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Five golf fitness blunders that can ruin your game

Mar 27, 2017 10:40AM ● Published by Neighbors Magazines

By Richard J. Wolff, RD, LDN  

It was 1970 and the University of Nebraska football team had just won back-to-back national championships.  When asked about their success, they attributed it in large part to their new strength coach!  From that moment on, strength training was front and center in the hearts and minds of coaches everywhere.

It didn’t take golfers long to realize that strength training could also improve their golf performance. But despite learning a lot since 1970, many golfers are still making big mistakes when it comes to golf fitness.  Here are five easy-to-fix blunders that may be ruining your golf game.  

Over-Emphasizing Your Core

If I had a nickel for every time an athlete said to me “I need to train my core” I would be quite wealthy!  “Training the core” (abdominal muscles, back muscles, etc.) has seemingly become the solution to every sports performance problem.  As it turns out, “core” isn’t even a legitimate medical or physiological term — the word was coined by Reebok as a way of promoting fitness apparel. 

Training your core at the expense of other muscle groups is a big mistake. Many golfers do have a weak core - but they also have weak shoulders, hips, quadriceps and hamstrings.  In other words, muscle weakness often exists within the entire muscular system, and training your entire body (not just your core) is the best approach to improving your golf performance.   

Lifting Weights Too Fast 

One of the biggest mistakes golfers make is lifting weights too fast.  Lifting and lowering weights quickly introduces momentum which reduces muscle tension.  When muscle tension decreases, fewer muscle fibers are stimulated which decreases the strength-building stimulus of the exercise. Slow down! When working with conventional strength equipment (barbells, dumbbells and strength machines) a five-by-five speed is both safe and effective: take five seconds to lift the weight, and then take five seconds to lower it. This slow, controlled speed increases muscle tension and the training stimulus to improve strength and golf performance.   

Combining Skill and Strength Training

Combing strength training with sport-specific skill training sounds like a good idea - but it’s a disaster when it comes to golf! Many golfers, for example, swing a weighted golf club as a way of “learning” to swing faster. But according to motor learning theory there is only one motor pathway for any given movement (i.e., swinging a golf club). Swinging a weighted golf club develops the motor pathway (skill) required to perform that activity — so in effect, such an exercise trains you how to swing the club slower

This training response is called negative transfer.  Negative transfer leaves you less skilled at the activity (i.e., swinging a regular golf club) you are trying to get better at. To eliminate the chances of negative transfer, your strength training should be very different from your skill training. This type of training leads to indifferent transfer which means your strength training does not interfere with your ability to swing a golf club.  To be the best golfer you can be, keep these activities separate: build strength in the gym and skill on the golf course.    

Ignoring Your Age  

Adults begin losing muscle in their late 30s and continue losing muscle every year of their lives.  Past the age of 40 the average person loses at least ½-pound of muscle every year.  With muscle loss comes strength loss; and the weaker you are, the less force your muscles produce.

As force production decreases, club speed and power output also decrease.  This leads to shorter drives and greater muscle fatigue when playing. The solution is to add strength training to your lifestyle as you get older.  Strength training is the only way to prevent and reverse muscle loss.  A productive, full-body strength workout will reverse a year of muscle loss in less than 30 days.  Within six months you will be driving the ball as though you were 10 years younger!        

Skipping Good Nutrition   

With billion-dollar marketing campaigns promoting burgers, fries, cookies and donuts it can be easy to skip good nutrition.  Here are two strategies that will immediately improve your golf game. 

First, consume 10 to 15 grams of high-quality protein immediately following your strength workout. This strategy has been shown to accelerate the formation of new muscle proteins while optimizing strength gains. Second, when golfing in warm weather drink at least 6 to 8 ounces of cool liquids (preferably water) every 20 to 30 minutes.  This will maintain optimal blood volume which prevents the strength loss associated with dehydration.  

About the Author 

Richard J. Wolff is the president of MEDFITNESS, a strength training studio that specializes in efficient workouts.  To get daily strength training insights, strategies and motivation subscribe to his daily video/blog Train Like a Champion at  To take your golf game to the next level, schedule a Free Trial Workout by calling (630) 762-1784 or visiting

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