Strength Training for Golf: Harmful or Helpful?

“Dear The Golfing Doc. Should I be lifting heavy weights at the gym to gain more distance? Will it help my golf game? Thanks. Bruce G. Seattle, WA.”

All golfers want to hit the ball farther. One of the key factors to gaining more distance is exercise. Each person is unique and so should their golf-specific exercise routine. Let me use my wife as an example of how a golf swing can go from good to bad to better due to exercise.

My wife played college golf at Eastern Washington University and graduated in 2004. Between her junior and senior year, she was placed on an intense weight lifting program to help improve her game. By graduation, she went from weighing 120 pounds to 170 pounds. Her driving distance went from 220 yards to 280 yards and her handicap dropped from a 6.0 to a zero. She was playing her best golf ever and even won some tournaments.

However, a year after graduation, her body broke down. She was no longer able to play golf because of lower back pain, hip pain, wrist pain, shoulder pain, and foot pain. The more she tried to keep up the workout, the more it would result in pain. Worst of all, golfing also became painful. In the next 5 years, she was only able to play 5 tournaments as a result of her pain and injuries. How could her game go from peaking to dysfunction so quickly?

This is a typical example of where her golf performance temporarily improved because of drastic physical changes. She put on weight to gain stability and had built up the big muscles to generate more power. Imagine 50 extra pounds on a 5 foot 9, lean frame. So why all the injuries? No one ever addressed her underlying physical dysfunctions. A major change like that could only be temporary and last as long as the underlying supporting structure could hold it. All her gains and improvements were short-term and quickly disappeared as soon as the body started to fall apart

Within a year of meeting her in 2009, she was able to swing again and was ready to play competitive golf. In addition to treatments for her chronic injuries, the biggest two changes we made where to her exercise workouts and her actual golf swing. Her workouts were now movement based with light weights and a combination of corrective exercises that emphasized proper movement patterning. There were no more bench presses or squat racks. It was now mostly bands, body weight, and explosive types of exercises. I use martial arts training with all my golfers and included some into her programs. Her swing was also now redeveloped based on what her body could do safely and repeatedly with no harm.

It has taken some time to correct, restore, and redevelop her overall physical abilities and swing, but she is now an even better golfer than in the past. She is back to her normal lean weight, has an average driving distance of 260 yards, and for the first time in her career has a “plus” handicap. In addition to her recent accomplishments over the past couple years, she recently won the 2014 Washington State Golf Association Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.

Here is my wife Shawn Farmer Sese demonstrating 6 of her favorite exercises she uses to help build her explosive strength to hit the ball farther and safely. If you have any underlying injuries or health conditions, please consult your medical professional prior to attempting these exercises.

Knee Ups

Knee Ups

Power Front Kicks

Front Kicks

Power Punches in Horsestance

Horsestance Punches

Rotating Body Hooks

Body Hooks

Frog Leg Planks

Frog Leg Plank

Side Plank Leg Lifts

Side Plank Leg Lift

Dr. Sese

September 2014