Fit for Life – How to maintain strength, fitness and a healthy lifestyle as we age
Tommy Mooney

Watch this video of Tommy Mooney,  Senior Strength & Conditioning Coach at UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic’s Sports Medicine Department., presenting on ‘Fit for Life – How to maintain strength, fitness and a healthy lifestyle as we age’.

Tommy Mooney is a Senior Strength & Conditioning Coach at UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic’s Sports Medicine Department.

I’m Tommy Mooney Lead Strength & Conditioning Coach at UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic. I will be talking about Fit for Life: How to maintain strength, fitness and a healthy lifestyle as we age. I will plan to summarise some of the evidence regarding healthy aging, particularly as it pertains to golf performance and offer some practical examples of what you can do to help improve your fitness and golf performance.

It is well understood the importance of being fit for an array of lifestyle factors such as benefits like general health, longevity and weight management.

What do we mean by being fit?

Fit means many things to many people, whether in group or individual activities, indoors or outdoors. Whether it be cardiovascular-based, flexibility-based or strength-based.


Tonight, we are more interested in fitness as it pertains to golf we can all likely agree that Rory McIlroy is a fitter golfer than John Daly. We will talk about some of the physical factors and what we will do to change them to help improve our golf performance.

Firstly, I am going to talk about the importance of muscular strength. Anyone who has watched the Netflix ‘Full Swing’ documentary has seen this custom-built gym that the PGA Tour brings with them around the country to all the major events to allow all elite golfers to maintain their strength and conditioning work whilst on tour.

Strength is also important for the ageing golfer. Ageing is associated with the loss of muscle mass and strength and can often result in falls, functional decline, feelings of subjective weakness or on the golf course that may look like a loss of distance and fatigue.

Typically, as we age, we can see a loss of muscle mass. This is shown here in this study with the two MRI images. One of a 60-year-old woman vs an 80-year-old woman and basically what we are looking at here is the muscle mass or the darker material vs the white material being more fatty infiltration.

As you can see as we age typically the number and size of that muscle mass in this instance is your quadricep muscle. We see that decrease while we see the fatty infiltration increase. However, this does not have to be the case.

This particular study looked at 40 master athletes aged between 40-80 years old who trained 4-5 times a week during this study they underwent tests of body composition, quadricep strength, and bilateral MRIs. What we can see here is a 40-year-old master athlete relative to a sedentary vs an active population and basically, what we can see here is the muscle mass, size and the number of muscle fibres maintained really well in our active population vs in our sedentary population we see an increase in adipose or fatty infiltration into the muscle.

Ultimately, this study contradicts the common belief that as we age, we lose muscle mass and strength, and that suggests that the loss of muscle mass and strength is a factor of disuse rather than ageing alone. This has important benefits for our ability on and off the golf course and will help us to maintain that muscle mass and strength and eliminate some of those risks we mentioned earlier around a loss of independence and falls.

Another thing that can often hamper our golf performance is injury, time away from the golf course due to injury is going to have a knock-on effect not only on our general health and fitness but also on our handicap so injury can often be the start of that misuse that we mentioned. Post-injury, resistance training is really important. It has been shown here in several studies and we see it daily around the clinic that it improves function, reduces playing scores, and helps improve strength. Strength plays a fairly key role in keeping us on the course as well as benefiting performance, as we mentioned.

If all of that doesn’t sway your opinion on the necessity of strength as a part of our exercise routine this particular meta-analysis looked at nearly 2 million participants over 38 studies and what they found with this was adults with higher levels of strength had a lower risk of death when compared with those of lower levels of muscular strength.

As a general guideline, in 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) changed its guidance to include strength training twice per week, and basically, those guidelines look like this. Trying to incentivise 150 minutes of light activity a week, again if we are playing golf we are already ticking this box quite easily.

75 minutes of vigorous activity that is increasing our heart rate and getting out of breath a little bit more.

Strength training as we mentioned at least twice per week. Some form of balance training and minimise sedentary time.

Again, if we are on the golf course a couple of times a week we will tick most of these boxes but strength training is not a box that we will tick once. Again, it is important to know that these are generalised guidelines and do need to be adapted to the individual, but they do show the importance of strength.

How does a golfer lifting weights in the gym contribute to a pro playing well on the golf course or hitting long drives. This study shows strength training and healthy non-injured golfers. The study analysed the relationship between muscle strength and swing performance, such as club head speed, driving distance, ball speed, and skill (handicap/score).

The results seemed to implicate that there is a positive relationship between handicap and swing performance. Although relatively few studies have been investigated in this area. There is a positive correlation between handicap and muscle strength and also a distinct relationship between driving distance, swing speed, ball speed and muscle strength. The results go on to show that training of the lower leg, hip extensors, trunk power as well as grip strength are relative for improved golf performance.

This slide shows a sample training program or strength plan for a golfer. It is important that these programs are individualised so it is best to consult a professional when looking to begin any new strength plan. Ideally, we want to try and meet the individual where they are at for example someone who has a history of training regularly vs someone who is coming from a more sedentary base. This example is a 6-week program for a relatively trained individual with a good experience of strength training.

To show you some of these exercises. Again, these are advanced exercises for someone who has not done strength training before. In the top left we have a racked deadlift exercise looking to build up posterior chain strength. Here, we have a hip thrust exercise looking to develop gluteal and hip extensor strength. These are going to be important exercises when we think about our follow-through in our drives.

We have some upper-body exercises here in our push-ups, our single arm pull down and our single arm press. We have some lower limb, working on balance here with our split squat, a single leg squat working on our single leg strength as well as our T-spine rotation working on rotation, mobility and flexibility.

Here are some general guidelines for strength training as we start as a beginner we want to focus more on lower/lighter resistance utilising bodyweight exercises we might start with higher repetitions and lower sets and that can progress into heavier weights with lower volume. Again, the sessions per week may be reduced at the start like 1 or 2 and that can gradually progress as we become more advanced.

In terms of exercises again here are some sample exercises these are not all of the exercises that we use but just give you an example of some that might be used across a couple of different types of movements. It is not necessarily the case that we move linearly from one and these are an example of some exercises that can be used.

It would be remised not to outline the importance of cardiovascular exercise although I think everyone understands the benefits of cardiovascular exercise in terms of gain, reducing inflammation and reducing the risk of chronic disease. To quickly talk through it this meta-analysis looked at 33 studies with over 100,000 participants and what they found here was people that who had better cardiovascular fitness had a lower mortality rate or incidents of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and essentially working on our fitness, whatever form of fitness that may be is beneficial towards all calls of mortality.

General guidelines for cardiovascular training are to get out of breath regularly. We get that lower-intensity exercise ticked off as we mentioned earlier from the WHO recommendations and we can try to challenge ourselves a little bit more with slightly more intensive exercises during the week. Again, that starting point is going to be based on your current level of fitness examples might include some fast walking, walk to run, cycling and swimming can all be effective methods.

Naturally, with golf, we all enjoy the social aspect and that’s no different when exercise training. Trying to make measures of progress, we track our handicaps, we track our scores on the golf course which should be no different to our training off the golf course as well. As I mentioned, if you are unsure of something that is where getting advice from a professional is key. These are general guidelines and not targeted at anyone and will naturally depending on your levels of fitness but aiming for 3 days a week. Some of that may be made up from golf but outside of golf then what are we doing? Is there other activities we could include there.

Again, we mentioned looking to utilise some higher intensity exercises where we are going to push that heart rate into higher ranges or higher levels. Our steady-state things are going to be largely ticked off the golf course especially if we are playing a couple rounds a week but then the interval training option might offer a good alternative to a challenge that is more intensive cardiovascular sessions and see those benefits as we mentioned.

At UPMC SSC we offer some bespoke fitness testing. It is covered by various health insurers, VHI in particular cover some amount of the cost of our fitness testing here. The fitness testing covers a variety of different elements so we will look at body composition, upper body strength, lower body strength. We can also look at swing speed assessment as well as a cardiovascular fitness test or a V02 max that can be done on a treadmill or an exercise bike.

Testing is one part of the equation but then it is implementing those testing results into a bespoke programme based on the individual and based on what their goals are as well and that is all included in the VHI package that I mentioned earlier.

If you have any questions you can email

For further information on this subject or to make an appointment, please contact
Date: 14th March 2024
Location: Online
This event is free of charge