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What Should Be In Your Golf Fitness Program?

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This story is part of our new “GolfWRX Guides,” a how-to series created by our Featured Writers and Contributors — passionate golfers and golf professionals in search of answers to golf’s most-asked questions.

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So you are heading into the winter months and feel like it’s a good time to get busy with some physical training. It’s time to make a plan and get a training program sorted out, but you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the contrasting opinions and recommendations out there relating to golf fitness. If you are anything like the average golfer, then thoughts like this might be running through your head:

  • Will I need to join a gym?
  • How can I move my hips like Rory?
  • Is stretching good for me or not?
  • Should I get a trainer?
  • Maybe I’ll get the “Ab Flex Twisty Turner Fat Shredder Pro 9?” (the answer is a definite NO to this one!)

All these doubts essentially boil down to four key questions

  • What exercises are best for you?
  • How many reps should you do?
  • When should you do them?
  • How much load should I use?

Answering these four questions forms the nuts and bolts of constructing a training program. If we can figure out how to answer these questions best, then we are most of the way to getting you a decent training program.

What Exercises Are Best For You?

Everyone has an opinion on what exercises golfers should or shouldn’t do. If you listened to everybody you’d be either in the gym all day doing 73 different exercises per workout, or you’d be frozen to the spot thinking about why NOT to do them all!

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A good rule of thumb is to include exercise variations of the following primal movements

  • Squat, Lunge, Push, Pull, Bend/Hinge, Brace

You’ll also want to target improvements in the following areas:

  • Strength
  • Stability
  • Mobility
  • Posture

This will ensure a balanced workout that incorporates a range of different movements and improves the way your body performs during the golf swing.

How Many Reps Will Do?

Again, opinions can be pretty polarized here. Some say do 5 reps for max strength or power, while others reckon that endurance is key and recommend doing 20 reps per set. I would advise to simply take the middle ground on this one. Aim for 8-to-12 reps and 2-to-3 sets and you can’t go too far wrong.

When Should You Do Them?

This really depends on a lot of your lifestyle and when you play golf during the week. Let’s use the example of someone who has some spare time during the week to exercise and plays their competitive round on a Saturday. In this case, go for three workouts per week and try to have a rest/recovery day on Friday. A schedule I often recommend is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday.

How Much Load Should I Use?

Imagine a scale of exertion and effort relative to how hard the last two reps are in a set. At one end of the scale, you are you are in danger of bursting blood vessels in your eyes. This is a 10. At the other end of the scale, you are not even close to breaking a sweat and could do 250 more reps if your life really depended on it. This is a 1. I would recommend aiming for 7 or 8 on the scale.

In terms of what type of load, I like the following progression relative to ability and experience:

  • Bodyweight
  • Bands
  • Dumbbells
  • Barbells

An Example

For a nice simple example of how this looks in program format, take a look at the image below. This is a workout taken from a beginner level program that I often use to introduce players to training their body for golf.

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It is well worth considering that this advice WILL NOT apply to everyone and program design should reflect your ability, experience, injuries and other individual peculiarities. It also should be known that as professionals, my contemporaries and I consider a few more factors to achieve a really top notch program:

  • What levels of exercises are suitable?
  • What exercise progressions to use and when?
  • Which exercises go together (and which ones do not)?
  • How much rest between sets?
  • What tempo (speed) to perform the exercises at?
  • What are the appropriate modifications to form and technique?

As you can see, designing a comprehensive golf fitness program by yourself is actually a pretty tricky task. Formal strength and conditioning education, extensive knowledge of the golf swing and plenty of experience are needed to properly answer all of the questions above.

For those of you who want to get specific, here’s a story on the three most important parts of your body for golf.

If you would like more specific information or a program more tailored to you then contact me directly through email — [email protected] — or check out what we have to offer at www.golffitapp.com.

Disclaimer: Always gain clearance for your training from a doctor or well-qualified exercise professional before commencement of an exercise regime.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Josh

    Dec 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm

  2. Pingback: The Go-To Workout For A Golfer - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  3. marcel

    Oct 29, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    the thing is – up to benchmark 300p – bench press, squat, dead lift, leg press… in natural (non stereoids) exercise the muscle tone is only slightly bigger in volume than you are eight now. Rory got stronger whilst his weight did not change – muscle / fat ration dropped from 22% to 16%.
    I exercise 4x per week – bench 180p, dead-lift 220, squat 220, leg press 250, biceps single 35p. the trick is doing most of it in dumbbells to balance left-right.

  4. marcel

    Oct 29, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    finally article that brings the basic truth – “you can be stronger golfer without becoming stronger person”. since i started exercising 3-4x per week my length increased to 4i 202yrds Driver 270yrds and better, 7i 165y… pretty much one club jump.
    im only 5’8″ playing j38 CB PX 6. Current Deadlift 220p in set 3×6. whole set of 300 spartan workout in 37min.

  5. Paul

    Oct 29, 2014 at 5:24 am

    Pat knows the score… The body needs to be mobile and stable before you incorporate any heavy lifting. What’s the point in being able to squat 300 if you don’t have adequate hip rotation, no thorasic mobility, tight calves etc, etc, etc

    • Pinhigh27

      Oct 29, 2014 at 9:39 am

      The whole point is that you have those things if you can squat 300 to depth. If you don’t understand this fact that I promise you that you can’t squat to proper depth. You guys have no idea how mobility intensive it is to squat heavy to actual depth(where the top of your quad is below your knee). It’s something that 99.9% of people can’t do without training.

      • marcel

        Oct 29, 2014 at 10:51 pm

        well put… i squat 220 in full motion 3×8 (and also deadlift 220 3×8) and it took me 9 moths of intense training to get there… but before you get there your core is lot more stable… i train 4x per week… my golf has improved massively. i do core, strength and crossfit style for endurance and explosiveness

  6. Peter

    Oct 29, 2014 at 2:22 am

    thanks a lot, very useful!

  7. pinhigh27

    Oct 25, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    literally every exercise in your sample is worthless. Knee band squat?
    This sounds like a really cute way of letting golfers think they’re doing something to improve their game, without having to work hard.
    People that actually want to get more athletic through weight training, should do the same things everyone else does: linear progression programs that focus on the compound lifts (squat, bench and deadlift). and by squat, I mean a real squat. With a bar on your back.
    A mobility routine, like limber 11

    If somebody runs a linear program like starting strength and gets it to where they can squat 315, bench 225 and deadlift 405, they’re going to be 2+ st dev above the avg golfer in terms of physical fitness and they can get there in 6 months. What does the cute little program accomplish? It looks like powderpuff girls meets training.

    Having people figure out their starting weight as a 1-10 scale is so laughable that I’ll just refrain from discussing that one.

    • Nick

      Oct 26, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Hi pinhigh27,

      I very much agree with you that true strength is developed using linear progression programs, using barbells for load is a big part of that.

      I program using barbells a lot, but only when it’s appropriate for the athlete/client. In my experience not everybody, in fact almost nobody, is ready to squat with a barbell on their back when they first start training. Movement patterns have to be learned and ingrained before load is added. There is no doubting that a stronger golfer is a better golfer, but in my opinion, strength should be developed alongside a range of other physical attributes.

      The example workout is aimed at gym novices. The exercises are basic and designed to build body and postural awareness, literally an introduction to training. The 1-10 rating scale is also meant to give people a general idea of training intensity. I personally use percentage of 1 RM and RPE monitoring to calculate loads, but only where appropriate. Scaling the information you deliver to a client to suit their understanding and ability is a really important skill. It’s part of what differentiates “Coaches” from “Trainers”.

      As I mentioned in the article, this is a very basic guide which will be followed up by a more in depth piece on constructing programs. Hopefully you will be able to take away some useful information from there.

    • Tom

      Oct 27, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Whoa there skippy. As golfers we are into flexibility over muscle mass. Arnold (I can’t believe it’s not butter) Scharzenegger couldn’t hit a water melon off a tee.

      • nikkyd

        Oct 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm

        I see skinny little golfers swing as fast as they can with their whole body to gain clubhead speed. Big guys can use their forearms and wrists amd get away with it. Now teach the big muscle bound guy how to move his hips even faster, and he will probably outhit the little guy

      • pinhigh27

        Oct 28, 2014 at 4:07 pm

        Arnold was a world champion bodybuilder who a lot regard as the best ever. I don’t think he was too concerned about his mobility. I also don’t think anyone that is working out for golf is ever going to have to worry about getting anywhere near as big as Arnold(not to mention they’re not going to use PEDs so it’s literally not possible for them to get as big as Arnold anyway).

        Top powerlifters and olympic lifters have more mobility than any golfer would know what to do with. Go find out how mobile Furyk, Dufner or Reed are and get back to me. The whole ” too big to be have good mobility” thing is so stupid as it’s just not a realistic issue for 99.9999999999% of people

        What you just said is the equivalent of ” Well should I go play touch football with my buddies? Hm well Wes Welker has like 5 concussions and I don’t want to end up like him, better not.”

  8. Gary Jones

    Oct 24, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    The first time a tried a kettlebell I wrecked my back for a week. I’m a bit nervous to try it again. I definitely suggest a qualified coach before using one.

  9. Erik

    Oct 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Strength, stability, mobility, and posture = kettlebell. Buy a bar for deadlifts at home and you have everything you need. Strong First. Gym is too much of a time sink for what you get and you get nothing out of stretching for 30 secs.

    • rkristopher

      Oct 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      I’ve gotten to be a big fan of the kettlebell (2x a week with 2 to 3 running sessions: 5k, sprints, interval runs–all mixed up per day). Great all-around workout that can be done as an individual or in a class (I do both to stay motivated).

      It took a couple of seasons to really kick in, but I found my resiliency and power take big jump this year and when coupled with my regular golf practice my handicap dropped and stayed low for longer this year.

    • Large chris

      Oct 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      If you are new to training the last thing I would do is get a bar for deadlifting at home. Either get a trap bar for deadlifting or better still get proper coaching on the main lifts before starting (proper coaching) worth travelling to find a highly qualified coach, average gym instructors are NOT going to be able to show you safe heavy lifting technique.

      • Erik

        Oct 24, 2014 at 3:31 pm

        Most definitely get a qualified coach to check your form. Go see an SFG for kettlebells, most likely they’ll be a deadlift expert as well. Look up Strong First.

    • Pat

      Oct 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      You have no idea what you are talking about. You need more than just strength training to stabilize the swing and add yards to drives. It involves stretching, strength training, fast twitch training(plyometrics), stretching and hip rotation exercises. I am in the process of writing an article for golfwrx right now in order to further educate people like you who obviously don’t have a clue how to train for golf.

      • Wes

        Oct 29, 2014 at 9:52 am

        Pat, when can we expect to see your article,breaks intersted to see it. Thanks

  10. Mike

    Oct 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Thank you Nick,

    Something like this has been needed in the public domain for some while now.

    Appreciate this article.

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Kelley: Should a Tour player’s swing be the pattern we copy?

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PGA Tour players are the most gifted golfers on the planet. Their ball striking ability is remarkable to the average, even scratch, golfer. With the time to practice all day, usually perfecting their imperfections in their own swings, why are PGA Tour players’ swings always the model we seek?

Look at the progression and expectations in other sports played recreationally. If you start playing Tennis, you don’t expect to serve as fast and accurate as Rafael Nadal. When joining a gym, do we look and replicate the times and bodies of Olympians? However, in golf, players seek the worlds best trying to emulate them. Examining this idea, could this actually be detrimental?

Let’s start with the speed differential. The average PGA Tour driver club head speed is 113 mph. The average male amateur golfer driver speed is 93.4 mph. The average handicap for the male golfer sits between 14 and 15. Below is a chart from Trackman showing the distribution of clubhead speed among male golfers.

*Trackman research shows there is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and handicap.

Speed is mostly a natural talent developed at an early age. It can be enhanced with speed training, gym work and even lifestyle changes. ?With such a differential in speed?, wouldn’t players first be better served focusing on center contact with the most efficient route to do so? This can include modeling simple looking swings.

Besides the speed differential, the world’s best golfers all have unique swings that have been perfected over time. Take for example the top ten players in the world. Different swings with different match-up moves throughout the motion. They have made it work for themselves with countless practice hours. Usually time the average golfer doesn’t have.

A main example would be Rory McIlroy, often a sought out golf swing among students. Here is a quote regarding his swing swing sequence after visiting the Titleist Performance Institute Center. “At the start of McIlroy’s downswing, his left hip spins violently counterclockwise, as it does for every elite, long-hitting player. but then, and only with the driver, Mcllroy makes a funky move you could not teach. a moment before impact, his left hip suddenly changes direction and jerks back, clockwise, and then rotates again.”

With the average golfer on a time constraint?, golfers could actually look at what the greats do the older they get in their careers. The swings become more simple, using their instincts to get their body in efficient and more teachable positions. This is usually in their set-up then backswing, with less excess movement for an efficient strike. Take for example a young versus older Ben Hogan. (Picture below)

Below is another example of a young Jack Nicklaus compared to an older Nicklaus later in his career.

This is in large part due to the concept that less can be more at times. Unfortunately in golf, all to often players are told to do more with their swing, only to jeopardize center contact even seeking vanity over function.

A concept that could be beneficial is next time you want to work on your swing, focus on efficiency and minimizing the ?motion for center contact and a better face/path relationship. Then you can build. Rather then taking a bit from a Tour player’s swing, understand how your body should move to achieve your desired ball flight. Once you have a foundation, then add speed and your own DNA to the swing.

The argument could be made the opposite should be taught for aspiring junior golfers, especially the way the game as going. This article is intended to open a discussion and perhaps change the view of how the golf swing is being taught based on your skill-set and what you are trying to get out of the game. Also, what may be teachable and not teachable. You can change swings with concepts alone.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: @Kkelley_golf 

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Clement: Why laying up = more power

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You have been there before — you can’t get over the hazard on a par 5 and decide to lay up and take the club you need for the distance and the ball makes it into the hazard after you took this smooth swing that smoked the ball 15 yards farther than you expected? We uncover the mystery right here!

 

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Kelley: Simplify your swing with the hammer drill

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Regardless of your handicap, a simple hammer can teach you how to efficiently address the ball, start the swing and then put your body in a dynamic position at the top. If you can hammer a nail, there is no reason you can’t simplify your swing. This drill can also change the parts in the middle of your swing you have been struggling to change.

To start, grab a hammer with your trail hand as if you are hammering a nail into a wall in front of your body. You will notice how this instinctively gives you a slight tuck of the trail elbow and drops your trail shoulder below the lead with angle in the trail wrist.

Once gripping the hammer, move the weight of the hammer as if hammering a nail. This will give you the feel of the takeaway.

From here, the golf swing is no more then a lifting of the arms as the right arm folds and the body goes around a bit.

From this position, holding your spine angle and placing the left hand on the right hand will pull your body into a coil or “turn”. This places your body in a position to efficiently swing the golf club back down to the ball.

A great way to combine the hammer drill with a golf club is to hold a hammer on the grip of the club or tape the hammer down the middle of the shaft. Start with just your right hand on the club and make slow swings.

Once you have practiced this a few times, the hammer can be removed and this feel can be integrated to a normal golf club. To continue this feel, simply turn the clubhead in as if you are hitting the ball with the toe of the club (below picture). When turning the club like this, the center of balance goes more to the clubhead, helping replicate the actual hammer feel.

What’s great about this drill is that the actual task is driving the technique. Rather than being thoughtful of several technical positions in the golf swing, replicating the instinctive motion of the hammer will put you in the proper positions. This drill will also help you place your focus of attention on the actual club, which is often overlooked.

www.kelvinkelley.com

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