Get Fit for Golf – Get Fit for Life with Luke Hart

Watch this video of Luke Hart, Senior Strength & Conditioning Coach and Fitness Lab Lead at UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic, presenting on the importance of fitness for golf and fitness for life in general.

This presentation was recorded as part of SSC’s Evening for Golfers online conference in February.

Luke HartLuke Hart is a Senior Strength & Conditioning coach at UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic.

Luke Leads SSC’s Fitness Lab and Health Lab Programmes in our state of the art Sports & Exercise Medicine Department.

Tonight I am going to present on how being fit for golf is being fit for life. My name is Luke Hart and I am the senior strength and conditioning coach here at UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic.

What I want to talk about is being fit for golf is very much the same as being fit for life and the two go hand in hand. I suppose the reason that this has become such a big issue currently, and has become very topical is that in the last year we have seen the players hitting the ball on the PGA tour further than ever before. People like Bryson DeChambeau have really changed the game of golf, so it is a really prominent feature of everyone’s conversation at the golf club at the moment.

This picture here is from the European tour- and it is the gym that goes with them all around the world. This has been happening for the last couple of years. The gyms are following the players and the players now have access at every single tournament, so they can be lifting weights even while they are at tournaments.

We can see that this is something they are actively partaking. You can see on the left there are the players lifting at the Paris Open – lifting some pretty heavy weights. Then we can see Shane Lowry on the right, again lifting a couple of hundred kilo’s there and really doing his strength and conditioning.

There are a couple of reasons why this has started to become more important. We can see that these methods are not really just for the pros – they are actually for everyday golfers, but also for everyday people. It is not just for the young hitters – we can see here the very young man here in the left picture lifting some serious load. Whilst it is for their golf, it is also very prominent for their health in general.

One of the biggest reasons we should focus on strength and conditioning is because in golf if we are on a tee box with 4 of us – probably 1 of us in the past 12 months has suffered from an injury.

The most prominent injuries we see are in the lower back, where we see 25-50% of people have had an injury, in the elbow where we see 9-26% of people have had a golf-related injury and the wrist which kind of links in which is a little bit lower between 11-27%, and lastly the knee where we see between 7-21%.

The knee is probably that little bit lower because we can kind of get by with maybe a sore knee and still playing, however playing with a lower back issue, an elbow issue or wrist issue is very hard. So strength and conditioning is really a way to protect against getting these injuries and ensuring that you can stay on the golf course for longer.

As we get older the first things we start to lose our strength and power. So it really makes sense that we really work on these things, especially after the age of about 35 we really see them drop off. It is really important we work on them to make sure that we maintain them as best as we can again not only for our golf but for our general health as well.

WHO  Physical Activity Recommendations

This has really been emphasised by the WHO (World Health Organisation). A couple of years ago they put out there position statement on what we should be doing- what a regular healthy middle-aged adult should be doing.

That is 150 minutes of light activity and 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Now you can go 150 minutes of light or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. So most of us here who are playing golf once a week and playing 18 holes have already got the 150 minutes of light activity.

Golf is very much considered light activity. Probably the component we are missing is that 75 minutes or some of that 75 minutes of vigorous activity, which really pushes our heart rate up.

The other part is the strength and conditioning component. We can see there that they advocate two strength and conditioning sessions a week. The reason for this is the links between having a good base of strength and being injury-free, and then being free and being able to do cardiovascular work has been shown.

If we are quite strong, it means we are less likely to be injured, which means we are more likely to be very active people, which means we are slightly healthier and so it is really important that we don’t see being fit for golf and being fit for life as separate – they are actually one and the same thing.

That is a really important thing to distinguish. It also means that we get better health benefits, improved sleep, improved weight, reduced cardiovascular disease and also reduces our back and joint pain as well, so there are lots of benefits from really trying to get as many of these ticked off as we can.

Why is important to do strength work?

So what we are seeing here is why it is important for us to do strength work. So on the left-hand side, we can see a 60-year-old woman and their muscle. What we can see that is the kind of darker component in that picture is the muscle and the white component is the fat.

And what we can see is from 60 to 80 we can see quite a significant deterioration between the muscle and the fat and we can actually see some of the fat going into muscle.

Underneath that, we can see the graph that shows how much muscle we have and how it changes as we age. After about the age of 30, you can see that there’s a dip off on that line.

Now the good news for everyone here is that this doesn’t have to be the case. We can definitely put some strategies in place to stop this from happening. Exactly what the World Health Organization are recommending.

This picture is showing a 40-year-old triathlete. We can see the muscle is the darker colour and the white is the fat component. Underneath that we can see a 74-year-old sedentary man, so someone who’s doing very little exercise & very little strength conditioning. We can see how that fat has really exponentially increased and has kind of gone into the muscle. But it’s absolutely reversible or changeable.

So underneath, we can then see a 70-year-old triathlete who looks very much the same kind of muscle architecture as a 40-year-old triathlete.

We can absolutely take it from maybe not fully from the 74-year-old man to the one underneath- but we can make vast improvements in this just by putting a few small things into our training plan and into our week.

How do I make these changes?

The next question that I get asked all the time is, how can I do it? What’s the best strategy for making these changes?

This was a study that was done and what we can see the area that I’ve circled in blue, is when people combine strength training with endurance training, and they got the best and most significant benefits, and it was significantly better than strength alone, and significantly better than endurance alone.

However, strength was better than endurance.

So if in doubt, it kind of shows us that we want to improve on leg strength or improve our upper body strength, strength training is definitely the modality that we should use. But actually, including some endurance training as well as some fitness training, probably doesn’t hurt at all either.

Why is being strong important for golf?

I suppose now to relate this back to Golf-why is being strong really important for golf?

Well, clubhead speed has been directly linked to players handicaps. So the faster you can swing the club, on average, the better your handicap will be.

Improved long game performance has been shown to improve scores and improve the handicap and has been directly linked to clubhead speed. So the higher your clubhead speed, the higher the improved long game and ball distance. However, we’ve got to be able to transfer that obviously into the golf ball as well.

But then the last reason is that when we’re playing golf, golf is actually a very high force high-velocity game actually has similar kind of forces than that of a javelin thrower.

And so if we’re not doing any kind of strength conditioning to protect our joints, to protect our muscles, then it’s likely that we’re probably going to have an injury at some point that’s going to keep us out for a while. When we have an injury, we obviously can’t practice and obviously, our golf performance goes downwards.

So another reason as well, why we want to make sure that we can be like the guy on the right here who is swinging the club 133 miles per hour, up there with some of the best, and why we would like to try and be a little bit more like that if we can.

Strength & Conditioning for Golf

So when we’re thinking about strength conditioning for golf, we think about three key areas, we think about rotational strength, we think about lower limb strength and power, and we’re thinking about injury prevention.

What we’ve done for you guys tonight is we’ve created a series of warmups and a strength and conditioning session that you could bring in during this lockdown that you can use to kind of improve your strength, improve your overall health and fitness and reduce your injury risk.

And so the warm-up that we’ve created for you is called the Total Tee Box Warm up – the videos are going to be online afterwards for you guys to look up and it’s essential for those times when you’re really late running to the golf club, you’ve got a couple of minutes before you are on the tee, and you’re just watching the other guys tee off before you, and you want to make sure that you’re warmed up so you don’t mess up those first four holes or get injured on those first four holes.

And so it only takes three to five minutes, and it’s everything that you need as a really basic warm-up before you step onto the tee box, and probably something we can all include on those Friday afternoon games when we’re rushing to the golf club.

Sample Strength & Conditioning Plan

Now, this is the sample strength conditioning plan. You can get this at the bottom there’s a link at the bottom of the screen for this. And it’s a six-week strength conditioning plan that you could bring in.

Now, as I said earlier, we’ve tried to keep it really simple for you so that you can do all of this at home. There are one or two exercises that you might need the gym for down the line, but I’ve given you some alternatives in today’s presentation that you can use to make sure that you can do this, whilst in lockdown. You’ll be able to get this plan, and you’ll see all the sets and all the reps are on the program so there’s nothing for you to really have to worry about. And I’ve also included some targets.

Now the targets are obviously age and fitness dependent, but just see how close you can get.

And lastly, if you’d feel a little bit nervous about doing these exercises, then please contact us, we run strength and conditioning sessions, or we can point you in the direction of someone that you can see, to help you with improving in these areas or maybe giving you a little bit of confidence or technique going into them but we are going to show you all the exercises tonight.

Trap Bar

So the first one that we saw there is a trap bar now this is one of the ones that you might need some gym equipment for. But also you can also do this with anything that you have at home, so I have guys doing this at the moment with dumbbells we have people doing it with bags of books, it’s essentially lifting a weight off the floor and lifting it correctly. And so, my colleague here is lifting it from the front, and from the side.

And the most important thing here to really look at is how he’s using his hips, and his knees, so he’s bending at the hips first before bending at the knees and that’s to make sure that we’re using the hips to lift the weight.

The other two things that I want to focus on if you’re doing this at home is making sure that you have a nice neutral flat back, that is not curved, or it’s not overextended, and that your shoulders are sitting roughly in line with your toes.

Now, this is an exercise that using all the pictures I presented tonight, which is why I wanted to show it to you it’s a fantastic exercise. It’s really good for building that explosive strength for your golf.

It is called a trap bar and we recommend you kind of do four sets of eight, or five sets of five, depending on what weight you have at home.

Goblet Squat

Now if you don’t have access to that, this is why we’ve included this second exercise called a goblet squat now on this one we’ve shown it with no weights, but you can also include weight and you just hold it on your chest, when you include it with weight.

All we want to do is, essentially, sit back onto a chair. And the reason we want you to use the chair is because it really encourages you to use what we call your posterior chain. Basically, your backside and hamstring muscles, along with your quadriceps on the front of your leg.

So you can see here, he is really sitting back onto the chair. We’re making sure the knees don’t go past the toes and his chest, and we can see the badge on his chest is always staying proud.

Again on this one you probably want to do, roughly between four sets of eight. If you can and if it was easy, then you can hold a little bit of weight on the front of the chest, and obviously, for more athletic members in the audience, you can hold some significant weight or eventually when the gyms open back up, you could pop a bar across the chest or on the back to make this one a little bit harder for you.

Split Squat

Now, this is an exercise called a split squat. This is a single-leg exercise, and we know with golf, obviously, we have our back leg, and our front leg, and it’s really important in golf to make sure both the front and the back leg are both as strong as each other. And that’s why we’ve included this exercise and it is a good bit harder than the previous one that I showed you.

There is a couple of really key technical points on this. The first is you will see how we are using the chair to make sure the knee is not going over the toe. All we want you to do is pop your toe underneath the chair to make sure you keep the shin nice and vertical.

The second one is, you can see that my colleague’s chest here is nice and proud and that her back knee is sitting directly underneath her hip. What we don’t want to see is that knee behind the hip, otherwise, that encourages a big arch in your lower back.

And this is quite hard so for some people in the audience you might raise the back knee up a little bit, and for others, it might be a little bit easier so you’d hold some weights in your hands. This is where the four-litre bottles of the water from Lidl and Aldi come in very handy.

Wall Squat Hold

This exercise is called the wall hold. Now, this is a fantastic exercise. This is an exercise that everybody can do. We would have everyone from our knee replacements, to our athletic individuals do with this. It is a fantastic one, that shouldn’t cause you too much soreness either. And the aim of this one is four sets of 45 seconds.

Now you’re seeing again on this one that we’ve got a lovely flat back, and you want to imagine you’re pushing your lower back into the wall. The other one is we want vertical shins, again and we want to see the knees in line with toes we shouldn’t see the knees kind of going inside the big toe, or outside of the little toe. And we want to try and hold for four sets of 45 seconds.

Hip Thrust

So the next exercise is the hip thrust. Now, this really is going to work your backside muscles and it’s great for people with lower back pain.

So whereas some of the exercises before this have been all focused on making sure that we develop strength and looking after our knees. This one is now looking after our lower backs. Okay, so it’s a great one for anyone who’s had lower back pain.

Three key things that we’re looking for when we watch this video you see her ribs are lovely and flat. Her legs are at 90 degrees, and she’s squeezing her backside at the top of the movement.

And when we do this we really want to make sure like I said that we keep those ribs flat. That is to make sure we don’t have any arch in the lower back, and you should never feel this in your lower back, you should always feel it in your backside muscles. And that’s why it’s going to really help us with our lower back pain because the stronger we can get our backside muscles, the less our lower back should have to do.

We also have a slightly harder version to show you, this is where we lift one leg under a single leg so those of you are brave enough you can challenge yourselves on this one, but we’ve really got to make sure the foot is nice and close to the backside and it’s not too far away. Otherwise you’ll feel this in the back of your leg rather than up into your backside muscles.

Band Rotation

So, we’ve looked after the lower back, and we’ve looked after the knees, but now you remember there was that circle, which was kind of encapsulated rotational power.

And so this is a really important one for us golfers, we can build all the lower body strength in the world but if we can’t relate it back to our golf swing then we’re probably going to struggle a little bit, but also this is a great one for building up our core and making sure we’re protecting our lower backs.

So again three key things I want you to work on with this one is making sure your ribs are down or flat, you don’t have a big arch in your lower back – that you have a small range of motion, you shouldn’t be twisting it like your golf club – you should be making sure it’s a much smaller range of motion, but you should be in your golf stance, so if you imagine when you watch my colleague do this one. You should imagine you’re addressing the golf ball with soft knees a little bit of a push back in the hips exactly like you’d be kind of approaching over an iron shot.

You can see here that he’s only moving from big toe to big toe so very small range of motion, and that his lower body is staying completely straight forwards. You shouldn’t see your knees or your hips turning. It’s just the upper body that’s doing the work and you should feel it all in your abdomen area. You should very much feel this is a core exercise.

If you are doing this one, and you feel it in your arms. That’s because we’re starting to use the shoulders a little bit too much, and not using our core enough so that’s one little tip to look out for.

And this is like I said a fantastic exercise for translating power into our golf swing but also protecting our lower back.

Push Up

We are now going to move on to a little bit of body strength. Now there’s some good evidence that a good upper body does carry over into our golf swing, but also looking after our shoulders, our upper back, our arms, elbows and wrists is really important and doing a little bit of pre-emptive work to make sure that we don’t get any injuries and that’s what this is all about.

So with our push up, quite a common exercise, but we’re just going to go through a few things that we shouldn’t do. So when we’re doing a push up, we shouldn’t see the elbows flare out to the side. We shouldn’t see the lower back sag at all. In fact, if anything, we should see a small curve in the lower back, or that lovely straight line that you can see my colleague here.

The second part is you see his elbows are slightly tucked, so they are not chicken winging out. And we’re looking for three sets of eight. Now, for a few people in the audience, this might be a little bit tricky to start with so you can also do the knee variation, where you’re on your knees.

And again, when we do this, we want to make sure our hips aren’t sagging down, because that will actually ensure that we’re using our core and using our lower back muscles to really strengthen them up, and again three sets of eight, and you can gradually progress up to the full variation.

Bicep Curl

Next is our bicep curl. Now, this one you have to be a little bit careful with too much of it is not too great, but also we don’t want to not challenge those muscles at all.

So we just want to do a little bit. So this might be one where you only do it once, maximum twice a week. We don’t want to go too heavy, we want to go nice and light. We’re just looking to stimulate the muscles around the elbow to make sure that we’re working them – so when we do eventually play a little bit more golf maybe we go away on a holiday and play a couple of games in a row, or we go from winter and transitioning to summer, those muscles are strong enough to handle the amount that you’re using and the amount of swinging the golf club.

So a couple of things to look at here and make sure we keep the elbows into the sides. And that we’re not swinging through the lower back it’s very controlled movement, and some people like to stand up against the wall which isn’t a bad idea, but making sure that we keep the weight nice and light to start with, especially if you haven’t done these before.

Wrist Flexion, Extension, Rotation.

The last one that we can do, is the wrist flexion, extension and rotation, and again the exact same caveat, as before we shouldn’t be doing these too often once a week is absolutely fine unless you have an injury in which case you should be guided by your physio on how many to do. We want a nice light weight, so about a kilo or two kilos. If you don’t have the weights then a one-litre bottle of water weighs about roughly one kilo.

And you can see this is the flexion. So this is where the forearm is completely supported – the side of your dining room table is fantastic for this. And we’re just bending the wrist up towards the elbow.

The extensions now, where the wrist is coming back towards the elbow and nice and slow and controlled. And again, use this table to support the forearm and nice and light weight in your hands.

And the last one which is rotation which is where you’re going to rotate the wrist. So from that position there you rotate the wrist over.

Take away

So with all those exercises there, we have made sure that we looked after four key areas for injury, which was our lower back, our elbows, our wrists and our knee’s.

We have also looked at a little bit of rotation, to make sure that the strength work that you are doing carries over into your golf swing, but also that we are working to protect your lower back.

A couple of things I wanted to go through: the first is to take it very slowly. If you have not done any of these exercises before you just want to gradually introduce the exercises want to go from completely doing nothing to doing lots of them because that can raise its own issues.

But once you are comfortable, you want to make sure you are progressing forwards. Increasing either the weights or sets when it becomes too easy for you and at the moment with lockdown that can be quite tricky so you might find that you have to be doing a little bit more reps or sets because there may not be more weight.

Consistency really is key – doing these exercise’s consistently over one year is much better than being perfect and trying to go hard for three months.

We see much better results when we are consistent and keeping to a steady amount rather than trying to go from doing not too much to going through every day, or going through 4/5 times a week.

So making sure that you bring in good habits now and that you will see out the rest of the year with, will give you much better results.

Fitness Lab

Lastly, we have our fitness lab here, which can help you with all of the things that we’ve spoken about. Now, we’re very lucky that it’s covered by the three big major insurance companies Laya, VHI & Irish Life but it is something that if you’re interested in golf and you’re interested in fitness, or you want to just see where your current fitness levels and health levels are.

We have FitnessLab and we have HealthLab, available, which you may be covered for with your health insurance, but we also offer strength conditioning advice as well.

So if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about this maybe testing to see where you’re at, you can email us at, and we can help you with the program, we can design your own individual program. And we can really help push you forward if that is of interest to you.

Thank you very much.

Click on the links below to download PDFs.

Sample Strength & Conditioning Programme

Mobility & Flexibility Exercises for Golfers

Please note this programme is for sample purposes only and it is recommended you consult your physiotherapist / S&C coach before starting.

If you would like to make an appointment with an SSC Sports Medicine Consultant or S&C Coach please contact 01 526 2030 or
To make an appointment with Luke or to learn more about FitnessLab please email or call 01 5262050
Date: 2nd February 2021
Location: Online
This event is free of charge