Several years ago, MLB slugger Mark McGwire participated in the ADT Golf Skills Challenge – a pro-am event for things like longest drive, best putt and the like. And while McGwire went out to simply have a good time at a sport he loves, he ended up beating several well-known pros, including Greg Norman, at a number of skills challenges. Was his baseball training part of the reason why? Many MLB and PGA pros would seem to think so, although few recommend playing both sports at the same time since the swing mechanics vary between the bat and the club with little useful overlap.
However, what ‘swing’ sports like baseball and golf have in common is the idea of shoulder-back-hip rotation. Any skilled player in either sport will tell you that you can’t muscle a swing through with all upper body strength. Even though MLB greats look big and heavily muscled in their arms, they aren’t actually pulling or pushing the bat through the air. Rather, bats are held at the optimum angle of impact while the lower torso and hips spin or rotate through the swinging motion. This is similar to the golf swing, but with a little help from gravity and the shape of the club to add to the rotational force. It is part of the reason why you rarely see body-builder sized golfers; it’s not about muscle.
What should be of interest to anyone seeking to maintain health and fitness is the lessons of relaxation and control. Both are absolutely necessary for success in either sport, but in many ways they work against each other. A relaxed swing allows the physics of the club or the bat to do the work… but without strong control the ball hooks, slices, grounds out or pops up. The same can be said for most health and fitness pursuits. Keeping your shoulders relaxed during exercise makes sure to isolate muscle groups and facilitate better oxygen intake, yet learning to control your shoulders during a run or jog helps eliminate wasted effort, giving you more energy to add distance to your run. So the next time you’re thinking to push through an activity pause for just a moment and see if you can get more from doing less. Just like the PGA pros that got shown up by a baseball player, you might be surprised at the results.