124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2


5 stupid exercises for golfers (and 5 ways to replace them)

June 28, 2023


Your heart is in the right place. You want to be stronger, healthier and play better golf. But if you're anything like the typical gym goers that Golf Digest chief fitness advisor Ben Shear sees, you might be going about it the wrong way.

Several popular exercises that many think are helping you can put you on the fast track to injuries and make it hard to swing a golf club properly. Shear, architect of the new Golf Digest Fitness Trainer Certification program, has trained several players on the PGA Tour including major champions Jason Day and Webb Simpson and Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald. Here he has identified five exercises that you should stop doing right now and offers a better replacement for each.

1. Instead of seated lat pulldowns, do elbows-high rows.


One of the most popular exercises in the gym can ruin your posture. When your pelvis is locked down during a lat pulldown, the back muscles being trained rotate and round your spine, which can lead to a steeper, armsy golf swing. If you switch from pulldowns to using a cable rowing machine (or bands), pull the cable into your chest with your elbows at shoulder height and your torso upright. This works several muscles groups in your back for better posture and golf-club control.

2. Instead of med-ball rotations, do t-spine twists.

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Rotational core exercises are great for golf—if done properly. Unfortunately, a heavy medicine ball promotes bad form by putting the spine in flexion (rounded forward) while making it hard to rotate the torso from the mid-back like you should. Also, it's easy to cheat and simply move your arms and not your torso. If you switch to t-spine twists, you can focus on rotating from side to side with your mid-back (thoracic-spine region). Place a club across your chest, bend your knees, and tighten your abs as you rotate.

3. Instead of crunches, do push-back planks.


If you think about the typical rounded, unathletic posture of an elderly golfer, and then look at a person doing crunches, you should see some similarities. Golfers need to protect their spines from rounding, but crunches promote it. Sooner or later, the combination of crunches and golf will cause some back issues. Instead, doing push-back planks, with your feet in slings on sliders or on a physio ball, keeps the spine in a neutral position while really working the key core muscles needed for power in the golf swing.

4. Instead of upright rows, do bottom's-up kettlebell presses.


When you pull up to complete an upright row, the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuffs smash into the top of your shoulder blades, potentially causing tears and dysfunction in your golf swing. Instead, to improve shoulder strength, which is key to controling a golf club at high speeds, hold a kettlebell upside down at shoulder height and push straight up, keeping your forearm, hand and bell as vertical as possible. Not only does this exercise do wonders for your shoulders, it improves forearm and grip strength, making those shots out of the rough easier.

5. Instead of leg extensions, do split squats.


Average golfers typically have weak hamstrings—especially those with desk jobs—when compared to the quadriceps (front of thigh) muscles. When the hamstrings are weak, it's a challenge to stay in posture when making golf swings, which leads to poor contact. Instead, split squats really focus on the hamstrings, allowing you to stay down through impact and blister the ball. Keep your torso upright and head back as you drop your trail knee to the ground. As this move becomes easier, you can make it more challenging by holding dumbbells.

Do these exercises regularly to combat negative habits. For more on Shear's new Golf Digest Fitness Trainer Certification program, click here.