If you’re looking to improve your golf game, it’s time to head to the weight room.
As with most sports, golf is now a year-round sport for many young athletes. The merits of that approach are a whole debate within itself, but if you’re logging long hours on the course and at the driving range day after day, you’re increasing your risk of injury.
Because you only swing from one side, and it’s an action that’s performed thousands upon thousands of time, overuse injuries are quite common among golfers.
To avoid these injuries, golfers need to train in a way that combats them. Both sides of the body need to be trained because we work in different planes of motion. There needs to be a build of athletic qualities. When we have athletic attributes, it improves our golf game and helps us stay healthy.
How does that translate to your golf game?
The most important factor in making an athlete stronger is addressing all planes of motion. The stronger you are in all planes, the more powerful you can be in any specific plane. Unlike other sports, golfers typically only have to worry about one plane of motion. Sure, when you have different clubs and want a different shot, your swing plane may be a tad different, but the golf swing is largely static.
The fact that you only swing on one side of your body in golf can lead people to believe that they don’t need to train both sides of their body.
They think that if they want to improve their swing, they simply have to strengthen their dominant side. In reality, this is just about the worst approach you can take. Not only are you missing out on better power and control, but you’re also drastically increasing your risk of injury.
When you’re stronger in all planes, you’re unlocking an increase in power potential, because you’re giving your body the strength to speed up and slow down in movement. When a body can slow down its movement efficiently, it also creates more chances to speed it up. This happens because if the left side is strong enough to control my body, we can let more force come through on the right.
Golf Training Methods
I deal with a lot of baseball players, and at the beginning of the offseason, the focus is rebuilding. With our Bilateral and Sagittal plane movements and our power work, we’re trying to use movements that don’t mirror them swinging or throwing.
For golfers, there really is no difference, except for them having a shorter offseason. This makes it essential to train year-round. By finding ways golfers can train daily, we allow them to stay sharp and prevent breakdown throughout the season. With that in mind, here are five key qualities that should make up a golfer’s training program.
For golfers, being able to separate the trunk and the hips is essential. The more you can separate those body parts, the more torque you can create in your swing, which creates more power.
From an injury resiliency standpoint, the more mobility you have in your hips and trunk, the more pressure you’ll take off your lower back. Low back pain is a common malady in golfers because they’re repeating a violent swing over and over again. As anyone who has suffered low-back pain can attest to, it can be quite debilitating. Making mobility an essential part of any training program keeps athletes performing at the highest ability and helps them stay on course.
Use these mobility drills to start improving your ability to separate your upper and lower body.
Don’t skip out on your mobility; it’s a critical piece to your long-term health and playing ability.
There are many ways athletes can create power. You can use Olympic lifts, different plyometric drills, medicine ball drills, or even a great tool known as the TRX Rip Trainer.
A common mistake with power training is being too plane-specific. We don’t want to just mimic the golf swing, we want to create power through multiple movements and planes.
We do have a Scoop Toss which closely mimics a golf swing. Scoop Tosses are important, but that’s not where we should be putting all our efforts. We don’t want to overtrain and overuse one movement. We want to create strength and power from multiple movements.
With any power exercise, intent is what matters most. It’s not enough to just go through the motions. We need to be as powerful as we can with each rep. Most of these exercises should be done in the 3-8 rep range, allowing the athlete to put the focus on power without getting too fatigued.
All of these exercises allow the athlete to improve their ability to create force from the ground up.
Switch the focus from plane-specific to athlete-specific to allow for greater power development.
A forgotten athletic trait when it comes to training golfers is speed development. Proper speed training improves balance, coordination and timing, which is going to help improve athleticism. It’s what most track-and-field and team sport athletes use, but golfers can benefit from speed training, too.
Speed training teaches your body how to produce more force. Speed training also allows you to understand your body more, because better movement means better body control.
Use some of these drills to create more force, have better body control, and be able to separate shoulders and hips.
- Sled Sprints
- Lateral Shuffle
- Crossover Sprinting
- Hip Turn
We’ll get into more rotational exercises in a second, but first, we need to talk about the bigger bang-for-your-buck exercises.
The Hinge and the Squat.
The hinge can be any type of Deadlift variation—either a hex bar, sumo or traditional deadlift. It could also be some sort of RDL variation. No matter which variation you choose, the hinge is perfect for athletic development. Posterior chain strength is essential for any athlete, but because of the nature of golf and the amount of rotation performed, we need to protect that low back. If we can strengthen the glutes and hamstrings the right way, it will end up strengthening the lower back and keep you healthier for longer.
The Squat, when performed correctly, is another excellent exercise. Some of my favorite variations for the Squat are the Goblet, Front, Back and Safety Bar Squat.
While the hinge is great for posterior chain strength, the Squat also strengthens the anterior part of the body. We need balance.
What both of these variations share in common is they improve an athlete’s force-production ability. When either of these exercises are performed correctly, the athlete should be creating force from the ground up. By teaching an athlete how to push through the field, you’re improving their ability to produce power. If an athlete can’t use the ground, it hurts their ability to generate force.
Rotational Strength Exercises
Improving your rotational strength will improve your mobility, allowing you to get into better positions. Rotational strength also helps increase your ability to rotate by strengthening your body’s patterning and linking ability.
These exercises improve your ability to rotate by enhancing your kinetic chain. Kinetic chain-linking is important for athletes because it’s about enhancing the opposite hip and shoulder. When improving opposite hip to shoulder, we’re looking for a way to store more energy. That’s how all power is produced. If you are not strong from opposite shoulder to hip, it will be hard for you to generate the full force you’re capable of.
One of the big thing to remember here is making sure you are doing things on both sides of your body. Don’t just do things on your dominant side; We need both sides of our body to be strong. The stronger your non-dominant side is, the more force your dominant side can produce. This happens because your non-dominant side can be more stable and allow the front side to come all the way through the movement.
When your front side is stronger, it can withstand more force produced by your back side. If your front side can’t withstand that force, your golf swing is going to be chaotic.
Lateral Lunges might not be an exact rotational exercise, but it gets the athlete out of the sagittal plane and into lateral movement. We need Lateral Lunges because it improves our ability to gain strength from one leg to the other.
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Rotational Lift[youtube video=”_ycsFNItAHE”]
Putting it all Together
When it comes to golf, we’re playing a lot, so we need to make sure we’re getting in some strength work. Below is a two-day, full-body split. This type of program is excellent for any beginner, or someone in a full season looking to maintain their strength. This is a template program, which means you can substitute exercises as long as you’re using the template correctly.
The breakdown is simple: we are with mobility → power → speed → strength → rotational strength.
- Bretzel 1×6
- Half Kneeling Chop 1×8
- Wide Stance Chop 1×8
- Scoop Toss 2×5
- Squat to Press 2×5
- Sled Sprints 4x 10 yards
- Crossover Sled Sprints 4×10 yards
- Hex Bar DeadLift 4×8
- Chest Supported Row 4×10
- Lateral Lunge 3×8
- Rotational Landmine Press 3×8
- Rotational Chop 3×8
- Rib Grab 1×6
- Quad T Spine Rotation 1×8
- Half Kneeling Lift 1×8
- Shotput Toss 2×5
- Granny Toss 2×5
- Lateral Shuffle 4x 10 yards
- Hip Turn 4×3/each side
- Front Squat 4×8
- Pull Ups 4×8
- Crossover Step Lunge 3×8
- Rotational Row 3×8
- Rotational Lift 3×8
The most important thing for any strength training program is consistency. Whenever you want to get better at something, we need to be consistent. It’s the only way to get results. You were consistent with practicing your golf skills, now it’s time to add the consistency of the weight room to take your game to the next level.
If you’re ready to feel strong and healthy every time you step on the tee box, it’s your off-course training that will make it possible.
Photo Credit: Yuri_Arcus/iStock