Swing Like a Girl | Standing Hip Rotations & Kettlebell Swings
Stability and mobility are of the two main focuses in strength training for golf. You must first be mobile enough to be able to get into the correct positions in the golf swing. From the correct positions, you must then be stable and strong enough to be able to add force.
The hip girdle consists of some of the biggest and strongest muscles in the body which provide the balance and support for the movement of the trunk, hips and legs. If we are able to recruit these muscles correctly, we can add the most driving force to the golf swing for the most power and, therefore, the longest drives. Because of this, the hips are the main driving force of the golf swing.
As long as the hips are not hindering the golf swing because they are inflexible, then the stronger we can make them, the faster the body can rotate. Two of my favorite movements for strengthening and mobilizing the hips are kettlebell swings and standing hip rotations.
Standing Hip Rotations
To perform standing hip rotations, stand facing a ballet bar, a pole, the treadmill handle, or your kitchen counter – basically anything that you can grab a hold of that is about hip high. Then, while standing on your left leg, bend your upper body until it is parallel to the ground, take hold of the pole with your left hand for support, and extend your right leg behind you to create a ‘T’ with your body. Now, pull your abs in tight and rotate your right arm up toward the ceiling, allowing your right hip to open up towards the ceiling as well. Then, pull your right hip back down to the ground allowing your shoulder to follow until you’re back to the starting ‘T’ position. Try doing 2 sets of 5 reps on each side. To progress this movement, you can wrap a band around your right shoulder, behind your back and anchor it under your foot. This will give some resistance when your hips are rotating back to the starting position. You’ll feel your hamstrings, obliques, quadriceps and hip flexors all engage during these rotations – all muscles we need to use on the tee box.
Now that you’ve worked on your hip mobility, add some more stability and power to the golf swing by following the standing rotations up with Kettlebell swings. Swings are one of the greatest movements a golfer – or any athlete – can do in the gym. They strengthen the hip flexors, hamstrings, core, quads, back, forearms, glutes and more. This one movement is a full body workout, with an emphasis on the hip girdle which is exactly what we, as golfers, need. To do this movement, we need a kettlebell, or a dumbbell, or any kind of weight (the kettlebell is preferably because it is perfectly shaped for this movement). To do the movement stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointed straight ahead and holding the weight with both hands. Swing the weight between your legs by hinging forward at your hips.
Don’t allow your hands to go below your knees because if this happens you are squatting too deep rather than bending at your hips. Also be careful to avoid falling forward toward your toes because you need to keep your weight balanced between your toes and heels just like in your golf swing. When the weight reaches the bottom of its arch between your legs, snap your hips through to extension, straightening your knees and pulling the weight up. There are two schools of thought from here, you can extend the weight overhead in an American Swing, or you can allow the weight to stop at the top of its momentum around chest high in what is known as a Russian Swing. American Swings are known more for use as a cardio exercise, allowing less weight to be used but a longer range of motion. I prefer the Russian Swings because they are more explosive, and you can go heavier without fear of injuring the shoulder girdle like their American counterpart. Both types are great exercises for the golfer because they can add power to the golf swing and strength to the hip girdle.
If you are just starting out, I would suggest starting with a lighter weight until you can work up to doing 3 sets of 20 reps. To progress this movement even further, increase the speed of the reps to build some fat burning cardio into it or do the swings with the kettlebells one handed. Another useful variation that can be beneficial for a golfer is holding the weight lopsided because it brings more rotational muscles into the movement.
Also be sure to stretch your hips when you’re done with the swings to help keep them flexible and mobile for the next time you hit the links!
by Alex Phillips
Photo courtesy Golf Channel