6 WAYS PILATES CAN IMPROVE YOUR GOLF GAME
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Have you ever gotten a really great tip from a golf pro, but you just couldn’t seem to apply it to your swing with any consistency? Sometimes the issue is that your body just isn’t ready for the adjustment. Everything you do in golf has corresponding muscle groups for both strength and length. Power and accuracy will fade if you don’t train for endurance. And flexibility? You need it right away, from the first tee off. You want to be able to get the most out of your muscles and joints, without pain or needing days to recover from a well-played round.
So, how does Pilates benefit a body that plays golf? Well, Pilates is a strength-focused workout that has been known to help people of all ages improve their power, balance, control, and flexibility.
Hello, isn’t that everything you can hope for in your golf game?!
If you’ve been frustrated with how your drives have been going, how unstable your footing feels or how much soreness you’re dealing with after 18 holes, then The Method may be just what you need. I know, I know, all Pilates instructors say this practice is Special Sauce, and you should put it on everything. Well, you should definitely apply it to all things golf! I’ve been teaching golfers and Pilates For Golf Seminars throughout Los Angeles for decades, and I’ve seen what a difference a customized program can make.
Ok, So what are these Golf Benefits of Pilates?
I thought you’d never ask…
1. Pilates Strengthens Your Core and Stabilizes Your Spine, So Your Shots Are More Accurate
Accuracy is the name of the game in golf, and unsupported spine can mean the difference between a perfect shot and a duffed one. So, what does it take to achieve better accuracy? Surprisingly, much of it has to do with posture and spinal stabilization. That's where Pilates comes in. By strengthening all of the muscles that support the spine, not just the abdominals, Pilates can give you a strong, active, full-range core.
A golfer’s core is so much more than just the abs, and it needs to engage everything , front and back, from the chest to the knees...from the beginning of your backswing to your follow through. We’re talking internal and external rotators, glutes, scapulae control, breath control, and the pelvic floor to name a few muscle groupings. That’s how you stabilize the spine and, no, it’s not something you can master by just spending time on the driving range. An engaged core helps you to maintain correct golfing posture and avoid being off-balance during your swing. In turn, this can lead to more comfort and confidence in your stance, more precise swings, and greater accuracy on your drives. Stabilizing your spine allows you to keep your hips square during your downswing…no sliding hips, thank you…and get them ready for their powerful rotation.
2. Pilates Increases Flexibility, So You Can Bend, Stretch, and Twist More Easily
Think about all that you ask of your body during typical golf play. Stooping into deep knee bends, aggressive spinal and hip rotations, and long sweeping extensions of the arms are what come to my mind. So, one of the best things you can do to improve your golf game is to increase your flexibility. Pilates-based training is a great way to do this because it helps to lengthen and to tone your muscles at the same time. Every exercise has a lengthening component built into it so that flexibility is never sacrificed for increased power. This is exactly how your body will learn to do demanding moves more easily and with less risk of injury.
The more flexible you are, the easier it’s going to be to complete that full range of motion during your golf swing. If you’re not flexible enough to reach fully into your backswing, tap into your power on the downswing, and then flow into your finish…with your muscles supporting you…you may incur a joint impingement or other injuries. Flexibility gives your full core the ability to support your limbs, and vice versa. Increasing flexibility can also improve your balance, so you when you do get onto the uneven ground of a bunker or some rough, you can adjust faster, stay centered, and get out of there.
3. Pilates Is Muscle- & Bone-Building, Resistance Training So You’ll Have More Power
Let me repeat that…Pilates is weight-bearing, bone & muscle building, resistance training. Period. Don’t let the streamlined design of the equipment, or the assumed simplicity of Mat Work, fool you! Since the large equipment, like the Reformer or the Cadillac uses spring resistance, there are ever-increasing pounds of pressure in each apparatus. Yet I swear, sometimes just focusing on bodyweight work has set the most ripped athletes shaking through an exercise. Either way, The Method produces measurable gains, just like regular weightlifting. In golf, you need muscle mass and bone density to get the kind of distance that lowers scores. You need strength for club head speed. When you feel strong, you’ll absolutely feel the power in your drives, as well as the relaxed control that’s necessary for your short game.
A great bonus to having more powerful muscles (that are also long and flexible) is that you’re less likely to experience an injury! A strong body that’s been conditioned for the demands of golf can avoid golf-related injuries, like muscle sprains or tears. Golf also places a great deal of pulling and twisting stress on the bones. A regular Pilates practice can prevent and help correct the bone loss of osteopenia and osteoporosis, so you can decrease your chances of experiencing stress fractures from playing.
4. Pilates Is Cross Training, So You Build Endurance
As any golfer knows, endurance is essential for a good game. After all, the longer you can stay on the course in fine form, the better your chances of coming out on top. But fatigue can set in quickly, particularly during hot summer months, windy days, or during long tournament play. Adding Pilates to your workout regimen Is an excellent way to train away fatigue. If you thought this type of training was all about stretching, think again! A typical session is designed to build in difficulty and in flexibility throughout the hour. As I mentioned, The Method provides the same muscle-building benefits as weight training, but the focus in Pilates is to produce leaner, more flexible muscle, and that means more endurance!
A customized, golf-specific Pilates session takes that focus to a whole other level. Endurance is key to golf. Without it, you may miss shots because you’re too tired to swing with proper form or to keep mental focus. As you learn to rise to the demands of a Pilates training session, you’ll find that it’ll pay off on the course…you’ll be less sore and exhausted after every round. With increased stamina, not only can you execute more of those long drives, now you can stay mentally fresh through all 18 holes. And increasing your stamina can also help you to play more rounds of golf in a week and still finish with a positive score.
5. Pilates Counters The Damage of Repetitive Use, So You’ll Be Less Prone to Injuries
Back and neck pain are common in athletes, and even more so in golfers. Think about it. The very nature of the golf swing puts tremendous torque on the spine. All of that repetitive twisting with explosive power, for a few hours at a time, is an injury waiting to happen. Don’t even get me started on the feet, knees and hips!!! The point of contact with the ball is always going to happen with one side of the body pushing, while the other side is pulling. And, unless you’re a serious trickshot master, you’re not going to suddenly switch your swing to the other side of your body. Pilates training, with an instructor who understands the principles of the swing, will counter the negative effects of so many shots done the same way. Time will be spent working and stretching the muscles on the opposite side of the body so that imbalances created by the golf swing can be corrected. Then there will also be a focus on teaching both sides of the body to engage in just the right way during play.
Remember when I talked about Pilates for your golf posture? Well, repeatedly holding poor posture in your swing can cause your spine to curve forward, putting unnecessary pressure on your back, neck, and shoulders. Talk about injuries waiting to happen! Why not learn how to take advantage of the repetitive nature of your swing? It can become the checklist you use to know exactly how your muscles are engaging!
6. Pilates Is a Mind-Body Workout That Can Improve Your Putting
For those of us who‘ve played even a little golf, even mini-golf, there's nothing quite like sinking a great putt. It’s just so satisfying to get that ball into the hole! But as any golfer knows, putting can be tricky. It’s often said to be the most important part of your game. After all, if you’re racking up strokes to finish that hole, you're not going to score well. Now, despite it’s importance, putting is also one of the most difficult skills to master in golf. Even the best professionals in the world miss putts that they could totally make.
Golfers are always looking for ways to improve their putting. Hello, Gadget of The Month! You have to have the right amount of power and control, not get thrown off balance, and your mental focus must be on point. That's where Pilates comes in. This type is exercise is all about the core…and the core of Pilates is all about the mind-body connection! Actual breathing combined with mindful control of how you contract/relax your muscles before exerting just the right amount of force - That’s the secret to mastering any Pilates exercise. That’s also the secret to mastering a smooth putting style. And when I say “actual breathing” I’m talking about full, abdominal breathing…not that pretend, shallow breath that will never connect to your muscles.
Getting back to those core muscles, Pilates can help you develop a smoother, more controlled putting stroke because the mind-body focus you need for every exercise it exactly the same mind-body connection you need in golf. The confidence that comes from knowing that YOU are in control of your body, your breath, and your flow improves your balance and keeps your body centered. Pilates teaches you the kind of muscle control that helps you to maintain your form throughout the entire stroke. How does it do all of this? Well, the fact of the matter is you can’t just power your way through a session. If your mind, body, and breath aren’t working together you won’t be able to do most Pilates exercises properly. So the next time you find yourself struggling on the green, remember that Pilates might just be the secret to sinking that putt.
The Bottom Line
I think you can see that addding Pilates to your training routine is a great way to improve your golf game! Spinal stability, improved accuracy, increased power and endurance, better balance, injury prevention and a better putting game…What’s not to love?
Now you know that you can customize your Pilates sessions to specifically work on aspects of your golf game. This wonderful, sport-specific, training tool can get you going and keep you playing at your best. So when you get that great tip for your swing, Contact Me! We can work virtually or in person ( if you’re in the Los Angeles area), and teach your body how to give you all that your game needs.
If you‘re looking for an Pilates instructor in your area, I may be able to put you in touch with someone who understands the demands of the game, can help with the structure your swing, and can tailor your sessions to incorporate a golf focus into your workouts.