Ahh, a Saturday round of golf. Could anything be more relaxing?
Perhaps not, depending on how you approach it. If you’re just out for a little fun, golf can be a relaxing sport. You can either walk leisurely or drive a cart from hole to hole, and if you can avoid getting too riled up over your strokes, you can emerge from the game feeling refreshed and renewed.
But what if you want something more from your game? What if for you, that golf game is one of the few chances you get to exercise? In that case, that leisurely walk is likely not going to be enough.
If you’d like to burn more calories and build some muscle while you strive to get under par, try the following tips to turn your golf game into an effective aerobic and strength-training workout. Not only may they help you trim a few inches off your waist, they may also trim a few points off your score as well!
5 Ways to Burn More Calories While Playing Golf
The first thing you need to do if you want to turn your golf game into a workout is to change your mindset. The game can go either way, so before you even start, make it a point to decide that you’re going to approach this game as an exercise routine.
The good news is that the higher your fitness level, the better your score, typically. Golf is a sport like any other, and getting in shape will increase your strength and flexibility, as well as your endurance, which will ultimately translate into a stronger performance.
With your new mindset in place, try these five tips to help you burn more calories over the course:
1. Time your rounds.
Typically you probably play until everyone is ready to move on, and then you go to the next hole. This time, take a stopwatch with you, and give yourself a time limit for each hole. You’ll probably have to be flexible here and there, but the more you try to reach your time goal, the more calories you’ll burn, because you’ll move faster.
Leave the cart at the clubhouse, and walk quickly from hole to hole. The nice thing about golf is that the courses typically include several hills to challenge you, and the faster you go the more calories you’ll burn. You’ll walk a total of three to eight miles a round, which can give you a good cardio workout if you make a point to move it.
Track your time per hole, and your total time for the course, and compete with yourself. Try to beat your total time on your next round, and see if you can shave some seconds from each hole, as well.
2. Play with others interested in fitness.
If you want to work out during your game and your golf buddies just want to relax, you’re going to have a difficult time reaching your goals. Get together with others interested in using the golf game for exercise. You can motivate each other, and share ideas, as well.
Don’t be surprised if this magically improves your score. Sometimes, if you have to set up and hit without a lot of thought, you circumvent your brain’s tendency to overthink each shot and may actually hit better than usual. Trust your swing and go. If the ball goes off into the rough, it’s okay. You’ll get more exercise going after it, especially if you move quickly!
3. Set up a downtime exercise routine.
It’s rare in golf not to have downtime between holes. When you’re playing with others, you need to wait for them to take their hits. Even if you were playing alone, you may still be stuck behind another slow group.
Take advantage of these downtimes to perform your own exercise routine. Combine a number of the following together to get your heart pumping and your blood moving a little faster through your body:
- 25 jumping jacks
- 10-20 push-ups
- 20 squats
- 5 minutes of running in place
- 5-10 burpees (squat, put your hands on the ground in front of your feet, jump your feet back to land in a push-up, do a single push-up, jump your feet back in under your body, leap up into the air and land on bent legs; repeat)
- 3-5 minutes of jumping rope
You can use your imagination to add other exercises to this routine. Once you get into the habit of doing it, you may find it difficult to stand still!
4. Alternate with a downtime stretching routine.
It’s easy to end up with tight muscles while playing. In addition to all that walking and swinging, if you’re also doing your downtime routine in between, you can get tight in a hurry.
Your best bet is to alternate your downtime exercise routine with a downtime stretching routine. At the first hole, perform your exercises. At the second hole, stretch instead. Here are some options you can try:
- Perform a few hip rotations: Twist back and forth to loosen muscles that you typically use in your golf swing.
- Twist: Holding a golf club, stretch your arms over your head, shape them into a “Y,” and twist back and forth. Then bend at the waist and lower the club to the ground to stretch your lower back.
- Chest stretch: Clasp your hands together behind your back, square your shoulders, tilt your head back and gently lean back. You should feel the stretch in your chest.
- Back stretch: Using a club in one hand to stabilize yourself, squat down about halfway, and bring one foot up and place it across your opposite knee. Your knee will be bent at about 90 degrees. Deepen the squat until you feel the stretch up the back of the bent leg and into the buttocks. Rise up and repeat, then switch legs.
- Side stretch: Place a golf club on your shoulders, behind your neck, and hold onto it with both hands, Slowly lean to one side keeping your torso straight, bringing your elbow closer to your hip. Hold for a few seconds, then lean to the other side. You should feel the stretch up your side.
- Hamstring stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward toward one leg and try to touch your left hand to your right toe, or as close as you can get. Rise up and repeat on the other side, touching your right hand to your left toe. Keep your legs straight during this stretch.
- Forearm stretch: Extend one arm straight out, and with the other hand, pull back on your fingers until you feel the stretch in your forearm. Hold for about 10 seconds, and repeat on the other side.
5. Drink more water.
Remember that as you increase your heart rate on the golf course, you’re going to need to keep yourself hydrated. That means drinking more than you’re used to drinking while you’re playing at a more leisurely pace. Proper hydration will help your muscles fight fatigue, and will keep you more mentally alert, as well.
As a general rule, drink about 2-3 cups of water per hour while you’re on the course, more if you get thirsty.
5 Ways to Build Muscle While Playing Golf
In addition to burning calories, you can also work your muscles while playing golf. Of course you work the upper body with each swing, but you can intensify the workout by adding in some extra muscle work. Stronger muscles will burn more calories when you’re at rest, help support your joints, and will also help you increase your driving distance.
1. Carry your own clubs.
Hauling that bag of clubs around is going to give your arms and shoulders a good workout. You may tire faster than you’d like and it could show up in your swing, so balance out your goals, but if your main goal is fitness, don’t worry about your score and saddle up.
You can also get a handheld cart and pull it along behind you. This is less taxing than carrying it, but you’ll still have to use your muscles to get it from hole to hole. Carrying your own clubs will not only help you build up muscles in your upper body, but burn more calories, too.
2. Downtime lifting exercise.
You can alternate this routine with the other two downtime routines listed above. So at one hole you rev up your heart rate, at the next you stretch, and at the third, you do some lifting exercises. Choose from the following:
- Swing practice: Grab two-three golf clubs together, or use a weighted club, and practice your swing. A heavy weighted club is your best bet for building muscle.
- Club lift: Using the same weighted club, lift it with one hand straight above your head keeping your arm straight, for 10-20 repetitions. Switch hands and repeat.
- Bending lift: Take some dumbbells along with you, and during your downtime, pull them out. Holding one in each hand straight at your side, stand on one foot. Slowly, keeping your back straight, bend forward at the waist, and extend your other leg behind you. Try to keep your stabilizing leg as straight as possible as you bend. Come back up and repeat on the other side.
- Golf bag lift: Set your golf bag on the ground directly in front of you. Keeping your back straight, lower yourself into a squat, pick up the bag with both hands, and stand up straight. Use your legs, not your back, and keep your heels on the ground. Squat back down and leave the bag on the ground. Stand up and repeat. This exercise will work the legs and hips, as well as the core muscles.
- Plank pose: Get into a push-up pose and just stay there for the full length of time that your teammates are swinging if you can! If not, time yourself and try to increase the extent of time you can hold it with each game you play. This develops your arm, shoulder, and core muscles.
3. Sideways walk.
Place a stretch band around your legs above the knee, and then walk sideways in small steps to the next hole. The resistance from the band will require you to work harder in the legs, hips, quads, and glutes, strengthening these muscles. You can walk for a ways facing one way, and then turn and face the other to alternate which hip is doing most of the work.
If this gets easy, add a second band around your ankles, and do your sideways walk with resistance from both.
If your calves are weak, this is a good one to help build them up. All you have to do is stay on your toes when you walk. Your calves are the main muscles you use when you rise up on your toes, so once you finish at one hole, rise up and walk but don’t let your heels come down until a) your muscles get too fatigued to continue, or b) you arrive at the next hole.
5. Wear a weighted vest.
If you are finding it easy to carry your golf bag, or if you’d prefer not to carry it, you can get more of a workout by wearing a weighted vest. It will work all your muscles while you’re just walking around, and will raise your heart rate and help you burn more calories at the same time.
If you haven’t used a weighted vest before, try it on a short 9-hole course first. Research has shown that using this extra weight while exercising requires your lower-body muscles to generate more force against the ground, which requires more energy and muscle power. Don’t be surprised if after using one of these, you feel much more tired when you return to the clubhouse.
You can find these at most fitness stores, or online. Some examples include those at weightvest.com, RogueFitness, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
If you want to strengthen your core and back, flatten your belly and achieve your dream abs while keeping yourself injury free, then check out the Invincible Core program.