It wasn’t all that long ago when golfers resembled round bellies instead of flat bellies. When Tiger showed up in 1997, that all changed. More than any golfer in history, he revolutionized the way we’ve come to view golf from a fitness standpoint.
Fast forward 25 years and there’s hardly a guy (or girl) on Tour that isn’t in peak physical condition. Just this year, it was the emergence of Bryson DeChambeau as a totally different human. Remember the ever publicized six protein shake a day diet?
The truth is that most of us won’t ever have Koepka’s biceps, Phil’s calves, or Bryson’s pecs. But there’s no denying the fact that physical fitness is a part of the modern game, and the right exercises can not only help you shoot lower scores, but prevent injury in the process.
So, just what exercises should you be doing to keep your body and game in shape? We asked the experts, and below are the consensus picks.
Flexibility and mobility are key in the golf swing. This is especially true as you get older and start to lose that rubber band-like flexibility you had in your twenties.
Start by straddling a bench. Hold a club behind your back, squeezing it between your arms in the crook of your elbows.
Place your hands on your stomach to maintain upright posture.
Moving your hips as little as possible, turn your core and torso to the right and hold for five seconds. Turn to the left and repeat.
Do this ten times on each side.
Ask any physical therapist and they’ll tell you that shoulder injuries are some of the most common they see with golfers. I speak from experience with a bad left rotator cuff myself.
Begin by standing straight up with your feet shoulder width apart.
Slowly bend over from your waste so that your hands are on the ground.
Keeping your legs straight, walk your hands forward so that you’re in a pushup position. Then, slowly walk them back to your feet.
Repeat the out and back motion ten times.
Medicine Ball Parallel Throw
We all want more speed in our swing and distance off the tee. This exercise will help you get there.
Stand three feet away from a solid wall (or eight to ten feet) from a partner.
Holding a medicine ball waist high, rotate your core away from the wall. Then aggressively throw the ball against the wall (or to your partner) by thrusting your hips and catch it as it comes back.
Do ten reps facing one direction and ten facing the other.
When you do this exercise, you should feel the muscles in your core working to generate speed both as you throw and catch.
If you’re like me, you might not be able to do as many pushups as you used to. That’s understandable, but this simple exercise remains an important one to increase upper body strength.
Lie facedown with your arms placed under your shoulders and feet roughly shoulder width apart.
From there, lower your chest to the ground and push yourself back up.
Always remember to keep your back and arms straight to avoid injury.
The best part about push ups is that you can get as creative as you want with them. Try clapping your hands on your way up, doing them with one hand, or just about any other variation you can think of.
Do as many as you can, trying to increase the number each time.
The golf swing is an unnatural motion for the body. That’s especially true for your pelvis and lower back. Again, I can attest to this as my lower back constantly gives me trouble if I overdo it on the course.
Keeping this body part strong is paramount.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground, knees bent, and arms at your sides.
Tighten your abs, buttocks, and thighs as you raise the small of your back away from the floor.
Done correctly, you should feel like you can slide a sleeve of golf balls under your lower back.
Bent Over Rows
By now you’ve probably realized that a lot of the exercises on this list have to do with strengthening your lower back.
It’s with good reason. More than any part of your body, your lower back takes a beating during the golf swing.
To do the bent over row, you’ll need a therapeutic band. And just be warned, even though this exercise might seem easy, you’ll likely feel fatigued quickly when you’re first starting out.
Start by placing the band under your feet and grabbing the ends with your hands, and assuming your golf stance position.
Now, pull the band up, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Keeping your back straight is important during this exercise.
Single Leg Butt Lifts
Keeping the muscles in your core strong is just as important as strengthening your back if you’re a golfer. These are the muscles that support your hips during the golf swing.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
Now lift your hips until they form a straight line with your knees and shoulders. Be careful not to rotate your spine.
Lift your left leg into the air so that it’s straight and fully extended. Hold for three seconds and release. Repeat the same process on the right side.
A good goal is to get to the point where you can do three sets of ten.
One-Handed Dumbbell Bench Press
The obvious benefits of any bench press are strengthening your arms and chest. Just ask Bryson.
But the one-handed dumbbell bench press also works to stabilize your core.
Lying on a weight bench, take a dumbbell in one hand and raise it straight up over your head. Slowly release the dumbbell back to your chest and repeat.
The most important thing to remember when doing this exercise is to use the right amount of weight. If you choose a weight that’s too heavy, you risk serious injury.
If you can, do three sets of ten on each side.
Everyone knows that crunches are a surefire way to get that six-pack we’re all after. The problem for golfers is that traditional crunches put unnecessary strain on your back and neck.
Reverse crunches alleviate that stress but are just as effective.
Lie on a weight bench with your feet flat on the floor.
Grab the bench behind your head with both hands on either side.
Keeping your knees together, bring them to your chest and slowly release all the way back down.
If you want to make this exercise a little more difficult, try squeezing a lightweight medicine ball in between your knees as you come up and release down.
Start out with a set of 25. As you get stronger, feel free to add reps and sets.
Medicine Ball Core Rotations
We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your core strong to prevent injury during the golf swing.
One of my personal favorite core exercises is the medicine ball core rotation. It’s low impact, but you feel the burn.
Take a seat on the floor with your knees bent and a medicine ball against your chest.
Lean back carefully so that you’re balanced with your feet slightly off the floor.
Once you’ve found a balanced position, keep the ball close to you and rotate to the right until you can touch the floor with the ball. Turn all the way to the left and repeat.
Again, this is a difficult exercise, but one that will have your core in shape in no time.
Start out with a set of 10 or 15 on each side.
Make it a goal to increase both reps and sets as your core gets stronger.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as fit as I used to be. And I even went through a phase where I absolutely dreaded working out altogether.
But all it took was a serious back injury that laid me up for an entire season to realize the importance of keeping myself a little more fit.
While you might not want to become Bryson the Bulk, staying fit for golf is important for two reasons. First, you’ll get stronger and add more speed to your swing and therefore length. Second, staying fit makes all the difference when it comes to preventing future injuries.
If you’re feeling motivated and want to come into next season feeling your best, try some of the above exercises. You just might surprise yourself with the results.