Golf really isn’t my only passion in life and in a previous “career” I was lucky enough to play sport at level good enough to get paid for it (although not very much!) I have, as a result, a passion for all things training-related and golf fitness training manages to combine two of my main centres of interest.
In fact, I do often get asked about the best ways to get in shape for golf, avoid injury and hit the ball further, for example.I am usually a little bit wary about answering these kind of questions because there are coaches out there who specialise in this sort of thing. That being said, I do have a few ideas on creating a sensible golf training program as well as a list of resources that could help you.
A Golf Training Program, but for Whom?
If you are 25, 300lbs of muscle and aiming to win a long drive title, your needs might not be quite the same as the 80 year old who is fighting arthritis and still trying to get round the course. Actually, if you are that first guy, can you get in touch and give me some advice? I am going to assume that you are somewhere in between and are looking to play as well as possible without getting hurt and perhaps gain a few yards at the same time.
The other obvious thing to factor in would be your personal circumstances. How much time do you have to train? Do you/can you go to the gym? Someone smarter than me said that the perfect program isn’t any good if you can’t or won’t follow it.
Full Body Training for Golf
There are many ways to train, and generally, anything that doesn’t cause injury is far better than doing nothing. My personal choice for someone who is using their training as a way to play better would be doing what is known as full body training. In fact, I would say that training the whole body a couple of times a week is a pretty good thing for almost anyone.
There are a lot of advantages to full body, and not just as a golf training program. Here are a few:
- It doesn’t need to take up much time
- Everything doesn’t fall apart if you miss a session
- it can be done with all sorts of equipment (or none at all.)
Basically, a full body approach will mean that you train your pushing muscles (think push up, overhead press, bench press if that is your thing), pulling muscles (pull ups, rows etc) and legs (squatting movements, for example) every session. Add in some work for the core (abs, lower back) and maybe one or two other golf-specific exercises and you are good to go. At the end of this article I will link to some great resources that will help.
This sis something you can do anywhere as well. Using bodyweight only will work perfectly. Or kettlebells, barbells, stretch bands or whatever. If you are a powerlifting fan, you could be doing bench press, barbell back squat and bent over rows. Calisthenics is more your thing? What about dips, chins and pistol squats? Or maybe you aren’t really into exercise in a big way and need something simple? Push ups (on knees or the back of a chair to make it easier), inverted rows/Australian pull ups, and bodyweight squats. No equipment, no risk of a heavy dumbbell falling on you, perfect for home or office.
Golf Fitness Training: Specific exercises.
Just doing this sort of push/pull/legs routine 2/3 times a week is a great start. Hopefully walking the course, eating sensibly and perhaps a bit of cardio should keep the fat off, build some muscle and actually make a difference to your golf game too.
However, there are a couple of things not really covered by these basics and that are quite important to golfers, especially anyone who wants to spend time on the course rather than nursing injuries on the sofa.
In my opinion, two areas to look at in particular would be the core (especially core rotation) and the muscles you can’t see, especially lower back, glutes and hamstrings. This doesn’t need hours of concentrated work, but 15 minutes three times a week would be hugely beneficial.
For the glutes/lower back, there are lots of exercises you can do. Those who hit the gym regularly will be thinking of some kind of deadlift. This is great, but something that can work really well and be done at home is the glute bridge and/or hip thrust. I started to type an explanation of exactly what this is, but I realised that a video wold probably be a whole lot easier to understand so here you go.
You can make this harder by adding weight, doing one leg at a time or elevating feet and/or shoulders. However, it is a really good, simple exercise because it teaches us to wake up our sleepy glutes! If your rear “wakes up” and starts doing what it is supposed to do, it is a very powerful muscle and that is always good news for a golf swing.
Golf Ab Workout
Sorry, I had to type that, but when I read “ab workout” I think of 80s aerobic instructors doing millions of sit ups. This really isn’t the way forward! In fact, I am not convinced that abs as a word means very much at all. I do, however, think it is very important to be strong all around the midsection. Whether this means that you can see a six pack or not is going to depend more on age, diet and genetics (I certainly can’t!) but getting your midsection in shape is important to health and essential for golf.
I think that we should all worry far less about traditional ab exercises, and this includes crunches. This isn’t going to be a list of every ab exercise out there, but here are a few that I think are really good for golfer in particular.
- The McGill big three.
- Suitcase carries
- Ab rolls
- Rotation and anti rotation work.
Stuart McGill is one of the leading experts on back health in the world and has done his fair share of work with golfers. This is his advice and I can only nod my head in agreement.
Suitcase carries are championed by many, including Dan John who is a absolutely amazing source of training knowledge -just don’t ask him about heavy Turkish get ups and lunges;) He recommends all sorts of loaded carries, and especially the suitcase carry.
Ab rolls are a personal favourite of mine, although given how hard I find them, favourite perhaps isn’t the right word!
For the rotation and anti-rotation work, the application to golf seems to be clear. This video shows what they are, but think of anything where you are either working to make your upper body rotate in relation to your lower body, or trying to prevent it rotating.
Putting Together the Perfect Golf Fitness Training Program
As you have no doubt noticed, I have waffled on for a while and given a few ideas, but I have actually given a complete program. As I said at the start, there are people who do this so much better than me, so I am reluctant to do so. However, I will happily point you in the right direction of some of these smarter guys. Following the stuff written by any of the following will never be a bad idea, and if you dig around a little you will see that they have talked a fair bit about how golfers could benefit from their advice.
Dr Stuart McGill-world renowned back expert
Dan John-a very smart guy who has been around the block a few times. His podcast offers some of the most thoughtful answers to training (and other) questions that you could wish to come across.
Tom Furman-like Dan john, not specifically a golf coach, but another guy who has seen it all and has a lot of really good advice for all of us, golfers or not.