Golf fitness is a topic that is not given enough attention to in regards to game improvement. There are a number of ways that a golf-specific workout plan can improve your performance on the course. More importantly, it will help you live longer and increase the quality of your daily life.
In this article, I would like to show you what exercise can specifically do for your golf game (if done properly). If you're convinced, I have included some resources at the end that can help you get started.
Why You Should Be Exercising
Before we get into the golf-specific benefits of a workout routine, let's talk about why you should be exercising in general. The list of benefits is long, and nothing short of incredible.
Regular physical activity has been proven to accomplish the following, according to the Centers for Disease Control:
- Control your weight
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mental health and mood
- Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult
- Increase your chances of living longer
- Reduce your risk of some cancers
If you have been putting off exercise I can tell you from personal experience it is one of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your life. However, you came here for the benefits for your golf game, so let's discuss!
The Benefits of Golf Fitness
Golf fitness has largely been misrepresented lately because of the ongoing debate amongst professional golfers and their workout routines. Many believe that the extremes players like Rory McIlroy are going through to increase their strength and fitness are not helping their performance on the course. This article is not about that - this is about what a casual fitness routine can do for your golf game. I certainly don't expect you to spend two hours a day in the gym!
I've spoken at length with Kai Fusser, who has worked with Annika Sorenstam and many other top golfers. He has created a golf specific workout for our Insider Members and is one of the leading experts on golf fitness.
We'll get into more specifics as to why, but based on working with thousands of golfers he believes the main benefits are:
- Injury prevention
- Adding speed and power to your swing
- More control over your swing
- Reducing fatigue on the course
The good news is that it doesn't take an enormous amount of time to see these kinds of results. If you work efficiently, you can see noticeable improvements with as little as 20-30 minutes 3 times a week. Who wouldn't want to hit the ball farther, prevent injuries, and improve your swing?
The most common injuries for recreational golfers can all be reduced or prevented by strengthening your body and warming up properly.
Typically recreational golfers will have lower back issues, tendinitis, and muscle and joint pain throughout their body. The golf swing can put a great deal of stress on your body, and if you lack the proper strength and flexibility there is a greater chance you are going to experience pain or injury. There is nothing worse than having to take a forced break from golf because your body is not cooperating.
One of the best things you can do before your rounds or practice sessions is to perform dynamic warm ups. The classic static stretching routine has mostly been disproved to prevent injury. If you want to find out how to do this properly you can read this article. Many injuries can be avoided by simply getting your body ready properly beforehand.
In terms of golf fitness, a workout routine can absolutely reduce your chances of injury. When your muscles are stronger they will protect your joints from all the pressure the golf swing exerts on them. Having strength in your lower body, core, and upper body serves as an insurance policy that will keep you on the golf course longer with less pain.
Adding Power to Your Swing
Every golfer wants to know how to hit the golf ball farther. Most players won't do it properly though. All things being equal, if you can increase your swing speed then you will add distance to your shots.
However, if you just try to swing harder without doing any kind of proper golf fitness routine, then it is likely you will either injure yourself or harm the quality of your swing. This is where fitness can absolutely help. When you increase your overall strength and flexibility then it will be easier for you to add swing speed without feeling like you are.
For most of my adult life, I have been in some kind of fitness routine that is focused on cardio and strength building. At my best, my driver swing speed topped out somewhere around 112 - 114 mph. At 5'8" and 150 pounds, it didn't necessarily look like I could generate that kind of power. Most people would comment that it didn't look like I was swinging that hard.
To be honest, it didn't feel like I was swinging that hard either. That, in a nutshell, is why golf fitness can add speed and power to your swing. Your perception of what is fast starts to change. For someone who isn't in great physical condition, swinging a driver 90mph could be an enormous chore. However, if they added just a modest amount of strength training then that speed would feel much easier, and they wouldn't have to push their body as hard.
Simply put, if you want to give yourself a chance of adding power to your game it is going to be incredibly difficult to do it without some form of exercise.
Hitting the ball farther is great, but you also want to keep it in play. The golf swing is an extremely complex movement and requires control of your body to see success. This is probably the most underrated benefit of taking on a golf fitness routine.
Many golfers are unable to make smooth, effortless swings because their bodies are extremely tense on the course. Some of these players might already be strong, but they don't know how to translate this strength to the golf swing. Learning to do controlled strength exercises that are focused on golf can help. One of the main techniques that Kai Fusser advocates for golfers who are doing strength training is to learn how to do everything in a controlled, but a relaxed movement.
This means not gripping too tightly, engaging muscles all throughout your body rather than just one spot, and being efficient with the energy you expend. Learning to do this in the gym can yield major benefits on the course.
Speaking from personal experience, I have found that exercise has made it easier to swing a golf club. I never feel like I have to try too hard, and I can hit the ball with plenty of control and distance with what feels like 80-90% effort rather than going all out on every swing. This has kept me injury free (knock on wood), and more importantly has improved my ball striking.
Don't Forget About Cardio
Cardiovascular workouts should absolutely be a part of your golf fitness program, but not necessarily the traditional methods. The fitness world is starting to shift to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This method uses quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods. If done properly you can burn more calories in 15 minutes than you would in 60 minutes with a traditional cardio exercise like jogging.
These workouts are actually more beneficial to your golf game because they can build strength, increase speed in your swing, and increase your stamina. You are teaching your body to turn off and on, which is similar to what occurs during a round of golf between shots. As an additional benefit, you won't put the same wear and tear on your body that an activity like running can do over time.
If you are walking golf courses (which you absolutely should), your cardio workouts will reduce the amount of fatigue you may experience during your round. Personally, I play an extremely hilly golf course. It's a pretty intense 6.5-mile walk up and down hills. I've noticed golfers huffing and puffing towards the end of their rounds. It negatively impacts their performance on the closing holes. Not me though! I feel pretty fresh through the 18th hole, and I largely credit it to the HIIT workouts I do on a spin bike.
Best of all, these shorter, more intense workouts won't require as much of your time in order to see real benefits in your health and golf game.
Are You Convinced?
Hopefully, I have got you excited about exercising in order to improve your golf game. I truly believe that a golfer of any level will see increased performance on the course if they put in a moderate amount of effort each week doing the right kinds of exercises.
So where can you learn more?
There are a few resources I can point you towards. On our site, we have a golf-specific fitness plan as a benefit of our Insider Membership. It comes with a detailed plan for each day, and videos from Kai Fusser on how to perform each exercise properly.
The Titleist Performance Insitute is a great resource for learning more about golf fitness in general. They also have a network of certified professionals that you can work with.
Jason Glass has a website that is also a great resource that you should check out.
The best piece of advice I could give anyone who is interested in starting is to take things slowly at first. You can start with light workouts 2-3 times a week, which will ease you into a routine and more importantly not burn you out. One of the hardest things about exercise is sticking with it. However, if you make a commitment to improving your health and your golf game, I think you will see some great results that will make it worth it.