By Steve Kois, NASM Personal Trainer & TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor
I nearly always advocate more exercise and movement than less. However, if you’re looking to improve your golf game as a result of your efforts in the gym, some methods are certainly more effective than others and some common pitfalls can hinder your progress.
The number one most common mistake I see in a golfer’s training is moving slowly. The body only adapts to the stimuli you give it. If all of your training and working out is slow, you’re going to move slowly on the golf course. Always be sure to warm up thoroughly but then add some speed to your workout. Medicine ball throws, fast interval cardio, jumping rope, or even swinging a golf club for max speed in both directions will help to increase your speed capacity.
Another big mistake I often see is using partial range of motion when training in the gym. There are very few times you ever want less than full range of motion. Taking the muscle to full flexion and into full extension allows for the greatest muscular development, strengthens tendons, and stimulates maximal blood flow to the worked muscles. Decrease the weight to start and move it in a controlled, full range of motion.
Exercise selection is another major pitfall for golfers. One of the main focuses for anyone looking to improve athletic performance and/or functional independence should be strength. However, it’s more important to have strength in certain muscle groups than others. All movement starts with the core. Core strengthening should be at the top of the list, but be careful not to make the mistake of always being slow when training your core. Stick with big muscle groups. Although biceps curls have a certain allure, you’re more likely to improve your golf game by strengthening your legs. Triceps can be fun to train, but not if it means you’re skipping your shoulders or lats, both of which are essential to a powerful golf swing.
The final most common mistake I see is improper stretching. Never hold a stretch before you workout or play golf. Do that after you’ve exercised those muscles. Before activity, you should be moving. Take a hamstring toe-touch stretch, for example. Instead of bending over and holding it for 30 seconds, bend down in a controlled manner (not bouncing) and reach as far as you can. Stand back up and reach down again, trying to reach a little farther. Repeat that 20 times. It’s very similar to priming a motor before you start it. Also be mindful of which muscles actually need to be stretched and warmed up the most. Hips and shoulders should get extra attention on the warm up side but don’t stretch them too far afterwards. You want to stretch muscles, not tendons or ligaments.
Check your workout program and see if you can improve it by removing any of these common mistakes. Move fast, use a full range of motion, strengthen the big muscle groups, and stretch appropriately. Remember, how you train your body in the gym dictates how it performs on the course.