A guide to golf fitness for elite players
In this series of five articles, I will be offering guidelines for golf-specific physical activity aimed at five different golfing demographics:
This article is for elite amateur golfers and professionals. Once the foundation of physical competence has been laid down through solid gym and posture work, then it’s time to consider what physical characteristics are actually desirable to compete in golf at the highest level. In my opinion, golfers need a solid level of cardiovascular fitness, good flexibility and as much strength and power as possible along with great movement patterns. They also need to be able to manage their own body while on the road competing in tournaments.
In order to develop these capabilities I prescribe the following:
Elite golfers need a program that focuses on strength and power while solidifying the work already done on stability and mobility. Below is an example lower-body workout from an intermediate/advanced-level program. The function exercises are included for stability and muscle activation, while the power exercises are simple jump and throw variations, focusing on generating speed. The strength work is designed for hypertrophy and focuses on multi-joint lifts. The core exercises incorporate a loaded rotation movement and a bracing, endurance hold.
Motor Pattern Program
At this stage, drills using the Ramsay Posture Belt and other postural training aids are directly related to the player’s swing and what they are trying to achieve from a technical standpoint. Here is an example of one my favorite drills to train lower body stability and dynamic rotation.
Exercises are prescribed using spiky balls and the corresponding stretches, usually targeting ankle, hip, shoulder and spinal mobility. Below is a typical mobility program that covers the key areas that are commonly affected by a predominantly sitting lifestyle combined with lots of practice and play.
Interval training is used to keep the energy output down while still stimulating the cardiovascular system and improving aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Here is a short but intense Tabata workout that is typical of the cardio work I prescribe.
Maintenance On the Road
A combination of basic gym work, posture and mobility exercises are combined with recovery practices such as hydrotherapy while traveling and attending tournaments. These techniques are used to help maintain the condition that has been developed in the prep phase before tournaments.
The individual application can vary quite considerably within this approach depending on the individual. I’ll present two methods I have used in dealing with a couple of different players:
- Golfer 1: A young professional who has been under my care since the age of 16.
- Golfer 2: An established professional in his 30s that I have been working with for around 18 months.
Golfer 1 has come through a state high-performance program, so he is used to having information delivered to him and is expected to comply with the instructions and programs delivered. Best practice is always used, compliance is high and progress is measurable and very consistent. It’s essentially an ideal scenario for a trainer as long-term development is the main focus and priority, sometimes at the expense of short-term performance.
Golfer 2 has come through a route that is much more self-learned and self-taught. The approach therefore has to be softened somewhat and worked in with the player’s current belief system. Exercises have to be adapted and programs changed or molded in order to develop the player’s athleticism, while not rocking the boat from a conceptual point of view. Remember at this stage, short-term performance is considered to be the highest priority and long-term development often has to take a back seat.
Best practice with Golfer 2 and those like him is sometimes compromised, and progress is often not very measurable. This is a small price to pay in order to keep a player’s belief high and ensure compliance is achieved. Without belief and compliance, results will not happen and I might as well prescribe aqua aerobics, calf raises and wrist curls!
In summary, at the elite level, the focus should be on strength and power, cardio fitness, flexibility, swing-specific motor patterns and body maintenance skills. The individual approach has to be highly customized and specific to the player in question.
For more info on programs, training and equipment, proven to deliver results for high level players, check out the Golf Fit Pro website.
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Kelley: Recycle old drills to capture that feel
Sometimes it can be beneficial to re-introduce an old swing drill back into your training. Regardless if you felt the drill clicked or didn’t click at that time, you will more than likely notice a difference this time around.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and he is not the same man.” – Heraclitus
Let’s apply that famous quote to the golf swing. The first part, “not the same river” can apply to the physical swing itself. Chances are your swing has changed since first learning or practicing the swing drill. You can be more comfortable with the motion, or you could have made swing changes over time, making the drill feel vastly different now.
The second part of that quote, “not the same man” applies to you, yourself. More than likely, your physiology is different today and now at this very moment. Each new day you have changed. Players have gone back to a drill from years ago to find they have discovered a completely different feel and understanding of that particular drill.
For example, here is a baseline drill I have students revert back to on a regular basis. The foot-back drill both cleans up the set-up angles and gets the lead and trail side of the body moving efficiently.
This is a great drill to get the feeling of set-up angles and how the lead and trail side of the body can move in the backswing. However, further down the road, this drill can be used to get the feeling of covering the ball at impact, a multi-purpose drill depending on where you place your attention or how you feel.
As Nick Price once said, “Every player has two to three habits that cause problems, we have to be on the lookout for them.” Developing baseline drills you can revert back to helps these tendencies stay in remission and can help keep the structure to your swing.
Clement: How to smoke the golf ball…with your eyes closed
You hear this all the time! When there is no ball, I have an amazing golf swing but when the ball is there, my swing goes into the toilet. Remove that ball from your sight and enjoy some great ball striking!
Clement: How to GENTLY hammer your drives 300 yards
Shawn shows you why strong grips don’t hook the ball and how a simple adjustment will have you belting it past the 300-yard mark.
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Jul 10, 2015 at 12:50 am
That sprint circuit is no joke compared to the rest of the sets. A 25 second sprint should take a fit male about 200 meters (on the first rep, anyway). Ten second passive rest, then x6 reps? College track workouts are less brutal than that. I mean, am I reading that correctly?
Jul 6, 2015 at 9:19 pm
How about a 65yr who had a heart attack 15 months ago. Give me an idea of what to do. I’ve lost 32 lbs.
Jul 3, 2015 at 10:03 pm
Hit 100 s of balls and walk courses and you have a golfer who is fit.
Jul 2, 2015 at 3:56 pm
I wonder how Jones, Snead, Hogan, Trevino, Nicklaus et al. were able to play the way they did without these “elite” golf exercises? Just luck I guess.
Jul 2, 2015 at 8:50 pm
Cigarettes and Whiskey
Jul 3, 2015 at 12:04 am
Jul 3, 2015 at 12:13 am
Those were great players with tons of talent, but what about those who weren’t gifted as well but are willing to outwork everyone to beat them.
Jul 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm
Don’t know if anyone outworked Hogan. I doubt any great champion did not work extremely hard at their game
Jul 7, 2015 at 2:53 pm
they played poorly compared with todays players.
Jul 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm
Jul 2, 2015 at 11:15 am
Well I figured since this article was intended towards elite players then I should read it! lol, I don’t know maybe I would be considered elite 1.6 handicap? However I’m guessing Nick that at my age (45) and my height and weight (6 ft, 235lbs) I should be focused more on trying to improve my fitness for longevity than performance gains. I’m pretty lucky to be blessed with exceptional coordination, balance, and athletic ability but at my age I can see it leaving me in the near future if I don’t lose some weight and get in better shape. Would you agree that I’m probably not likely to see performance gains at my age but long term longevity could be my most likely benefit?
Jul 2, 2015 at 11:02 pm
General improvement in conditioning will certainly help with maintenance and unity prevention. Best practice is to get screened by a golf fitness professional who can tailor a program to help you get the most out of your body. Hope this helps, Nick
Jul 6, 2015 at 11:53 am
Definitely not blessed with an ego either…