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Bulking Up for Golf: The Good and Bad

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on

Lexi Thompson stretches on the first hole tee box before the second round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club.Getty Images

Over the past 20 years, golf has seen a dramatic increase in the number of professionals starting to pay attention to fitness, nutrition, and other areas of wellness. In short, the modern golf professional has become an athlete. Is bulking up like Bryson Dechambeau to improve your game, really an avenue worth exploring?
I posed this question to my go to expert on golf fitness: Scott Shepard, owner of Driven Golf Fitness and Sports Performance in Lake Mary, FL. Scott is a two-time Golf Digest Top 50 Fitness Instructor and a 2021 Golf Fitness Association of America Award Winner.
Scott started with a question: “What type of physical training for strength is best for golf and what are the pros and cons of these methods?” He then added, “With respect to the method of muscle hypertrophy-based training or “bulking up” there are some key things you need to know.”
“First, bulking up means you are getting stronger. Muscle size increase means more force production, and this can lead to an increased ability to apply that force to the golf club and to be able to move it faster and control the face of the club better on impact.”
With that being said, I asked Scott about one thing that might be of concern to people considering this type of training…Will “bulking up” lead to tightness in the body? He explains, “There is no reason to believe this will happen as long as you work the muscles through a full range of motion, allowing for proper recovery between sessions, and you continue to work on your golf specific mobility and flexibility."
Essentially if you are good golfer and own the movements you should be fine adding mass unless you simply stop practicing and decide to shift that time to the weight room instead.
Scott and I both agreed that golf is truly a sport for everyone. Almost any body type has a professional, high-level example of a skilled golf swing being produced. So, adding more mass will never disqualify a golfer, of any shape or size, from participating in the game…as long as they keep up with fundamental golf skill practice.
“If you don’t already own a good efficient movement, the bulking will most likely neither help nor harm your situation” Scott said. “The only harm to your game could come from taking away skill practice time to work on something generic like gym-based muscle strength instead of skilled practice.”
In most athletic endeavors there’s a saying, that if all things are considered equal, one would prefer to be the stronger athlete. In golf however, it’s still the rule that if all things are considered equal, a golfer should prefer to be the more skilled athlete! This requires swing drills, specific movement, and sequencing exercises, and playing and practicing on the course. So, if you make sure your workout program doesn’t take over all of your skill development time, you will be just fine with chasing those muscle gains!
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