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Muscles to Strengthen for Golf & Exercises to Improve Your Swing

By Dave Phillips

Muscles to Strengthen for Golf & Exercises to Improve Your Swing

A PGA coach shares how to optimize your golf exercises and workouts.

Several years ago, I attended a conference in Europe in which multiple studies were presented by Dr. Sergio Marta from the University of Lisbon on the muscles that are used in a golf swing. His research indicated that the key lower body muscle group was the gluteus maximus--more famously known as your butt. Additionally, the most important upper body muscles were the pectoralis major (chest), latissimus dorsi (back), core muscles, and forearm muscles.

Key Muscles Used in Golf

The gluteus maximus was shown to be responsible for external and internal hip rotation on the backswing and downswing, as well as hip extension, which is what gets you into a proper balanced finish position. Pectorals and latissimus muscles were shown to create strong shoulder adductors, which allow you to bring your arms across your body and raise them up in the air. Your core is basically the glue that holds everything together. It transmits force from the lower body into the upper body and helps rotate your torso. Last but not least are the forearms, which direct all the force created by the upper and lower body into the golf club, and in turn the golf ball. What this all means is that if you’re trying to get your body in shape for playing golf, start with what I call “The King”--your gluteus maximus, which also happens to be the largest muscle group in your body. Follow that up by working on your chest, latissimus dorsi, core, and finally forearms.

4 Best Golf Workouts & Exercises

Below are some great exercises and strength training workouts to get started with to improve your golf game, swing speed, and how you hit the ball. They focus on the major muscles listed above, with links to video tutorials of how each is done. Before you dive into the workouts, here's a little more on the basics of stretching for golf, as well as why getting out on the golf course is a great form of exercise--for professional golfers, senior golfers, and everyone in between.  


This exercise builds strength and power in the legs. Start by standing tall with a box or chair placed directly behind you. Perform a squat with your weight equal on both sides. Slowly go down until you are sitting on the box. Return up to the starting position and repeat. Decrease the height of the box or chair as you become more advanced.  


This will help increase upper body strength, shoulder and spine range of motion, and overall core stability. To perform this exercise, you are going to need your functional movement trainer or a cable cross machine and a bar attachment (a triceps rope can be an alternative to the bar). Get into a half kneeling position with your down knee away from the machine or the door. Grab the FMT or bar with both hands on top of the bar and keep your posture as tall as possible. Perform a chop diagonally across your body, keeping your hands and the bar close to your chest throughout the movement. Make a full shoulder turn as you chop, and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the appropriate number of sets and reps.  


These are great golf exercises to help build strong shoulders. Facing the high attachment, grab onto both handles of the TRX. Start in the full lean back row position--the closer to the attachment, the harder the exercise. Perform I's, Y's, T's and W's. Start by bringing both of your arms (elbows locked) straight out to your sides with your thumbs pointing up, forming the letter "T" with your body. Next, try to bring both arms (elbows still locked) up above your shoulders to form the letter "Y.” Then, with shoulders and elbows bent to 90 degrees (forming the letter "L"), rotate the back of your hands to the sky keeping your shoulders bent. Finally, with your elbows slightly bent, arms out in front of your body and your thumbs pointing up, raise your arms to the sky to form a "W.” Repeat each position for the prescribed number of reps. Remember to start each motion by squeezing your shoulder blades together.  


Excellent total body exercises for strength and golf fitness. Start without weight, using just your shoe at first, then progress to weight. Lie down next to a kettlebell and roll to your left side facing it. The kettlebell should be within comfortable reach of your left arm. Grab it with your left hand and roll yourself onto your back bringing the kettlebell with you. Bend your left knee and place your foot flat on the ground. Press the kettlebell directly up in front of your chest, extending your arm completely. Next, place your right arm down by your side to help perform the get-up. Now, the first motion is a curl-up crunch to get up to your right elbow. It helps to drive through your left heel as well. If you combine this with lengthening through your right heel, it will be much easier to keep your right leg straight and fairly flat on the ground. Then, shift your weight from your right elbow to your right hand, keeping the bell directly vertical. From the “on the hand” position, you’re going to actively drive through your left heel into a bridge. The key here is getting hip extension as opposed to lumbar spine extension. From the high bridge position, sweep your right leg back to a point where your right knee is on the ground underneath your body. Keep your lumbar spine neutral throughout. Now, rotate your right lower leg so it’s straight and in line with your body, and straighten your trunk so you’re up tall. Once you’re in the “tall half-kneeling” position, it’s an opportune time to refocus with chest up, long spine, shoulder packed, etc. Lastly, perform a split squat to stand tall, and you are at the top position. To return to the ground, just reverse the direction going back. Then repeat with your other arm.