I hope the title grabbed you. That was the intention. However, I am not going to propose some magic pill, swing aide or formula that will instantaneously improve your golf game. I am sorry to disappoint. On the other hand, I can suggest a proven way that has been supported numerous times in research studies. The only problem is that it requires time and a little work.
As we have already learned —> HERE, low handicap golfers are stronger, more flexible, and have better balance than high handicap golfers. It makes sense that better golfers are better athletes. But, how do they get that way? Is it genetics? Did they pick the right parents? Possibly. However, a golf specific strength and conditioning program has been well documented to elicit improvements in strength, flexibility, balance and ultimately club head speed!
It is no secret that golf performance is multi-factorial, and that other parameters such as swing mechanics, mental preparation, course management and golf equipment are implicated in golfing success . But, there is more than enough rationale for physical conditioning as a modality for improving the physical factors affecting golf performance [1,2]. With that said, lets review some important information presented in question and answer form.
Should I just work out or should I perform some type of “golf specific” training program?
This is a great question. Without getting too off track, lets get something out of the way. There is no such thing as “golf specific.” The only thing that is golf specific is actually playing golf. However, a “golf relevant” program that takes motor control, specific flexibility demands, and specific strength and power considerations is of utmost importance when training golfers. With that said, every exercise that is performed does not have to look like the golf swing to be effective for golf. Let me explain this quickly and easily. Are the glutes (butt and hip muscles) important in golf? Of course! TPI considers the glutes to king and the abdominal muscles to be queen in terms of importance for power in golf. So, what exercise is great at developing glute strength and power? How about swinging a weighted club or performing weighted rotations that mimic the golf swing? This is not a bad idea but one of the best exercises of all time at developing hip strength and power is the deadlift. But the deadlift does not look like a golf swing?! Exactly! And, trust me, it does not have to. Building hip and glute strength (among other things) by using exercises like the deadlift will pay dividends in the integration of fitness to golf.
What other exercises should I perform?
The answer here is not so simple. It is not only a matter of which exercises are the best, but also, which exercises are best for you and YOUR body. The philosophy is competency in movement before capacity. If Rory (pictured above) was not able to get his body into a position (because of flexibility issues, poor form, core instability, etc.) he would first develop those attributes then start increasing his weight/strength on the deadlift. The same goes for any other exercise. So, a medical or fitness professional should be able to progress and regress a program as needed to put their athlete in the right position to succeed. With that said, the recreational golfers in the studies reviewed performed exercises to strengthen their chest, abdominals, back, shoulders, hips, and legs, as well as improving flexibility in their shoulders, trunk, spine and hips. These are all important areas in golf, but an evaluation may reveal the need to focus on these areas or others primarily.
Okay, so I know that strength and flexibility training can help improve the game of pro’s and young/ middle aged amateurs, but what about older adults?
Another great question. Simply, yes! A study by Thompson et al. in 2004 revealed that an 8-week multi-modal fitness program improved golf performance in 55-79 year old men. This may be news to some of you but this study is already over 10 years old and the authors reported that Senior PGA Tour players had been partaking in fitness programs for years prior with the hope that increased physical activity will help maintain their competitiveness and avoid injury .
What kind of results can I expect?
Finally! The question and answer (hopefully) we have all been waiting for. Wait no longer because I have some objective data for you. As previously stated, numerous studies have found that 8-weeks or more of strength and conditioning including a personalized flexibility program will help improve those parameters. Furthermore, this increase in strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance all equates to one thing….increased club head speed. But, how much should you expect? Well, the average increase in club head speed reported was between 2.7 and 5.0 mph. The interesting thing is that all of the studies that compared strength training only to a multi-modal approach including strength, balance, and stretching found that the multi-modal approach was superior. It is also important to know that theoretically an increase in 1.0 mph in club head speed equates to an increase in 2.5 yards of carry. So, the aforementioned studies found that their subjects increased their distance between 6 and 12 yards! Who would not want that?!
1. Lephart, SM., Smoliga, JM., Myers, JB. An eight-week golf-specific exercise program improves physical characteristics, swing mechanics, and golf performance in recreational golfers. J. Strength Cond. 21(3), 860-869. 2007.
2. Thompson, CJ., Osness, WH. Effects of an 8-week multimodal exercise program on strength, flexibility, and golf performance in 55 to 79 year-old men. J. of Aging and Physical Activity. 11, 144-156. 2004.