6 exercises for women to build strength, prevent injuries

Flexibility, mobility and strength, three pillars of fitness for improving your golf game.

Massachusetts General Hospital

If you’ve ever suffered a golf injury or attempted to adjust your fitness routine to improve your golf game, you don’t need us to tell you that it’s hard work.

Strength and injury prevention are two of the pillars of GOLF.com’s fitness content (and should be requirements of any fitness content you consume). But finding the sweet spot for particular groups of players (like women or young golfers) can be difficult, particularly with how much the golf swing varies from person to person. The truth is, there isn’t a single silver bullet to avoiding injuries and adding strength and mobility. But there are things you can do to lower your risk while improving your overall health.

This week, we’re focusing on exercises built to help female golfers avoid injuries and improve strength, and fortunately, I’ve got an ace in the hole: my sister, Katie.

Katie is a licensed physical therapist and one of two current sports PT residents at a joint program between Northeastern University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She spends her days working with elite athletes to help them recover from prior injuries and avoid future ones (and yes, she’s always been the overachiever of the family).

This week for GOLF.com, Katie has assembled a list of exercises perfect for female golfers to improve strength and mobility in order to avoid injuries.

6 fitness keys for female golfers

1. Hip Range of Motion

The first major area for injury prevention in women is the hips.

“As you swing, you’re rotating through both your hips and your trunk,” Katie says. “An increased range of motion at the hip joint allows you to generate more power through your core and to take the pressure off of your low back joints and muscles, which are working hard throughout your swing.”

To help improve range of motion, Katie recommends a figure 4 stretch like the one shown in the video below for three sets of 30 seconds, every day.

2. Thoracic Rotation range of motion

Any golfer knows the importance of thoracic spine rotation throughout the golf swing. Golfers with lots of thoracic spine mobility can generate more power and put less pressure on their arms, shoulders and back throughout the swing.

To help improve your thoracic spine rotation, Katie recommends three sets of an open book stretch for 50 seconds each day.

3. Core Strengthening

“The trunk muscles are really important to power drives off the tee,” Katie said. “A strong core creates a foundation that makes it less likely to sustain a distal injury of the arms or legs.”

But don’t start pounding out crunches just yet. To better improve functional core strength for golf, focus on your obliques through exercises like side planks and Russian twists. Three sets of 30-second holds per day should be more than enough to keep your core strong and sturdy throughout the swing.

4. Glute Strengthening

Very similar to the core, the glute muscles are stabilizers, playing a huge role in the downswing and follow through.

“It’s common for women to have weak glutes, which makes it important to optimize function,” Katie says.  “Strengthening the glute muscles can take some of the reliance off of the low back muscles, decreasing your risk for a low back injury.”

To build up strength in the glutes, practice single-legged and traditional bridges and focus heavily on activating through the glute muscles.

5. Back and shoulder strengthening

The smaller muscles around the shoulder and back are often forgotten about and can play a key role in avoiding dreaded injuries in the rotator cuff and back.

To strengthen those supporting muscles, practice prone Y and prone T exercises with no or very minimal weight. Lie down on a table or the ground and complete three sets of 10 reps each.

6. Wrist Strengthening

The final area women can build strength for injury prevention is through wrist strengthening.

“Golfer’s elbow is an injury we see often in which the athlete experiences pain from overusing the muscles on the inside of the elbow,” Katie says.  “Performing wrist and grip strengthening exercises can help with pain and endurance when you play.”

Wrist strengthening focuses less on weight and more on movement, making this one of the easiest improvements to make. For example, women can start strengthening the tendons in their wrists by squeezing a stress ball or ball of putty for three sets of 10 reps per day. In a few week’s time, you should already feel a difference.

Of course, before beginning any exercise, Katie says to be cautious of your risk.

“These exercises aren’t for everyone,” she cautions. “If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, seek a professional medical opinion before continuing.”

But for those women looking to improve strength and prevent injuries in their golf game, there are few better ways to do it than through the program outlined above.

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James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.