Most golf instructors focus on improving a player's backswing because a lot of flaws in the downswing occur as a result of starting from a bad position at the top, says Golf Digest teaching professional David Leadbetter (@davidleadbetter). "It's an attempt to recover from a poor backswing."
To take the club back properly, you need to coil your upper body against a relatively stationary lower body while maintaining the radius of the swing arc, Leadbetter says. The former is a key to synchronicity and power, and the latter helps you hit the ball solidly without having to make split-second adjustments during the downswing to get the club back to the ball. Many golfers struggle to coil or maintain their swing width because the rotator and extensor muscles of their torso are weak, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear).
"Those muscles extend in a diagonal pattern from the left hip to the right shoulder during the backswing and in the opposite diagonal pattern during the follow-through," Shear says. "The problem is, a lot of golfers can't coil or maintain swing width because their muscles aren't used to working in those movement patterns. The majority of the time, their torsos are hunched over from sitting with poor posture, and this makes it really difficult to take the club
If this sounds like you, Shear suggests trying this exercise demonstrated by LPGA Tour player Ryann O'Toole in the March issue of Golf Digest. It's called a reverse chop, and it trains the rotator and extensor muscles of the trunk to rotate and extend during the backswing and through-swing. This exercise should be done in both directions to maintain muscular balance and improve neuromuscular patterning.
Anchor an elastic tube and stand parallel to it. Grab the handle with your right hand so your palm is facing away from you. Then put your left hand on top of the right.
With your trunk turned toward the tubing, rotate the other way while pulling the tube across your body from hip height to over your left shoulder.
Feel your torso muscles stretching, but don't overextend to the point where you feel stress in your lower back. Feel your weight on your front side.
After completing two sets of 10 chops, repeat the exercise in the opposite direction. You can add speed to the chop or increase resistance for a greater challenge.
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.
(Photography by Dom Furore)