by Randy Leopando, BS, CSCS

Golf has exploded onto the sports scene over the last several years. While some view the sport as slow-paced, golf actually requires a great deal of strength and stamina, not to mention skill. Your muscles, particularly those of the legs, hips, and upper torso, must be both strong and flexible to keep your handicap below an embarrassing level.

The key components
To be successful in golf there are three components of fitness that you should focus on: strength/power, flexibility/mobility, and cardiovascular endurance. These also are the three most important components of any well-rounded fitness program.

Strength and power
Developing muscular strength and power is essential for generating club head speed, a determining factor in how far you can hit the ball.  One or more sets of eight to 12 repetitions of key exercises should be performed three days per week.

A recent study found this regimen to be extremely effective. As similar studies have shown, strength training brings about significant improvements in lean body weight, reduced body fat, increased leg strength and joint flexibility and a reduction in systolic blood pressure.

But more important, at least to the golfers in this study, was the significant improvement in club head speed. The 17 exercisers increased the speed of their swing by an average of 5 mph. The control group experienced no such improvements.

Flexibility and mobility
Flexibility is another important key to developing a full, fluid golf swing. Simply swinging the club is not enough, but you can increase the range of motion in your shoulders, trunk, low back and hamstrings with just a few minutes of daily stretching.

But don’t save your stretching until five minutes before you tee off. Flexibility exercises must be done every day. And always warm up your muscles before you stretch them to increase your range of motion and prevent injury.

Cardiovascular conditioning
Finally, cardiovascular conditioning is essential to help you keep your energy up during a long round of golf. That conditioning can help you deal with the stress of making a crucial putt or of getting out of a sand trap.

Try to fit in at least 20 minutes of walking, cycling or whatever aerobic activity you prefer, 3-4 times per week.

Final Thoughts
Improving your golf game requires a bit more than simply playing a lot of golf, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym. You’ll not only come closer to par, but you’ll also reap numerous health benefits, such as increased lean body weight, reduced body fat, lower blood pressure and increased strength and flexibility.