When he’s not getting Ryan Reynolds hench for Deadpool, or Sebstain Stan ready to play Marvel’s Winter Soldier, Don Saladino is devising ways to help golfers reach their true potential.
Saladino is pretty ripped himself, and has appeared in Men’s Health and as a cover model in Muscle & Fitness magazine. Long before it was fashionable to talk about strength and conditioning in golf, he opened Drive 495, a New York gym dedicated to helping golfers elevate their game with better athletic movement, and has worked with pro golfers including PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley.
RSNG spoke to him to find out his training philosophy and the tricks and techniques he would recommend to any golfer looking to make their body more athletic, resilient and golf-capable. PLUS turn to the end of this article for his free and exclusive-to-RISING golf-mobility session – with full video instruction – that you can do every day for effective benefits, within one week…
The New Rules Of Golf Mobility:
1. Mobility Is Flexibility And Strength Combined As golfers, we hear that we need good mobility for an effective golf swing. The problem is that there is a fair amount of confusion about what mobility actually means, and how best to get it through gym work away from the golf course.
Fortunately, Don Saladino is here to set things straight: “Mobility is the combination of flexibility and stability, and stability equates to strength, which is why it all comes down to having good mobility – it’s movement.”
In terms of what you can achieve in the gym, the aim is simple: “If someone's able to lift a substantial amount of weight in the gym, but they have the flexibility to go with it, then in my eyes that's the goal.” This will translate into being stronger and more mobile.
The golf swing is highly technical, highly ballistic and very fast – there’s a lot of ground force going on there, a lot of torque
2. Aim For Athletic Movement For this PT, the secret to better golf is to get better at athletic movement. Saladino’s brother was a pro golfer himself, and so by applying strength and conditioning to his routine, he managed to applify his carry. “He wasn’t a big guy but he suddenly went from hitting the golf ball and average distance to way above average – he’s dropping the golf ball, you know, 320 yards but weighing 150lbs.”
3. Realize That You’re Already Lifting Weights You might not think that you need to be athletic or lift weight to be a golfer. But the golf swing is so explosive that it already activates the same fast-twitch muscle fibers that are used to lift barbells in the gym.
“The golf swing is highly technical, highly ballistic and very fast. There’s a lot of ground force going on there. A lot of torque. And a lot of acceleration and deceleration in a very short period of time,” says Saladino. As you seek to improve your golf swing, to add power and distance, then you can run into problems. Any weak spots in your joints or muscles can result in you not being able to support the force generating, resulting in injury. So, it behooves you to seek to become more athletic."
4. The Exercises Don’t Have To Be ‘Golfish’ Just because you are training in the gym for golf, don’t assume that all of the moves have to mimic the golf swing. “I think the confusion with golf fitness is that everyone wants the golf exercises to look like golf. And golf fitness started with everything looking like it was in ‘five iron’ posture,” says Saladino.
For instance, you might not think that a simple kettlebell swing is a golf exercise, but it will improve your ability to generate force through the ground, strengthen your core and keep your entire posterior chain of muscles firing in sequence, which is exactly what you need for your golf swing. What’s more it works both sides of your body, helping to balance out some of the one-sidedness of golf.
5. Be Clever About Your Goals For Off-The-Course Training Many golfers will look at the likes of Bryson DeChambeau – who has added 40lb of muscle to amp his golf drive up to heroic heights – and conclude that hitting the gym in order to drive the ball further is the ultimate goal.
But when it comes to actually working with amateur golfers, Saladino reports that he most often sees dramatic improvements to golfing performance simply by enabling his clients to move more comfortably on the course:
“The regular golfer out there is always battling with back pain or knee pain, which uses all this extra energy; waking up, day in and day out, their bodies feeling like shit.”
“But if we were to eliminate all the pain and the poor levels of energy, we'd get you in a good space, your body's going to feel better, every single round and you’re automatically going to start firing off better scores.”
Developing elasticity can come from things like learning to sprint again; learning to be explosive with the body and learning to be fast
6. Working Out For Muscle Elasticity Can Trump Stretching We’re told that to hit a golf ball faster you need flexibility, which can be a problem for someone who spends a lot of time sitting down, at work and at play. This leads many to start stretching routines thinking this will solve the problem.
But as Saladino points out, the key to good athletic movement can come down more to muscle elasticity than reaching extreme ranges of motion: “You'll see people stretch, stretch, stretch, and they just never really solve the problem. Developing elasticity in the muscle can come from things like learning to sprint again; learning to be explosive with the body and learning to be fast.”
Stretching can be useful but it’s adding speed to your workouts that will add speed to your golf swing, as you train your fast-twitch muscle fibers and the synapses that fire them – the brain is plastic and it will adapt to your workout as much as your body does.
Of course, it pays how to start applying these principles in a controlled and safe manner, so we’ve worked with Don Saladino to bring you the following mobility-improving workout session. Once you’ve mastered the moves, you can start to progress them into more demanding drills. Follow Saladino’s video technique tips to move safely, and check out his recommendations on how to progress the difficulty when it’s appropriate…
RSNG's Exclusive Golf Mobility Session With Don Saladino
You can do this session on most days and you will start to see the benefits within seven days. Do three rounds of everything, with a break in between each round. Once you are comfortable doing the main session, you can try the progression session to introduce new movements into your weekly routine:
1. Glute Bridge, 10 Reps This move really focuses the effort in your glutes, which will help them to fire fully when they are needed for your golf swing (something that many golfers struggle with.) See the video below for how to do it.
2. Reach Backs, 10 Reps This exercise will provide controlled thoracic rotation in order to develop good mobility for the rotational aspects of the golf wing. See the video below for how to do it.
3. Cats & Dogs, 10 Reps As well as thoracic rotation, you also need to extend and flex your trunk through your to counter the effects of sitting at a desk. See the video below for how to do it.
4. Inverted Hamstring, 10 Reps This single-leg move will make your hamstrings fire and improve your proprioception. See the video below for how to do it.
5. Ts Ys Ls Ws, 10 Reps This move is great for shoulder health and to allow the thoracic spine to open up a bit. See the video below for how to do it.
1. Hip Aeroplane, 10 Reps This move is Saladino’s favorite hip mobility exercise that will help to make up for lost movement when sitting down. See the video below for how to do it.
2. Thoracic Bridge, 10 Reps This single-sided exercise will help to establish stability in your torso. See the video below for how to do it.
3. Bear Crawl, 10 Reps Do this locomotion drill with a book in the small of your back to avoid hip movement – if you drop the book then don’t move your hips! See the video below for how to do it.
4. Child’s Pose, 10 Reps Kneel on a pad or mat for this breathing pose that will help you to repair the stiffness from too much sitting. See the video below for how to do it.
WHAT NEXT? Want to work out at home to build muscle and fitness? Then read our guide to equipment-lite home workouts.