Golf is a hugely popular pastime and sport, with over 60 million people playing at least once a week(1). Golf looks like a very leisurely activity, and it’s not exactly an energetic sport. However, the reality is that golf is a sport where strength counts, and strength training can be very beneficial.
It’s not just the pros who can benefit from strength training either, but the weekend hackers and slashers too.
Driving a golf ball off the tee is the perfect example of a power activity. Power is your ability to generate force quickly. In addition, a golf swing uses a large range of motion, which makes it one of the anatomically taxing sports around.
Because golf is a one-sided sport, it can cause imbalances in muscle strength, flexibility, and mobility. These imbalances can lead to aches, pains, and even serious injuries.
The good news is that strength training can fix all of these problems and add distance to your drives too. Of course, technique matters, and a golfer with good form should have no problem out-driving a strong player with lousy technique. But, if two similarly-skilled should face-off, the strongest will probably hit the ball the furthest.
In this article, we take a look and the dos and don’ts of golf strength training.
Golf Strength and Training Exercises
What Muscles Need to Be Strong for Golf?
If you know how to hit a golf ball, you already know that golf is a full-body activity. Because of this, an effective golf strength training program should involve all of the major muscles. There are 600+ muscles in the human body, and most of them work together in groups. The most important muscles for golf are:
Quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, adductors, and glutes – these are the muscles of the lower body. Every golf swing starts with a strong, stable stance. Strong legs are the foundation of every great golf shot. Plus, you need fit, strong legs to walk and carry your golf bag around the course.
Core – the core the collective term for the muscles of the midsection. They are the engine that drives your golf swing. A large part of your power comes from the core, and a weak core will not just affect your swing, but it could also be a source of injury.
Pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi – the muscles of your chest and back shouldn’t be working especially hard during golf, but they do play a role. A strong chest and back will prevent “energy leaks” so that all the force generated by your core ends up in your golf club.
Deltoids – strong, healthy shoulders could prolong your golfing career by decades. The deltoids are your shoulder muscles, and strengthening them will increase shoulder joint stability and reduce wear and tear.
Arms and forearms – it’s a mistake to try and hit a golf ball using arm strength alone. However, your arms still play a vital role in force transference from your core to your club. You don’t need the biceps of a bodybuilder to be a successful golfer, but strong arms and forearms will definitely help.
So, in short, golfers need to be strong all over, and there is no one muscle group to work on that will make you a better golfer. That said, if you only have a few minutes for strength training, your core is arguably the most crucial muscle group for golf.
How Do You Build Your Strength for Golf?
Strength training for golf doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. In fact, you can get great results from just a couple of workouts per week. That’s good news because most golfers prefer to spend their time on the links and not in the gym!
The one thing to remember when strength training for golf is that while you should include golf-specific exercises in your workouts, you should not try and replicate the techniques of golf in the gym.
For example, one way you could increase your golf strength would be to attach a club to a pulley machine and do resisted swings. After all, this would directly target the very muscles you want to strengthen.
However, your body would soon learn this new movement, and you could find yourself repeating it out on the course. While you WILL be stronger, your swing will change, and you may find yourself missing more balls than you hit.
As a result, most strength training for golf falls under the banner of GPP – general physical preparedness. Work on your golf game out on the range or course, and your fitness and strength for golf in the gym. Do not try and replicate the techniques of golf away from the golf course.
For most golfers, this means doing full-body workouts 2-3 times per week using a range of training methods, including freeweights, medicine balls, machines, cables, and resistance band exercises.
What Are the Best Exercises for Golfers?
The best strength training exercises for golfers address left to right strength imbalances, increase rotational strength and power, improve balance and stability, or reduce the risk of injury. They should also be easy to progress as you get stronger.
The exact exercises you need depend on your current fitness and training experience, your strengths and weaknesses, and any injuries you currently have or had in the past. That said, five of the best strength training for golfers are:
High to Low Cable Woodchops
This exercise increases rotational strength and works your core. It’s also a useful spinal mobility exercise. Best of all, it allows you to work on your non-dominant side so you can alleviate any left to right strength imbalances.
How to do it:
- Stand sideways on to a high cable machine. Grab the handle with your nearest hand, and then place your other hand on top. Straighten, but do not lock your arms.
- Adopt a shoulder-width stance and bend your knees for stability.
- Rotate your upper body through 180 degrees. Your hands should follow a diagonal path, ending up down by your hips.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Golf requires a strong core, both for generating force and stabilizing your spine. This exercise will strengthen your core, chest, back, shoulders, and arms all at the same time.
How to do it:
- Get down on the floor in the push-up position with a dumbbell in each hand. Brace your core and straighten your arms and legs. Your feet, hips, and shoulders should form a straight line.
- Bend one arm and row the dumbbell up and into the side of your ribs.
- Lower the dumbbell back to the floor and then do a rep on the other side.
- Continue alternating arms for the duration of your set.
- Make this exercise harder by doing a push-up between rows.
- Make it easier by bending your legs and resting on your knees.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts
This exercise is so good for golfers that it ought to be called the golfer’s deadlift. It’s an excellent movement for your posterior chain, increases balance, strengthens your core, and also teaches you the safest way to pick up a golf ball.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Shift your weight over onto one leg, and bend it slightly for balance.
- Lean forward from your hips and reach down your legs toward the floor just in front of your feet. Extend your opposite leg out behind you as a counterbalance. Do not round your lower back.
- Stand back up and repeat.
- You can do this exercise with or without weights as preferred. If you use weights, you can hold a dumbbell in the same hand, the opposite hand, or in both hands. Each option creates a slightly different exercise.
BOSU Ball Squats
A BOSU ball is a balance trainer that is curved on one side and flat on the other. There are dozens of exercises you can do on a BUSU ball, and many of them are beneficial to golfers. BOSU ball squats are an effective way to improve your balance and strengthen your legs at the same time.
How to do it:
- Place your BOSU on the floor with the curved side down. Stand on the flat surface with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly out. Shift your weight from left to right until you are balanced and level.
- Push your hips back, bend your knees, and squat down as deep as you can without rounding your lower back. Do not let your weight shift forward or back or from side to side.
- Stand back up and repeat.
Kettlebell swings are a good power exercise for golfers. Easier to learn than the Olympic lifts but safer than high-impact plyometrics, swings are useful posterior chain exercise that also reinforces your hip hinge. Hip hinging is a critical part of setting up for a golf swing. Kettlebell swings are also a great cardiovascular fitness and fat burning exercise.
How to do it:
- Hold your kettlebell in front of your hips. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Brace your core and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Keeping your arms straight, lean forward from your hips, and lower the weight down between your knees. Do not round your lower back.
- Drive your hips forward and swing the weight up to shoulder-height. Do not lean back!
- Lower the kettlebell and repeat.
- No kettlebell? No problem! You can also do this exercise with a dumbbell or even a medicine ball in a sturdy bag.
Belgian Tour de France legend Eddy Merckx was once asked what the best way was to train for cycling. He replied, “ride a bike, ride a bike, ride a bike!” And while Merckx was being simplistic, he was also correct; the best way to get good at something is to do more of whatever it is that you want to get better at. This the fitness law of specificity.
That said, hitting the gym can help plug the developmental gaps that can come from doing the same activity over and over. The best way to get better at golf is to play more, but some supplemental strength training will help eliminate the weak links that might otherwise hold you back.
- Golf Industry Facts, https://www.ngf.org/golf-industry-research/