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Hit the Links Better With HIIT

Apr 6, 2016

The Right Workouts Can Keep You On Course

Golf doesn’t immediately come to mind as a sport that can benefit from high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Wouldn’t that be football, or basketball, or many of the extreme outdoor sports? Well, yes, HIIT training can help with those athletic endeavors as well, but golf can cause some major wear and tear on the body, and a golfer can improve his game by being in better physical condition.  

Take one quick look at the golfers who contend every Sunday and it doesn’t take long to realize that the best of the best on the PGA TOUR® are also the players in the best shape. These guys are getting their Green Jackets fitted with an athletic cut in hopes of winning the Master’s. Rory McIlroy posts Instagram videos of his powerlifting prowess, then outdrives the majority of the guys on TOUR every week. Coincidence? Not so much.

So how can HIIT help you hit the links with an improved game this spring? Just like most sports, golf uses all of the muscles in the body and is considered a “burst sport,” generating a lot of energy in a short period, followed by a longer rest period. In terms of outside forces, a golf course also has many unpredictable factors from the uneven ground and gravitational forces to swinging the club at various angles and body positions. No two swings are alike, so golfers need to condition their bodies to mimic these playing conditions.

Trainers are now recommending HIIT to increase sports performance, particularly for golfers. Stephen Kopshaw is the owner and trainer of the FIT36® in Waldwick, NJ. A new concept in fitness training, FIT36® studios provide a 36-minute HIIT workout. Kopshaw and his FIT36® studio have trained many athletes and weekend warriors and believes that HIIT training at FIT36® can make a big difference for any golfer. 

“It’s a total body workout that improves power, strength and range of motion in all planes of movement,” says Kopshaw. “A traditional box gym workout won’t hit all the different muscle groups in such a short amount of time the way HIIT does, and although you wouldn’t think of it, golf works so many muscles in a very intense way with each swing.”

Another FIT36® trainer, J.R. Lofton in Denver at the Highlands studio, believes golfers can significantly benefit from the full body workout of HIIT.

“To be a great golfer, you need not only upper body strength, but the lower body as well,” adds Lofton, who is also the manager of the Highlands studio. “Functional training provides diversity, making it possible to hit essentially every muscle group. Golf is a sport that can take a toll on the body, but training with HIIT can actually help the golfer get in more rounds as well.”

The two trainers have put together some of their favorite exercises that are great for golfers who are looking for the proper training to improve their game.

Cardio Training is necessary because most golf games last for hours. Without endurance, your swing, accuracy and general competitiveness will be impacted and your back nine will feel like the last half of a long-distance run.

Kettlebell Swing – Starting with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, bend over at the hips with your knees bent and back straight. Grab the kettlebell with both hands and start to generate a swinging motion. The swing should not go past your inner thigh and no higher than shoulder height. Keeping your back flat, take a small squat on the down swing and then explode up through your heels, hamstrings and glutes while pushing your hips forward. This exercise helps develop ground up power, which drives balance, core strength and hip mobility

Functional Training involves building the muscles in the body that you use in golf. Before hitting the golf ball, you need to create stability through stronger leg muscles, and swinging the club requires upper body strength, particularly in your arms.

Lateral Wall Ball (Pictured) – Start by standing sideways and facing the wall, holding a Wall Ball in both hands. Drop into a very slight squat position, taking the ball to your outside hip (away from wall) with a slight rotation and keeping a good squat position. Come up and out of your squat, while rotating towards the wall in an explosive movement and throwing the ball at the wall. Catch the ball and repeat. Be sure to work both sides. Explosive rotational exercises help to improve power through the golf swing, providing you with more distance off the tee, as well as power through the rough and ease in the sand.

Single Leg Rotational Wall Toss – You’ll need a weighted ball (10-20 lbs.). Start by standing perpendicular to the wall, rotate the ball to the far side (away from the wall). Once you reach full rotation, quickly rotate back towards the wall while releasing the ball into the wall. Catch it on the bounce back. Maintain your balance throughout and repeat. 

Single Arm Plank Press (Pictured) – You’ll need a resistance band or cable machine (weight should be light to medium). Start by getting into a push-up position facing away from the anchor point of the weight (which is near your feet). Take the handle of the band with one hand and square your hips to the ground. Press the handle overhead as though you are doing an overhead press. Pause at the top, and then slowly bring your arm back down to the starting position.  Continue to maintain square hips through the entire motion. 

Lateral Plyo Box Jump – Find a solid surface that is 12-to-18 inches tall and stand next to it. Start in a medium squat with your hands/arms down to your side. Using your leg/hip power, jump off the ground laterally and land gently on the surface. Stand all the way up after each landing and step down after each rep. 

Flexibility Training helps golfers deliver a smoother swing, increase hip mobility and reduce the risk of muscle pulls.

 Monster Walks (Pictured) – Standing on top of an elastic band with your feet shoulder width apart, pick up both handles and cross them (right handle to left hand, left handle to the right hand). Keep the band tight by pulling up on the handles. With a slight bend in your knees, take side steps to the right and to the left while controlling the resistance by keeping tension on the band. Do not let the resistance control the movement. In other words, force your feet apart during the movement and feel the burn!  Loose, strong hips and glutes are critical for a strong, smooth golf swing.


Windshield Wipers (Pictured) – Lay flat on your back on a mat. Bring your arms out to your

side to counter balance your legs as they rotate. Raise your legs up to the ceiling while keeping a slight bend in your knee. Slowly, and in a controlled fashion, rotate through your core to bring your legs to one side (as far as you can comfortably go), and then slowly use your core to bring your legs back to center. Repeat on the other side.

Strength Training gives you the power to hit the ball over long distances.

 Kneeling Overhead Press (Pictured) – With one knee on the ground and the other foot out front in a 90-degree bend, hold a medium to heavy dumbbell in one hand to the side with your knee down at shoulder level. Keep core and posture strong as you press the dumbbell overhead, switching sides after a set amount of reps. This exercise will help you develop strong, powerful arms for increased club head speed.

Single Leg Lunges – Using a suspension system, hold one handle with the same hand as the planted foot. Keep your other leg off the ground and slowly slide back into a lunge position. Maintain good upper body posture and stop just before your feet or knees touch the floor. At the bottom, reverse the motion as you go to starting position; maintain balance and repeat.

If you are still not sold on whether functional fitness can up your game, consider this. In a study conducted by The American College of Sports Medicine, researchers worked with 18 men over 70 years of age. Seven men were part of a control group, and 11 participated in an 8-week progressive functional training program. The training program resulted in significant improvement in club head speed and several components of functional fitness.

It’s time to get out there and work up a sweat so you can start adding some distance off the tee. You’ll be the envy of your foursome and find yourself feeling better before and after each round.

More golf? Yes, please!