Depending on where you live many of you will be dealing with harsh weather conditions, making outdoor golf practice and play impossible. Rather than allowing your golf game to slide while waiting for better weather to return, you can use this off season period to upgrade parts of your game that may not receive as much attention during the busy playing season. One of the most valuable steps any golfer can take is ensuring their body is functioning at a level that supports the quality of golf they would like to play, and also improving their likelihood of staying healthy and not missing any practice or play time due to injury.
If you are going to spend time and effort working on your fitness, it is wise to ensure you are using this time efficiently. To make this easier for you, I have selected nine golf exercises I believe are worth your time to improve upon. They are split up into three categories, all of which are critical to high quality and powerful golf swings:
For each exercise, I’ll explain why you should be doing it, what benefits it provides, and how to perform it. I also have shot a detailed video which shows you the proper form.
Without adequate mobility in particular areas of the body, making the swing we want, or our instructor is advising us to, may be impossible. The vast majority of the clients I work with either in person or online have at least some mobility limitation that is affecting their swing. Many of us sit too much whether at work or commuting, and don’t do enough to combat this lack of movement. The adage “use it or lose it” is extremely relevant to mobility. Three primary areas of importance to keep mobile are the spine, the hips, and the shoulders.
There is an exercise focusing on each of these areas below. Try 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps on each exercise.
Quadruped Spinal Flexion & Extension
Spinal mobility is critical, and something that many people lack. If our spine becomes immobile, it also has an adverse effect on hip and shoulder mobility, which is not good news for our golf swings!
Primary Emphasis: Spine
The most common area of limitation I see in golfers is a lack of internal hip rotation. Reduced internal hip rotation can put you at higher risk of lower back injury, early extension, sway, and slide. It will also make efficient sequencing more difficult, and result in a loss of power. In summary, internal hip rotation is critical, and you want to make sure yours is up to scratch!
Primary Emphasis: Hips
Half Kneeling Shoulder Circle
If a golfer has good spinal, hip, and shoulder mobility, they are on their way to having the mobility needs for a high quality, efficient golf swing covered. You already have an exercise for the spine and hips above, and by adding this shoulder mobility exercise, you will have the “big 3” areas of mobility covered. I see far too many senior golfers with shoulder operations; please look after yours.
Primary Emphasis: Shoulders
Strength is our horsepower, our ability to produce force. Increasing strength levels very often seamlessly transfers to increased clubhead speed. This is especially true in golfers who do not have a background in strength training and therefore are beginning from a low base. This is pretty cool, as it means you get really fast and dramatic improvements in your strength and clubhead speed when you start. Strength training is often unfairly criticized and misunderstood, which is a shame as its benefits to golf performance, injury prevention, and general quality of life are immense. Both strength & power training is especially important in senior golfers, as we rapidly lose strength and power as we age. Thankfully, this is mostly reversible with appropriate training. Below I have listed an exercise for the lower body, trunk, and upper body. All three areas are utilized in the golf swing, and we don’t want any weak links.
Try 2-3 sets of 3-8 reps on each exercise. Make sure to do both sides on the split squat. For each exercise choose a weight that makes the last 1-2 reps of each set very difficult. Try to increase weight or reps each workout, while staying in the 3-8 rep range.
Split Squat (Eccentric Emphasis)
Split squats are a great lower body strength exercise, whilst also challenging our stability and mobility simultaneously. Performing the lowering part of the exercise slowly, as demonstrated in this video is very useful for getting the correct form dialed in. One of the great things about exercises in which we work on each side of the body independently is that they enable us to identify and work on imbalances between the right and left sides. Each side does not have to be identical, but there should not be a huge difference. Concerning transfer to the golf swing, we know there is a strong correlation between ground force and clubhead speed. One of the best ways to increase ground force is to improve lower body strength.
Primary Emphasis: Quads. Also works hamstrings and glutes.
One of the downfalls of many generic workout regimes is that they focus exclusively on vertical exercises, and don’t get us working rotationally or laterally which is not optimal for training a golfers body. This exercise will increase your rotational strength, which is primarily governed by the muscles surrounding our trunk often referred to as the “core.” A strong trunk is important for rotation but is also extremely important in the transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body. With weak cores, we will experience “power leaks,” as we try to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body. This hugely limits our efficiency and ultimately power.
Primary Emphasis: Obliques. Glutes and deep trunk muscles are being worked hard also.
Chin-up / Pull-up
Chin-ups are when you use an underhand grip with your palms facing you, and pull-ups are when you use an overhand grip with your palms facing away from you. Many pull-up bars now have parallel handles where your palms can face each other, and these are referred to as neutral grip pull-ups or chin-ups. Chin-ups tend to be slightly easier. I don’t think any grip type is superior to the other and I suggest practicing each of them. I don’t want to offend anyone, but if you cannot perform one full chin-up/pull-up you have a fitness issue. You are either carrying too much body fat, your strength levels are low, or you are injured. These are all problems that need to be addressed, and pull-ups/chin-ups are a great diagnostic tool. In addition to helping us provide the upper body and trunk strength desirable for powerful golf swings, I think becoming proficient at chin-ups/pull-ups would go a long way towards preventing the much too common elbow and shoulder issues that plague so many golfers. Make sure you watch the video all the way through as I show you options you can work with if you cannot currently perform a full chin-up/pull-up.
Primary Emphasis: Lats & biceps, but massive amount of upper body and trunk muscles are being used.
An essential way to think of power is that it lies somewhere between strength & speed. Some people call it “explosiveness.” This type of training is necessary for enabling a high degree of transfer from increases in general strength into a specific movement, which in this case would be the golf swing. I often explain to clients that improving power in the golf swing is our goal, but just practicing our golf swing is not the most effective way of reaching this goal. The higher we can get our strength on general exercises (up to a to a certain point) like squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls, etc. the more force we will be able to produce in more specific power exercises which consist primarily of jumping and throwing exercises. This, in turn, will lead to more transfer to our golf swing by means of increased clubhead speed.
Similar to the strength section of this article I have included an exercise that primarily focuses on the lower body, trunk, and upper body. I’m confident that if you can increase your power output on these exercises, you will see an increase in your clubhead speed. When training for power, it is essential you are expressing as much force as you are capable of on every rep. This is why the reps per set are kept so low. During jumping exercises, you need to imagine you are driving your feet through the ground, and on the throwing exercises, you need to imagine you are trying to burst a hole in the wall. A lackluster effort will get you lackluster results.
Try 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps each side with maximum explosiveness.
Alternate Lateral Jump
This exercise is an excellent way to develop lower body power in a lateral fashion, which can be really beneficial for improving how your feet interact with the ground during the swing. We can’t see with the naked eye how much pressure high clubhead speed players apply into the ground with their feet, but I promise you it’s substantial. When coaching players through this I like to use the phrase “load and explode” to help them understand the feeling they want as they absorb the landing of each jump, and then propel themselves back towards where they came from.
Primary Emphasis: Lower Body Power
Rotational Medicine Ball Throw
If I could only prescribe one exercise to golfers to help them increase their clubhead speed, this would likely be it. It’s excellent for improving ground force and teaching us how to use our big muscles to develop rotational power. The manner in which our bodies move also has enough similarity to a golf swing that it provides a very high degree of transfer. Performing this exercise alongside a more general strengthening program is a good way of ensuring our strength gains are realized in our golf swing.
Primary Emphasis: Rotational Power
Single Arm Medicine Ball Chest Throw With Rotation
Upper body strength and power don’t get the attention they deserve amongst golfers, who are often obsessed with the “core.” The upper body significantly contributes to power in the golf swing and should be trained accordingly. My favorite part of this exercise is how it enhances the body’s ability to work as a unit. The movement is initiated with the lower body pushing into the ground; this force is then transferred through the trunk, and finally into the upper body, where the power is expressed by propelling the ball as hard as possible with the arm. Even though it’s not the same movement, it’s the same sequence as seen in the golf swing, and an exercise I believe has great value for golfers.
Primary Emphasis: Upper Body Power
These Golf Exercises Are a Good Start, But…
These nine golf exercises scratch the surface of what you could be doing to work on your fitness, both for golf performance and longevity. If interested in really taking ownership of your physical function, you might be interested in checking out the Fit For Golf Online Programs. These are available for purchase on my website and are accessible via the Fit For Golf App. Practical Golf readers receive a 20% discount by entering coupon code PG20.