Fitness Friday: Squats for power
*Editor's note: Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. He gives you an unbeatable health and fitness tip or an exercise or stretch to get your body warmed up for the weekend. This week he focuses on squatting for power, better posture and a healthier life outside of golf. And remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.
Let's do a quick experiment. Wherever you are right now, stand up, then try to squat--go as low as you can--and then stand back up again paying attention to the muscles that seemed to be working the hardest. Now get into your address posture and make a golf swing with an invisible club paying attention to the muscles that seemed to be working the hardest. Notice any similarities?
With either activity, you should have felt your quadriceps (muscles in the front of your thighs), your hip flexors, and your glutes (butt muscles) taking on a good portion of the load.
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. But to spell it out: If you're not performing squats as part of your workout routine, then you don't know squat about making a powerful, athletic golf swing. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but simply put, all research on increasing swing speed includes convincing data that the top players are pushing off the ground with their leg and glute muscles to generate leverage for a more powerful hit.
Furthermore, these very same muscles provide stability in your golf swing. Without strong hips, quads and glutes, it's a real challenge to maintain your posture as you swing--especially when you have to take a wider stance such as in a bunker.
But let's step away from the golf swing for a moment and talk about why squats are important for functioning in everyday life. All you have to do is watch small children attempt to pick up a heavy object. They literally go to the floor in a squat position and lift in near-perfect form. In other words, it's a primal, instinctive movement. Yet, as we get older, the ability to do this is somehow lost. Instead of squatting, people start bending over at the waist to pick up things because it seemingly requires less effort. But, as we all know, that move can one day manifest itself in 100-pure back pain because the lower back is not designed to handle heavy loads.
"Why is squatting good? Squats are good for anyone because they represent the basic-movement pattern required to take the body from a high position to a low position," says Mike Boyle, regarded as one of the top strength-and-conditioning coaches in America (strengthcoach.com). "But for golfers, I like squats in particular because they play a unique, two-leg sport that has specific demands on the lower body. Squatting helps meet those demands."
Hopefully, you get the picture. In speaking with Boyle and other fitness experts, including Golf Digest's own Randy Myers and Ralph Simpson, I've put together a par, a birdie and an eagle version of the squat that golfers should immediately incorporate into their gym routines. As the names suggest, the level of difficulty increases from par to birdie to eagle, so please try them in the prescribed order. Two to three sets of eight to 12 reps is best.
The par, the goblet squat, not only works the lower body, but the position of the dumbbell activates the core and also helps set anyone who has never squatted before into near-perfect form.
The birdie, the off-set squat, also activates the core and also helps load one side of the body at a time, which mimics the forces golfers feel at various points in their swings.
Finally, the split squat adds a level of instability helping to improve your balance as you shift your weight from one side to the other.
Remember to keep your spine in a neutral position (not arched and not rounded) as you attempt each exercise and keep your upper torso as upright as possible. You want to feel as if you're about to sit down. To watch me demonstrate these exercises, click on the video here.
--*Ron Kaspriske, Fitness Editor