Deadlift for Golf Performance (Part 1): Mobility, Stability, and Your Hip Hinge.

Deadlift for Golf Performance 
Part 1: Mobility, Stability, and Your Hip Hinge
by
Chris Hook, TPI-FP3, StrongFirst Certified Team Leader, FMS


The golf swing is a hip hinged posture…

The deadlift and the golf swing are built on the hip hinging pattern. Hip hinge? Yeah, you know like the golf swing. No not a bend from the waist, a hinge from the hips. When you hinge from the hips you will create more flex/bend from the hips with slight bend in the knees. It feels like you are sitting your butt back towards a wall behind you. A hinge is different from a squat. In a squat you bend from the hips and knees as a more coupled movement in which the hips and knees flex to a similar degree. When you set up to the golf ball at address, hopefully you are hinging into golf posture versus squatting. In this 3 part tutorial there are progressions to take you from the beginning of not knowing how to hinge to the Single-leg Deadlift. The Single-leg Deadlift  is a hip hinging variation that restores symmetry, builds incredible “core” strength, improves flexibility, increases grip strength, and helps you create more powerful rotation. Don’t worry we will get to it, but first some introduction.   


The Glutes have been a popular muscle in the media lately and I think it is safe to say that most golfers are aware of the glutes as a key muscle group to power production. (p.s. your glutes are your butt;) 

We could say the Deadlift is a glute exercise but it gives you much more than that. When I teach an athlete how to deadlift, I ask them what muscles they feel working; usually I get this unsure squirmy response where the individual is trying to identify what part of their body  is doing the most work. Eventually, they spit out the answer I am always expecting, “Everything”. It is like being asked which golf club is your favorite. Don’t answer that. Your response should be “All of them!”.


The Deadlift is a hip hinge strength builder…

The Deadlift is a hip hinging movement that strengthens every muscle in the body, even your grip strength, which is really important to rotator cuff health. Here is a link to a recent post on grip strength: https://forgedgolfperformance.com/blogs/blog-posts/bottoms-up-for-a-better-top-position-in-your-backswing

 Deadlifting requires thoracic mobility, which is important to not only getting into great golf posture but producing rotation. Of course there is no rotation in a deadlift but when you have great spinal extension you will be able to produce great spinal rotation. Deadlifting strengthens your abdominal muscles so you can transmit more force up from the ground through your trunk; out through your hands and into the ball. Deadlifting builds lat strength. Your lats are one of the key muscles that produce power the last 18” into impact. Deadlifting teaches you the fundamental skill of moving your body from your hips and legs to lift while maintaining spinal integrity, which is important to preventing injury when you are lifting things in life and in the gym. The deadlift is an absolutely scalable movement. Golfers don’t need to train for a powerlifting meet, but adding in the appropriate variation of the deadlift to your training can have profound performance improving effects. The Deadlift is a movement that can be progressed for a very long time, whether that is in learning more challenging variations or with loading. All of these are some of the benefits of deadlifting, but for golf is the barbell deadlift the best way? 



 What is the best deadlift variation for a golfer? 

In the powerlifting community there is a saying, ‘The meet doesn’t start until the bar is on the floor’, and the Deadlift is considered the ‘King of Lifts’. This is all fine and good in the strength community. But, you are a golfer. It looks nothing like golf, there is no rotation, it is very single plane, you’re not sold, right? But let’s set aside the barbell deadlift. Although it does have a place in a golf performance program, we are going to focus on the Single-Leg Deadlift because of the anti-rotational demands that it puts on the body. Kettlebells work great for Single-leg Deadlifts and you will need lower loads to challenge your body. 

The Single-leg Contralateral Deadlift is ‘The King of Golf Lifts’. But, in reality the best deadlift for you is the one that you can do with control, balance, and excellent technique. Make sure to link up with a StrongFirst instructor when you are ready to build your barbell deadlift and really getting stronger for golf. 

Here is a link:

https://www.strongfirst.com/instructors/search/

So, in this part (Part 1), we are going to address some basic movement prep that will help you build a strong connected deadlifting foundation so you can progress to more complex variations and increase your ability to produce power, be more durable for golf and life, while also improving how you are able to move in your golf swing. 


Deadlifting will make your stronger for golf and protect your back from injury. It only has the name “dead” in it because you are picking “dead” weight off of the ground. They won’t kill you, they will make you stronger and improve your ability to create force from the ground. The deadlift was actually called the “Health Lift” in the 1800s. The deadlift is not a power exercise but when you increase your strength you will naturally be able to create more power. In fact, you can continue to build sustainable power for a long time just by building more strength and increasing your flexibility. Many golfers can continue to gain yardage without working on power. But, eventually there is a time and a place for jumping, sprinting, kettlebell swings and snatches, speed sticks, and medicine ball smashes. 

Mobility and stability first! 

There is a whole progression of the hip hinging movements and we are going to start at the beginning and work our way to the Single-leg Deadlift. One of the great benefits that come with learning big compound movements like squats, presses, deadlifts, and pull-ups; is that you have to earn the right to do these movements. They each require different aspects of mobility and stability, all of which have tremendous overlap with the mobility and stability required to have a great golf swing. Become proficient at the following 7 movements and you will be on your way to building a sound foundation for deadlifting. But, all of these movements are fantastic for improving how you move for golf and they will help you develop the qualities that you need to have a more efficient swing. With these movements, you will open your hips and mobilize your thoracic spine so you can have better rotation and improve your posture at setup. You will lengthen your calves and hamstrings to help you maintain your posture during your swing. You will gain active glutes so you can protect your lower back and create more force from the ground. If you find all of this to be ‘easy’ movement then you will have to go to Part 2 and 3 to find the next progressions. But, even if this is easy, use it for movement prep before you play. 

Do all of these 7 exercises/movements for the next 2-4 weeks and then start on Part 2. You can train these movements 3-5 days a week. There are video links and written copy for each movement. Go through the movements in a circuit or do the specified sets and reps for each one and then move on to the next. Either way is fine. This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes if you do the maximum amount of sets suggested. Do the minimum amount of sets if you are pressed for time or if you are using this as movement pre- or post-golf.



 7 Movements to Build Your Hip Hinge

Cobras: The same movement you might know from yoga or physical therapy. Cobras will open your thoracic spine and your hip flexors. They also travel well to the golf course. Some PT jargon: Cobras will provide input to your proprioceptors throughout your thoracic spine reminding it of end range extension. Due to the considerable amount of spinal flexion that we now perform, a little reminder to the nervous system about the existence of spinal extension is always welcome, and can have a powerful impact in improving a golfer’s set up to the barbell, kettlebell, or the golf ball. Once improvements in thoracic mobility have been shown, it is then time to load them with something heavy like kettlebells or a barbell in your hands. With great thoracic extension you can produce better rotation. Spinal rotation is not the most accurate way to describe how your spine moves during rotation. Although it may look like your vertebrae are turning on top of each other, they are not. When you turn into your backswing the trail side of your spine is extending (like cobras) and the lead side it flexing. Generally, most people spend too much time sitting, which puts lots of flexion into the spine. To restore function and to improve rotation for your golf swing; extension is needed. Cobras do this. Cobras also give you the mobility you need to get your spine in a great position for deadlifting and to setup into excellent golf posture. _DSC2842.jpg

Click on this video link: Cobra

Cobra (elbows) 2-4 sets of 10

  • Lay on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders, palms on the floor

  • Press your chest up off the floor keeping your chin down.

  • Exhale as you come up.

  • At the top, your hips and legs should be on the floor with your spine extended.

  • Lower yourself back to the floor and repeat. 

Clams: An easy way to get the glutes active and for some people, exactly where they need to start. Start with just your bodyweight, no band. 

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Clams (click on this video link)

Clams 2-3 sets of 20 each side

  • Lay on your side, bend your hips to 45 degrees and your knees to 90 degrees

  • Use your down arm as a pillow and place your top hand on your top hip.

  • Keep your feet together and lift your right knee towards the ceiling.

  • Slowly lower it back down

  • Keep your lower back and pelvis completely stabile. 

  • The only thing moving should be your knee up and down from the hip.

 

The Active Straight Leg Raise will open your hips and prime your hip hinge. The ASLR is not just about the hamstring, it is also about what is going on with the down leg. The down leg’s hip flexor has to remain elongated and your pelvis has to remain neutral for the movement to be done correctly. So there is much more than a hamstring stretch happening here, you are also teaching hip flexion with trunk stabilization. Keep your lower back mostly flat on the ground. Great flexibility in this movement will help you easily hinge from the hips and have great golf posture. Click on this video link: Active Straight Leg Raise (ASLR) 

ASLR self or band assisted 2-4 sets of 10 each

  • Lay on your back with both legs down. 

  • With both knees straight raise one leg up while pressing the down leg down into the floor. 

  • Use your leg/hip muscles to raise your up-leg into a hamstring stretch and then use the band/towel to engage a little more stretch. Think of finding a stretch that is a 7 on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is alot of stretch and 1 is not. 

  • Hold at the top for a 2-count, lower your leg to the floor and repeat.

  • Keep both knees straight and keep your pelvis level.


Deadbugs: A trunk stabilization exercise that also requires peripheral movement. The limbs are providing the “load” with deadbugs. Lay on  your back and raise your arms and legs up like you are about to crawl. Now reach backwards with one arm and forwards with the opposite leg. Sounds easy until you’re told you cannot let your low back arch up off of the floor. This is an amazing exercise to strengthen the obliques and work on proximal stability with distal mobility. Is this an abdominal exercise, or are you stretching your hips and shoulders? Yes!

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Click on this video link: Deadbugs

Deadbugs 2-4 sets of 20 total touches

  • Lay on the ground with your hands over your shoulder and your knees over your hips feet in the air. 

  • Reach one leg and it’s opposite arm out and make a heel and thumb touch to the floor, while keeping your lower back firmly connected to the ground. 

  • Bring your leg and arm back to start and reach the other heel and thumb out. 

  • Keep alternating sides for the specified reps. 


Bridges: A basic glute activation exercise. The two leg bridge is a good way to squeeze your glutes together and wake them up for the work ahead, but also provide some mobility for the anterior hips after long car rides to the course. Just like the cobra, these are portable and effective. Click on this link for a video:  Bridges

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Bridges 2-4 sets of 20 

  • Lie on your back.

  • Bend your knees so your ankles are under your knees about hip width apart.

  • Place your arms on the ground next to your body.

  • Flatten your lower back gently into the ground and engage your abs.

  • Press through your heels and drive your hips up towards the ceiling without arching your lower back and losing your abdominal connection. 

  • Squeeze your butt cheeks together to lock out the top of the bridge.

  • *Your body should be a straight line from your knees to shoulders at the top of the bridge.

  • Slowly lower yourself back to the ground. 

  • Reset your abs on each rep.


Single-Leg Bridges: The single leg bridge starts on two legs then you stick one out. If you experience cramping in your hamstring or lower back, stop here. This is a sign that your glutes are inhibited and need some waking up. Go back and do clams and then regular bridges to get your glutes active. If you have inhibited glutes you are not ready for deadlifting (or golfing for that matter), or perhaps you are ready for deadlifting but reduced distance like from a block with a kettlebell, which is a progression in Part 2. It would be a good idea to get your glutes fired up first before you are relying on them to extend your hips. Chances are that if they are sleeping on the job then they will not be pulling their weight when you need them to. Instead you will compensate by recruiting your hamstrings and lower back.  

_DSC2196.jpgClick on this video link: Bridge to Single-leg Bridge

Bridge to Single-Leg Bridge 2-4 sets of 10 each side

  • Lie on your back.

  • Bend your knees so your ankles are under your knees about hip width apart.

  • Place your arms on the ground next to your body.

  • Press through your heels and drive your hips up towards the ceiling 

  • Squeeze your butt together to lock out the top of the bridge.

  • Your body should be a straight line from your knees to shoulders at the top of the bridge.

  • Extend your left knee to make a straight line from your ankle to your shoulder without letting your hips move down or to either side.

  • Place your left foot back down.

  • Slowly lower yourself back to the ground.

  • Alternate sides.




Stick Hinges: Golf posture is a hip hinge. But how do you hinge from the hips? This is a simple drill to teach you how to hinge from the hips with a neutral spine. Neutral meaning that it has a natural curvature to it. You will use a golf club or wooden dowel to find this neutral spine posture. There is a video link below so you can see how the movement works. _DSC2200.jpg

Place a dowel or a 5iron along your spine. Position one hand on the stick behind your neck and one hand on the stick behind your lumbar spine, there should be some natural curvature in both of these spots. Keep the stick in contact with your head, between your shoulder blades, and on your tailbone. Sit your hips back keeping your shins vertical, until you feel your hamstrings begin to load. The goal is not to fold in half as far as you can, but more to sit your hips back far enough that you get a gentle hamstring stretch/loading. Your weight should shift into your heels. There should be more bend in your hips than in your knees. Remember, you are not squatting. If you look at the picture to the right Chris is at the end of the movement. He would stand up from there. He is in what would be a ‘small’ golf posture, maybe putting-ish posture. This drill is all about maintaining the points of contact with the stick, so stay inside of a range of motion where you can do that.  After you reach the end of your hinge, stand up tall squeezing/bracing your glutes and quads. Make your repetitions with the intention of loading your posterior chain at the bottom and firing your glutes at the top. Keep your eyes on the horizon. This is the spinal posture you will use when you hinge from the hips to deadlift, but it is a great golf posture drill too. Try it before you hit balls. 

Click on this video link: Stick Hinge

Stick Hinge 2-4 sets of 10

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.

  • Hold a golf club or dowel along your spine with it touching the back of your head, between your shoulders and on your tailbone. Hold the club/dowel with one hand behind your neck and the other hand behind your low back. 

  • While maintaining your three points of contact (head, shoulders, tailbone), reach your hips back as if you are reaching your tail to touch a wall behind you.

  • You should be folding more from the hips with your knees bending slightly. You should feel your weight shift into your heels.

  • Once you feel some stretch in your hamstrings, press your hips forward to return to standing.


1 comment

  • Great article guys. I love it

    Dennis

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