Golf Fitness

Topics: Balance, Strength, Flexibility, Injuries, Myths, Personal Trainers

Ask yourself a few questions:

How many times have you felt like you’ve run out of gas on the back nine of the golf course? Or are you

  • feeling fatigue especially on the last few holes?
  • Have you ever felt weak throughout the golf swing?
  • Have you felt like your balance within the swing wasn’t good?
  • Have you felt like your shoulder turn and flexibility isn’t what it should be?
  • Does your golf game or golf swing suffer from chronic pain?
  • Previous injuries are affecting your swing?
  • Are you interested in workouts and a regimen to try to prevent injuries in the future?
  • Do you want to increase your length off the tee and from the fairway or become more consistent and improve your overall game?

All of these problems can we worked on, improved, and in many cases, solved in the gym or as a part of a fitness program specifically designed for your needs and safety.

The reality is, unless you are on the tee box, most likely the golf course doesn’t offer many even lies. In addition, power and consistency are essential to good performance. Improving and maintaining high levels of coordination are very helpful in producing a reliable swing. Also, flexibility is vital to continuing to play the game well as elasticity of your body decreases, as well as sustaining quality of life. Finally, developing fast twitch fibers within the body can help with anaerobic and cardiovascular endurance, as well as body control.

It is estimated that some golfers on the professional tours walk easily over 20 miles in a given week. With hundreds of swings and miles of walking, the hips are what tend to tire out. At the beginning of the 2010 PGA Tour season, Matt Kuchar attributed much of his improved early season play to his increased fitness level and attention to increased strength and flexibility within the swing. He worked consistently with a fitness staff and the result was the best full season of his career. Five top-3 finishes along with 11 top-10 finishes and a member of the 2010 Ryder Cup team can at least partially be attributed to his dedication to his fitness away from the golf course.

Jonathan Byrd, a member of the PGA Tour who has worked hard to move himself up from the Nationwide Tour, recently said, “The more I spend on fitness, doing the right things for my body to stay in shape, the better I feel on the golf course." He added, "The time I spend in the gym is just as important as the time I spend on the range." In 2010, Byrd won for the 4th time in his career at Las Vegas’ own Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open by scoring a hole-in-one on the fourth playoff hole. It was the first time in PGA Tour history that an event has ended in a hole-in-one.

 

Balance and the Golf Swing

Balance within the golf swing is essential. The key to consistency is to maintain your balance and use a smooth rhythm. The swing is something that can’t be rushed and balance will influence your ball striking and the flight of the ball. One PGA Tour professional has been quoted as saying the three keys to straight driving are “Balance, balance, and balance.” In terms of fitness, the key to balance is the strength of your core, meaning the area from the lower part of the rib cage and abdomen, to the knees. The golf swing starts and stops with this core area, thus it is important to have both the strength and flexibility through this area.

From a mechanical perspective, maintaining balance involves controlling the position of the body’s center of gravity. Balance in relation to the golf swing is your body’s ability to maintain the correct spine angle and center of gravity in order to execute the swing and strike the ball well. Balance exercises with a personal trainer’s assistance can help you strengthen your body in these areas. These exercises can also assist in improving balance within the golf swing by creating greater efficiency in your nervous system and much greater control and awareness over muscular movements.

 

Strength and the Golf Swing

For many years, golfers didn’t do a lot of strength training and were not truly viewed as “athletes”. Today, most professional golfers do some sort of strength work, and more and more recreational golfers are too in an effort to improve their game. With over 26 million golfers in the United States, the need for conditioning has only increased as golfers continue to search for an edge on the course. Gary Player was one of the first professional golfers to employ strength training as a regular part of his routine and he continues to play at a high level even into his 70s. Keep in mind, Gary Player had victories in 27 consecutive years on the PGA Tour, is the oldest player to make the cut at the Masters and the U.S. Open, and holds the record for most consecutive Masters cuts made. He is a walking testimonial to the importance and value of fitness in golf.

Physical Fitness is an essential key for optimal performance in most sports, and is now becoming more and more noticeable and important for today’s golfer. Traditionally, the game of golf has focused much more on the technical, tactical, and mental portions of the game, and less on the fitness aspects of the game. However, in recent years, the level of conditioning of many top players on the PGA Tour and other satellite tours, along with an increase in length off the tee and ball striking, has brought golf fitness more and more to the forefront. Professional tour players generally create much more clubhead speed which is essential in gaining maximum distance off the tee or from the fairway. Thus, fitness and conditioning programs can prove vital to improving your performance on the golf course.

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, published in 2004, was conducted on a small group of golfers of varying ages and an average handicap of 5 to 6. This study measured their average driving distance. It took measurements on both driving distance and clubhead speed, both before and following an 8 week, golf specific, conditioning program. The regimen consisted of 2 sessions per week, focusing primarily on strength training and plyometrics or explosive types of movements. The conclusions at the end of 8 weeks were significant. All of the test subjects in the exercise group showed a significant increase in average driving distance and club head speed. The non exercising portion of the test subjects showed no significant improvements in either of these measurements.

Additional studies have been done on golfers and have had similar results. Many studies have been done on the recreational golfer, and while skill level may be a factor, the results have continued to be significant. These amateur golfers, following a specified conditioning program, have increased clubhead speed by anywhere from 3% to 7% and their driving distance by 10 to 15 yards with no negative effects on accuracy. Strength gains have been reported in these studies to be from 5% to 56% improvement and flexibility was measured at a 7% to 39% improvement. As many golfers can attest, 10 to 15 yards difference on the golf course can be a huge difference in club selection and a significant change in strategy on any given hole.

 

Flexibility

In studies done, using a mathematical model in 1970, it was determined that the two major components in the golf swing that were essential in the creation of clubhead speed were the amount of torque produced by the golfer and the amount of skill with which the golfer is able to manage that torque. Flexibility through the shoulders, back, hips, and upper legs are essential to creating this torque.

As many golfers know, as we age, we lose elasticity. Many studies have been done on flexibility at all ages. Significant improvements in flexibility have been shown certainly in healthy individuals in the “prime” of their lives, but also in individuals in their 70s and above. A stretching program on your own or with a personal trainer can benefit this significantly in addition to a resistance strength training program. Working and moving your musculature in a full and sometimes greater range of motion can significantly alter your flexibility for the positive and thus, help increase the amount of torque you can create within the golf swing.
In addition, flexibility training can help to avoid pain and injury within your time on the golf course, and in everyday life activities. It is also suggested that increases in flexibility and balance can help delay the aging process by 10 to 15 years.

Stretching for golf can be done in many ways. Static stretching involves holding a position for 20 to 30 seconds or sometimes longer. Static stretching can help improve posture and help manipulate a single muscle group or more than one muscle group.

Dynamic stretching for golf involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing your reach and speed of movement. In dynamic stretching, there are no “bouncing” or “jerking” type of movements. Examples of dynamic stretches would be slow, controlled, leg and arm swings, and controlled torso twisting motions. This type of stretching is effective before your round as you are preparing yourself both mentally and physically at the golf course.

 

Injuries

Injuries in golf happen from time to time and many injuries are termed “overuse” types of injuries. These injuries are from using the same muscles and manipulating the skeletal structure of the body over and over in a very similar motion or manner. These are repetitive movements that tend to exceed your body’s capabilities.

Golfers need to be physically conditioned to be able to handle the stresses and torque that the golf swing produces on the joints and back of the body. Various injuries occur within different sections of the golf swing and frequently involve soft tissue injuries.

The three most common points of injury in golfers are the lower back, the elbow, and the wrist. These sites account for 80% of all injuries in golfers. The wrist accounts for 13% to 20% of all injuries in amateurs and 20% to 27% of all injuries in professionals in golf injury studies. During the golf swing, the wrist is the anchor point between the body and the club. Wrist injuries tend to occur at the impact point of the golf swing.

Elbow injuries account for 25% to 33% of all injuries in amateurs, and 7% to 10% of all injuries in professionals. Overuse is again a common cause of elbow injuries in golfers. Other factors that may contribute to elbow injuries are gripping the club too tightly, changes to the grip of the club, excessive practice, and sudden deceleration of the club due to hitting the ball “fat” during the golf swing.

Shoulder pain in golfers is very common in comparison to other sites of the body. These injuries account for 8% to 18% of all injuries to golfers. Most injuries to the shoulders due to the golf swing are in the lead shoulder of the swing. At times it has been found and suggested that a lack of flexibility through the hips and lower back and trunk of the body can contribute to over rotation of parts of the shoulder in order to maintain the momentum of the golf swing.

Lower back injuries in the golf swing are more noticeable and easily the most common injury amongst golfers. Back pain in golfers can be mechanical or disc-related, related to arthritis, or caused by a stress fracture, among other possibilities. These injuries can be due to the bending and twisting nature of the golf swing that creates considerable stress on the lower back. Usually these injuries can additionally be attributed to poor technique and the repetition of hitting golf balls over and over combined, at times, with a sedentary lifestyle. Recent research has shown that the trailing side of the lower back is more likely to be injured. Here is an eyebrow raising fact: 8 times your body weight is forced through your spine as you make contact with the ball.
Other injuries that tend to occur in golfers are: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, tendinitis in the wrist and thumb (referred to as DeQuervain’s Tendinitis), knee pain, trigger finger, wrist impaction syndrome, and fracture of the hamate bone in the wrist which is on the pinky side of the wrist toward the palm of the hand.

 

Myths, Resistance Training, and the Golf Swing

  • Myth #1: My golf swing will be hindered if I bulk up too much.
    Starting in our mid to late twenties, we start to lose muscle and flexibility due to normal aging. A golf specific training program will usually use moderate weight loads, with higher repetitions (usually 12 – 15), usually for an hour or less. This type of program is designed to improve your strength through the range of motion, your endurance, and range of motion that will benefit your golf swing. This type of program is not designed to build muscle, but to enhance your body control and strength within your swing. In addition, resistance training that is designed specifically for golf will not alter the mechanics of your golf swing.

  • Myth #2: I’ll lose my feel on the golf course if I weight train.
    When you strength train your muscles, specifically for golf related activities, you actually have increased control of your body. A golf specific program teaches your body to control specific muscle groups and specifically muscle groups related to golf. Due to gains in functional strength, meaning strength relative to the golf swing, your balance and control improve, which improves feel. Strength training involves body awareness, muscle control, and muscle coordination, which are all key elements to enhance your golf game.

  • Myth #3: Flexibility is lost through weight training.
    Weaker muscles are also tighter muscles. Through resistance training, you are increasing blood flow throughout the muscles, moving those muscles through a greater range of motion, and strengthening tendons and ligaments in relation to all joints. In fact, in studies done, the 1976 Olympic weightlifting team ranked 2nd only to the gymnastics team in joint range of motion testing! A stretching program with a fitness professional or at home will only enhance your range of motion throughout the golf swing.

  • Myth #4: Golf is a finesse game and not for larger muscles.
    A certified fitness professional can help you develop a golf specific program that will work toward improving your flexibility, balance, strength, stability, endurance, pain reduction, and improving your posture. Most heavy lifting “gym rats” that achieve a bulkier frame, tend to lift weights specifically for that purpose and many times spend hours each day strength training.

  • Myth #5: I already take lessons from a golf professional, what do I need to resistance train for?
    While a golf professional can specifically train you proper swing mechanics, strength training can help you with body movements and control. A personal trainer can work with you one-on-one and track all of your workouts, provide motivation and, and provide variety for your conditioning program. Strengthening your golf specific muscles will only improve your balance and flexibility within the swing and hopefully assist you in lowering your scores. In addition, a golf specific resistance and conditioning program can help reduce aches and pains associated with the golf swing.

 

Personal Trainers in Las Vegas for Golfers

Michael Longdon
(702) 581-5786
15 years of personal training experience with clients of all ages, experience, and ability levels.
Offering In-Home Training
Bachelors Degree in Exercise Science
Certified through American Council on Exercise

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