Having a strong upper body is essential for golfers. A strong upper body will help you hit farther and be resilient to injury. It is even more important that golfers train their upper bodies intelligently.
You need to consider your shoulders, elbows, and wrists in every movement that you perform. Upper body training is not about getting jacked and pumped up like a bodybuilder. Training the upper body for golf is all about functionality, sport-specific, low risk-to-reward ratio movements, that will directly carry over to the course.
To gain strength in the upper half, I think the best implements are barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. These implements will engage the most musculature and can be trained and overloaded over time. Never sacrifice your form for weight!
The neurological training benefits are extremely beneficial for all athletes. These compound movements will train the muscles to gain power and strength in the upper body. You are not going to see a lot of bodybuilding or bicep and tricep exercises here. Compound movements train these muscles naturally anyways.
I recommend these movements in the early off-season, fall season, winter, and in-season training regimen. How heavy, how often, and what exercises you are using are determined by the competition schedule and your training readiness.
In this article, I will be going over the 7 best upper body exercises for golfers to help you stay healthy and hit farther!
Upper Body Exercises For Golf
One of my favorite push-up variations, the spider man push-up trains horizontal pushing strength and lower body coordination. This is a great challenge for golfers looking to gain upper body and core strength, as well as lower body coordination and flexibility.
Assume a push-up position. As you lower yourself down, bring your right leg up as close to your elbow as you can. As you push back up, return the moving leg to the starting position. Alternate legs until all reps are complete for the set.
A strong posterior chain is essential for shoulder health and upper body strength. The Pull-Up trains this posterior chain (Lats, upper back, rear delt, rotator cuff) to be strong and resilient. Another added benefit of the pull-up is core and lower back stabilization.
A full range of motion in your pull-ups is critical for success here. I like to progress athletes into pull-ups. We initially will start with an eccentric phase, followed by an isometric, and finally a concentric one. I sometimes have athletes use bands to help with their pull-ups initially.
If you’re not ready for the pull-up, don’t worry! You can start with inverted rows and lat pull downs to gain strength. I also recommend straight arm hanging and isometric holds with your chin over the bar. These are great alternatives that will help you in the pull-up progression.
I typically program pull-ups in the early off-season and winter programs. I avoid most heavy overhead movements during the fall season and in-season training regiments due to the high load on the shoulder and elbow with multiple competitions per week.
Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press
One of my favorite horizontal pressing movements, the Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press is a great option for golfers. This pressing movement is great because it can be overloaded, trains single-arm strength (sport specific), shoulder stability, and is extremely joint friendly.
Bent-Over Barbell Row From Pins
A great horizontal row that trains the posterior chain is the bent-over barbell row from the pins. The Bent-Over Barbell Row from the pins is a great movement to help golfers because the setup is fairly similar to the way we approach the ball and apply force from a bent-over position.
Set the pins on the rack so that the barbell is at knee height. Hinge at the waist and maintain a neutral spine as you grab the barbell with a thumb width from the knurling. Keep that bent-over position and row the barbell in as much as you can until it touches your abdomen. Slowly lower the barbell back to the pins. Reset each rep and pull from a “dead stop” each time.
1-Arm Dumbbell Row
A classic horizontal row that I love for golfers, is the One Arm Dumbbell Row. This is a great rowing variation for single-arm training.
An awesome benefit of this variation is the non-rowing shoulder needs to stabilize as the other performs the row. Because your positioning is perpendicular to the floor, you are also training cross-body tension, engaging that core, and resisting rotation.
We know anti-rotation in the gym will aid in our ability to display rotational power on the course, so this is a great movement to train often!
Half Kneeling Single-Arm Dumbbell Press
One of my favorite shoulder-friendly pressing movements, the half kneeling single-arm dumbbell press is a great movement for golfers to gain strength in the overhead pressing pattern.
This is a great exercise for golfers because overhead strength and stability are often neglected in their training. I also love dumbbells as pressing implements because they force the athlete to train with a single arm and stabilize each movement.
Take a kneeling position, core tight, glutes engaged, and get your dumbbell in a neutral position (palms facing in). If your right knee is up, press with your left arm. Keep your non-pressing hand on your waist or on your stomach. This will give you feedback to help you keep your core engaged and not slouch. Press the dumbbell straight overhead.
At the top of the position, your bicep should be near your ear. Slowly lower the dumbbell and complete all reps before changing arms.
Feet Elevated Inverted Row (On a Med Ball)
Horizontal rows are one of the key components of a healthy golfer’s strength training routine. One of my favorite rows is the feet elevated Inverted Row. This is a challenging variation because as you elevate the feet on the med ball, you have to stabilize the core and lower body as you row. I recommend a pronated grip.
Remember, a full range of motion is critical here. Hang all the way down, row your body as one unit, squeeze the shoulder blades, and lock in each rep. Horizontal rows help balance out the shoulder and train those posterior chain muscles to be strong and resilient.