Shape your body trim your score

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Endurance is one the most important factors in playing consistent golf. If you’re one of those golfers who tend to fall apart on the back nine, you need to focus your strength and conditioning efforts towards endurance.

But spending longer sessions beating balls a few days a week doesn’t lead to better scores. So I encourage all of my students to take the time to shape up their bodies for a faster track to hitting better shots and making better scores. Since most golfers have not conditioned their body to be in golf shape, a golf-specific exercise program can add many dimensions to their game including flexibility, motor control, strength, power and endurance without having to spend as much time practicing on the range.

Women holding workout ball between legsIncreasing your cardiovascular endurance should be one of your key goals for your golf-specific workout. When your cardiovascular system is performing well, your everyday tasks become even easier. The better your cardiovascular capacity is, the easier it will be to play 18 holes without tiring.

Since a game of golf takes 4 to 5 hours to play, you may think that you should train as endurance athletes train. But training for golf requires more than just running on the treadmill for one hour, three to four times a week. The explosive nature of the golf swing places considerable pressure on the spinal joints. The golf swing may generate compression loads of more than 8 times the body weight and over time may cause the stress related bony injury of the lumbar spine.

Therefore, the golf swing requires an enormous amount of muscular endurance, not just cardiovascular endurance. So you should train for golf as middle distance athletes train for their sports combining exercises to build muscles for speed and strength and cardiovascular training for endurance.

The following is a guideline to begin a golf specific training regimen to help you build cardiovascular and muscular endurance.

A well-rounded golf specific workout combines three components:

1. Cardiovascular Training

Improving cardiovascular conditioning is imperative to any golfer that wants to play consistently over 18 holes. Playing a round involves walking as many as 6 miles. Even if you are riding in a cart, you may walk 3 to 4 miles back and forth from the tees and greens to the cart, especially if the course limits you to keeping your cart on the cart path.

Walking is one of the best activities people of all ages can do to improve cardiovascular conditioning. Begin your program by walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes gradually increasing your time to 60 minutes. Walk at the fastest pace you can comfortably to carry a conversation, or try to walk fast enough to reach your target heart rate (55 percent to 90 percent of maximum heart rate).

You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 then multiplying that number by 80 percent. The ACSM recommends that adults do minimum 20-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times a week.

Incorporating interval training into your program will help you increase your aerobic capacity. Walk as fast as you can for 2 minutes, followed by 1 minute of slower walking. Repeat this sequence 10 times for a total of 30 minutes of interval walking. Also try lifting your arms above your head for two paces and then back down for two more while you walk to increase your heart rate and increase aerobic capacity. Kill two birds with one stone: walk while you play golf.

2. Strength Training

Strength training or resistance training as it is sometimes called makes you stronger, to hit the ball longer and more consistently. Whenever one of my students asks me how to get more power in their swing, I take them to the gym to show them exercises to increase their strength especially in their arms and hands, shoulders and torsos. The stronger you are, the faster you can swing the club, which in turn will give you more clubhead speed for more distance.

Essential muscles to develop for the golf swing:

• Abdominal muscles, external oblique muscles and legs: Strengthening these areas provide support for good posture at address and balance throughout the swing.

• Forearms and wrists: Strong hands and arms are important to be able to hinge the club properly on the backswing and hold the angle on the downswing for solid contact at impact and increased clubhead speed.

• Strong upper backs and shoulders: Developing the rhomboid, trapezius and deltoids muscles allow maximum torso turn to get into the correct position at the top of the swing. Ideally, there should be greater upper body turn then lower body turn at the top of the swing.

Strength training can help increase clubhead speed, but added strength will also benefit your short game as well. When your hands and wrists are strong, you will have greater motor control to help you with your touch around the greens.

3. Flexibility

Flexibility is the third key to a golf specific workout that will help you shave shots off your score. To swing a golf club effectively and consistently you need flexibility in all parts of the body.

If your muscles are tight, you will restrict how far you can turn your back away from the ball and compromise your technique to get power. Tight muscles also slow the motion needed to generate clubhead speed to get the ball airborne.

Adding golf specific stretches can help in the following areas:

• Improve posture

• Prevent muscle soreness

• Increase range of motion to achieve a complete shoulder turn and more clubhead speed

• Reduce risk of injury

Spending time in the gym will not only shape up your body, but will help trim your score. Without regular exercise, expect your strength, endurance and flexibility to diminish, resulting in a shorter, less powerful swing. Cardiovascular and strength training provide the endurance to maintain a consistent swing for 18 holes.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Golf Fitness Magazine is the only national consumer publication dedicated to golf-specific fitness, mental focus, and improving ability, performance and health among all golfers. Get cutting edge fitness & mental tips sent to your inbox each month with our free golf performance eNewsletter, Shape Your Game.