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What muscles are active in the different swingphases?

A swing is a complex movement! Nobody does it exactly the same but there are some generalizations we can make based on some research material. In this article we’ll be looking at the muscle activation during the different swing fases. For every golfer this evidence is important because it will determine the muscle that needs to be trained to improve the golf swing.

Golfing is a kinetic chain activity.

First of all muscles need to be able to work together. Secondly they must be able to work at a certain level of strength and speed.

Let us start with the backswing. The little research that has been done shows for the shoulder a main activity of the upper right trapezius muscle (52% MVIC) followed by the right middle trapezius muscle (32% MVIC). On the left side there is a stabilizing activity of the subscapularis and upper serratus muscle. You can compare it with a push-pull activity where the right arm is pulling and the left is pushing. In the warm-up this is comparable with the see-saw movement.

The legs also work during a golf swing. The right hamstring muscle works on a low level as well as the left back muscles and part of the left abdominal muscles. So a chop movement would be fitting to activate these muscles just as a rotatory movement in the warm-up

The forward swing or downswing is the next part of the golf swing. Here the muscle activity rises because of the force that needs to be transfered from the clubface into the golfball. The left upperback muscles are very active as well as the right chest muscles. To warm up these muscle areas, a theraband is easy to use. You can execute a rowing movement and a pushing movement.

Glutes are KING!

In the legs, the glutes start to work. Remember glutes are KING! On the right side the glutes contract maximally helped by the hamstrings. The abdominals are QUEEN! So the obliques also assist by contracting. On the left side the knee is straightened which activates the left upper leg muscles. A squat on 2 legs and a lunge would be great in your warm up!

Abdominals are QUEEN!

The accelerationfase activates the same muscles as before. The important part here is that left and right both activate the chest muscles and that the left side lifts up the shoulder just a little.
In the lower end of the body, the glutes activate this time on the left together with the hamstrings resulting in the straightening of the body. The body makes a small controlled shift to the left demanding some gluteus medius activation. A perfect example of an exercise would be upright row ( watch: ‘Personal fitness tips’ video from 1:23 min) and again theraband pushing.

These are the most important muscle activations in the golf swing. Be sure to warm these muscles up before hitting a ball and also train these muscles to become even better!

©Pieter Van Bossuyt


McHardy,Muscle activity during the golf swing, Brittish journal of Sports Medicine, 2005; 39:799–804

Marta , Electromyography variables during the golf swing: a literature review, Journal of electromyografy and kinesiology, 2012, 803-813


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