In addition to general leg strengthening, balance exercises are a great way to create a solid base for your golf swing. Having good balance throughout your golf swing is an important contributing factor to a proper golf swing. There are a few components that work together to provide you your balance. This page will explore these components and give you ideas for specific balance exercises that can aid your swing.
Range of Motion/Strength
I believe that the two most basic aspects of balance are available range of motion (ROM), and general strength. ROM may not be that much of an issue in younger golfers, but it is definitely something that we all lose to some extent as we get older. Working on flexibility is one way to maintain ROM. For example, if you are lacking ROM at your ankle, your ankle will not be able to effectively compensate for any shift away from your base of support.
The role that muscle strength plays with balance should be obvious, as weak muscles will not be able to effectively work to maintain your balance.
This is a fancy term for knowing where you body is in space. For an easy example, close your eyes and touch your right index finger to your nose. Pretty easy, huh? Well how do you know exactly where to move your finger without visual input? That's proprioception!
This is something that becomes less effective as we age, as well.
The vestibular system, located in your inner ear, is possibly the most important aspect of overall balance. The mechanics of how this system works can be quite complicated, and luckily for you, this is a golf website and not a medical site so I won't go into too many technical details.
This system monitors two main things: linear motion and balance. Any disruption of this system can lead to very severe problems! Your golf game will be the least of your worries!
A proper golf strength training with balance exercises, however, will challenge this system and improve its effectiveness.
Specific Balance Exercises
I have discussed some golf-specific exercises over on the Ankle Exercises page, so here I will make a more consolidated list.
You do not need a lot of equipment for many of these exercises but an uneven or soft surface (like foam, a pillow, folded blanket) will make things more difficult. Closing your eyes while you are performing the exercises will also make things more challenging.
Ideas for balance exercises would include:
-Balancing on one leg-Walking a "tight rope"
-Standing with one foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe
-Balance on one leg and throw/dribble a ball
-Stand on one leg and try to touch the ground with your hand
-Stand on one leg and reach and tap your other foot in various directions.
This is just a small sampling of basic things you could try to improve balance, coordination, and ankle strength.
1/2 Foam Roller Exercises
One basic piece of equipment that I use on a daily basis for balance exercises are 1/2 foam rollers. They come in a few different varieties, with the 36 inch and 12 inch long rollers being the two I use the most. And when I say 1/2 foam roller, I mean that they are cut longitudinally down the middle so that one side is flat and the other side is round. The other great thing about them is that they are relatively cheap and can be used for a wide variety of exercises.
1. Golf Swings - This can be used either with a golf club, or not. Preferably use a 36 inch roller, flat side down, laying laterally in front of you. Stand on the roller, with the arch of your foot at the apex of the foam. Now perform your normal golf swing, trying to keep your balance.
2. Side Steps - Use a 36 inch roller, flat side down, laying laterally in front of you. Stand on the roller, with the balls of your feet at the apex of the foam. Now, side step along the length of the roller, keeping your heels from touching the ground. This is a lot harder than it sounds!
3. Balance Beam - Use the foam roller as a balance beam, flat side down. Walk heel to toe, along the length of the roller. Once your reach the end, walk backwards heel to toe. If you have more than one 1/2 roller, you can line them up end to end to make a longer beam.
4. Balance and Reach - A roller of either size will work fine with this exercise. This also can be performed with either orientation of the roller, but it will be harder with the flat side down. Balance on one leg on the roller and bend forward and reach forward to the bench/cone/floor (in advancing levels of difficulty) and tap with your hand. Challenge yourself more by reaching and tapping to multiple points of varying distances from the roller.
5. Balance and Toss - You will need a partner for this exercise. Balance on one leg on top of the roller, and throw a ball back and forth. When throwing the ball back to you, have your partner vary where he throws the ball to challenge you even further. Using a medicine ball is a great way to make this harder, as well.
6. Star Reach - Balance on one leg on the roller, and imagine a star is laid out on the ground, with you balancing directly in it's center. Reach out with your other foot, and gently tap the five points of the star on the ground. The larger you make the star, the harder it becomes.