There are many ways to get rid of those last few strokes you want to shed, but golf-specific exercise might be the most underrated. You can fix most unwanted swing habits in the gym or at home with minimal equipment. Golf exercises don't have to be complicated or overly involved. You can do them at home or with someone specializing in sport-specific fitness.
While it's important for the exercises you do to be sport-minded, they should also be specific to your needs as a golfer. The best thing you can do is find a NASM-certified personal trainer specializing in golf fitness. There are a couple of programs out there that offer this classification, with the gold standard being the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI).
You can search for fitness professionals in your area from the TPI website. They also offer a catalog of exercises, stretches, and workouts that are easy to follow independently. If you want to avoid putting together your own collection of golf workouts via their website, we've hand-selected some staple exercises to introduce to your exercise regime to improve your golf game.
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The Bottom Line:
- What golf exercises are sport specific? – Any exercise you can do to mimic the rotational movement in your golf swing will make you a better golfer.
- What equipment can you purchase for golf exercises? – Balance plates, resistance bands, percussion guns, and foam rollers are all equipment you can purchase for golf exercises
- What’s the difference between static and dynamic exercise? – Static is an exercise that doesn't elicit much movement in the body, like a plank, whereas, dynamic exercises might include medicine ball rotations, as it incorporates movement.
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Do Sport-specific Exercises Really Make a Difference?
If you think golf-specific physical fitness is not important in the game of golf, it's probably been a while since you last watched the pros! Tune in to any LPGA or PGA Tour event, and you'll see interviews with players talking about what they are working on in the weight room or with their trainers. But, no reason to feel embarrassed or out of the loop if you didn't realize golf exercise had become such a big deal. This is a more recent development in the game of golf. TPI was only established in 2003 and is likely much younger than your favorite PGA Tour player's career.
But golf fitness is now expected as part of your practice routine, and it might be more important than the extra time you spend on the driving range. A few notable professional golfers have brought to light the importance of fitness and its correlation to the game of golf over the years.
Gary Player (Old School)
Gary Player, the "Black Knight," was the first PGA Tour player to bring attention to fitness in golf. He was a trailblazer, creating a turning point in which golf was regarded more as an athletic endeavor and less of a leisurely activity. During his prime, there wasn't another player on tour better known for preparation, positive mindset, or commitment to physical fitness than Gary Player.
Bernard Langer (Middle Man)
As golf's ageless wonder, Bernhard Longer is still playing, competing, and winning at 65. Nutrition and fitness are the two things he cites most for the longevity (50 years) and success of his career. In 2021, at the age of 64, he tied his age in a round of golf only to beat it four months later, shooting 63. If you knew you could be playing like that at his age, would you be more likely to follow in the footsteps of his fitness and golf routine?
Tiger Woods (New Age)
Arguably the most well-known professional golfer and one of the most popular professional athletes on the planet, Tiger Woods is no stranger to hard work in the gym. With his unwavering work ethic and domination of the sport, everyone took notice of the things he found important and soon followed suit.
Whether it was having stronger core muscles for better stability throughout his golf swings or his infamous statement of not being able to fire his glutes, people began paying attention. In his prime, and before TPI became a dominant mainstay in the game of golf, he was the driving force in the shift of the level of respect people gave to golf fitness.
What Golf Exercises are Sport-Specific?
What makes an exercise sport-specific to golf? First, understand the foundation of the movement pattern. Golf is a rotary sport, meaning the sport's primary action is rotational. Our upper bodies rotate around our spines, while our lower bodies resist that rotation for stability to create the golf swing. Any exercise you can do to mimic those fundamental movements in your golf swing will make you a better golfer. If you stick to stagnant exercises like the dumbbell bench press or push-ups, you'll limit the range of motion in your body. This also limits your ability to swing the club effectively.
To make a dumbbell bench press golf-specific, do it in a way that also targets your oblique muscles. Get a stability ball and lay on it on your back, Roll out on the ball until only your shoulder blades are making contact with the ball. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and pull your hips towards the sky until your core resembles a tabletop. Alternate your arms as you do the bench press on the stability ball while keeping your hips level with the ground. It's okay if your shoulders rotate slightly on the ball as you alternate the bench press, as long as your hips don't follow suit. This exercise will teach you how to separate rotation in your upper and lower bodies, simulating rotation in your golf swing.
You can also do medicine ball core rotations with a stability ball to work on your side muscles. The setup will be the same as the dumbbell bench press on a Bosu ball. While holding the medicine ball, sit on the stability ball and roll out until your shoulder blades are resting on the ball. Maintain a 90-degree bend in your knees and pull your hips to the sky, squeezing your glutes and creating another tabletop with your body. Push the medicine ball directly above your chest to the sky with both arms, stabilizing it. Keep your right and left hips stable, and rotate your arms and shoulders together until your arms are parallel to the ground. Repeat side-to-side rotations of the medicine ball with your arms extended while stabilizing your lower body. This exercise will again dissociate the rotation of the upper body from the lower body while also strengthening your core muscles.
Equipment For on the Go or at Home
The best way to make sure you can work out wherever you go is to have equipment that you can take with you. If you are serious about getting better and incorporating golf fitness as part of that, the equipment you use should be easy to bring with you to aid consistency.
Good balance is essential to being consistent, powerful, and controlled in the golf swing. If you want to increase your swing speed, you need to be able to manage your body weight and balance throughout the swing. You can have all the rotational mobility in the world, but if you can't control it, you won't be able to use it.
Balance plates are the perfect piece of equipment to work on your balance. They can look like donuts with a hole in the center or a solid circular plate. Nothing about your golf stance changes while using them other than that you are standing on an unstable, inflated balance plate rather than solid ground. You can do workouts on them as well as practice your golf swing. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart when using them, just like you would with your starting golf stance.
The point of using the balance plates is to learn to fire the small stabilizer muscles used to control your balance and weight transfer. Start easy, in a standing position, without being bent over. Get used to the lack of stability while standing on them and focus on each part of your lower body individually. What does your right leg feel like when you're standing on it? Can you feel your hip flexors working? Does your right or left knee feel more stable? Paying attention to each part of the body that goes into stabilizing your overall body weight throughout the golf swing is incredibly important. If you can't feel it, you can't fix it.
Resistance bands are great for strength training at all fitness levels. There are a myriad of great exercises you can do with them. You can use resistance bands in a seated or standing position; make sure your knees are slightly bent any time you are standing. Whether swinging a golf club or performing exercises, you always want to be in an athletic stance.
Resistance bands are an easy way to progress in rotational mobility, stability, and strength. There is no need for bulky equipment because they can be easily packed. Attach them to a stable base so they don't come loose, and use them to increase core strength and range of motion in your joints. Make sure your push-to-pull ratio with them is 2:1. For every pulling exercise you do with a resistance band, match it with two push exercises.
TRX or Suspension Cables
If you are looking for an easy one-stop-shop for golf exercise equipment, the TRX Suspension training system is it. The slew of golf-specific exercises you can do with this system is only limited to your imagination. It is easily transportable and an excellent method for the 2:1 push-pull ratio system. All the exercises you can do with the TRX Suspension training system are based on your body weight. Every workout with this suspension system is dynamic because of its instability, which is precisely what you should be looking for in your golf exercises.
Percussion Guns and Foam Rollers
When it comes to taking care of your body, what you use for recovery is also essential. Don't be fooled by the name; recovery is also considered a part of the golf exercise category. Cold tub therapy is the best thing you can do for your body’s recovery. If you don't have access to a bathtub, percussion guns and foam rollers are fantastic alternatives.
The Importance of Stretching to Improve Your Golf Game
The amount of flexibility or mobility in your body, the better off you are going to be when it comes to the game of golf. Lack of motion or mobility is going to restrict your swing's capabilities. You have to work on flexibility and mobility as you get older. If playing golf well into retirement is something you look forward to, having a regular stretching routine should be a top priority for your golf exercise regimen.
Stretches for Better Hip Mobility
Most golfers don't realize that a "tight back," limiting rotation, is due to a lack of hip mobility or a tight hip flexor. Especially if you plan on spending hours practicing your putting, hip mobility can be improved over time and loosening up those pesky hip flexors.'
If your hip flexor is unusually tight, you may need to use manual therapy like massage to loosen it up before you can start stretching. If a hip flexor is too tight, the amount of stretching you do won't make a difference. With manual therapy, you will see positive changes in your hip mobility.
Static vs. Dynamic Exercise for Golf
Nothing about the golf swing is static; the entire movement is dynamic. There is, however, a time and place for static versus dynamic movements. The best golf workout you can do is tailor-made for your specific needs. That could include both static and dynamic exercises.
What is the difference between a static and a dynamic exercise or stretch, though? Static is an exercise like a plank that doesn't make the body move much. Go back to the medicine ball rotations we discussed earlier with the stability ball; that would be a dynamic golf exercise; it incorporates movement.
Static Golf Exercises
- Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Pigeon Stretch
Dynamic Golf Exercises
- Medicine Ball Core Rotations
- Walking lunges with a med ball rotation
- Jumping jacks
- Body weight squats with a med ball push
The Perfect Pairing
Regular practice on the driving range or using your favorite indoor putting mat for at-home practice is what makes you better, but add regular golf exercises and stretches, and you'll be amazed at the impact it has on your game. Adding golf exercise to your regular golf practice is a great way to improve your game and make your amateur or casual golf career last longer.
Will regular exercise make me a better golfer?
Absolutely! Just like regular practice helps you shave strokes off your handicap, so will regular exercise tailored to your needs as a golfer.
What is the best golf workout?
The best golf workout you can do is one that meets your specific fitness needs for your golf game.
Is hip mobility important in the game of golf?
All joint mobility is essential when it comes to the game of golf. With that being said, hip mobility takes the cake in terms of importance in this category.