A New Approach to Fitness for Golfers: 12-Week Workout Program
Golfers often seek to improve their game by buying new equipment, playing more golf, or taking lessons. Although these are some possible solutions, there are many times our golf game is not a reflection of our skill as a golfer or the equipment we use. It is actually a reflection of our body’s physical limitations.
How can someone expect to drive the ball further or have a consistent swing when his or her body lacks the proper foundation to swing the club and play the game?
A New Approach to Being a Better Golfer
Traditionally, most golfers believed there were a few key components to address for the building the ultimate golfer: instruction/shot making, equipment, mental preparation, and course management. When Tiger Woods hit the scene in 1996, two new components of emphasis emerged: physical conditioning and the team approach.
Since then, we have all become more accustomed to the idea of working out to become a better golfer. The question is, how do we work out and what parts of the body do we train to play better golf? What exercises and muscle groups help the golf swing? Can certain exercises and muscle groups hinder the golf swing? What’s the optimum balance of flexibility (mobility) and strength (stability)? How can someone assess this quality? How and when do we implement all this knowledge? Is there a different routine for different types of golfers?
The Physical Limitations of Amateur Golfers
According to Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), some of the most common swing limitations amateur golfers have are:
- Loss of Posture (64.3%) - any significant alteration from the body’s original set up angles during the golf swing
- Flat Shoulder Plane (45.2%) - when the shoulders turn on a more horizontal plane than the axis of the original spine angle
- Early Extension (64.3%) - when the hips and spine start to go into extension or straighten up too early on the downswing
- Casting/Early Release/Scooping (55.9%) - any premature release of the wrist angles during the downswing and through impact
- Over-the-Top (43.5%) - when the club is thrown outside of the intended swing plane with the club head approaching the ball in an out-to-in motion
Golf swing technique can easily contribute to these statistics, but some physical reasons may also play a part. These include:
- Inability to separate the upper and lower body
- Inadequate core stability
- Lack of shoulder and hip flexibility, mobility, and/or stability
- Lack of thoracic spine mobility
- Lack of glute and/or abdominal strength
- Wrist flexibility
- Limited overhead deep squat
The Team Approach
In my opinion, prior to starting a golf fitness routine for the specific goal of playing better golf, a team approach should be implemented. Budgeting time for golf instruction, in-season play, and practice time must also be paramount. In some cases, even medical considerations should be added. Considering that this training series will be released in the heart of golf season for most of the United States, the program will serve primarily as an in-season golf fitness program that will target the five aforementioned swing characteristics.
Time, equipment (or lack thereof), golf instruction, and practice are typical challenges that I have had in working with both professional (PGA and LPGA) and amateur golfers. These workouts were designed with minimal equipment requirements and are approximately thirty minutes in duration. They are scheduled for a three-time-a-week frequency, with a rest day in between. The workouts have three cycles:
- General preparation and conditioning
- Strength and power
- Complex power and speed
Assessment, Screening, and Inventory
In general, it is a good idea to take some sort of inventory before starting any training program. Screening can act as a guide to prevent injury and also track improvement. A typical TPI golfer evaluation (pro or amateur) usually consists of complete array of tests and screens to check dynamic movement, flexibility, stability, and mobility as it relates to their golf swing and body.
These screens are designed by the TPI to assess a total picture of the body, the swing, and their relation to one another. Based on these results, a custom program is integrated into an existing PGA or LPGA professional’s instruction and golf plan to optimize the golfer’s performance.
This is one of the most widely used screens for golf fitness specifically. For general fitness, many fitness professionals use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). You can find a certified professional at My TPI or Functional Movement Systems. As for this series, we will be using a simplified, hybrid, user-friendly version.
Assessment and Screening
To complete the assessment, provide yes/no answers to the following questions:
- Pelvic Tilt Test: Set-up in five-iron posture with the arms across the chest. Tilt the pelvis anteriorly/forwards and tilt the pelvis posterior/backwards. Is there clear ability to do both motions?
- Toe Touch Test: Stand with the feet together and toes pointing forwards. Bend down from the hips forwards and try to tough the ends of the fingers to the tips of the toes, without bending the knees. Can the hands touch the feet?
- Bridge with Leg Extension: Starting supine with the knees bent, feet flat, knees and feet together, and arms extended out over the chest. Lift the pelvis up off the ground. Keeping the belt line parallel to the floor, try and extend the right leg from the knee. Repeat the test on the other side. Can the test be performed for ten seconds on each side with no change in posture?
- Lying Shoulder Mobility: Lie on your back with the arms in ninety/ninety position. Make a fist with your thumbs up. Do both of your thumbs touch the ground?
- Trunk Rotation: Start by sitting on the corner of a square chair or stool with knees and feet together, body in an upright and erect posture and arms across the chest. You can use two golf clubs on the ground to make/extend the two 45-degree angles of the chair. Rotate the thorax both to the right and to the left as far as possible. Is the rotation 45-degrees equal on both rotations?
- Single Leg Balance Test: Stand facing away from the corner of the wall. The shoulders should barely touch the wall and arms are down by the side of the body. Elevate one leg until the thigh is parallel with the ground. Once stable, close the eyes and see how long balance is maintained. Any repositioning of the foot and/or body (shoulders) touching the wall is considered loss of balance. Can balance be maintained on both sides for 25 seconds?
Before you begin the workouts, complete this inventory to get some baseline fitness markers.
- Males 10, Females 5
- Elbows have to be at ninety degrees
- 25 with two-second pause at the bottom position
- Thighs have to hit parallel to the ground
- Males 5, Females 30-second bar hang
Aerobic (choose one):
- 1 mile run
- 1.5-mile bike
- 500m row
- Jump Rope Test - 1 minute maximum reps
Establishing baselines allows us to revisit them as each cycle begins as way to gauge the golfer’s fitness progress, and also how his or her golf game has (hopefully) improved. This also can give the golfer’s team some feedback.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.