Golfers have a reputation for being somewhat physically un-fit. Maybe it’s the fact that they ride carts from playing surface to playing surface. Maybe it’s because there’s a tradition of paying other guys to heft around the equipment.
But make no mistake: Top-tier golfers are anything but soft and out of shape. Rory McIlroy, who is almost definitely better than you at golf, is known for hitting seriously heavy weights in the gym. “I’m trying to make my back as strong as I possibly can so that when I come out here and swing a golf club at 120 mph, I’m robust enough to take that 200 times a day when I hit shots and when I practice and when I play golf,” McIlroy said in early 2016.
So take a page out of his playbook, and start strengthening your golf game with these five tactics from PGA Tour strength coach Chris Noss:
1. Get balanced
If you’re short and stocky, the best way to improve you game is to improve your working on flexibility. “If you’re tall and lanky, you don’t need to work on flexibility, you’re already there,” says Noss. “So you may want to work on your core.”
The goal is to get your X-factor pattern—your right hip and left shoulder for righties, vice versa for southpaws—to work in unison. Stabilizing will allow you to get maximum torque, which will help you whip the club around with the most force. And that will get your ball flying off the tee. “We’ve put 50 yards on Stewart Cink’s driver over the last eight years,” says Noss. “With him, it wasn’t a matter of flexibility. We had to really strengthen his core.”
2. Train all planes
One of the most important things Noss instills in his athletes is the importance of training their bodies in multiple planes of motion. Make sure you work in exercises that function in the frontal plane (side to side), the saginal plane (forward and backward), and the transverse plane (rotational).
“You’re used to being in a box, and we take you outside of that box into a bigger range of motion,” says Noss. “We stress the muscles around the joints and ligaments.”
3. Target your training
Incorporate unilateral movements into your routine whenever possible. “Start doing one-armed bench presses,” says Noss. “If you’re using one arm, you’re going to get more stretch, more range of motion and work your core a bit more.” Working one arm or leg at a time allows you to focus on your weak points, which are easy to ignore when you’re lifting conventionally and subconsciously favoring one side or the other.
4. Do a real warmup
Noss leads his guys through a substantial dynamic warmup with fifteen different exercises—some of which require five different steps of their own. You don’t have to go that crazy, but you should make sure your warmup actually gets you warmed up. Leg and arm swings are a great beginner-level method for getting your body ready for a workout. Hold onto something stable, stand on one leg and swing the other leg forward and back, like you’re trying to kick yourself in the butt for 10-12 reps. Repeat for the other leg. You can do leg swings and arm swings side to side, as well. And get to know the foam roller.
“We do a lot of fascial work to get that area cleared out,” says Noss, “and then we can start facilitating power.”
5. Stop looking for a quick fix
Lots of guys treat golf like some mystery that can only be solved with the right piece of equipment. But really, there’s no shortcut to getting better. You need to get stronger, first of all. And you also need to be focused.
“I’ve seen so many guys go out there getting hurt playing with a new gadget,” says Noss. “Everyone’s always looking for the golden ring.” Focus on your body, and your score will come.
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