The Ryder Cup (the biennial men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and the US) kicks off this Thursday. So, the team at Complete thought this would be the perfect time to remind all you sporting enthusiasts out there to support your golf game with regular Pilates classes.

Golf and Pilates might not seem like a natural partnership. But in fact, Pilates’s emphasis on rotation, spine flexibility and trunk stability means that players – both professional and recreational – can gain a lot from practising this method.

We wanted to find out exactly how Pilates benefits golf players. To do so, we sat down to chat with our resident expert Louise Aylwin, a Physiotherapist trained in rehab Pilates, who regularly works with elite athletes, including Ryder cup golfers.

What is your personal experience of golf and Pilates? Do you train golf players using Pilates exercises?

I worked on the European Golf Tour for 4 years, and still regularly treat and advise European and American golfers. With Ryder cup fever upon us, I should also mention my Physio and Pilates work with Paul McGinley, Thomas Pieters and Tommy Fleetwood, as well as other Ryder cup players. I regularly use Pilates for their rehab and activation before their golf game.

Pilates can not only help reduce the number of injuries golfers suffer, but can also improve movement and therefore improve their game.

Why do you feel Pilates and golf work well together?

“In golf, you are twisting your body on a drive, squatting down to measure a putt or leaning over to pick up a ball. In other words, golfers are constantly torqueing their bodies.”

“Golf also requires players to repeat the same essential movements. As a result, some muscles become overused and others weaken which causes an imbalance. Pro golfers are now turning to Pilates as an essential training tool that keeps the body in balance as well as actually improving their performance.”

“Both Pilates and golf share same basic principles. The golf swing principles are fluid motion, precision, accuracy and power, and Pilates principles focus on control, concentration centring, precision, flow of motion and proper breathing.”

Why is the combination of Physio and Pilates for golf performance enhancement and injury rehab so effective?

Pilates helps you improve your core, build up the back muscles, elongate and align the spine, strengthen abdominals. It will help increase overall flexibility, strength and balance. It will increase range of motion in hips, shoulders and spine. It can also contribute to concentration through focused diaphragmatic breathing.

The performance benefits for golfers are as follows:

  • Attain an optimal backswing and follow-through with increased range of motion in shoulders and trunk.
  • Get more distance and power because of added hip and torso flexibility.
  • Have a stronger and bigger hip turn for greater power through rotation.
  • Create a smoother and more powerful swing due to evenly conditioned back muscles.
  • Maximize balance and alignment while rotating.
  • Decrease fatigue because of less strain on the body.
  • Hold a body position long enough to play through a shot.
  • Play without pain.

Are there are certain aspects of Pilates that support specific parts of the golf game?

“An underlying fault in a swing is the body itself. A limited shoulder rotation can affect golf in either the back or down swing. This could be improved through exercises from Pilates to improve shoulder rotation, torso rotation, hip rotation, and shoulder strength and oblique slings. The limitations need to be addressed at their physical source.”

What are 4 simple Pilates home exercises that could help a golfer improve their game?

Thread the needle – improve your spine rotation and shoulder flexibility

Pilates for Golfers - An athletic female wearing gym clothes stretched across a gym mat in a studio with her left hand over her head, palm down, the side of her head (she is facing away from the camera) lying on the mat and both knees on the mat with her rear uppermost.

  • Come on to all fours.
  • In a threading motion, bring your right arm through the space you’ve created between your left hand and thigh.
  • Allow your left arm to bend so that you can rest your right shoulder on the ground for a deep twist.
  • Return to all fours and repeat on the other side.
  • Allow your top spine to twist and keep your hips level.
  • Repeat several times on both sides.

Book openings – spine rotation and chest stretch

  • Start in a side lying position with your knees bent and arms outstretched.
  • Take an inhale to prepare. On the exhale, start to move your top arm in an arc. As you do so, allow your head to move in line with your spine.
  • Pause with your chest facing the ceiling.
  • Reverse the movement by bringing the top arm back in an arc as you untwist your upper spine. Pause in the starting position before repeating the movement.
  • Remember to reduce your range of movement if you feel this in your lower back. This exercise is designed to mobilise your upper spine.

Quadruped – improve core and shoulder stability opposite slings

  • Come to all fours.
  • Extend one leg out behind you then return it. Swap legs.
  • As you do so, extend the opposite arm out in front of you.
  • Keep shoulders and hips level as you move. Don’t allow your spine to sag down towards the earth.

Criss-cross – improve abdominal strength and torso rotation

Pilates for Golfers - A female dressed in black coloured gym clothes lying on a wooden studio floor with both arms behind her head and both legs off the ground with one outstretched and one knee pulled in. She is facing the cameras direction.

  • With your hands behind your head and legs in table top, curl your upper body up until your shoulder blades are off the mat.
  • Rotate your upper body and bring one elbow to the opposite knee. Swap sides.
  • Repeat this movement quickly – this a dynamic exercise.
  • Follow these instructions for the Pilates hundred if you experience neck pain during this exercise.

Why not book your 1:1 and look at how we can help your golf game.

Get started – book today
Education is key:

These blogs are designed to give information to everyone, however, it is important to remember that everyone is different! If you have not seen one of our therapists and have any questions about injuries, what you have read or whether this may be useful to you, please just ask. We are more than happy to help anyone and point you in the right direction. Our biggest belief is that education is key. The more you understand about your injury, illness and movement, the more you are likely to improve.

If you are not sure whether this is for you, simply get in touch. We are here to help!