The Importance of Golf Hip Rotation How to Address ItNov 29, 2023
Achieving a more powerful swing is something every golfer wants. The hips are one of the most important power factories in the body, and their ability to rotate effectively could mean the difference between birdie and bogey. This article will approach the topic of golf hip rotation in a way that you’ve never seen before, and show you the tools you need to improve—starting now.
The Importance of Golf Hip Rotation
Ease of movement comes with the right balance of strength, mobility, and flexibility. These are all critical components to the success of a coordinated, full bodied, explosive action like a golf swing.
To achieve such things, we need to hone in on parts of the body that might be limiting us. We then have to address concerns, and learn how to reintegrate any newfound strength and range of motion. One such area that tends to become stiff and clunky is the hips, particularly their rotational ability, and it is this ability that is one of the keys to a powerful swing.
Throughout the swing, both hips go through varying degrees of internal and external rotation. They work as coils that store energy and torque potential. As our backswing completes and we transition into the downswing, it is the hips that initiate this movement by way of the glutes, hamstrings, and core musculature.
Possibility of Injury
Inability of either hip to rotate effectively will result in compensations up and/or down the chain. Some common sites of injury for golfers include the knees and lower back, both of which could be the result of blockages in the hips. Energy harnessed by the body in hopes of transmitting it into the ball will always find a way to be released, even if that is through a ruptured tissue.
Research shows that golfers with limited hip internal rotation experience excessive lower back rotation and side bending. The velocity with which the hips rotate is far greater in the lead (front) hip, and may make it more susceptible to labral tears than the trail (back) hip.
This kind of information helps us understand that golf hip rotation is not just important for optimal performance, but for a reduced risk of injury, as well.
(Credit: Adobe Stock)
How to Address Hip Rotation for Golf
As with any desired outcome in the body, a multi-disciplinary approach is most definitely warranted. For us to properly address a golfer’s hip rotation, we need to consider their hip flexibility, mobility, and strength. These are the three cornerstones of our programming here at Dynamic Golfer, where we help golfers at all levels train and play pain-free.
Let us look at each one individually, and give you specific exercises to help tackle this problem from all angles.
The ability of your hips to stretch and move into varying ranges of motion is important for the prevention of injury and compensatory movement patterns while golfing. When force runs into a stiff tissue, it quickly redirects itself to the next available option. We want our hips to be able to internally and externally rotate freely and without restriction for a smooth and energetic swing.
Here are two stretches to help address flexibility restrictions in the hips:
- Start with both legs in a 90°/90° position (picture 1)
- Lean gently towards the front shin and foot
- Play around with angles to find tight spots in both hips
- You can also lean back slightly towards your back foot if your flexibility allows
- Hold these angles for a total of at least 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes
- Switch legs and repeat
The Z stretch works both internal and external rotation of the hips. The front leg is being challenged externally while the back leg is being challenged internally.
- Start in a kneeling position with hands positioned in front of you
- Stretch one leg straight out to the side (pictured)
- Slide your foot out to the side until you feel a stretch in your inner thigh
- Hold this position for a minimum of 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes
The adductors (inner thigh muscles) can get very tight on golfers due to sedentary lifestyles and can inhibit rotation in the hips. The gate pose stretch opens them up—maybe for the first time!
Hip mobility is different from hip flexibility in that it involves controlled movement through a given range of motion, as opposed to passive stretching through a similar range of motion. Having the strength and coordination to rotate the hip joints voluntarily is key to overall health of the joint, especially when the movement becomes quick and forceful.
Here are two mobility exercises to help improve your hip mobility for efficient, restriction-free hip rotation.
Dynamic Hip Rotations w/Pole
- Stand with feet at the same width as your address position when you golf
- Place a pole, broomstick, or golf club behind your back and anchored in the crux of your elbows
- Rotate to one side, pivoting on the opposite foot, and leaving the same-sided foot planted (for example, in picture 2, our coach Alisha is twisting left while pivoting on her right foot)
- Return to the center, then twist the other way
- Repeat this back and forth for 1 minute or 10 repetitions on each side
This is a gentle hip rotation exercise that engages a lot of the muscles you use while golfing but in a way that is therapeutic, restorative, and mobilizing. Try it on your next golf warm-up for better movement in the hips while playing.
- Start in a seated position with your knees bent and hands supported behind you (picture 1)
- Let one knee fall open to the side while the other one falls towards it
- Let gravity stretch each hip in the direction it’s falling towards
- You can use your muscles to gently push the knees further into the mobilization
- Reverse the movement and let each knee fall to the opposite side
- Repeat back and forth for a minimum of 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes
This is another gentle exercise that promotes good rotational ability in the hips. By using the compounding effects of gravity on top of the muscle activity required to sway your knees from side to side, you’re encouraging a smooth working action in the hips that will help them move better while golfing.
Strong hips are less likely to get hurt. When you train your tissues to take forces greater than the ones they will experience during play, you’re reducing the chance that just going out for a round will break them down and wear them out. Strong hips also have an important influence on overall body position, and can help with problems like faulty posture and lower back pain.
Here are two exercises to keep your hips strong for many more years of healthy golfing.
Weighted Single-Leg Deadlift
- Stand on one foot while holding equally weighted dumbbells
- Start to hinge forward at the hips while balancing on one leg
- Your free leg should raise up behind you while your hands hang down in front of you (picture 2)
- Maintain a slight bend in the front and back legs
- Lower until your torso is parallel with the ground or just slightly above (or wherever your strength and balance gets you)
- Raise back up to the starting position, contracting the butt muscles
- Repeat for 10 repetitions or 30-60 seconds on each side
- You can do this exercise with or without additional weight according to your current strength levels
This exercise forces both the stabilizers and prime movers of the hip to work extremely hard. Strong hips mean a strong downswing and better transfer of power from the lower body into the club.
Speed Skater Lunges
- From a standing position, reach one leg behind you and drop into a lunge (picture 1)
- Push out of the lunge using your thigh and butt muscles
- Jump or walk yourself over to the other leg, again reaching behind and dropping into a lunge
- Repeat back and forth for 10 repetitions on each leg, or, for 30-60 seconds
- Complete for 3-5 sets
This exercise allows your hips, knees, and ankles to work at challenging angles and with varying amounts of force depending on if you’re jumping in between lunges. Only sink into each lunge to a depth that is comfortable. Give your body time to adjust to this difficult exercise.
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Written by Eric Lister – Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist