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eeping Fit

Getting In Shape For Golf

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series
Dr. Westcott In 1995, we published our first research study on golf conditioning. These study results were actually pretty impressive. After just eight weeks of strength training and stretching exercises (only 30 minutes a day, three days a week) the golfers added four pounds of muscle, lost four pounds of fat, reduced their resting blood pressure by five mmHg, improved their muscle strength by 50 percent, enhanced their joint flexibility by 25 percent, and increased their driving power (club head speed) by five miles per hour. Subsequent studies with injured golfers showed similar outcomes and additional benefits, such as no physical setbacks during the following golf season.

After four years of golf conditioning research we published a popular book on this topic, and have seen a tremendous transformation in the golf world in a remarkably short period of time. Consider that in 1995 only two professional golfers were doing strength training. By the year 2000 almost every professional golfer was performing regular strength exercise, typically with a personal trainer or physical therapist. During the same five-year period, the number of golfers in the United States increased from 25 million to about 45 million. We may take some credit for the new attitude towards strength training, but Tiger Woods is clearly responsible for the incredible increase in golf participation.

As you may know, golf is a most challenging activity due to the complexity and intricacy of the game. However, you may not be aware that the golf swing is one of the most difficult and demanding physical skills in the sports world. The ballistic action of a powerful golf drive places unusually high stress on the joint structures of the hips, back, shoulders, elbows and wrists. Although the old saying is "drive for show and putt for dough", be assured that the golf swing is serious business with significant injury potential.

So what can you do to reduce your risk of injury and increase your driving distance? Your best bet is to get in shape before getting onto the golf course. Once you are well conditioned, be sure to obtain some professional consultation on your driving technique, as seemingly small imperfections in your swing mechanics can lead to troublesome injuries over time.

Golfers, like everyone else, benefit from all four health-related categories of physical fitness. These are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, join flexibility, and body composition. However, for improved golf performance, the priorities should be strength training, stretching exercises and improved body composition. Such a program requires just over 30 minutes a day, two or three days per week for excellent results in both physical fitness and performance power.

Recommended Golf Conditioning Program
I can offer no better conditioning program than the one we used during our four years of golf studies. This included a basic strength training protocol with 15 exercises for the major muscle groups and six standard stretching exercises. the strength exercises, muscle groups and golf swing applications are as follows:

Golf Swing

Leg Extension
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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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