Work Now, Golf Later: Add Years to Your Golf Career with Strength Training

Jul 26, 2022 | Sports Performance, Strength & Conditioning

Dip Exercises
Does your swing fall short on power? Do you struggle to play the larger courses or feel like the nagging tweak in your shoulder holds you back? Spending just a few hours in the gym per week can improve your golf game, keep you injury-free, and extend your years on the course.

Dr. Matthew Styf is a clinical orthopedic specialist and CSCS out of Massachusetts. He’s also a certified TPI Medical L2 professional through the Titleist Performance Institute. He enjoys working with athletes of all ages, but takes special interest in golfers. Read on to learn more about his ideas for strength work to improve your swing, stamina, and more.

Dr. Matthew Styf

Strength Training Exercises for Golfers — Get to Work!

I’m not talking about “work” as in your job, I’m talking about putting in the physical work in the gym. Going to the gym, working out, and lifting weights are very new and foreign topics to a large group of golfers. But what if I told you that gaining strength and improving your fitness will help with your golfing longevity?

The idea of taking time off the course to get better is hard for many golfers to wrap their minds around. Adding in strength training doesn’t have to be a large time commitment, but it does have to be enough. For example, a seasonal workout plan would be 3-4 days of training a week from November to April, decreasing to 1-3 days as the weather warms up and you play more often.

If you don’t have a current workout plan or you continue to come up short on that New Year’s Resolution every year, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why.

If you’re not strength training after you turn 30, you’re missing out on some big benefits.

After the age of 30, you can lose up to 3-5% of your muscle mass per decade. This muscle loss combined with the violent movements of the golf swing causes golfers to lose distance, consistency, and play time due to pain.

So let’s do some math. By the age of 60, which is nearing retirement and when most people begin to golf more, you could lose up to 15% of the muscle you had at age 30 if you had not not been working on maintaining/gaining strength.

Golf Fitness for Injury Prevention

Strength training is how you can minimize this loss, and it’s never too late to start. Numerous studies show that you can actually gain muscle even as you age. Strength training also protects you from injuries like golfer’s elbow.

About 50% of amateur golfers (men and women) report back pain when they golf. So, what if the right workouts could replace the pain medication bottle in your golf bag? You could make room for your protein shake or snack food for the back 9.

Now, golfers don’t just injure their backs – they can also hurt their shoulders, knees, hips and elbows. It’s important for golfers to get at least one well-rounded, total body workout each week. But where do you start?

Golf specific workouts are 80-90% the same as a lot of other workouts for athletes. The 10-20% difference is more concentration on rotational power and rotational mobility.

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Beginner Golf Workouts: It’s All About the Glutes and Core

So you’re in the gym. Now what? Since the glutes are the king and the abs are the queen of the golf swing, let’s start there.

The list of exercises is exhaustive and can be overwhelming when looking on the internet. Start by learning the basic hip hinge movements. This will help you progress to exercises such as a Romanian deadlift or trap bar deadlift. Having strong hips and a mobile posterior chain will make a massive difference in your swing.

As for core, crunches, Russian twists, and sit ups may not be the best for you. If you are looking to golf for a long time, learning to control spinal movement and use it as an area to transmit force is more important and safer.

Exercises for core stability that work great for golfers are:

In addition to the glutes and core, exercises that focus on rotation at the mid-back, hips, and shoulders are important as the primary rotators during the golf swing.

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Golf Weight Training to Fit Your Lifestyle

Putting all of this together is tough if you’re not a physical therapist or fitness professional. I like to program three total body workouts a week for the off-season golfer and two for the in-season golfer.

Each of the full-body days has a warm up, power development component and 2-3 strength supersets or tri-sets. Each day also addresses upper body push, upper body pull, squat/lunge, a hip hinge variation and core strength.

Why do I program it like this? As someone who is employed, a homeowner, and a father of two kids under the age of six, I try to increase my workload without increasing my time in the gym.

I understand that life gets in the way and spending an hour or more in the gym isn’t realistic for everyone. By adding supersets and tri-sets, you can work your lower body and upper body at the same time while giving your other body parts a rest.

The idea is that you’re putting in the work three days a week so you can play golf or participate in life without feeling like you’re going to hurt yourself or miss out on other life events. It’s all about finding your minimal effective dose of strength training in order to enjoy life both on and off the golf course.

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