Should Golfers Lift Weights – Find Out Why Strength Training Is Key

Mcilroy Weight Training 5 Deadlift

For many decades there has been a common misconception in the golfing community that lifting weights will hinder your performance on the golf course and while that has been quietly changing in recent years, there still remains a lot to be said as the science catches up with a game that is super proud of its traditions.

There are plenty of reasons why golfers will shy away from lifting weights and a lot of the time it will be down to the fact that they just aren’t sure what they are trying to achieve by lifting.

When you look at golfer’s at the top of their game in the recent past like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods you can quickly see that strength training has been a big part of their game and there are plenty of reasons why that is the case.

Strength training vs bodybuilding

Military Press For Golfers

The most common objection that golfers and many other athletes will have when they start lifting weights is that too much muscle would affect their swing and have a negative effect on the game.

As a qualified personal trainer and someone with 20 years of experience in golf, I would never set a golfer out on a workout program to gain muscle, the goal will always be to increase strength without adding useless bulk.

The main difference between strength training and bodybuilding is in the amount of reps, sets and weight that you use for your training.

Goal Of Body Building

The goal of bodybuilding is to pack on muscle to look good, it is not to become stronger although that is a by-product of the process.

To achieve their goals, bodybuilders will lift lower weight in rep ranges between 8 and 12 which will cause the muscles to rip as much as possible and grow back bigger so that they can deal with that exercise better the next time.

They will eat everything around them to pack on muscle as well in a intentionally calorie dense diet.

Goal Of Strength Training For Athletes

Mcilroy Weight Training

The goal of strength training, obviously, is to become stronger and while gaining some muscle will be a part of this, it is not the aim. Once we increase our strength, we will look the transfer that extra strength into power which will allow us to swing the golf club faster and hit the ball further and with more control

Strength training relies on heavy weights for low reps 3-6 and a relatively high number of sets 3-5.

Utilising Compound Lifts

Golf is a game that requires the full body to play and the golf swing utilise the whole body moving through the legs and the hips as you swing The club with your arms.

That being said, a program will look to increase our full body strength with a range of compound exercises.

Compound exercises are ones that require more than one muscle group to complete the lift so it aids in growing the overall strength of the body.

We will have our main compound lifts as well as accessory lifts to completely exhaust the muscle. Regardless of whether it’s one of our main lifts or an accessory it will still be heavy and the reps will be relatively low.

You can complete your strength training in 2 or 3 days depending on how much time you have and how busy your golf schedule is along with your work commitments etc.

The Goal Of Becoming A Better Athlete

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The number one goal you should have in the gym is to become a better athlete and having worked with various different types of athletes over the years, we can tailor a program specifically to improve the athlete.

The goal will always be to add strength and sport-specific power and never to pack on muscle. Once we get past any misconceptions and point out that all the top athletes in the sport are doing strength training we can get started with making progress.

When you look at two of the top golf athletes of the past two generations in Tiger Woods and McIlroy, you can quickly see that what they’re doing is strength training, lifting heavy weights for a low amount of reps.

As the knowledge and the science behind the benefits associated with strength training become more commonly known, we can see all the top golfers in the future being heavily invested in strength training.

Benefits Of Strength Training For Golfers

Higher Swing Speed And More Distance

Powerful Golf Swing

The number one benefit of increasing our strength is that we can transfer that extra strength into swinging the club faster and hitting the ball further.

This is not only good off the tee, but it also gives us more options for hitting the green off the fairway and for laying up.

More Control Over The Ball

All of a sudden, when you add strength and power to your swing you don’t have to work so hard anymore to hit the same yardages as other players and that gives you more control over the club to hit the ball accurately, deliberately and with the correct amount of spin that you want.

Increased Stamina And Less Fatigue

When you add strength to the body it is able to perform more repetitions without fatiguing and causing you to lose distance as the round where is on.

Golfers’ practice all the time while at the driving range and on the course and they also have to compete in competitions so being able to swing the club over and over again without losing any of your distance and strength is a big advantage of lifting weights the right way.

More Consistency

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By becoming stronger and fitter, the effects of fatigue are less likely to cause us to mishit our shots and end up in the rough.

Increased consistency is a big advantage of strength training and it allows you to hit your target more often with increased accuracy.

Better Technique

Countless repetitions of strength training exercises turns our body into a different beast able to carry out the movements required for the golf swing with ease, over and over again.

When we are not strong it is easy to blame our clubs or the lack of technique when your body just may not be strong enough to swing with the correct technique for a full round without fatugeing and breaking down.

Strength training allows you to increase your form consistently over a full round.

Reduces The Chance Of Injury

Increasing the strength and robustness of your body reduces the chances of picking up shoulder or back injuries on the golf course.

You don’t have to try so hard to hit as far as the people you’re playing with, you can relax a bit more and focus on getting a correct technique and putting the ball in the middle of the fairway every time.

Increased Mental Discipline And Toughness

Anyone that plays golf knows that it’s as much of a mental game as a physical one and those that make it to the top have to be mentally superior to deal with all the pressure. It’s hard enough for most people to tee off on the first hole in front of onlookers so imagine how the pros feel.

Lifting heavy weights consistenly is a tough undertaking that builds the mental strength and character necessary to take on larger challenges in life and not just in golf.

Key Lifts Strength Training

If you are new to strength training, you should contact a good personal trainer or send us an email at and we can hook you up with a free video consultation to get you started.

Basically for beginners you want to go bit lighter for more reps until you build a solid base and then you can move into strength training.

The third phase would involve strength training and maybe one day of power related exercises.

We find that increasing the strength, will generally lead to an increase in power and a faster swing speed, naturally anyway.

Lift #1 – The Deadlift

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The deadlift is always going to be one of our man strength lifts for golf. It works the glutes, hamstrings, lower back and grip strength in the arms making it perfect for developing overall strength.

The main thing here is to keep your form correct and your back straight. For building strength go for 5 reps by 5 sets, 4×5 or 3×5.

If you’re new to weights, go with 8 by 3 for the first month and then slightly increase your weight and lower your reps as you progress.

The lower reps and the higher the weight the more you will be moving towards power gains as opposed to strength.

Lift #2 – The Squat

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The squat is one of the most famous exercises for adding strength to the lower body. It engages the quads, glutes and the lower back making an excellent compound exercise for overall strength.

Lift #3 – Bench Press

Tiger Woods Weight Training 5

The bench press is one of our favourite exercises for the upper body. It works the chest, triceps and the front head of our shoulders and it’s quality for building upper body strength.

Remember to stick to our heavy rep and set ranges unless your beginner for maximum gains.

Lift #4 – Pull-Ups / Weighted Pull Ups

Pull-ups are often referred to as the squat of the upper body. They engage the lats, back and biceps and it can be a tough exercise the master getting started.

As you get better you need to add a weight vest or belt so that you can keep the reps under 5 with maximum effort.

Lift #5 – Military Press

The military press is perfect for building up the strength and shoulders and upper back. A lot of the golf movement will come from this area so it makes sense to put a lot of focus on building up the strength.

Remember to keep the weights high and reps low and you can always dip your knees and push through the legs for the last reps if you are close to failure.

Good Accessory Lifts

I like to do the accessories at six reps for three sets and my favourite exercises will be:


Heavy dumbbell or barbell lunges to exhaust the glutes, hamstrings and quads. 6 reps each leg for 3 sets.

Chest Flies

Dumbbell Flies

Chest flies are great for exhausting the chest muscles and again go relatively heavy 6 reps for 3 sets will be our recommendation.

Lateral Raises

This can fully exhaust the side head of your shoulders and again we want to go heavy with 6 reps by 3 sets.

Cable rows

Perfect for working the inner muscles of the back. Go heavy with these for 3 sets of 6 reps for a strong and muscular back that will serve you well on the course.

Moving Into Power

Some of our favourite moves for turning that strength into power for golf will include.

Sled Runs

Sled Pushes

Sled runs, loading plates onto the slide and pushing it up and down the gym floor to build your overall fitness strength and power in the legs.

Cable Wood Chops

Starting with the cable up high and pulling it down hard and sharp across your body, will work the lats and simulate the golf swing allowing us to build our swing speed and power.

Med Ball Twist Slams

Med Ball Slams

Twisting with your body i’m firing a med ball as hard as you can at the wall is a great way to build that twisting strength for your golf swing.

If you liked this article, don’t forget to check out our strength training for golf distance when we break down two and three day workout plans or send an email to for a free golf strength tutorial.