How Weighted Carries Can Benefit Your Golf Game
Fri Jun 3, 2016 by Bobby Dattero
When we are trying to build a solid swing there are some physical components that we need to possess to have success. Obviously, there is a massively important technical aspect, but, as a trainer, I do not advise in that area. Two physical qualities that I have found to improve the golf swing are grip strength and core stability. This will help us have more control over what happens in the golf swing and build a swing that is more efficient and more repeatable.
Core stability is important because it allows for the torso to stay under control while rotating. That can help eliminate swing characteristics such as early extension and reverse spine angle.
One training solution that I have is to carry heavy things. Yeah, that’s it. Pick up heavy stuff and carry it for awhile.
We can use weighted carries to improve core stability, grip strength, total body control and connective tissue strength. When we walk with something heavy it is hard to hold, improving our grip strength. The core also needs to fire in order to avoid looking like a belly dancer with dumbbells. Once the core is activated, we need to be coordinated enough to walk with the weight.
FMS co-founder Gray Cook is a massive believer in carries, in part, because the athlete is forced to be mindful of posture, breathing and total body coordination. In addition, it's nearly impossible for an athlete to "cheat" their posture and improve at a carry.
A heavy carry forces you to align your ear, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle and foot on your stance leg, and take short, well-aligned strides. The best way to carry that weight across a distance is with good alignment and posture.
- Gray Cook
Renowned strength coach Dan John says of carries: "In my career NOTHING has been a game changer liked “Loaded Carries” in my coaching toolbox."
Well, that’s good enough for me.
There are a number of carry variations, but here are the five that I prefer:
Farmer Carries are performed with weights on either side of the body. I have used dumbbells, kettlebells, sand bags, plates, and a hex bar. Bottom line: you don't have to have Farmer Carry handles to perform Farmer Carries.
Gray Cook suggests that exercises like Farmers Carries are more developmentally appropriate than patterned lifts such as squats, especially for athletes who have been focusing on corrective work: "Babies carry things before they try to lift their max load. Sub-max lifts with carries are actually preferred by nature and biological development over simple repetitions of lifting things in newly-acquired loaded patterns. When people with a dysfunctional pattern on their movement screen do corrective strategies and jump right into a lift that looks like that pattern, there’s a “hiccup. We should see what your endurance and your integrity look like under load in a very low complexity movement, like a Farmer’s Walk..."
Single Arm Carry
I bet you can’t guess whats going to happen here. With the Single Arm Carry you only carry the heavy weight in one hand, while keeping an upright torso. This trains your ability to resist lateral flexion, helpful in protecting the lumbar spine from the rigors of the golf swing. In the words of Dan John, "The obliques on the other side of the weight will want to have a discussion with you the next day."
Single Arm Overhead Carry (Statue of Liberty)
An OH carry is going to demand less on the core, but train for shoulder stability. Simply hold a kettlebell overhead with the arm extended and walk. Repeat on the other side.
Since the weight is greatly reduced you will have less lateral demands. The key with this carry is to keep the rib cage locked down, reducing the arch in the back. That is a tendency when we go overhead and it takes away from the benefits of the exercise.
A cross carry mixes the last two carries. One heavy dummbell by your side and light kettlebell overhead. Walk for a while, switch, and walk back.
This will create some core demands that will throw you for a loop. Mostly, it challenges the athlete to lock the midsection with their limbs moving or separated, which is something that is replicated in the golf swing.
Barbell Overhead Carry
This is an option that might not be for everyone. If you cannot reach both arms overhead without the ribs popping up then I would stick with the other variations. You also must be strong enough to safely get the bar up and down from overhead.
Carrying a barbell overhead, with the arms locked out, creates a lot of stability in the core and shoulders. It is challenging to keep the ribs down while also staying overhead. Double benefits on this variation.
But again, you must be able to reach overhead like the picture above.
In conclusion, carries are tremendous exercises for improving work capacity, grip training, core strength, coordination, and shoulder health. They are also appropriate exercises to perform when moderately fatigued with because they aren't complex movements (e.g. great to include as a workout finisher). I hope this article has helped you and that you carry some heavy stuff in the near future.
Bobby Dattero Bobby Dattero graduated from Bridgewater State University with Master’s Degree in Strength and Conditioning. He is also a TPI Certified expert and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Bobby is currently working with adults and athletes in accomplishing their sports performance and fitness goals at Evolution Sports Performance. He is also the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Stonehill College Men’s Hockey.