When it comes to golf, fitness means basically three things: upper body strength, flexibility and cardio endurance. When all three aspects are improved, your swing becomes stronger and more accurate, and stability and power are increased. Golf fitness is a new phenomenon and one that has taken the world of golf to a new level of professionalism.
A better, more efficient golf swing depends much on upper body strength. Golfers who have strong arms, shoulders and back will be able to transmit that energy more efficiently to the club and to the golf ball. Cable exercises are especially useful to improve both your strength and your golf swing. You can do these at home with an elastic band (available at any sports store) or at the gym using the cable machines. If you're doing the exercise at home, tie the elastic band to a pole or door handle at the height your hands reach when your arms are fully extended toward the floor. Then do putting stroke movements as if you were to hit the ball forward. You can also tie the band over your head and, grabbing the handle, swing down and toward the opposite side. These simple exercises will work both shoulders, chest and arms muscles. For maximum results, do at least 30 minutes of upper body conditioning twice a week, using either dumbbells or exercise machines, or by performing push ups and pull-ups.
Flexibility not only allows for a better swing but it also protects against injuries, especially in older golfers or those with previous muscle or joint problems. Stretching is especially important for golfers because swinging involves multi-joint movements that require both strength and coordination. When force is applied to muscles and tendons that are not flexible, the risk of injuries increases significantly. Flexibility also improves balance, essential to help focus on the ball when swinging.
Lower back, side and hamstring stretches are especially important in golf. Before you attempt any of those, make sure you warm up for at least five minutes by doing some cardio, marching in place or riding a stationary bike. Examples of stretches that are golf-related include bending down at the lower back and holding the back of your heels. Don't bounce but instead hold the stretch, breath deep and try to relax even deeper into it. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, release and repeat after a few seconds. Hamstring stretches can be done by standing on the edge of a step and lowering your heels toward the floor. You can either hold the stretch or slowly move onto your tiptoes before lowering your heels into the original position. Again, no bouncing or rapid movements. Finally, simple movements like swinging side to side will increase your range of movement and flexibility.
Cardio endurance will help you stabilize your breathing as you hit your swing, as well as ensure that you maintain club control, concentration and speed. If you get tired too quickly, not only will your swing lose power, but you'll also lose attention and the ability to judge distance and appropriate shots.
Cardiovascular endurance can be gained by doing any form of cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes three to five times a week. This includes running, biking, hiking or swimming. Anything that keeps your heart pumping at a higher than average speed for a continuous amount of time will increase cardiovascular resistance and strength. If you don't have a lot of time to exercise, try interval training, where you perform a series of high-intensity exercises one after the other, without breaks in between, for 10 to 15 minutes. An example of an interval cardio routine will include two to three minutes of a medium-intensity cardio routine (such as biking or walking on an inclined treadmill), followed by a minute of running or jumping rope, followed by a medium-intensity exercise and so on.