Ross Eves, Ex-professional golfer turned strength, nutrition and conditioning coach for players of the European Tour discusses what it takes to be ‘Golf Fit’.
Ross Eves, Ex-professional golfer turned strength, nutrition and conditioning coach for players of the European Tour discusses what it takes to be Golf Fit.
Lifting beer has traditionally been more commonplace in golf, than a dumbbell. It was not uncommon for many of the great European golfers to have a few ice-cold beverages after a competitive round, only to return the next day with a heavy head and 66 shots written down on their scorecard. This lifestyle is becoming less apparent and nearly non-existent on the professional tours of golf. You’re more likely to see a player bench-pressing 100kg for 15 repetitions (part of Brooks Koepka’s warm-up) than reaching the course with a dizzy head. The change has been brought about due to the numerous advantages of being ‘golf fit’ and the need for it in this modern-day way of playing the game.
Although tight shirts and bicep curls are more common on the PGA Tour than ever before, there are still several misconceptions about what it takes to be ‘golf fit’ and what are the actual benefits.
Will Bulking up and building muscle hurt your golf?
It’s not uncommon to be watching golf on the TV only for a golf commentator to express some concern when a golfer ‘bulks up’ with the typical reasoning being that adding muscle with inhibiting the fluid motion of the golf swing. The inherent idea of this statement seems reasonable when you image a bodybuilder trying to engage in some variation of a gymnastic stretch. However, in order to restrict motion, a golfer would have to substantially increase his or her muscle mass for it to be detrimental.
An effectively designed fitness program is quite capable of increasing muscle (bulking up) and maintaining or even improving a golfer’s mobility or flexibility. Just look at sports like weightlifting or gymnastics. Often the athletes in these realms display large amounts of muscle mass with large ranges of motion.
You should only stretch for golf
The idea of stretching is quite simple. You stretch a certain muscle and hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Many golfers think that stretching is the key to golf performance. Yes, stretching has been shown to increase flexibility but it should not be done as a stand-alone activity. Stretching should be done as part of a training program that includes resistance exercise and some variation of cardio-vascular training.
The timing of the stretch is also very important. Static stretching before a round of golf has been shown to reduce the distance a golf ball travels therefore, it may be a better idea to do those stretch and hold movements after you play.
A better alternative is to engage in some dynamic stretching, this involves taking your body through its full range of motion without holding a position for long periods.
You only need to work on your core
Core strength or control is undoubtedly massively important for any golfer looking to prevent injury or improve their golf game. However, sometimes exercises are often poorly chosen. Take, for example, an exercise like the sit-up. This motion of constantly flexing and extending the lower spine has been shown to increase the chances of injury to the lower back. Not something you want for golf!
Exercises that keep the lower spine stable and focus movement around the area such as the upper spine or hips should be chosen. Not only will this reduce your risk of injury but it will also help transfer some of that much-needed power to the golf ball.
Is long steady-state cardio the best for golf?
Cardio-vascular conditioning is important for golf and for general health, there is no denying that. The way in which you achieve this does not mean you have to go for long runs or bike rides.
You can achieve similar improvement to cardio-vascular performance with limited time with short periods of intensive effort followed by rest periods. For example, 20 seconds of sprinting followed by 40 seconds of rest, repeated 15 times. One of the major benefits of working out in this way is you can get super results, in less than 15 minutes of exercise!
Golfers only need to work on rotation
Golf is a rotational sport, so it seems entirely reasonable for golfers to train in this way in the gym. Actions mimicking the golf swing with some external resistance seem logical and yes they do have their place.
However one of the most important factors in determining clubhead speed is, vertical ground force. In other words how far you hit it, is determined on how much force you can put into the ground, vertically. This is why you see many of the top golfers doing such exercises as deadlifts and squats.
Training in the gym increases injury risk
You’re probably more likely to get injured in the weight room, through dropping a dumbbell rather than pulling a muscle squatting. In fact, lifting weights is more likely to prevent an injury than cause it. When you exercise your body adapts to the stress it is under. Not only does this strengthen muscles but also tendons and ligaments. This can lead to greater power output along with reducing chances of those dreaded injuries.
There is a caveat to this point however: golfers should always seek out the advice of a professional to ensure their technique is correct whilst lifting weights.
With everything considered, the benefits of getting golf fit are enormous. A lot of the myths you hear a founded in pseudoscience by people who are not qualified in the subject. If you can find a good coach getting golf fit will enable to hit the ball further and play with a lot less pain!