Are you an avid golfer looking to improve your game? In recent years working out to improve your golf game has gotten a lot of attention. Honestly, this is for a good reason. Golf is a sport, and there is not a single sport on the planet that doesn’t involve a fitness component (including archery and rifle shooting).
With every sport, the desired fitness component is different though. So if you would like to improve your performance, you just have to address the specific needs of the sport. Golf has three important components that need to be addressed. Rotational power, flexibility (specifically of the hips and shoulders), and work capacity (both for power as well as low intensity walking). The problem is that most programs go right to trying to address one or more of these issues without building an adequate foundation of basic fitness and athleticism first. This is honestly not unique to golf. As a college strength coach I typically found myself spending the first year with an athlete trying to fix the damage that someone else had caused by being too specific, too early in their development. This is a very common issue for golfers, as many don’t do anything to improve their lower back strength, and the sport itself helps improve rotational power. This will eventually result in debilitating back pain and having to quit golfing in order to be able to function for daily life. This is a result of strength and flexibility imbalances, as most back pain is.
The best thing that I could do with my collegiate golfers to lower their scores and improve their drives was a general lifting routine to improve overall strength and lots of good old fashioned cardio. The number one goal of this type of routine is to increase the strength and stability of the posterior chain (back side of the body) and improve overall endurance. This is the goal for any new athlete as it builds a great foundation for both strength and joint stability in the end. This will greatly aid in performance as well as injury prevention and overall health (particularly later in life). Furthermore, this style of workout is ideally suited for every rotation sport as all trunk rotation begins at the back hip and ends with the lead shoulder. In other words, they begin with a forward push and rotation from the back leg and end with a pull with the lead arm. You see this in the baseball swing and throw, the slapshot in hockey, the discus throw, the shot put, the football pass, and the golf swing (and tons of other movements). Actually, the only unique part of this in golf is that it is performed in the bent over position and that it is slightly less violent to improve accuracy. That being said, if you have ever seen Tiger hit the ball, I am not sure how you could adequately describe it without the word violent. Combine this style of workout with 3-5 days of moderate intensity cardio and a couple of beginner yoga classes per week and you will have a one-two-three punch for a lower golf score and a much healthier back!
There are some things you need to know before you begin, though. First, if you are not familiar with lifting, a good trainer is a great idea. Second, you should get a physical before beginning any workout. Third, there is a downside to increasing your power and fitness. You actually may get strong enough to make your club shaft look like a wet spaghetti noodle when you swing (even if you are taking it easy). That will make some very bad things happen to your ball path as it will likely cause the club head to remain open, and the only real way to resolve it will be to get some stiffer shafts. This is why the pros’ shafts look more like hockey sticks. They swing with a lot of authority, so they need stiffer shafts to transfer the energy better. On the upside, your friends will be very jealous when your third shot on a 450 yard par 5 is a 3 yard putt. Try to win with some grace, though, or you might trash talk your way into having no golfing buddies.
Jeremiah Jacobs, MS, CSCS is a nutrition and exercise consultant for Cenegenics Carolinas. He can be reach at 577.8484 or Jjacobs@cenegenics-carolinas.com. For more information, visit www.cenegenics-carolinas.com.