Strength and Golf: a strong correlation. The Why and How
It’s no secret when looking at golfers from days past and the pro-golfers of today there’s been a major shift. It’s truly become a sport of athletes and athletic physiques. This isn’t by accident. Ever since Tiger Woods showed the world that muscle works with you in the game of golf, as opposed to against, pro golfers around the world started dedicating more time to the gym.
The results speak for themselves. The average PGA Tour drive is on course to break 300 yards by 2024, with top drivers now breaking 320 yards. This didn’t come from smoking cigarettes and drinking Diet Cokes (sorry, John Daly). Nor was it eked out from countless hours on the driving range. This came from focused and concerted efforts training strength and power in the weightroom.
By implementing 2-3 well-designed strength training workouts as part of your weekly routine, not only can you improve the quality of your golf, you’ll also improve the quality of your life.
Here are three major benefits on how strength training can improve your game. At the end I will provide details on how you can design your own program.
Be more balanced
I’m not talking about standing on one foot balance. I’m talking about balance between both sides of the body. Golf, as with many other sports, is repetitive in nature and favors one side of the body over the other. This repetitive movement creates massive imbalances in the body that can become visibly apparent. Not only is it noticeable from the size of the muscles on one side of the body, but also in the way you walk and move. A well designed strength training program that implements unilateral movements, or movements that focus on one side of the body, can help alleviate these imbalances and reduce the risk of injury and fatigue.
Some great examples of unilateral exercises for golfers are any variation of a split squat, rotational and oblique core exercises, single-arm overhead press, and single-arm rows.
Generate more power
It should be obvious why more power would be beneficial to golf, but there is also a not-so-obvious reason behind it. By training specifically for power, which is defined as explosive strength, you will not only improve the power of your swing but also the central nervous system becomes more adept at delivering that power. This is accomplished through improved motor-neuron connections between the brain and muscle. In other words, your body works better. This translates to a more powerful, efficient, and consistent swing. The only drawback might be having to work more with your swing coach to tame this newly discovered power.
For exercises that improve power output you should focus on lifting explosively. Some great exercises are dumbbell high pulls, kettlebell swings, speed squats, push presses, and pendalay rows.
It’s important to note there is an inverse relationship between speed and weight. The heavier the weight the slower the speed. Start out with a lighter weight and make sure your form is on point. Science shows it’s safe (beneficial even) to lift explosively as long as you’re doing so with good form and not exceeding your limits.
Although strength training doesn’t specifically target the cardiovascular system there will be an increase in cardiovascular function when you first start training. Improving cardiovascular function can greatly reduce your perceived effort making it easier to focus on the task at hand. It won’t be the sole reason for an improved handicap but it can certainly be a benefit.
In terms of sports it often comes down to simply outlasting your opponent. The back nine in golf can start to become physically exhausting which in turn becomes metally challenging. This can turn your game into more of a chore than something you enjoy, ultimately, affecting your score.
The best way to improve cardiovascular function while strength training is to focus on big compound lifts for a higher number of repetitions. Some of the safest compound lifts you can do are Hexbar deadlifts, barbell or goblet squats, Squat thrusters, Bentover rows, Walking lunges, and sled work. Focus on performing these exercises for 3-4 rounds for 6-12 reps.
How to implement these exercises into your training
There should be at least three, possibly four, components of your strength training routine.
- Always start with a good warmup. Get all the major joints moving from head-to-toe with some light dynamic stretches and doing some lighter reps of each exercise before getting into heavier work sets.
- Train power first. This is the most taxing of all the exercises and requires the most mental effort. It’s best to do these first while the body and mind are fresh. 4-5 rounds 3-6 reps.
- Next, focus on doing compound exercises. Think: hinge(deadlift), squat, push, pull, stride/lunge. These are what we call movement patterns and will help you keep everything balanced from left to right and front to back. 3-4 rounds 6-12 reps
- Finally, if there’s time, finish with core work, isolation exercises, and/or cardiovascular exercises. 3 rounds 12-15 reps or intervals for the cardiovascular exercises.
You’ll notice there is very little in terms of mimicking or trying to replicate the golf swing while strength training. That’s by design! As golfers we should be working on that movement with a club in our hands at the driving range. Rotational exercises have their time and place and can be implemented into a training program but the first step is to keep it simple and move some weight.
When it comes to strength training one of the most important aspects is what is known as progressive overload. To put it simply, an external stimulus (lifting weights) brings about adaptation (we get stronger). After we adapt to that stimulus our body will stop changing. This means in order to continue to reap the benefits of training we must continue to provide our bodies with more stimulus i.e. lift heavier weights or increase the number of reps. For the greatest benefit you should keep a workout log and track your weights and your reps for every training session.
Finally, if all of this seems to be too much to comprehend, fear not. There is always the option of working with a coach whether through online programming or for those based in Bangkok, semi-private with 2 or more individuals, or getting one-on-one attention from myself. To learn more about me please check out my bio at basebangkok.com/team/jeff
Availability and times are limited but if you’re interested in getting more information or booking a session, you can reach me at: [email protected]