We are very fortunate to live in a part of the country that allows for year-round golf. I’m originally from Boston where golf was seasonal and the clubs pretty much sat untouched from November through March. I’d spend those long winter months playing other sports, including basketball and indoor track (running the 800 was worse than making double bogey on a easy par 4!). And during those months, my fitness regimen would be much different because those sports require different physical capabilities than golf. My medicine ball throws and cable golf swings were replaced with speed ladder drills and tempo runs. This is because of the Principle of Specificity that guides exercise program design.
The Principle of Specificity states that a training program should include sport-specific exercises in order to enhance performance to the greatest degree. General conditioning is important (often referred to as multilateral training) and will lead to performance benefits, but not to the magnitude of a program that includes numerous sport-specific training elements. So let’s look at the physical demands of golf and use those as the foundation of our golf-specific exercise program design.
First off, you need to realize that golf is a sport where physical fitness does matter (probably why Tim Herron isn’t showing up on many leaderboards these days). It requires cardiovascular endurance to complete a round of golf without feeling fatigued along the closing stretch. Additionally golf requires joint mobility to make a full turn while maintaining good posture. And finally it requires rotational power to execute a strong downswing and get the ball to fly with distance and proper trajectory. Couple these elements with general conditioning exercises and you will be developing a body that will be capable of doing great things in golf. The other factor that needs to be considered is the Principle of Progressive Overload. This principle states that a training program must provide the right dose of exercise in order to lead to adaptations and reduce risk for injury. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing cardiovascular exercise three to five times a week, muscle strengthening exercises two to four times per week, and flexibility exercises every day. These recommendations are based on the scientific literature and take into account the amount of recovery needed to ensure that body does not get injured by over training. So, based on the Principle of Specificity and the Principle of Progressive Overload, here is my recommendation for a well-crafted golf-specific training program:
Frequency: 4 days per week (plus daily foam rolling and flexibility work - detailed in my last newsletter article and my YouTube video of golf-specific flexibility work at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyta0raVnOQ).
• 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (at moderate to vigorous intensity)
• 15 minutes of core conditioning exercises such as Pilates or Yoga (my next newsletter article will detail core conditioning)
• 2 sets of 12 repetitions on a weight training circuit that includes both lower body and upper body exercises (either free weights or weight machines)
• 2 sets of 60 second intervals of multi-directional medicine ball throws and cable golf swings (see my YouTube video of these exercises at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShUFsOTFHks)
This will provide an excellent general conditioning program for your ongoing health and fitness as well as developing golf-specific fitness. Now you just need to find the time to do it! Till next month, I’ll see you on the fairways and greens!
Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions (www.thompsonfitnesssolutions.com) and has taught golf-specific fitness classes and clinics for the past 12 years. He has been on faculty in the Kinesiology Department at the University of San Francisco since 2002..