Does lifting weights increase chance of injury for golfers?


It’s one of the most talked about subjects in golf: does lifting weights increase the chance of injury in golf?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the likes of Jason Day and, more recently, Rory McIlroy pick up a number of injuries, leading some to believe that it is related to the amount of work the players are putting in in the gym.

Speaking in an interview with bunkered (Issue 156) earlier this year, Greg Norman said he ‘absolutely’ sees back problems in the futures of guys like Day, McIlroy and Dustin Johnson – but what do medical experts say?

We spoke to two, who gave some very interesting answers on the subject.

Rory Mc Ilroy1

Jeff Ross • Director • Harris & Ross Physiotherapy

“If someone is doing a lot of heavy weights, the first thing you’ve got to have is good technique. Poor technique absolutely leads to injury. The other thing is having a good, solid foundation of strength in place. As long as the golfer is working hard on other aspects like flexibility and core stability, it’s a good thing for them.

“When you start delve into why these guys are getting injured, you look at a number of things such as: Are they starting to do things in their programme that are inappropriate exercises? Are they progressing themselves through a programme too quickly? Is their technique correct?

“It’s tough to blame solely lifting weights for these types of injuries. I’d tend to look more at what else is going on in these guys’ programmes.

“Golfers are embracing sport science and the training aspect a lot more. The margins are so fine now. If you’ve got two guys who are even, the player who is concentrating better at the 18th hole in theory is going to be the one who is fitter and stronger. If I was a betting man, most weeks I’d be putting my money on the more athletic guys.”

Jason Day

Prof Nicola Phillips PhD • School of Healthcare Sciences • Cardiff University

“The general consensus these days is that strength training is a very good option for adults wishing to increase bone density. The key is in how much load you apply and how quickly you build up to that load.

“It is usually the fact that someone has progressed the strengthening programme too quickly that causes the problems. Bearing in mind that you can get changes in muscle strength in weeks but it takes months to strengthen – so you can see how that would happen.

“The high repetitions that golfers put themselves through to practice can cause back problems through bony stress, as that is the opposite to the best bone strengthening exercises (high rep, low load, very little change in load).

“So someone who has gradually built up their loading will have stronger bones to cope with both the strength training and repeated golf swings and, therefore, potentially minimise injury as well as improve performance.”

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