Fitness Training for Golf

If you want to play golf a long time, avoid injury, and consistently play to your highest potential some sort of fitness regimen is a must, and a golf-tailored fitness program is even better.

Long before fitness was made a priority by Tiger Woods and others of the current golf generation, Gary Player devoted himself to strength, conditioning and nutrition to remain competitive. Here’s a picture of him demonstrating a one-armed push up to a crowd in the 1970s.

Player is living proof that fitness matters. But if you’re wondering, as I did, what a golf-specific training program would look like, here’s a summary of best-practices I found from researching the answer to that question.

  • The best golf-specific program includes exercises that mimic aspects of the swing and use the same muscles. That means we should be doing exercises in posture and with rotation, maintaining spine angle and balance — just like the golf swing.
  • A good program should include both strength training AND flexibility. Both are critical for playing solid golf. Strength training alone can actually reduce flexibility, while the extended range of motion gained from flexibility training requires greater strength to support it. Strength and flexibility training work hand-in-hand.
  • Cardio cross-training – like using a treadmill, bike, stair stepper, and walking or running – uses more muscles, adds variety, burns more calories, and will give you the conditioning you need for a strong finish to your 18-hole round.
  • Nutrition and Hydration play a vital role, and it is important to understand how the body uses carbohydrates, protein, and fats throughout a round of golf to maintain strength and stamina so you can give your body the right kinds of fuel at the right times. (Here’s a little secret from the PGA Tour: did you know the food of choice among Tour players – who could have any food they want – is a peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Skip the hot dogs at the turn!)
  • You should be able to custom-tailor a fitness regimen that fits your specific needs and works within your schedule. The most important thing, though, is to develop a regimen you can stick with, and then stick with it long enough to turn it into a habit.

Keep in mind that I’m not an expert in exercise or fitness training. I relied on other experts for the information above and you should too.  In fact, I interviewed one of those golf-fitness experts – Mike Pedersen – whose exercises and stretching form part of my fitness program. (To listen to the interview CLICK HERE)

My goal is simply to encourage you to get into the habit of exercising regularly.  Read more about my own journey to build a fitness program that works for my lifestyle that grew from the rehab of my shoulder.

The Silver Lining To My Shoulder Injury

In 2010 I tore my rotator cuff during a charity fund-raising exhibition and had to have surgery (see my Journey to The Worlds posts). The procedure is only 90 minutes, but rehab is six long and painful months. It was miserable going through it. But like so many things that seem like setbacks at first, there was a silver lining. Here’s what I mean.

The experience of rehabilitating my shoulder sparked a renewed commitment to my own golf-specific fitness. You see, I had no choice. I HAD to rehab my shoulder. I had to follow the exercises and protocols my doctor and physical therapist prescribed or I ran the risk of not being able to play golf, and that was not an option.

So I diligently did my exercises. Little-by-little the pain diminished and my mobility returned. Bit-by-bit my strength returned. It was hard at first. Not only did it hurt, it was difficult to make the time. I didn’t have a regular schedule set up, and you know how that goes … other things kept trying to take priority. But I stuck with it.

Then, after about four months, a curious thing happened: I found I had gotten into the “habit” of exercising regularly.

Although the exercises started as something I had to do, after a while they turned into something I wanted to do. I stopped seeing exercise as a chore and started to see it as an opportunity – a way to make my next 50 years as much fun as the first  50. That was a pretty cool realization.

So when I passed the six-month mark of my rehab and the Doctor gave me the “all clear”, I wanted to do more than just sustain my new habit. Let’s face it, the golf swing puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the human body – particularly as your swing speeds increase, and in particular the twisting motion necessary to swing that club at high speed puts us all at risk for injury. I wanted something that addressed what I needed for the golf swing.

The problem was that I didn’t know what to do.

Researching Fitness Programs

I started investigating fitness and training programs. I read dozens of books and bought a few programs. Most dealt with general fitness and nutrition, which were good, but I wanted golf-specific exercise training. Eventually I found a few I liked (see the golf-specific training programs on my Resources page).

One year after surgery I’m pleased to report that my shoulder is 100%. I have full mobility and strength back and more. And although I’d rather not have had the injury in the first place, the silver lining is that it forced me to focus on making fitness a priority, because I know for darned sure it’s something I do not want to go through again.

In any case the point is this: if you start thinking of fitness as an opportunity rather than a chore you can have a direct impact on the shape of your future. If you get started on a program – any program – and stick with it, it will become a habit. It’s a habit I encourage you to develop, so you can enjoy the game for a long time to come.because I want you playing golf a long time.

I’d love to hear your own fitness stories, particularly if you’ve had to overcome hurdles and have come out the other side even better than before (I a sucker for hero stories!) Just use the comment box below to share.

Related Links:

Expert Interview: Fitness expert Mike Pedersen
Review: Ultimate Golf Fitness Guide: How to Easily Get In Shape For Golf In Less Than 30 Days
Resource Page
My Journey to The Worlds

2 Responses

  1. Alberto says:

    Hi Eric

    Glad to hear you’ve overcome your big injury. These can take an awfully long time to recover from and my sitaution is just that. Back in 2003 I had a car accident which, despite rolling the car, mercifully I was able to walk away from. However, I wasn’t properly diagnosed and 5 months later I had a massive back seizure. One morning I just couldn’t get out of bed, literally!! My back was in severe pain and I could hardly move.

    My back muscles were all completely inflamed and seized up, the physicians couldn’t even touch me when I went to see them. After 3 weeks of having a sub-cutaneous anti-inflamatory injection every day, they could finally examine me and figure out what had happened. As a result of the car accident, since the car had rolled on it’s side, my body had been subjected to massive forces which had dislodged by ribs from the spine and the sockets in the vertebrae where they go. However the x-rays didn’t indicate anything since it was only a small displacement but enough to cause severe problems later on.

    The cause? The seat belt in the car. Why? Simply that a car seat belt is designed to hold you in place at 3 points – across the hips and at the top of your shoulder. However, the other side is left loose, with no restraint. Thus in a big accident of that size, one side of the body isn’t tethered, moves freely and is subjected to those massive forces which can have severe consecuences later. Only if you just happen to have a rally or racing style seat belt – with 5 harness points – would you not suffer the same consecuences.

    So, to cut a long story short, in 2008 I went back to “having a go at playing golf”, although I was very hesitant, as you can imagine. I must have had around 200 ostepath sessions, about 100 physiotherapist treatment BUT most importantly I reckon I have swum around 1,000 kilometres in those 4 long years!!!

    Yes, that’s right. What has truly helped me get back into golf has been swimming. I religiously go 3 times a week to my local pool. Now I still have to visit my ostepath, around once per month and the pysio sessions come in very handy but I religiously swim just over 4 kilometres each week. This truly helps with my entire back and I sometimes go straight to the pool after a round of golf, it’s wonderful how it relaxes you but also tones those muscles.

    Much like you, though, I also found it a complete chore having to go swimming. However I quite literally FORCED myself. And since I had always been a poor swimmer, I enrolled at a nearby pool and went to swimming classes. This not only motivated me – I was with other people in a similar situation – it also served to improve my swimming technique immensely.

    So thanks to swimming I am able to play golf – without it I would never have come back to the sport.

    BTW, have been following your BLAST teachings and I am improving greatly, specifically in terms of consitency. The real improvement came with BALANCE. I was all over the place before!!! Now I have that athletic posture, feel the “push” off my inner right foot and transfer my weight to the left far better with a now “solid left side” finish. Also I am no longer “over swinging”, rather I have something like a three quarter length back swing and a much smoother transition to my finish position. It’s almost as if I am (perhaps!) discovering what “tempo” is all about!!!

    So to cut a long story short, swimming has saved my back and helped me enormously to get back into good physical shape to continue with my golfing “endeavours”. And your BLAST course has helped me enormously to really start enjoying this sport. Thanks to you Eric I now have far more faith in my swing and therefore my game, which will hopefully result in a much improving handicap this season.

    If ever we meet, I could talk to you for hours because there are so many interesting things you have here on you webpage, one of the very best on golf anywhere. Alas I live in Spain, so it’s not exactly “in your backyard”. Maybe one day our paths will cross.

    The very best of luck with your Long Drive competitions this year. Keep us posted!!

    Best regards, Alberto

    • Eric Jones, MA, PGA says:

      Hi Alberto
      Great story! Really appreciate you taking the time to write about it. I applaud you for doing what is necessary, even though it is hard. My doctor has cleared me and says my rotator cuff is 100% recovered. But I still consider myself to be in rehab for the shoulder. It’s a little mental trick I play on myself, but it gets me to the gym. For some reason I am much more motivated to go to rehab than I am to go exercise. It’s working, and now the “rehab” has become a habit.
      I hope one day I could bring my family to Spain and we could meet. I’m sure we’d have much to talk about. All the best, and keep up with your balance and leverage in the golf swing, and your swimming for the rest.