Bodybuilding For Golf

by Thomas Stevenson, PGA Professional

Illustration by Hershel CaldwellEditor’s note: There is no question about the fact that Tiger Woods has been a driving influence on physical fitness for golfers at all levels. His bodybuilding regiment is secret but there is no secret about his appearance and improved play as a result of his bodybuilding program. David Duval, Craig Stadler, Colin Montgomery, Larry Nelson are just a few of the bigger names, and there are man more, who are finding lower scores with better bodies.

Gary Player is probably the best know guru of golf fitness. Gary’s emphasis on fitness over the years has contributed much to his great play and endurance when many of his peers have long retired.
Gary, Tiger and any fitness trainer will tell you that body building for the sake of building muscle mass can be harmful to a golf swing. Great care and planning must be a part of any fitness program.

Thomas Stevenson, PGA Professional, is a pioneer in body building for golf and has developed a bodybuilding system designed for golfers by a golfer. We present the first of several installments called “Bodybuilding For Golf.” We are convinced that our readers can benefit from expert guidance, but as with any exercise program, please check with your doctor before you set out to become a modern day Arnold “you know who.”

Athletes from every sport use weight training as it is one of the most versatile of all athletic activities. It can be used for a variety of purposes; increasing strength, losing body fat, conditioning for sports and rehabilitating injuries. Golfers can use weight training to increase their strength and flexibility and improve their balance. A stronger player is better able to be firm throughout the swing and can develop greater clubhead speed. This means more distance off the tee and more power to hit the ball out of difficult lies, as well as more stamina and better overall health. A modified bodybuilding program, using primarily barbells and dumbbells is the fastest way to achieve these goals.

Many golfers are hesitant to try weight training for fear they will become tight and muscle bound. On the contrary, if you exercise through the whole range of motion of the joints, you will maintain and probably increase your flexibility. Several years ago, a study compared the flexibility of champion college gymnast, champion college wrestlers and average 16 year old boys, with that of national champion bodybuilders and weight lifters. The weight lifters were found to be slightly more flexible (in measurements of 30 different joint movements) than the gymnast, and much more flexible than wrestlers and 16 year olds. Big Lou Ferrigno; the “Incredible Hulk” and three time Mr. Universe won one of the network “Superstars” competitions, beating dozens of supposedly more agile athletes.

While the acceptance of improving strength and flexibility through weight training is fairly new to golf, there have been several champions to use this form of exercise. Gary Player has been an avid weight trainer throughout his career. because of his small stature, he felt that he needed increased strength to play power golf and be successful among the elite players of the PGA Tour. Nick Faldo is another who has used an off season weight training program to improve his strength and power. Today, a fitness trailer follows the tour each week and increasing numbers of players train with weights on a regular basis. A bodybuilding program, modified for golfers, would include two or three workouts per week, 45-60 minutes per session. Improving your game through weight training requires a long term commitment, and of course, the exercises do not take the place of practice on the driving range and putting green.

There seems to be a natural selection process, maybe subconscious, wherein every golfer selects a swing style that suits his own strengths. For instance, the swing of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Chi Chi Rodriguez appears to emphasize different muscle groups. Nicklaus uses a strong hip turn and leg drive. Palmer, who is often described as having arms like a blacksmith, makes a fast arm swing, and Rodriguez seems to be very wristy. for all golfers, though, the muscles of the legs, hips, back and arms are the most important. A weight training program for golfers should exercise the entire body but place emphasis on those muscles.

Strength in golf is of little use without flexibility. Using proper technique is all exercises will improve flexibility as well as strength and help prevent injuries.


Always stretch before lifting to prepare the joints and extend the range of motion of the muscles. Stretch until you feel a slight tension. Hold the position for 10-20 seconds. Relax a moment, then extend the stretch slightly farther for another 10 seconds. Keep the muscles relaxed when stretching, never bounce or jerk into position.


Warming up prepares your joints and muscles for activity. Perform a light first set of each exercise to bring the blood to the muscles to be worked. A few minutes on the stationary bike, or some light calisthenics, also make a good warmup.


An exercise “set” is a fixed number of repeated movements, or “repetitions.” A repetition of any free weight exercise consists of two basic motions. A concentric muscle contraction occurs when the muscle contracts and shortens. For example, when you curl a dumbbell upwards, your biceps muscle shortens as it develops tension. An eccentric muscle contraction occurs when the muscle lengthens while developing tension. When you lower that same dumbbell downwards, the resistance forces the muscle to lengthens. Studies have shown that both concentric and eccentric contractions are necessary to achieve maximum increases in muscular strength and hypertrophy. With each repetition of an exercise, smoothly but force the weights up while concentrating on the targeted muscle (s). Do not haphazardly let gravity return the weights to the starting position. It should take approximately two seconds to complete the concentric phase and two more second to complete the eccentric phase of each repetition.


Do not hold your breath during performance of an exercise. Inhale during the beginning of the lift, momentarily hold your breath during the most difficult part, then exhale as you finish the lift. When doing a bench press, for instance, inhale as you lower the weight to your chest, momentarily hold breath as you begin to press the weight up and then exhale during the latter part of the movement.


Use proper body positioning for all exercises as shown in this program. Always strive to use good form, do not jerk or twist when lifting weights. It is a good idea to have a spotter for certain exercises, like squats and bench presses, when you are getting close to your strength limits. Back off if you feel pain during the performance of an exercise.

Coming soon we will have the second installment by Thomas Stevenson which includes a complete weight training program for golfers and power practice schedule.

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