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This article is evidence-based, verified by Blake Conner, Certified Strength, and Conditioning Specialist.
Golf is a favorite past time as well as a very competitive sport. It is seen as one that is not insanely intense and leisurely to play. However, the sport is very technical and takes a ton of practice to be good at.
Plenty of seniors thoroughly enjoy the sport of golf. It isn’t hard on the joints or ligaments and a career in golf can go a lot farther than one in a contact sport. The risk for injury is a lot lower with golf, which is why it’s so popular among an older crowd.
As with any physical activity, there are ways to train for it and get better. Tiger Woods is a great example. He is considered one of the, if not the best golfers in the world. He spends his entire day getting ready for golf. This comes in the form of how he eats, how he trains, and how he practices. Now, not everyone wants to be that good, but there are ways to improve your performance.
While the risk profile for injury is low with a sport such as golf, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. There are still risks for injury with golf. This can often manifest in the form of a lower back issue, hip impingements, or even some knee injuries.
These can be prevented and avoided by getting stronger, more flexible, and being smart. As you know, with age, the risk of injury does increase with some activities. So, it is very important that these steps are taken to avoid any issues and lead to a long career with golf.
As a senior, golf performance and injury prevention can be accomplished with a mix of warm-up exercises, strength training, golf-specific workouts, and even yoga.
Golf warm-up exercises
Warming up the body for any type of physical activity is advised. This allows all of the tissue to get warm, have blood flow, and loosen up. When muscles are stiff and don’t want to move, this is when we’ve increased the chance of injury.
So how should you warm-up for golf as a senior?
It doesn’t need to be complicated. A warm-up typically has some standard qualities that make it easy to implement.
Blood flow, movement patterns, and a few stretches.
For starters, the heart rate needs to get elevated. This can easily be done by walking. Taking about a ten-minute walk is a great way to get the heart rate up. This is important because it increases the body’s internal temperature, which prepares the tissues to be pliable and move around. It also helps to pump blood through the body which creates a flow of nutrients and wakes certain areas of the body up.
As the tendons and muscles begin to wake up, you can now start warming up your nervous system. This can be accomplished by actually moving around. So as a senior, you could literally practice your swing.
Moving through each position slowly and with focus will help you to warm up each portion of the movement. When you play golf, you are only using a certain movement pattern, and the best way to warm that up is to use it. Spend some time before your game to practice as a warmup.
This warmup can also get very specific. There are tons of stretches that you can perform to hit certain areas like the hips and lower back. These are the most commonly injured areas and may need a little more attention. If you’ve been sitting all day, it would be a great idea to loosen those muscles up to avoid injury.
Sample stretches that would help include the runners stretch, butterfly stretch, child’s pose, and just a basic squat hold. Using all of those will help to loosen up and prepare the body for the force that comes from swinging a golf club.
If you work to implement these into your routine for golfing, then you will lower your risk for injury. The body will be more readily prepared for the movements that are used in a golf swing and any other activity that you may be doing on the golf course.
As golf is a more leisure sport sometimes, it still can cause injury just like any other sport. This should always be taken into consideration, especially once you are part of an older age group.
Warming up may not always sound fun, but it will allow you to play golf for a long time which is fun. You get to choose in this situation.
Set aside some time to warm up and you may just play golf forever.
Golf strength training
Golf isn’t a sport that you would always associate strength training with. However, if you use our previous example of Tiger Woods, he definitely strength trains. He has plenty of muscle mass to support his game of golf.
Strength training has tons of benefits, even as you get older. It belongs as a staple in any active person’s routine. Whether for fun or for the benefit of improved performance in a sport it makes a great addition.
Strength training typically includes using weights or some form of resistance to increase strength. This can be done with barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and many other implements.
A strength training session doesn’t have to be something that leaves you crawling away after either. It can be as simple as you going to the gym, doing your sets and leaving.
When strength training you need to work on what is called linear progression. This is a concept that involves incrementally adding weight to your workouts over time. This causes the body to adapt and get stronger.
How can you use this for golf?
When strength training you also develop stronger bones, tendons, and muscles. This is very important for strength, but also for injury prevention. As you age, this becomes the forefront of your priorities. So, you can use strength training as a way to lower injury risk.
When you become stronger you also develop more power. Golf is a power sport for the most part. As you swing the club you are generating force from the club into the golf ball. When we increase our strength and power output, we have more to put into the ball.
Now, it has to be considered that strength training does take time to recover from. Meaning, that you cannot strength train and play golf every day. You run the risk of being under-recovered which can lead to injury. So, a great to split it up is to have your strength training days on the days that you are not golfing.
Doing both in one day, especially if you are in the older age group may be too much to recover from. Two to three days a week should be enough strength training for you to see some benefit, however, it could be up to five depending on how well you are taking care of your nutrition and sleep.
Along with the number of days you are spending on training, you need to consider the amount of weight and reps that you are doing as well. This will determine the effect that you actually get from the training. With strength training, the best rep ranges are from three to six reps.
This allows you to go a little heavier, but also not compromise your form from fatigue. The higher you get with reps, the more you begin to sacrifice technique. The weights need to be moderately heavy for your body to get stronger. The stress that is put on the body will cause adaptions to occur.
Here is a sample of how a strength training session for golf would look:
- Back Squat
- 5 sets of 5 reps using a moderately heavyweight
- Downward Med Ball Slams
- 7 sets of 3 reps
- Ab Roll Outs
- 5 sets of 8 reps
- Banded Anti-Rotations
- 4 sets of 30 seconds on each side
A simple strength workout like this one will provide you with tons of benefits. The back squats will help make you stronger across the board and strengthen your ligaments. The other movements help to strengthen your power output, as well as your core strength. These are two-valued qualities when it comes to the sport of golf.
Working something similar to this into your routine for at least two to three times a week will help increase your performance at golf.
Golf specific workouts
Golf specific workouts are tailored specifically to this sport. No matter your age, as you train there is general and there is specific. General would be considered back squatting.
It helps you get stronger but is not specific to golf. Specific would be doing movements or activities that mimicked what you were actually doing during the game of golf.
For example, a ton of rotational work will help with golf. Why? Because you are using the hips and core muscles to rotate and hit the ball. This is where most of the power comes from. Therefore, if you spent time working out movements such as rotation, then you would improve at golf.
This can also apply to injury prevention. As you age, again, we want to avoid injury as much as possible, and you can do so by using golf-specific workouts. Low back pain is sometimes a common ailment for golfers due to the rotational force.
This can be avoided by working specific muscles that are associated such as the Transverse Abdominus or the multifidi muscles. By using exercises to strengthen these muscles, you can lower the risk of lower back pain(1).
Your goals will also determine what specific workouts you may do. For example, if you are looking to improve your long game and hit the ball further, one of the best ways to do so is to actually work on it. Most of the golf is a skill. Skills are developed just by practicing them.
There is a reason why most professional athletes spend time doing the same thing over and over. The more you practice, the better you can refine that skill. So, back to the long game. If you want to improve here, a good specific workout for you to do would be at the driving range. Work on hitting the ball as far as you can for 30 minutes.
From there, you can take the average distance and aim for that while improving your accuracy. This can be done for another 30 minutes until you feel good about it. Surprisingly, you’ll be sore the next day. This is a great way to specifically get better at golf, and it’s a great workout.
Using the above example of working in the long game, it can also be used as a way of injury prevention. There are some prevalent cases of knee injuries among golfers (2). This can happen due to the force put on the knee, but also that most people don’t switch their stance. Most golfers have a lead leg that they do every swing off of.
This, over time, can lead to some nagging knee pain or even injury. However, you can use a workout like the driving range example and tailor it to avoid this issue. Work on both legs. Even if you aren’t good from the other direction, you can still work to even out a load of stress. This can be extremely beneficial in giving the lead leg a break, but also strengthening the back leg as well.
Now, an actual in the gym workout can be specific as well. There are plenty of gyms that have tools and equipment that would be plenty to specifically work on strength, power, and mechanics for golf.
Here is a sample workout:
- Anti-Rotation with Bands
- 6 sets of 30 seconds on each side
- Elbow Plank
- 5 sets of 30 seconds on, and 30 seconds off
- Med Ball Scoop Throws
- 5 sets of 8 on each side
- Plate Floor Slides Using Foot
- 5 sets of 3 reps inside and 3 reps outside (towards the opposite foot and away)
Using this workout, you would be able to imitate and use a lot of the muscles that are used for a golf swing. This would improve power and lessen the occurrence of injury. It also has a movement in there for the hips which are very important for golfing and swinging.
Working out for golf can be general or it can be specific. It truly depends on how long you have been golfing and what you are looking to accomplish. At any age, both types of training can be beneficial.
Yoga for senior golfers
One activity that is often recommended for seniors in general, as well as senior golfers, is yoga. Yoga is a practice that involves tons of balance, flexibility, and breathing. All of which are great for you as you age. One of the most important is going to be the balance aspect and flexibility aspect.
Golfing takes a lot of balance, coordination, and even some flexibility. There are certain points in a golf swing that actually use all three. So, practicing yoga can be a great way for you to develop these qualities.
There is research showing that men or women who are aged over 60 years old were able to increase their balance by using yoga (3).
Yoga is often recommended as a supplemental activity to your other main choices; however, it could be your main way of gaining strength and flexibility for golf. A good recommendation would be to actually incorporate all of it. Train for golf, use strength training to get more powerful, and then utilize yoga to improve the small things.
This approach can lead to a great increase in performance.
Yoga is also great for stress relief. As a senior or specifically as a senior who golfs, stress reduction is a must. Lower stress levels have been associated with longevity for some time now. If you want to play golf for a long time, yoga may be a way to make that happen.
To conclude on ways to improve your strength and flexibility in golf, even as a senior; you can see that there is plenty of room for said improvement. All it takes is a little dedication to some of the practices to make it happen.
You have to start with your warmup. This is a very important piece of the puzzle for performance, but also for injury prevention. It allows you to get the blood flowing and for muscles to loosen up a bit. It can be very simple.
All you need to do is elevate the heart rate some, which could mean a simple walk. From there you need to open the hips with some stretches and movement. This should suffice for a golfer who is looking to stay injury-free and perform well on the course.
Strength training is an amazing way for you to get stronger, but also improve your power output for golf. It causes the body to become very resilient as well. As we strength train, the forces cause the tendons and bones to grow stronger.
This is very important for you as you approach a more senior age, as we know that bones and tendons can lose their strength if not used as much. Therefore, strength training is a great avenue of improvement for golfing.
There are also ways to specifically train for golf. This can be the exercises you do, making them mimic golfing mechanics, or actually practicing. As you look to improve coordination and the efficiency of your swings, just get out there and golf.
The best way to get good at something is to actually do it. All of the greats for sports would spend hours practicing one move, and that’s how they became the greats.
Injury prevention is also a common theme that we revisit in this article. That’s because you can only play golf, as long as you aren’t hurt. If you can find a way to minimize the risk, then the chances of you having a long career will look bright.
This can come in the form of strength training as well as specific training. Both are great ways to strengthen the right muscles and keep other areas from lacking. Take the time to bulletproof your body from any golfing injury.
Yoga is also a very popular physical activity now. It has become very useful in the senior population as a way to stay active, but also stay injury-free. That can be applied to a golfing senior. Yoga is great for improving your balance, flexibility, and breathing.
All of which are great for decreasing fall rates in the elderly, but also preventing any muscle issues as you are participating in activities. I would also like to mention that yoga is great for lowering stress, which is in a way the silent killer. If you can find things like yoga to lower your stress levels, then you can play golf for a long time!
If you can take the time to implement all of these concepts into your routine, you will get stronger, more powerful, flexible, and better at golf. Not one single thing will make a massive change, but doing them all as a collective will help to ensure some improvements.
Blake Conner is a nutritionist who graduated from Mississippi State University. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, as well as a certified nutrition coach through Precision Nutrition. Blake runs his own remote nutrition coaching business to help people become the best versions of themselves.
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