Stop Doing Cardio for Golf

This is an article that I wrote a couple of years ago that I believe should be on this website.  I have edited it slightly to make it read more appropriately to today’s date, but none of the bulk content has been changed.

What I think is great is that the info in here is continues to be backed more and more with the latest research.

Given the fact that I was just recently in California with Dr. Mark Smith and the TPI crew for the World Golf Fitness Summit 2014 (WGFS), I felt it was rather fitting to shed some light on what the best in the world are suggesting when it comes to golf and cardio training. Here is the article . . .

Layoff the Cardio for Golf

Yes, you read that correctly.  I know, probably THE BEST thing you have ever heard me say, right? Well, it’s not a joke.  In fact, if you are still going to the gym and spending 30-45 minutes on the treadmill, elliptical, etc. I have good and bad news for you.  The good news is you can stop tomorrow!  The bad news is you may have wasted a lot of time and effort over the past several years with little to no real results.

I want to highlight some of the lessons I have learned over the years, in particular a few about cardio training for golfers that were initially introduced to me by at the TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Level 2 Fitness seminar I went to in April of 2012.  The first session we had was with a gentleman by the name of Dr. Mark Smith (who you can hear on The 18STRONG Podcast episode 004).  Mark is one of the guys in the forefront on cardiovascular training and has been an active member in several well respected published articles and journals.  (I’ll give you the link to his paper on this topic at the end).

Less Time, More Work

In short, Mark explained that spending long sessions at moderate intensity on any piece of cardio equipment should be stopped immediately.  Especially for the golfer.  Then unlike any continuing education seminar I’ve ever been to before, rather than all the students settle in with their coffee and hotel breakfast food, Mark proceeded to take us through a heart pounding 25 minute workout with only 12 actual minutes of exercise that had me regretting the protein shake and cup of coffee I had that morning.  (I will give you a version of the workout at the bottom of this page so you can try it yourself).

After taking a much needed 5 minute break, where a few folks had to visit the restroom to make sure breakfast wasn’t coming back up, we all reconvened in our seats, huffing and puffing for what seemed like the entire next hour.

Bottom line of Mark’s presentation is that it’s not about the time spent, it’s all about the intensity.  But you have to be smart about the intensity level. Traditional cardiovascular exercise and research has told you to exercise at a low to moderate pace to keep your heart rate in the proper range to burn the highest percentage of fat.  While this concept is true, the fact of the matter is, with this type of workout, you do not burn very many calories.  In a high intensity workout with properly structured rest and recovery, you can burn many, many more calories.

Some of you may be saying to yourself, “but Jeff, you have also been heard stressing the importance of slowing down workouts for more efficiency, which is it?”  Both. I understand that is a bit confusing, but here is the deal; you don’t have to work out the same way every time you go to the gym.  In fact, I encourage you to change it up.  Plus, you can incorporate a high intensity sprint* into any workout, even one that is focusing on slow controlled strength training (*sprint* meaning any exercise where you are pushing yourself as hard as you can for a certain time period, doesn’t actually have to be running a true sprint).

Quick question: “Have you ever seen a fat sprinter?”

dude sprinterMonica Hargrove CREDIT: Dustin Snipes


What is SIT and HIT (HIIT)?

The workout that Mark had us do, which is not new by any means, just often misunderstood and implemented improperly, is called Super-high Intensity Training or Sprint Interval Training (SIT).  This is often confused with HIT or HIIT, which is High Intensity Interval Training.

The 2 terms are sometimes used synonymously, but there actually is a difference.  Odds are you may have done a HIT workout before.  HIT is probably more like what you think of in the typical bootcamp setting or in a workout video where you are simply going from station to station with the intention of working as hard as you can in each station.  These are both contrasted with the typical cardio workout which is known as “low to moderate intensity continuous training” (LMICT).

SIT on the other hand is a specifically designed workout that involves a “sprint station” that should last anywhere from 30-60 seconds (no longer), followed by several other exercises and rest breaks that total at the least 4 minutes.  During the “sprint” it is, pardon my french, “Balls to the Wall” as hard as you can go.

The intent is to get your breathing heavy and your lactic acid building up quickly (which really begins to set in around the 45 second mark).  The other exercises are meant to keep you moving and working, but not at nearly the pace or intensity.  These other exercises plus the actual rest breaks are what I call the entire rest time.  Basically the amount of time between each sprint station.

Is there really that big of a difference?

Yes.  By implementing the proper 4 or more minutes of “rest time” between the sprint stations, you are allowing yourself just enough time to get a little gas back in the tank, which allows you to work significantly harder during those sprints.  AND THAT IS THE KEY: INTENSITY.


If you’re moving from exercise to exercise with only 30 seconds or so in between and trying to give 100% effort on each exercise, you are going to gas out in the 1st several minutes, with no real recovery time.  Thus your subsequent sets aren’t going to be as effective as they could be if you had a little longer rest.

So again, it’s the idea of working smarter. (And harder, I guess! )

This sounds miserable, please tell me there is a bright side to this article.

There is.  Many in fact.  First of all, it has been proven that these workouts involving super high intensity bouts of exercise produce better cardiovascular results in respect to oxygen output, lung capacity, effects on blood pressure, increased speed and power to name a few.

Of course those are all great, but  the big benefit is that it has been shown that just by doing the sprints on a regular basis, (I recommend no more than 3 workouts with this intensity in a week) you can achieve better results than if you spent 45 minutes a day on a traditional piece of cardio equipment.

Not only that, but your sprints could even be broken up throughout the day if you don’t have the time to get a 20-30 minute workout in.  In fact, Mark shared with us, that on his busy days, he will simply go out to the gym floor, perform one 60 second sprint and go back to his desk for several hours until he has the time to do another one.  So literally, in just a few minutes, a couple times a week, you could get in more beneficial “cardio” than the average Joe does with his 5 hours a week treadmill program.

Why is this type of training better for the golfer?

If you think about golf on a spectrum of other sports, say marathon running is on one end and the Olympic Hammer throw is on the other (marathoner require long endurance at moderate speeds for their performance and hammer throwers require quick bursts of explosive energy), which is golf more similar to?  The Hammer throw.

Golf is about a repetetive quick burst of power during a large percentage of the round. Thus, it’s not low-moderate intensity contiunous training (LMICT) that will prepare you to have more power and control at the end of your round.  Your body has to be used to performing at it’s highest intensity levels, generating as much power as possible in short periods of time, without getting fatigued by the 18th tee box.  Thus, teaching your body how to not only create that power, but also recover from it quickly is very important.

I know there is a lot of info here, so I will revisit this topic with some of the other great info that I got from Dr. Smith.  But just in case you are chomping at the bit for more, I want to give you the full published version of his research paper.  Here you go:

Research Paper: Sprint Interval Training – “It’s a HIIT!”

And, as promised, here is an example of a workout I put together for myself and a couple trainers I know.  It is very similar to the one that we did with Dr. Smith, and kicked our butts just as bad.  Let me know how it worked for you by throwing a comment below.


SIT workout

Each station is 60 seconds long followed by a 30 sec rest break (when you see Rest, that counts as a 60 sec station of actually resting, which in addition to the normal 30 seconds after each station will total 2 min of rest.  Take the full 2 minutes, you’ll need it!)

If you have any questions on how to perform any of the exercises below, just ask in the comments section, I’ll be happy to explain.


  1. Bent Rows with Dumbells
  2. Lying crossover stretch (30 sec each side)
  3. Shuttle sprints 10 yards
  4. Rest (60 sec)——-
  5. Lunges (30 sec each side)
  6. Rows with bands
  7. Get Ups or Burpees
  8. Rest (60 sec)——-
  9. Pushups touching knees to elbows in between reps
  10. Golf stance rotating pelvis right to left, keep upper body still
  11. Forward and backward bear Crawls (10 yards)
  12. Rest (60 sec)——-
  13. Med ball Windshield wipers standing
  14. Single leg balance passing 5lb weight over head from Right to left (30 sec each leg)
  15. Frog Jumps (As high as you can then squat down to touch floor)

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