Better Upper Body Training for Golfers

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Golfers need a strong upper body to increase club head speed and gain distance.

But upper body strength training can get really ugly, really quickly.

We have two ends of the spectrum that we can mess with. One is the end where nothing actually gets done. Grown men should not be going dumbbell presses with 15lbs. I have athletes in middle school that surpass that. There is no need to go outside of your limits but you do need to get something out of your training.

The other side of the picture is the poorly designed programs. These will usually include any of the following scenarios:

  • Lots of overhead pressing
  • Setting up shop at the arm farm
  • A bad proportion of pulling vs. pushing
  • Going way too heavy
  • Missing reps

We want to be somewhere in the middle when it comes to strength training for golfers. We do have to try hard enough to get some benefit from our time in the gym but we also have to be smart about it.

The following tips should help bridge the gap to better upper body training.

1. Lose the Physioball

Unstable surface training reduces power output and strength development. When we use instability we get much more co contraction of all of the muscles surrounding a joint compared to a stable surface.

The purpose of strength training is not to get this co contraction. It is, however, a great idea for rehab. Unless you are hurt you should be training from stable surfaces.

The physio ball is a common variation for pressing and other exercises. It is unstable though. Keep your upper body training to benches and the ground, while the physioball can serve rehab and core stability well.

2. Forget the Combos

I am not sure why in the golf fitness world insists on combining exercises. Everyday I see a video of a combination between pushing and pulling.

I have seen bicep curl w/ tricep pushdown, overhead presses w/ lat pulldowns, and bench press with a supine row.

I still don’t get why we need the combinations. Time isn’t even a good excuse. Even if someone only has 30 minutes they could still warm up and do a full body lift.

I the reason we had supersets was to maximize rest time. Do an exercise, followed by another, and repeat. But now we have combining combinations. It just seems crazy to me.

A better strategy is to perform a single exercise, really well, and then go to another exercise, also performed really well. You will be able to develop way more strength this way rather than trying to mix two together.

3. Remember Your Pulls

Most people perform way too many pushes at the gym. Bench press, overhead press, and any other variations we can think of.

Most programs need more rows. A good guideline to follow is 2 rows for each pull. If you do 24 total reps of bench press then you need 48 pulls to balance it out.

A lot of shoulders can get beat up from this imbalance and you need strong pulling muscles to be successful in golf.

4. You Don’t Have to Burn Your Benches

A very prominent figure in the golf fitness world did a podcast about burning your benches. His argument was that lying on a bench is not functional and you would be better served to perform exercises on the ground.

He is not wrong.

The thing is that you do not have to take that recommendation as gospel. He was trying to make a point and I think he did.

Using a bench is a good way to develop strength. The bench press has gotten people strong as long as it has existed. It might not mirror the demands of golf but the training effect will transfer to the course.

You do not need to completely remove any bench exercises from your program. I think we can find a good balance of supported exercises vs. ground based ones.

If you are looking for some guidance with your strength training, check out Distance Made Simple. You will not find a better 12 week program for only $99.