There are many ways to get rid of those last few strokes you want to shed, and golf-specific exercise might be the most underrated. You can fix most unwanted swing habits in the gym, with a specialized fitness instructor, or at home with minimal equipment. And while trying sport-specific exercises may sound complicated or overly involved, they don’t have to be. With some simple practice, anyone can make a positive difference in their health and their golf game.
While it's important for the exercises you do to be sport-minded, they should also be specific to your needs as a golfer. One of the best things you can do is find a NASM-certified personal trainer specializing in golf fitness. A number of programs offer this classification, with the gold standard being the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI).
However, there’s no reason you can’t start incorporating golf-specific exercises on your own. The TPI website features a catalog of exercises, stretches, and workouts that are easy to follow independently, and we've also hand-selected some staple exercises to bring into your fitness regime and improve your game.
The Bottom Line:
- The top 10 exercises to improve your golf game: From stretches to planks, we discuss the best exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and accuracy.
- 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 helpful equipment 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.
Top 10 Exercises to Improve Your Golf Game
Exercise can improve your strength, flexibility, and mobility, all of which help your golf performance. Here are some practices to try, but remember to follow proper form and gradually increase the difficulty before fully committing to them.
1. Rotation stretches
Rotation stretches improve your torso's range of motion, which generates power during your golf swing.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place your hands on your hips and twist your torso to one side while keeping your feet planted.
- Hold the position for at least five seconds.
- Repeat on the other side and do ten to fifteen repetitions per side.
2. Single-leg balance exercises
This exercise improves balance and stability. Maintaining good posture during your golf swing is essential, so doing single-leg balances can help you become more consistent.
- Stand on one leg.
- Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds, depending on your comfort.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- Continue this exercise for three to five sets on each leg.
3. Hip stretches
To improve the mobility and flexibility of your hips, try adding hip stretches to your regular workout routine. These stretches help keep your hips strong and capable of generating power during your swing.
- Sit on the ground or against a wall with one leg bent and the other straight out in front of you.
- Lean forward until you feel the tension in your hip area.
- Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side, 2-3 sets on each side.
4. Wall angels
Wall angels help keep your shoulders loose, which reduces the risk of injuries. This exercise also helps you maintain good posture.
- Stand with your back against a wall.
- Simultaneously raise your arms out from your sides up to shoulder height.
- Gently lower them to your sides while keeping your back against the wall.
- Repeat ten to fifteen times.
5. Medicine ball throws
Throwing a medicine ball helps you gain power and accuracy in your upper body, allowing you to swing for distance.
- Hold a reasonably weighted medicine ball at chest height. Pick a weight you’re comfortable holding and throwing for several repetitions.
- Throw it forward with moderate strength.
- Pick up the ball and repeat ten to fifteen more times.
Squats are one of the best exercises for building leg strength and flexibility. Strong leg muscles also help you maintain good form while swinging.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your body as if you’re sitting in a chair without curving your back. Keep your weight on your heels.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat this exercise 40 to 50 times.
7. Side planks
Side planks target core muscles and stability, which helps you build power during your swing.
- Lie on your side.
- Lift your body with one arm and your feet.
- Hold the position for 60 seconds before switching sides.
- Repeat the exercise four times per side.
8. Resistance band exercises
Resistance bands are great exercise tools to improve your range of motion, whether used for your arms, legs, or a specific muscle area. There are several ways to use them, but here’s a basic exercise to get you started.
- Choose a band with an appropriate level of resistance.
- Grip the band with one hand and the other end secured under your foot, creating a tight line.
- While keeping your elbow still, rotate your arm up and down fifteen times.
- Switch hands and repeat for two to three sets.
If you have access to a weight set, try deadlifts to build muscle and strength in your hamstrings and lower back.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Bend over to grab the weight, and lift it off the ground.
- Raise your chest, keeping your arms steady, back straight, and core tight.
- Lower the weight back down and repeat fifteen to twenty times.
10. Yoga poses
Yoga is one of the most effective types of workouts for improving mindfulness, flexibility, stability, and focus, all of which could benefit you on the course. When starting out, look for a class with a seasoned instructor or try researching some poses on your own from online videos.
- Choose a yoga pose that targets a specific area, like the warrior or tree pose.
- Follow the proper form for each pose.
- Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions or switch sides if needed.
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. This is a more recent development in the game of golf, and TPI was only established in 2003 (which is likely much younger than your favorite PGA Tour player's career).
Despite its newness, golf fitness is now expected as part of a 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. If you’re still not sure, take it from the pros:
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 at which golf was regarded more as an athletic endeavor and less as a leisurely activity. During his prime, there wasn't another player on tour better known for preparation, a positive mindset, or commitment to physical health than 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 and success of his fifty-year career. In 2021, at the age of 64, Longer 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 exercise 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 dominance in 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 to Woods’ fitness. In his prime and before TPI became a dominant mainstay in the sport, he was the driving force behind the shift in the level of respect people gave to golf athleticism.
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 its primary action is rotational. Our upper bodies rotate around our spines, while our lower bodies resist that rotation for stability, creating the golf swing. Any exercise you can do to mimic those fundamental movements in your 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, which will, in turn, limit your ability to swing the club effectively.
Dumbbell Bench Press for Golfers
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 body, simulating rotation in your golf swing.
Medicine Ball Core Rotation
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 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 incorporating golf fitness into your routine, 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 an essential 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 mobility is going to restrict your swing's capabilities, which is something to keep in mind as you age. 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 loosen 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. Then when you’re ready to try some stretches, consider the ideas below to help you see positive changes in your hip mobility.
- Kneeling Lunge Stretch
- Pigeon Stretch
- Seated Internal Rotations
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 as it incorporates movement. Let’s take a look at a few other examples:
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 swings at the driving range or practicing at home with your favorite indoor putting mat will absolutely make you a better player, but add regular golf exercises and stretches, and you'll be amazed at the impact it has on your game. Give some of these exercises a try, and keep golf in mind the next time you work out. Rest assured, you’ll make your amateur or casual golf career last longer.
Check out some common questions from other players considering giving golf exercises a shot:
Will regular exercise make me a better golfer?
Absolutely! Just like regular practice helps you shave strokes off your handicap, so will regular exercise if it’s 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.