In years past, most golfers avoided intense workouts like weightlifting, interval training, and rigorous cardiovascular exercise.
Look back several decades ago and you’ll notice it wasn’t uncommon to see golfers who were overweight with a pot belly or a body resembling a stick figure. However, most of today’s stars on the PGA Tour are strong, athletic, and fully dedicated to putting in their time in the gym.
Want to shave a few strokes off your handicap? The following 13 game-changing golf workouts will help take your game to the next level.
Each workout includes:
- The equipment you’ll need (if any)
- Instructions on how to perform the exercise
- Why we recommend this exercise to improve your golf game
- A video demonstration of the workout (for all the visual learners out there)
With that, let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
- Golf Workouts for Your Upper Body
- Golf Workouts for Your Lower Body
- Golf Workouts for Your Core
- Golf Workouts to Improve Cardio
- Golf Workouts to Improve Flexibility
Golf Workouts for Your Upper Body
Golf instructors of yesteryear advised their clients to avoid lots of upper body exercises. The fear was that it would make a golfer too tight in the shoulders, negatively affecting their golf swing.
That fear is no longer warranted, as many professional golfers like Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka now follow a strict upper-body training regimen.
The following upper body exercises will help you strengthen your arms, shoulders, upper back, and chest. We’ll explain why each exercise is essential. We’ll also provide a link with a video demonstration so that you can make sure you’re completing each exercise correctly.
1. Thoracic Mobility Twists
Equipment Needed: Just a chair
How to Perform This Exercise: Sit a chair directly before you and place both palms face down. Reach up with your left hand and turn your head. Make sure to keep your lower back flat. Complete 10 reps with the eyes always following the hand. Next, switch arms and do the exercise in the opposite direction.
Why This Exercise is Important: Many golfers don’t get enough distance from their driver because of poor upper body mobility. This exercise remedies this common problem by opening up the thoracic spine (upper back). This exercise will strengthen the upper back and also lead to more flexibility in both the backswing and the downswing. The result will be longer drives and a reduced chance of injury.
2. External Shoulder Rotations
Equipment Needed: Thera band or a cable machine
How to Perform This Exercise: Tie a Thera band onto a door frame or set up a machine with the cables directly over your belly button. Roll up a towel or another shirt and place it underneath the arm you will be using. While keeping the elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, pull the band or cable out away from your body. Do 15-20 repetitions before completing the same number of reps with the other arm. Be sure to keep your upper traps relaxed throughout the entire movement. If your neck muscles are tightening, you’re using too much weight.
Why This Exercise is Important: Not being able to rotate the shoulders properly can lead to a host of golf swing issues like poor posture during the backswing, an over-the-top downswing (which causes slicing), and the dreadful “chicken wing” after impact. This exercise will increase the rotation strength of the shoulders and rotator cuff.
3. Alternating Dumbbell Rows
Equipment Needed: A pair of light to medium dumbbells
How to Perform This Exercise: With a dumbbell in each hand, stand up straight with your knees bent and your lower back as flat as possible. Hinge forward with your hips. With both arms extended, pull one dumbbell up toward your armpit. You should feel some tension in the rhomboid muscle near your shoulder blade. Extend the dumbbell back out before completing the same motion with the other arm. If you’re comfortable, you can also slightly rotate your torso during the movement.
Why This Exercise is Important: The added rotation part will help increase your swing speed by strengthening your oblique muscles. Your swing will also benefit because of the added strength and flexibility in the upper back. Your biceps will also get a decent workout from this exercise!
4. Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press
Equipment Needed: A pair of light to medium dumbbells and a flat bench at your home or gym
How to Perform This Exercise: Grab a set of dumbbells that you can handle comfortably. Lie flat on a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Press forward with one arm while the other stays in the rest position. After extending one arm over the center of your chest, slowly lower the dumbbell back near your underarm. Do the same movement with the other arm. Aim to complete 12 to 15 reps with each arm before taking a rest. For added emphasis on the pec and shoulder muscles, experiment with placing your feet on the bench instead of on the floor. This is also an excellent way to avoid arching your lower back during the movement. Doing this exercise with light dumbbells instead of a barbell is also much safer on the shoulder joint.
Why This Exercise is Important: This is one of the best exercises for golfers to gain upper body strength in the pectoralis muscles. Most golfers shy away from doing any form of chest press because of the tightness it could cause in the shoulder muscles. However, this is a mistake because the golf swing demands lots of action from the chest. The shoulder stabilizers get more of a workout by doing this exercise with one arm at a time. That helps keep the rotator cuff and labrum strong and flexible.
Golf Workouts for Your Lower Body
Many novice golfers believe that the golf swing is comprised mainly of upper body movements. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The golf swing actually starts with the lower body, as your weight has to shift from your back leg toward your front leg.
This is why golfers must strengthen all of their lower body muscles. The following exercises will help golfers more fully develop their legs.
5. Barbell Squats
Equipment Needed: Squat rack or Smith machine, barbell, weighted plates
How to Perform This Exercise: Slide underneath a barbell with no weighted plates as a warmup exercise. Let the bar rest below your trapezius muscles, and keep your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward. Grip the bar with both hands to support your body weight. While keeping the lower back flat, squat down to just past parallel before exploding back up. After warming up sufficiently, add some weighted plates and do sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Why This Exercise is Important: When it comes to lower body strength, squats are king. They work the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and a whole host of other stability muscles. No other exercise will improve your golf game more than good old-fashioned barbell squats. Squats are an intense workout, increasing your endurance level for those longer days on the golf course!
6. Walking Lunges
Equipment Needed: set of light dumbbells
How to Perform This Exercise: Grab a dumbbell in each hand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your knees slightly bent. Step out with your right leg, then lower your left leg (or back knee) to the floor. Once your knee touches, go back to the regular standing position. Complete the same motion with the opposite leg. Aim to do 12 to 15 reps with each leg.
Why This Exercise is Important: Lunges are a fantastic golf exercise because they increase the mobility of the hips. Lunges will also help build explosiveness in the hips and legs, which should add a few miles per hour to your swing speed.
7. Lateral Squats with Medicine Ball
Equipment Needed: Any medium or large medicine ball
How to Perform This Exercise: Take a medicine ball and hold it to your chest with both of your hands wrapped around it. Your feet should be in a very wide stance. While keeping your right leg straight, squat down toward the floor with your left leg. Next, come back into the starting position before completing another rep. Do 15 to 2-0 repetitions with each leg. Try to keep both feet flat on the ground throughout the movement.
Why This Exercise is Important: Lateral squats make the hips more flexible for golfers. One of the arch enemies of a fluid golf swing is tight hips, so this is one of the best golf exercises out there. Not only does this movement increase flexibility, but it also adds strength to the hip adductor and abductor muscles. It also helps prevent those terrible pulled groin injuries.
Golf Workouts for Your Core
You can’t build the best golf workout program without adding core exercises. The core muscles are constantly engaged throughout the golf swing, so saying that core exercises are necessary would be a gross understatement. The following exercises will help you swing the golf club with more authority and confidence.
8. Cable Twists
Equipment Needed: Cable machine at your gy
How to Perform This Exercise: Arrange the machine, so the cable is roughly parallel to your shoulders. Grab the cable with your right hand while spreading your feet out wide with your toes pointed slightly outward. Place your left hand over your right hand to fully support the cable handle. Do a complete torso rotation while keeping your hands in front of your chest throughout the movement. After 15 to 20 reps, complete the movement for the opposite side of your body. This will prevent any muscle imbalances.
Why This Exercise is Important: This movement works the oblique muscles, one of the most crucial areas of the golf swing. During the initial part of the rotation, golfers also work on the load portion of their golf swing. If you’re looking for more stability in your swing, this is the one exercise to hone in on.
9. Planks for Golf
Equipment Needed: A simple workout mat or your gym or home
How to Perform This Exercise: Lie face down on the mat. Put your feet together while squeezing your glute muscles. Push up onto your knees and forearms while keeping your back straight. You always want to maintain a neutral spine angle to prevent injury. Push up with your toes while pulling the forearms toward the toes. After several seconds, put the knees down on the mat and relax. Aim for 10 to 20 reps.
Why This Exercise is Important: Simply being in the plank position engages all core muscles. Planks are a functional exercise that builds up strength and endurance. A healthy and strong core goes a long way toward preventing lower back injuries on the golf course!
Golf Workouts to Improve Cardio
Many golfers falsely assume you don’t have to be in great cardiovascular shape to play good golf. This assumption is ludicrous, especially if you want to walk your rounds instead of riding in a golf cart. Improving your cardio level of fitness can prevent you from feeling fatigued on the last few holes of your round.
10. Rowing Machine
Equipment Needed: Rowing machine at your gym
How to Perform This Exercise: Grab the bar and complete a rowing motion while squatting toward the machine. Use a full range of motion throughout the movement. Do this for as many minutes before taking a rest.
Why This Exercise is Important: Rowing is a beautiful combo of cardio exercise and strength training. It builds up endurance in the glute and shoulder muscles, which are 2 areas that get tired during a long round on the course. Rowing will ensure that your last shot is as powerful as your first tee shot of the day.
11. Holy Trinity Cardio Combo
Equipment Needed: Room to run, stationary bike, rowing machine
How to Perform This Exercise: Complete a 400-meter run. Then start doing reps on the rowing machine until you’ve burned 30 calories according to the meter. Finish up on the stationary bike until you’ve also burned 30 calories on it. That’s one set. During sets 2 and 3, you’ll do the same movements, but the calorie goal is 20 and 10, respectively. The goal is to finish the 3 sets in 20 minutes or less.
Why This Exercise is Important: PGA Tour star Scott Stallings made this brutally tough cardio workout famous. It’s one heck of a workout and an ideal choice if you’re pressed for time. This combo of exercises will increase your endurance while giving your entire body a workout. It’ll also build up your mental toughness.
Golf Workouts to Improve Flexibility
As good as all the above exercises are, they won’t do you a bit of good unless you stay off the injured list. Improving your flexibility is critical to staying healthy for an entire golf season. The following stretches will prevent nagging strains, sprains, and muscle pulls.
12. Scarecrow Shoulder Stretch
Equipment Needed: Just a golf club
How to Perform This Exercise: Spread your feet out to just a bit past shoulder width. Set your golf club behind your neck and across your shoulders. Both palms should be facing out, resembling a scarecrow. Slightly bend your knees and twist while pivoting your right foot. Twist back to the resting position before completing the exercise in the opposite direction. Do 20 reps per side to get loose.
Why This Exercise is Important: This is a great stretch to do before your first tee shot. The twisting portion of the stretch warms up the lower back, and the scarecrow part of the movement engages the shoulders and rotator cuffs.
13. Sphinx Stretch
Equipment Needed: None
How to Perform This Exercise: : Lie flat on your belly on a gym mat or any other comfortable surface. Extend your arms out with your palms facing down. Your feet should be slightly apart. While keeping your hips on the mat, push up with your hands to stretch the lower back. After several seconds, you can rest on your elbows before doing another rep.
Why This Exercise is Important: The most common injury in golf is lower back strains. This stretch helps thoroughly warm up the muscles in your lower back. It’s also great to do this movement if you wake up sore after a long round on the course!