I have personally used, experimented with, been given the sales spiel and watched the dodgy YouTube ads for every piece of equipment on these two lists.
How did the respective pieces of equipment qualify for their placing on the respective good and bad categories? They were put through an extremely subjective and moderately rigorous scrutiny, which involved absolutely no scientific process whatsoever. It comes from gut feeling, player feedback, listening to what other trainers have to say and of course, good old common sense. I’ve looked past the pseudo-science, ignored the preposterous claims and simply cast my judgment as a golf fitness professional.
Although there was categorically no science and very few facts that went into the rating of the equipment, I did come up with a fun scoring system:
Each piece of equipment is given a score out of 5 in the following categories, producing a total score out of 35:
- Application to golf posture and swing
- Injury risk
- Chance of messing with swing mechanics
*The higher the number for each category, the better
The five lowest-scoring pieces of equipment were relegated to the “Worst Group” and the five best, promoted to the “Best Group.” I have included the score sheet at the end of the article.
To take a closer look at some of the items detailed, check out Golf Fit Pro.
So here they are, presented in order:
The Worst: No. 5 — Weighted Clubs
- Score: 21 out of 35
Rapidly going out of fashion in golf and in baseball, the donuts give false feeling of load during the swing and has been shown to slow non-weighted swing speed while encouraging off-center hits. If you want to move the club faster, why practice moving a weighted version more slowly using the same action?
The Best: No. 5 — Dumbells/Kettlebells
- Score: 26 out of 35
Timeless pieces of gym equipment that produce genuine gains in strength and power. These can be used in countless different ways with a wide variety of load. There’s a reason they have been around for for years and yet still remain popular.
The Worst: No. 4 — Bosu Ball
- Score: 20 out of 35
Standing on the bosu ball will not magically “turn your core on” and help you with your golf swing. It’s more likely to send your ankle stabilizers into overdrive, rather than the important core and hip stabilizers.
The Best: No. 4 — Soft Sand
- Score: 27 out of 35
Running, jumping and crawling in multiple directions in soft sand is highly effective for a number of reasons. Sand requires you to stabilize and balance with every step you take. But because sand has no reactive force, we can’t rely on the ankle and wrist stabilizers to do the job — now it’s up to our core, hamstrings, butt and shoulders to pick up the slack. It also smashes your lungs for cardio fitness and produces almost zero muscle soreness the next day.
The Worst: No. 3 — Somax Swing Trainer
- Score: 13 out of 35
I can see what they were trying to do here: train the hips to move quicker and you’ll swing the golf club faster. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Fast club head speed requires the kinematic sequence of the golf swing to work in harmony. Simply training the hips to move as fast as possible and hoping the rest of the body will hold on is fundamentally flawed. Also I see a high potential injury risk while using this piece of kit. Lower backs look out!
The Best: No. 3 — Suspension Trainer
- Score: 30 out of 35
Young and old, fit and unfit, elite or amateur, the suspension trainer offers something for everybody with its ability to dramatically alter the load and difficulty of an exercise with simple body positioning. Core integration is needed in order to perform the exercises, plus hip and shoulder girdle stability are challenged and trained with the unstable nature of the straps. It’s portable, durable and fun to use.
The Worst: No. 2 — Pec Dec Machine
- Score: 12 out of 35
Tight pecs equals rounded and forward shoulders, which leads to impaired arm/body connection in the swing and ultimately funky swing actions to manipulate the club face. In terms of tightening pecs and rounding shoulders, the pec dec is king and, in my opinion, should be given a wide berth and left well alone.
The Best: No. 2 — Power Bands
- Score: 32 out of 35
These beauties have much of the same positive characteristic as the Suspension Trainer, that is: portable, durable, versatile, scalable to different levels of people and great for training with a partner.
Two features see them ranked higher though:
- The resistance increases the further you move into a resisted position. This means the exercise gets harder as you get to the least stable point of the movement, pure gold for stabilizer muscles.
- They can be used to simultaneously support and encourage muscles and joints into positions that they wouldn’t otherwise be capable of. Leveraged properly, this means increased mobility in the key golf areas of the shoulder, mid/upper back and hips.
The Worst: No. 1 — Home Ab Machine
- Score: 11 out of 35
Even setting aside the cringeworthy TV ads selling you lies, this equipment is the worst! The last thing a seated and sedentary society needs to do is be hunched over and crunncing ourselves into oblivion. The one that goes straight up and down is bad, it will shorten your already chronically tight abs and hip flexors and pull you into a more hunched posture.
The side-to-side version is the absolute pits for golfers. In a sport where the majority of people already have too much lateral flexion (side bend) in their swings, the last thing we want to be doing is repeating this action over-and-over again. It trains poor movement patterns, puts you at significant risk of low back injury and no, sorry, it won’t make your love handles melt away like butter.
The Best: No. 1 — Postural Training Aids
- Score: 33 out of 35
Posture, Posture, Posture. I talk about it a lot, but it’s hard to stress how strongly I feel about training posture and dynamic rotation movement patterns. Without proper set up, it’s almost impossible to move well during your golf swing. Like anything, good set up posture is trained, not just assumed. These pieces of equipment have been designed for this exact purpose. They can be used anywhere and by anyone to directly assist the most important part of their golf swing — posture and quality rotation.
So there we have it. I’m sorry if I criticized your favorite piece of gear and caused you to question its inclusion in your gym routine. Hopefully it will encourage you to relegate it to the garage and pick up something useful instead!
On the flipside, I’m happy if I validated what you already use or even inspired you to add a couple of useful items to your golf fitness equipment kit.
Check out Golf Fit Pro to take a closer look at some of the items detailed above.