5×5 for golf

Yesterday on social media is promised an adapted version of the StrongLifts 5×5 program tailored to golfers. So here it is…

StrongLifts 5×5 (and other linear progression programs using similar rep/set schemes, such as starting strength) are incredibly popular programs the world over simply because they are highly effective in delivering amazing strength, particularly for those at a beginner/ intermediate strength level.

However, herein also lies this issue with programs such as this, they are brilliant at what they are designed to do namely develop pure strength and teach someone how to express that strength with barbell exercises. Golfers and all athletes in general must develop strength certainly, but their training needs are more multi-faceated than just the need to develop strength. They must also develop/maintain the prerequisite mobility to swing a golf club efficiently and powerfully in the many planes of movement associated with the golf swing, develop the joint, postural and core stability required to effectively transfer force along the kinematic chain of the golf swing, and learn to express said strength in the golf swing, rather than just barbell exercises.

The original programstronglifts-golf

There are many version of a 5×5 program out there but this is probably the one known to most:

Workout A

Back squat 5×5

Bench 5×5

Row 5×5

Workout B

Back squat 5×5

Press 5×5

Deadlift 1×5

What’s missing?…Filling in the gaps

As I have said, whilst this program is undoubtably great at developing strength in the barbell lifts it leaves gaps that need to be filled if you are going to effectively carryover this strength development onto the golf course.

Single-leg exercises/Lateral exercises – Golf is played side on with power generated via weight shift between trail and target side legs, it is effectively a lateral single leg exercise, so it stands to reason we should train this way. Exercises like these will also help deal with the stability demands on the joints of the knees and hips posed by the dynamic weight shift of the golf swing.

Core Conditioning – The strength of the core musculature is king in effectively transferring power created by the legs, through the upper body and in to the club during the golf swing. Whilst it’s true the basic compound exercises used in the stronglifts program do provide a large core stimulus, as golfers your going to be needing a bit more specific core work. The exercises we will be using in this program are a pallof press iso-hold and a good old plank. These static core exercises teach that ability to transfer power in the golf swing and helps drive your up your lifts too.

Postural control/muscular endurance – Many people struggle to maintain good posture day to day and on the golf course fortunately there are exercises we can put in place to help control posture and movement overhead (as in the golf swing) better. Additionally better endurance in the postural muscles allows posture to be maintained more effectively throughout the golf swing and long periods of practice or play. Balancing the ratio of upper body pulling to pressing movements will improve posture whilst exercises such as face pulls or band pull-aparts also help deal with the stability demands placed on the shoulder and scapular by the golf swing. Balancing pressing and pulling motions is easily achieved in this program by pairing pressing and pulling exercises in supersets.

Power – The golf swing is a fast movement, trying to express you’re true maximal strength in less than a second is never going to happen. So your also going to need to learn how to develop that force quickly, this where power training comes in. Research has shown that power training is most effective when in the planes specific to the movement you are trying to be powerful in. There should also be consideration give to the speed-strength continuum. With this in mind the power exercises list in this program focus largely on developing power in the lateral and rotational planes with a bias towards the speed end of the continuum.

Mobility – The importance of mobility in the golf swing, to create an efficient and powerful golf swing is obvious to most. I will typically place my mobility and flexibility work as part of warm-ups in my programming. To give you a few list of warm-up option is unfortunately beyond the scoop this already rather lengthy article – thanks for sticking with me so far! However if you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll probably already have a good idea of the sort things I include in my warm-ups. If not, here are a few post that should help:

Mobility exercises you should be trying

Hip mobility

Shoulder mobility

Putting it all together

To add all these required elements straight on top of the template above would simply represent too much additional work for many (or at very least some mammoth duration gym sessions!) so as such we are going to split up the original template a bit and substitute a few exercises. One of my favourite quotes in exercise programming goes

‘you can’t add anything without taking something else away’

whilst we are not quite going to stick to that rule here it is still something useful to bear in mind. So lets get to the specifics of the program – aka the bit you skipped to in the first place.

Workout A

A. Med-ball scoop toss 3×5 each side

B. Back squat 5×5

C1. Bench 5×5

C2. Band pull-aparts or face pulls 3×12

D1. Pallof press iso hold or plank 3x30sec holds (each side for pallof press)

D2. Lateral lunge 3×8-10 each side

Workout B

A. Weighted jump 3×5

B. Bulgarian split squat 5×5 each side

C1. Press 5×5

C2. Chin-up 5×5

D. Deadlift 1×5

Below are videos for a few exercises I have included that may not be familiar to those who do the standard StrongLfts 5×5 program

Give this program a go for a few months and I’m sure you’ll be stronger, more powerful and swinging better as a result. Be sure to let me know how well it works for you too by dropping a comment at the bottom of this page or on our facebook or twitter page. I would especially love to hear from you if you have been doing StrongLifts for a while as incorporating some golf specific work into your strength training should really pay dividends for you.



13 thoughts on “5×5 for golf

  1. Doug Calvin

    This is great. I am a recreational golfer. I have done Starting Strength and Wendler 5-3-1 and I knew that these programs were missing something for golf. They were too linear. And golf is not linear. I have had some injuries and I believe they were related to this. Thanks Nick!

      1. Roamer

        I am now following the program in the book by Nick Tumminello called Building Muscle and Performance. It is almost like he wrote it for golfers with the cross body exercises as he calls them in his program.

      2. nickbuchan Post author

        Sounds good Doug. Not heard of the program itself, although nick is a great coach, will definitely check it out. How is it working out for you?

      3. Roamer

        I am getting bigger and stronger with the program. I am just finishing the foundational programs and getting ready to start the main program in a couple weeks. Can’t say it has helped my golf game but that is another issue 🙂

  2. nickbuchan Post author

    Thanks for the comment Michal. You could do 3×5 or even 5×5 but as the deadlift is typically the exercise people can lift the moat weight in and is the most neurologically demanding that sort of volume is often too much to recover from so a lower volume is usually recommended, particularly with the amount of squatting in these types of programs.

    1. Michal Bargenda

      Ok, but won’t it create too much of difference in strength between quads and hamstring as there are so many squats? Or maybe it isn’t a problem?

  3. nickbuchan Post author

    Mark Rippetoe (the guy who popularised the 3×5 program in starting strength) would say that back squats when performed correctly (with hip drive and below parallel) recruit a roughly even amount of front side (quads) and back side (hamstrings and glutes) so this isn’t an issue. I would say however that most people need more posterior chain work as they tend to be quad dominant. This is why I would recommend programming a high volume assistance lift on the other session from the deadlift session, in this example it is the lateral lunge but you could easily replace that with glute bridge or hip thrust variations, cable pull throughs or back extension to target the posterior chain more explicitly


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