If you’ve been playing the game for long, you’ve probably been told that strength training for golfers will get you bulky, restrict your mobility and can even get you hurt so that you can’t play the game. But how true is this argument?
This is a contested topic on many media platforms and even among coaches and golfers themselves. The curious part of this is that the people having the discussions are usually doing so with little to no good information to draw their conclusions from.
If you don’t want the sports science information regarding this topic, please stop reading. If you would like to be informed, enjoy the next 5 minutes!
I don’t disagree with those who say that strength training is a one of the worst things to do for your golf game. It will bulk you up, it can cause your mobility to be restricted and could even get you hurt! There are a few critical qualifiers, however, that are left out when this argument is made.
1) “I’ll get too bulky and won’t be able to swing”
To seriously bulk up to the point where you can’t swing well because your muscles are in the way you would have to lift weights way more than you think (three one hour sessions per week is not enough, that is just the warm up).
You will also need to eat like an absolute beast…I’m talking 3000 calories plus! You probably will also need to take supplements and be Johnny on the spot with meal timing. Let’s be honest, most golfers are not in this category of commitment to their golf games, never mind the gym.
Gaining healthy muscle mass is one of the hardest things to do and let me tell you, from training hundreds of golfers each month, there are less than 1% of them that are putting enough time in the gym for this to even be a conversation.
The “I don’t want to get too bulky” excuse is a conversational non-starter for 99% of golfers and an argument against strength training that only those people who have never really strength trained will be ignorant enough to use.
Please stop using this argument as it is not one at all.
2) “I don’t want to do strength training because I will get tight.”
Ever seen a gymnast? This honestly should be enough of an explanation as to how silly this one is.
But, in the interest of sports science, here is why this is silly.
The caveat to this being another conversational non-starter is that the strength training must be done intelligently with proper screening before starting. For example, if you can’t stand with your back flat on a wall and raise your arms straight up to touch the wall behind you with straight elbows and no arch in your back, you should not be doing overhead presses!
When you look at a gymnast, they have remarkable flexibility because that is part of their workout regimen, as should be the case for golfers. This does not mean golfers need to train like gymnasts, but is meant as a parallel example that part of a golfer’s training regimen should be sharply focused on mobility. Strength is useless if you don’t have the mobility to use it.
When you are designing your golf fitness strength training program, you need to make sure that you are making yourself earn the right to lift heavy weights. Once you have the proper mobility, strength training can actually help you maintain and even increase your mobility when used intelligently.
If you refer to my article on eccentric strength training, this type of strength training actually INCREASES your mobility.
Short of it: train smart and your strength training program will not only increase your ability to produce force and clubhead speed, but also help you to move better with better flexibility.
If you train like a body builder, you will swing a golf club like a body builder. You will likely lose mobility and not be able to swing the golf club. So stop training on just the machines at the gym or how the ripped guy in your gym trains. Do some research and find someone who can help you train smart for your goals and golf game!
3) “Strength training hurts golfers, I’m not doing it.”
Can’t disagree here, except I would put one word in front of this phrase; “bad.”
Bad strength training hurts golfers.
I’m sure you have all seen those weight room blooper video reels on YouTube..don’t be those people. Here is a funny one if you haven’t.
When you go into the gym, go with a plan that is periodized (ie. changes based on time of year and your goals) and specific to you. Do not start a program unless you have been assessed or screened as to your specific needs and areas where you need improvement.
Not everyone needs to do bench press on Mondays. That may not be appropriate for you and your needs if you recently had shoulder surgery. Instead, working on the scapular muscles around the repaired shoulder and focusing on single arm pushing motions that also bring anti-rotational core strength and hip stability might be more appropriate for you.
The point here is that if you have a well designed strength training program and your technique is solid, the risk-reward of getting hurt vs. maximizing performance, health and injury resistance is much in favor of strength training. Just be smart about it!
In conclusion, strength training is a must for golfers and the many arguments against strength training are not well founded. The arguments that you will hear (I am sure many will be posted in the comments section) are based on the scenarios that occur when the program is not specific to the individual or just plain ignorance when it comes to training intelligently for golf or any other sport.
Don’t be afraid of strength training, embrace it. But do so with the help of a trained professional who can evaluate your needs, abilities and phase of life. Those golfers who have taken this path have been nothing but satisfied with the results; often to the tune of 10+ miles per hour in the club head speed.