Functional Training and Golf


The fitness world is full of catch phrases as previously used techniques or ideas are reclaimed, re-invented, or renamed.  Core training, for instance, used to be called abdominal training.  Aerobic dance is now an aerobic class of some sort.  This world is also prey to crazes:  the running craze, the abdominal-exercise-device craze, and the electronic stimulator craze to name just a few.  And this doesn’t even come close to the nuttiness surrounding the nutritional frenzy we seem to hear or read about in our daily lives.  As techniques come and go and come again, the world of sport training will continue to rely on functional exercise as one of its foundations.

Whether I’m helping someone return to logging, walking the dog, or competitive golf at the highest level, one component remains the same:  I must promote a re-strengthening and re-training of this person to be able to withstand the rigors of whatever activity they are pursuing. Hence, the term functional training.  It means exercising or training meant to mimic the activity or sport for which training is being undertaken.  For instance, a football lineman is constantly pushing or pulling at a massive foe directly in front of him.  So then, the bench press is not only a great way to build basic strength but it is also a very functional exercise for a lineman to do.  It would not be a very functional activity for a golfer to do but could be effectively used to build basic strength for use in a later functional pattern.

Golf, like a lot of other sports, requires trunk rotation in combination with well-timed, coordinated weight-shifts.  Rotation, especially rotation under a load, is the most common motion involved with lower back pain and injury.  It is no coincidence, then, that low back injury is the most common injury I see on the PGA Tour.  And it should come as no surprise that rotation has been said to be the most important strengthening component to include in any program to prevent and rehabilitate low back injuries.

Jeff Gove demonstrates a couple of techniques currently used on Tour to functionally train body control, balance, rotational strength and endurance.  Using a tubing device and protocol called the “Instant Replay” (CDMSport 800-400-7542), Jeff  (see fig. A) progressively learns to hold, control, and finally initiate pelvic movement separate from upper body movement.  The system is set up to add resistance or give assistance to the movement pattern, depending on the desired effect.  Although not pictured, the same is done for the upper body separate from the hips.  Finally, (fig. B) swing planes using the take away, impact, and follow-through or finish positions are used to put all the pieces together.  This is truly functional training as Jeff is allowed to use his own swing mechanics while strengthening abdominal, hip, and spinal muscles.  It’s a newer approach and is meant to be an adjunct to aerobic and flexibility training as well as other resistance training modes.

Tour golfers are constantly looking for an edge wherever they can find it.  As such, I work to refine and upgrade input from the fitness side to help them reach their goals.  Functional exercise is one technique they use and you should too for the health of your game.

Ralph Simpson