3 Easy Ways to Increase Rotational Power

May 09, 2023
increase rotational power on your back swing

Notice the number of rotations present in this golfer at the end of a swing. From the ground up; her ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck, elbows, and even wrists are in some level of torsion.

Golf is all about rotation. Literally every shot you take is going to twist you in the direction that you swing. The number of different shots you can hit with one club or another is literally endless, but they are all connected through their method of execution. Rotational power doesn’t just help you with longer drives, but more accurate and controlled strokes, as well.

Rotational Power in Golf

A golf swing is one of the most dynamic and full-bodied explosive movements in all of sport. You’re taking virtually every joint in the body through its functional capacity, and timing all of your muscles to work in concert with one another to produce a single fluid motion. This makes for a lot that can go wrong in an act that sometimes takes less than a second to perform.

What Happens During A Golf Swing?

Rotation actually begins with the feet, which provide a stable foundation for the swing. During the backswing, a golfer will rotate their shoulders and trunk away from the ball while maintaining a stable lower body. This allows the golfer to create potential energy (stored in the muscle and connective tissue) that will be transferred to the club during the downswing.

The weight will have mostly shifted onto the back foot at this point (right foot for a right-handed golfer). As the downswing begins, the golfer initiates the rotation of their hips and pelvis towards the ball. This generates a force that is transferred up through the body, into the shoulders, and down the arms and club.

At impact, the hips and shoulders will be facing the target. The weight will have shifted onto the front foot, the left foot for a right-handed golfer. Maintaining posture and eye-contact with the ball are other crucial components of the swing which, if compromised, could result in losing track of the ball or a blundered clubface-ball contact.

(Image credit: Adobe Stock)

How Your Body Produces Rotational Power

As previously mentioned, a golf swing is a full body movement. There are two built-in systems that allow you to perform this action (and many others) both efficiently and powerfully; your Posterior Oblique System (POS) and Anterior Oblique System (AOS). For a comprehensive understanding, refer to our in-depth article on this topic, which you can find by clicking here.

In short, these sling systems are relationships between muscle groups on opposite sides of the body that work together to perform contralateral (opposite side) rotation. Golf is a contralateral sport in that the upper body rotates one way, while the lower body resists that rotation on account of being fixed to the ground through the feet, making it rotate the opposite way.

For simplicity’s sake, it’s most important to understand that the body can only perform a complex movement like a golf swing through a finely balanced and timed contraction of a huge number of muscles. Several things could inhibit this action, which would not only affect your power and accuracy, but could also severely heighten your risk of injury.

Ways to Increase Rotational Power

Below you’ll find some tips and reasoning on how to intelligently progress towards a more powerful, accurate, and pain-free swing. Golf injuries are common, and we want to help you avoid them as much as possible, while still feeling confident that you can put your all into every shot and enjoy the game long-term.

1. Train Functionally

General movement programs exist for all movements with the same relative timing. For example, a squat and a jump have the same relative timing (coordination of muscles), even though they’re performed at very different speeds. This is why the squat improves jump performance.

For golf, this translates to saying that when we are training our muscles to be better golfers, we should be doing exercises that use the same muscles, in the same sequence, as during our swing. Otherwise, we are teaching the body to isolate different groups of muscles, hoping it will all magically sync up come tee-time. Poor muscle timing is a significant cause of injury.

This means we have to focus on compound, multi-joint exercises that teach the body to work as an integrated unit. Examples would include squats, lunges, deadlifts, and overhead presses. Machine training commonly seen in commercial gyms should be avoided, because machines don’t require that you stabilize your joints or integrate your core. 

One of the best exercises for developing golf-specific rotational power is the wood chop and reverse wood chop (pictured below). These exercises optimally train the previously mentioned sling systems, integrate the core with the extremities, and address asymmetrical strength imbalances that are developed as a result of golfing. 

Wood chop (left) and reverse wood chop (right) can both be performed with a cable attachment or free-weight implement such as a dumbbell, sandbag, or medicine ball. (Image credit: Adobe Stock)

2. Improve Your Mobility

If you look at someone completing a golf swing (refer to below picture), you can see that virtually every joint in their body is being subjected to some level of torque and torsion. Our body is going to go through all of these rotations in the blink of an eye, and if there is any restriction in the system, that force will have to be accounted for somewhere else. 

The first law of thermodynamics states: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. This is relevant in golf, where we are harnessing an incredible amount of energy, storing it in parts of our body (during the backswing) and then unleashing it in the downswing with the hopes of transferring as much of it as possible to the golf ball.

Where injuries tend to occur, is if there is poor mobility in one or multiple parts of the body. For example, somebody with a tight thoracic spine (mid-back) will struggle to rotate their torso during the backswing. This will often result in them overusing their shoulders, arms, and wrists to generate power. This is just one of countless possible compensatory mechanisms seen in golf.

In the above example, the risk of shoulder, elbow, and wrist injury are all significantly elevated, because they’ll be trying to do the work of large, powerful muscles in the core and hips that cannot be fully integrated into the movement due to restriction. This is why having a mobility/flexibility practice can be extremely beneficial to your golf game and health in general.

The same power this man used to hit his ball however far is the same power that could potentially injure him if it were to overload any given part of his body due to a mobility restriction. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. (Image credit: Adobe Stock)

3. Build Better Posture

Rory McIlroy is one of the most outstanding golfers to watch in all aspects of the game. If you look at a video of him driving the ball, you can get a sense of how his swing generates so much power. He’s incredibly stable throughout, despite the velocity of the movement, and his body is able to maintain good alignment while using all of the extremities to their potential.

A good definition of posture could be, the position from which movement begins and ends. If you don’t have, and can’t maintain, good golfing posture throughout your swing, you are going to bleed force and accelerate joint wear throughout the body. You can have the strongest muscles in the world, but being in a bad position can drastically limit their use.

Both the static and dynamic postures of a golfer need to be assessed and trained. These are large topics not easily synthesized into an article of this length. But one proven method of improving sport-specific posture, however, is strength training. A deadlift, for example, teaches a golfer to maintain a neutral spine while engaging the hips and lower back, similar to the address posture.

Here you can see the similarities between the address posture in golfing and the neutral spine positioning of a deadlift exercise. (Image credit: Adobe Stock)

Additionally, senior golfers will gain more rotational power from posture correction than increased strength. We experience a significant reduction in muscle and power as we age for a number of reasons. Posture correction will have a greater carry-over to your golf game through larger ranges of motion that will more effectively utilize the force you can already produce.

Receive World-Class Training With Dynamic Golfers

Are you looking to build strength, stability, mobility, and posture but don’t know where to start? Want to improve your golf game with just 20 minutes of daily training? Try our programming at Dynamic Golfers FREE for 7-days to see the difference professional training can have on your body, mind, and performance!

Written by Eric Lister – Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist

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