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Strength Training For Golf: The Complete How-to Guide Guide

If you’ve been keeping up with the PGA tour in recent years, you’ve probably noticed that pro golfers are hitting the ball further than ever.  Since 1980, which is the first year the PGA started measuring driving distance, the average drive on tour has increased by nearly 40 yards, from 257y in 1980 to 295y in 2018. 

While some of those gains can be attributed to technological advancements in the sport -- balls and clubs are markedly better than they were in the ’80s -- much of it also has to do with changes in the way that players are training.  

Many of today’s top pros like Rory McIlroy, Brooks Keopka, and Dustin Johnson, for example, have taken golf training to a whole new level.  On top of spending plenty of time on the links and at the range, more and more players are also beginning to log regular hours in the weight room as well.

Check out one of Rory's workouts:

As a result, not only are average driving distances going up, but players are benefiting in other ways as well.  While most of us aren’t going to be hitting the ball like a tour pro anytime soon, there are still plenty of reasons for the average golfer to start a strength training program.  

Strength Training Exercises For Golf

The key to seeing your efforts in the weight room pay off on the golf course really lies in choosing sports specific exercises that work your functional strength.  While putting in tons of effort on bicep curls, for example, might help you get your beach body dialed in, it’s probably not going to do all that much for your golf swing -- that’s because there’s not a whole lot of overlap between the two movements.    

In other words, the exercise you choose to include in your routine should have a direct application to golf -- that is, you should be focusing on movements and muscle groups that are important to the golf swing.  

Multi-Joint Exercises for Golf

As you may already know, most of the power behind your golf swing is actually generated by your legs.  As such, compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and lunges are amongst the best exercises for building power and explosiveness into your golf swing.  

There are numerous different variations for each of these basic movements, so you may need to experiment a little until you find the exercises that you’re most comfortable with. Here are some Youtube tutorials to get you pointed in the right direction:

Core Exercises For Golf

The other half of the equation lies in transferring your power from your legs to the golf ball, which is a task that primarily falls on the muscles of your core.   The golf swing involves a lot of torso rotation and the core is heavily involved all the way from the backswing to the followthrough.  

The rotational element of the golf swing should be the central focus of any golf-based core strengthening program.  That doesn’t mean you have to totally neglect standard core exercises but rather that exercises involving torso rotation should take center stage in your training program.   

Again it all comes down to choosing exercises that have a high degree of transferability to the sport of golf -- movements like the medicine ball twist have far more in common with a golf swing that standard crunches for example.

Golf Strength Training Benefits

Over the past couple of decades, resistance training has continued to grow in popularity throughout the golf world and for good reason.  From adding distance to your drive to reducing the risk of injury when you’re out on the course there, there are plenty of reasons you can benefit from adding some regular strength training into your golf routine.     

1. Add Distance to your Drive

The long ball is perhaps the most widely coveted shot in all of golf but driving the ball a country mile is no easy task; there are all sorts of different factors that affect how far you can hit the ball. 

While this may be true, there’s no denying that you need to have power if you want to drive the ball far.  And not only do you need to have power but you also ultimately need to be able to efficiently transfer that power from your body to the golf ball when all is said and done. 

Strength training for golf isn’t just about making your muscles stronger, it’s also about improving the ability of your muscles to work in accordance with one another.  One thing that can eat some serious distance off the tee, even if you have all the leg strength in the world, is a weak kinetic chain.    

Hitting the long ball really depends on maintaining a solid connection throughout each and every muscle engaged in your swing.   It starts with your legs, where most of the power is actually generated but that energy actually travels across your entire body until it’s eventually transferred to the ball near the end of the motion.   

 If some of the muscles involved in the movement are underdeveloped, it can lead to a break in the chain, ultimately causing some of the energy you’ve built up in your legs to get lost before it gets to the ball.  

2. Improve your Balance and Stability

Consistency is one of the most important components of a good golf swing.  In order to create a swing that you can perform effectively and consistently, however, you need to have good balance and stability, which comes from your core.   If the muscles in your core are weak there’s going to be way more variation in your swing, making it very difficult to consistently strike the ball well. 

That’s where strength training comes in.  Exercises that engage your abdominals, obliques and lower back can help you develop more control over your movement, allowing you to create an effective swing you can reproduce time and again.  A more controlled swing ultimately means more consistency and accuracy in your game.  

3. Reduce Muscle Fatigue 

Just about everyone knows what a late-round breakdown in performance can do to your psyche on the golf course.  It can turn an otherwise enjoyable round into a bummer pretty quickly and one of the most common culprits for performance breakdowns is muscle fatigue.   

As your muscles become fatigued, their capabilities become diminished.  In the world of golf, that usually translates into reductions in both power and accuracy.  Less power and less accuracy ultimately mean more strokes at the end of the day.  

However, over time, functional weight lifting movements can build up your muscles’ stamina helping you to maintain more power and control over your swing as you progress into the latter stages of a round.    

4. Minimize the Risk of Injury

Golf can be pretty strenuous on your body, especially if you’re someone who plays a lot.  The forces placed on your body from swinging a club over and over again can really add up.  From your hips and knees to your wrists and back, there are many different areas of your body that are potentially vulnerable to injury when you swing a golf club repetitively.  

However, there’s plenty of research out there to demonstrate that lifting weights not only strengthens your muscles but also your bones and tendons.

Strengthening your muscles, bones and tendons ultimately makes your body far more equipped to handle the physical tolls that golf takes on it.   Strength training becomes especially important as you age. The average person typically loses both muscles mass and bone density as they get older, which increases the likelihood of getting injured, both on and off the golf course.     

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