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Friday, August 12, 2011

Training For Golf

Golf is one of the most widely played sports in the U.S.  There are many golfers who use the game as their main source of exercise.  These golfers feel the best way to get into "golf shape" is to play more golf.  This way of thinking is flawed.  While it is important to practice and play a sport in order to improve, it is just as important to improve your fitness level away from the course in order to improve on the course.  Just like football, basketball and baseball players spend time in the weight room in order to improve in their sports.

This is a somewhat new idea in the world of golf.  There were some golfers in years past who put an emphasis on fitness, like Gary Player, but most golfers did not until recently.  Many of the "younger" golfers on the PGA tour take fitness very seriously and their fitness level is showing on the course.

Gary Player, Golf Digest, September 2011
Why Golfers Should Train:
  • Increase Mobility/Flexibility:  The golf swing is an unnatural motion.  Our bodies are not designed to twist the spine to the point that is necessary for an effective golf swing.  Improving your mobility/flexibility will help ease the stress placed on the spine (specifically the lumbar region).
  • Increase Strength/Stability:  The stronger the muscles of the "core" (abdominal, lower back and hips) the more stability your spine is given which will help prevent spinal injuries.
  • Increase Power:  The more powerful you are the longer you can hit the ball.  Who doesn't want to hit it 300yds. off the tee?
  • Increase Stamina:  As a golfer, do you score better on the front 9 or the back 9?  Out of shape golfers will get tired throughout the round which will affect their swing.
  • Body Awareness:  Being able to "engage" your core on the golf swing and have the ability to "feel" the correct body positioning will make your swing more consistent.
How Golfers Should Train:

Most recreational golfers would do very well with a basic GPP (general physical preparedness) program.  A good GPP program will be based on "core", functional movements.  Movements such as squats, deadlifts, pullups, pushups, situps and overhead presses.  These movements will increase your mobility/flexibility, strength, power, stamina and body awareness.

Sample Workout:  This is a good full body workout that would challenge most recreational golfers.
  • Front Squats 4x5
  • Pullups 4xMax Reps
  • Reverse Lunge 3x20steps
  • Pushups 3x15-20
  • Hip Extensions 3x15-20
  • 500m Row
You will notice there are no twisting movements in this workout.  During a round of golf (18 holes) a good golfer is taking roughly 40-45 full swings (score of 80 minus puts and a few chips).  That is a lot of twisting!  So why would we want to subject a golfer to even more twisting in the gym?  Our goal is to increase the golfers strength in order to support the spine to prevent injury as well as increase mobility in the hips in order to reduce the amount of torque on the spine.  Subjecting the golfer to even more twisting is a recipe for over use injury!

Playing golf is a great way to stay physically active, especially in your retirement.  But don't use golf as your only source of fitness.

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