Golf Strength & Conditioning - The Kettlebell Way

By Rui Rosario

Golfers such as Tiger Woods are revered for their tremendous skill and ability. It's a very physical game. Your body has to be conditioned have a long and injury free career. Through years of training the use of bodyweight exercises, medicine balls, stability balls, dumbbells, and many other tools have stood the test of time to condition golfers to compete at the highest levels. Recently there has been a reemergence of old school strength training tools. Kettlebells have been around for hundreds of years, and are quickly becoming the strength tool of choice by many athletes.

What is a Kettlebell?

A 'kettlebell' or girya (Russian) is a traditional Russian cast iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. Kettlebells are not a new gimmick or fad in fact, they have existed for hundreds of years as a strength tool. Many of the legendary old-time strongman used kettlebells such as Arthur Saxon, Eugene Sandow, and Sig Klein.

Why are Kettlebells so effective?

Kettlebell ballistic exercises such as: the swing, the snatch, and the clean and jerk, develop tremendous explosiveness, in addition to strength endurance. Kettlebells teach individuals how to use his or her body as one unit. This is extremely important asset to golfers, who must utilize their entire body for the swing. For a golfer, the benefits of kettlebell practice are numerous. The various cardiovascular benefits notwithstanding, the gains in functional strength and overall coordination will increase power without a gain in weight. It will melt fat. This full body strength is critical if you want real world strength that will transfer from your training to your athletic activities.

Who uses kettlebells? Athletes such as Tiger Woods, members of the San Francisco 49ners, UFC Champions B.J. Penn, Frank Shamrock, Celebrities, such as Katie Heigl, Maria Bello, Bruce Buffer, Sly Stallone, Chris Gartin and model Paige Adams-Geller are taking advantage of training with the Kettlebell. Experiment with the following exercises, these exercises can be performed 3 times a week. 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions, with a 1 minute rest period in between sets.

Kettlebell Swing Stance should be shoulder width apart, squat down and grab the handle with both hands as you reach down remember to hinge at the hips keeping your shins relatively vertical, you should feel a mild stretch in the hamstrings, swing the kettlebell between your legs forcefully like your going to hike a football, explosively snap your hips forward straightening your legs.

Kettlebell Clean, the clean is sometimes used as an exercise for strength or endurance: however, it is more often used as safe means to get the KB(s) to your shoulder(s) for other drills. This is a basic, traditional drill that every kettlebell lifter needs to master.

Technique: All the points that apply to the SWING apply to the CLEAN, minus the straight-arm requirement. The kettlebell, elbow and torso must become "one" on the top of the clean. The shoulder must be pressed down. Keep the wrists straight; no flexion! The arms must stay loose, and the hips must do all the work. The kettlebells must travel the shortest distance possible - following a vertical rather than arching path. The KB should roll up and over onto the forearm on both the negative and on the positive. Do not allow the KB to flip up and "crash" on your forearm. Upon impact, tighten the abs and let our a little bit of air (similar to a boxer exhaling with every punch).

Tips:Master the clean in reverse: place the KB in the "rack" position, then drop to the bottom position before attempting the proper clean.

Even with perfect technique, build up the volume very gradually; give your elbows and forearms time to adapt. Receive the KB; don't let it bang your forearms. Ladies should not allow their arms or the KB hit their breasts.

Contracting your glutes and abs hard will generate the power necessary to project the KB.

Variations:Clean with one KB. Clean with two KBs simultaneously. Clean two KBs alternating like a "See-Saw".

The kettlebell military press is a great exercise for strengthening both the deep rotator cuff and larger muscles of the shoulder. If you have performed military presses with a dumbbell, you will better appreciate the kettlebell military press. Like all kettlebell exercises, the military press does not just involve the arm but requires a coordinated effort from the entire body.

Military Press Instructions: Place the kettlebell in the rack position. Take a deep breath in, hold it, tighten your arm pit, and then bring the kettlebell out to your side keeping the forearm vertical.

Once your arm pit is tight, press the kettlebell over head into the lockout position. Focus on keeping your armpit tight and shoulder down as you press. Project your hip under your arm as you press.

At the top position the kettlebell should be behind your head.

When lowering the kettlebell back down actively pull the kettlebell back down into your body. Tighten your armpit, and again project your hip under your arm once again. The buttocks and abdominals are to remain tight as well while returning the kettlebell back to the rack position.

Gather yourself and hit it again.

Snatch: Everyone needs to master the all-important snatch. Heavy or high-repetition snatch lifting will develop your core & grip strength as well as functional strength. The snatch has been described as an "overhead clean", so if you can perform the "swing" and the "clean", you are ready for the snatch.

To start hold the kettlebell in one hand. Take a shoulder-width stance, keeping your knees slightly bent. Swing the KB back between your legs; sitting "back" rather than "down." Explosively snap through your hips to full extension; letting the KB project upward. Simultaneously lock out your arm and quickly dip down slightly - as if to get underneath the KB. Punch your arm up into the air, closing the distance between the KB and your forearm.

Lock out the knees, hips, and elbows. After mastering the technique and timing of this drill, the KB will not bang or jar your arm or shoulder. The KB should land gently and feel almost weightless at the top.

In the finished position: the working arm and legs are straight and locked, the feet and body are stationary the arm must be level with the head or slightly behind the head. You hold this position for at least one second. Lower the KB in one smooth, uninterrupted motion. Do not let the KB touch your chest or shoulder. Be sure to keep your core tight so the momentum of the KB will not pull you out of position, jar your wrist joint, or stress your back.

Tips for the snatch. Warm up with one-arm swing and cleans.

Look straight ahead at all times. Master the timing and landing of the KB in the overhead position before embarking on high-rep routines. You may rest in the overhead lockout position. Don't negative curl the KB on the way down; keep your arm loose. Increase the number of reps gradually to allow your palms to toughen. Variations include the Dumbbell Snatch - perform the snatch in the exact same manner as described above. Due to the width of the dumbbell be sure to rotate your hand, pointing the thumb backward, BEFORE swinging it between your legs. At the top (overhead finished position) rotate your wrist so the palm faces in toward your head.

RUI ROSARIO is a golf conditioning coach and kettlebell instructor based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Editor's Note: As you saw in this article, to be successful in golf, overall fitness is key. Sometime it helps to think "outside the box" to improve your golf game. I must admit that the marriage of golf and the kettlebell, sounded unusual at first; however after reading this article it does make logical sense. Golf is a game that requires strength, stamina, coordination, to name only a few needed qualities. If the kettlebell can improve my golf game it's worth the effort. See you on the links.