golfers.  Therefore, you must perform regular shoulder strengthening exercises to reduce your risk of injury and keep yourself in the game.

For help getting started with the right exercises, see your physical therapist.  The physical therapists of BSR have been helping golfers in Southern Ocean County move without pain since 2007.  Call today to schedule your initial evaluation with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy.

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