So I’d better start this out with an admission: I’m a pre-Tiger golfer. While he’s only one year my junior, anyone who learned the game before the aforementioned Mr. Woods took over understands just how different of a game golf used to be.

When I played the majority of my competitive rounds, Nike was a company that made basketball shoes. More than $25 was a lot to pay for a round, and most importantly, golfers didn’t workout.

This came from the top down. The tour was full of a bunch of skinny dudes (Paul Azinger, Payne Stewart, Corey Pavin), the occasional fat dude (Craig Stadler) and one dude who looked like he could beat them all up (Fred Couples). These were not “athletes” in the traditional sense. These were “golfers,” and until Tiger came into prominence, other “golfers” seemed totally cool with it.

In fact, after following a terribly unsuccessful freshman football season with a reasonably accomplished freshman golf season, my high school coach sat me down and had a heart to heart.

“Danny,” he said, “I talked to your football coach. We both agree that you’re never going to be Mike Singletary, and you’d probably be better served to spend your falls pounding range balls than getting slaughtered on his football field.”

Looking back, the man had a point.

However, the second I dropped football, I also dropped any sort of formal strength training — coach’s orders. As far as we knew back then, weight training was bad for a “golfer.” The logic was that the reduced flexibility and added strength would make it harder to maintain a consistent swing. The only strong dude I had ever played golf with was the late Derrick Thomas (who was a member at my country club), and to be honest, his muscles really did get in the way of his golf swing.

Obviously, the game has changed tremendously since then. My attitude toward fitness, however, has not. Don’t get me wrong, I love athletic activities  — I used to ski 40 to 50 days a year when I lived in Denver. And I’ll happily play the Stockton to your Malone in a pick up game of hoops and, if it’s below 90 degrees outside I’d rather walk than ride. But I’d never spent an minute in the gym until last year.

I’m not sure if it was the realization that I was about to go from “a little doughy” to fat, or maybe it was in an effort to keep myself alive for a couple more years, but I the notion of getting my self in a bit better shape became non-negotiable. And to be honest, for the first three months of the year last year, I was really enjoying it. I felt stronger, slept better, tended to eat healthier and had a ton more energy — all good things for a father of three. But alas, life and work got in the way, and after a couple horrible weeks I fell off the wagon.

Getting back on the wagon

As I’ll be working out toward something this year (a better golf game versus general health), I’m going to separate my exercise into two separate types this go round: The first type is pretty obvious—it’s the kind of general health and fitness we should all seek and it will be the focus of this column. There are, however, some things we should look for as golfers when we design even a general workout. While this isn’t universal, I believe golfers should workout for strength and tone rather than to “bulk up.” This means lifting less weight and doing more reps. I’m sure that there’s an exception for every rule, but I’ve never played with a giant muscle head dude who could

  1. Break 80, or
  2. Hit the ball further than me at my skinniest

In my honest opinion, I don’t believe that giant pecs and arms that are so big that they can no longer lay static next to your body are conducive to a “proper” golf swing. I made a couple call to some instructors I know, and I didn’t hear anything that changed that assertion.

Now, back to the matter at hand. I consulted with a trainer last year and we settled into a circuit-based workout. This provides a couple of advantages for me: First, I have limited time, and I can generally get one of these workouts in over a lunch break. Second, I have the attention span of a gnat, so long cardio sessions are out for me. By combining strength training with my cardio I tend to keep more engaged and am less inclined to spend my hour at the gym staring at random shiny things.

Here’s my general strength/fitness program:

I start with a 5-to-10 minute warmup. I had a back surgery 15 years ago, so the treadmill tends to tear me up a bit. I’ll generally run one of the “programs” on the bike — usually something that has to do with a heartrate.

I move to the bench machine. I do three quick reps of 10 at 75 percent weight, monitoring my heart rate. The whole point of the circuit idea is to keep your heart pumping like you’re doing cardio.

The next step is the bicep machine. Again, I do three quick reps of 10 at 75 percent. Then I move to the shoulder press machine. Again, three reps of 10 at 75 percent.

My final upper body station is the lat bar. I tend to alternate between lat pulls and tricep push downs, each 10 at 75 percent.

Abs are next. I hate sit ups and crunches — I mean I seriously hate them. I find them both boring and miserable, so I tend to do less of the more difficult inverted situps. If it’s a day where I’m doing legs as well, I’ll generally do them to burnout (which is generally less than 50 if the bench is steep enough). Afterward, I do my leg excercises, and then do my abs to burnout again. If I’m not doing legs, I do them to burnout, give myself a minute, and do it again.

As I mentioned before, sometimes my schedule works out better to do a full workout three days a week, and sometimes it works out better to do six shorter workouts (alternating between upper and lower body with abs being the only constant). In the case of the latter, I’d hop back on the bike, ride it 5-10 more minutes, stretch and hit the shower. If it’s the former, we move on to legs.

I start out on the leg press. Back to the three reps of 10 at 75 percent.

I move on to the quad machine. Three of 10 at 75 percent.

I move to the inner thigh machine. Three of 10 at 75 percent

I then move to the hip flexor machine (this one beats me up for some reason). Three of 10  at 75 percent.

I finish with leg curls. Three of 10 at 75 percent.

I then cool down with 5-10 minutes on the bike, and finish with a five-minute general stretching session.

A couple additional notes on this workout:

I’m certain you could do a full circuit workout with free weights, and I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t do it all kinetically. I personally don’t like free weights (I’m always nervous some chic next to me is going to be lifting more) and don’t understand enough about the kinetic thing to have any advice on it, so this is what works best for me. Your milage my vary.

Sometimes I mix it up — I’ll do more weight with less reps, or less weight and more reps. I can’t tell you this is for any important reason other than sometimes I have a little less/more time and sometimes I just get bored.

Finally, it’s critical to let your muscles rest, as strength is essentially built by tearing up your muscles and letting them heal stronger. If you want to workout every day, you’ll need to either alternate from upper to lower body or one day of full-body and one day of cardio.

With all this being said, an exercise routine is a lot like a golf swing. Sometimes it’s cool to learn stuff on the Internet, but often it’s better to enlist the help of a professional (or in this case a trainer). I’d highly suggest at least a fitness consultation before starting a new workout program.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

Next column: Golf specific flexibility and using training aids to increase “golf” strength.

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Previous articleGetting from the lesson tee to the 1st tee
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Dan Gedman was born in Chicago and grew up in Kansas City, which makes sense as he currently splits his time between those two cities. A director by trade (commercials, long-form and the occasional rap video), Gedman is one of the owners of Liquid 9 -- a Chicago-based production company. He is the father of 3 (8, 5 and >1) and the husband of one. He's also a proud Jayhawk, which is much cooler during the winter and spring than it is during the fall.

His current home course was designed by Donald Ross in his experimental phase, and starts with a 240-plus yard par 3. Therefore he's generally (at least) one over before he hits the second fairway.


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  1. This is one of the most ill-informed articles I’ve ever read. We should start asking for specific credentials before we allow nonsense like this to be posted. It can really hurt people. The comment below from Ryan is substantially more accurate.

  2. I think a lot of people are misinformed on this subject. I agree that bulky muscles are not ideal for golf but in order to get stronger you should be working with more weight and less reps, and not circuit training. Strength training will not give you bulky muscles. Strength is largely due to training your nervous system to send stronger signal to your muscles and muscle size is largely down to hypertrophy, the breaking down and regrowth of muscle you mentioned.

    I believe anyone serious about improving their athletic ability should fragment their training. Strength training separately in order to get the most return for your time invested. Proper stretching routines to stay flexible and then separate cardio if they feel fitness is an issue.

    It’s a myth that the above cannot be achieved without a large amount of time invested. The focus should be on quality not quantity; proper warm-ups and one or two intense working sets. This approach will get you in and out of the gym faster, stop you getting bored and keep you coming back, improving.

    Circuit training is fine if you just want a generic workout but it won’t allow you to focus enough on each component (strength, power, cardio, flexibility) or let you have the energy to commit to each component 100% and progress as quickly as you should be in each separate area.

    I would also avoid ‘golf-specific’ training if you’re trying to hit the ball further. I guarantee you ‘ll hit the ball further if you increase your deadlift or squat by 50 lbs than if you can do 100 press ups on a Bosu ball and pull a cable to mimick your golf swing. Lower body strength is the key.

    Everyone needs to find what works for them based on their personal preference, goals and limitations, but I submit that circuit training is second to a number of other methods in the pursuit of athletic improvement.

    Having said all that, improving your physique is 90% diet, exercising is the easy part!

  3. While I commend you on working out, your workouts are as pretty old school and don’t do much service to your body. Routines like you posted become tiresome, repetitive, and will NOT provide the results your are looking for after your body gets used to the workouts. There’s plenty of research out there that shows after repeating the same workout a few times, it becomes ineffective. This type of training will undoubtably lead to plateauing.

    To be more effective, look for workouts that use plenty of energy within a short timespan, require more explosive movements (pushups, burpees, squat jumps, etc), use body weight and weighted movements, and utilize aerobics during and in-between sets. Otherwise, you’ll end up where you started if you continue to do the old school “circuit training.”