Disc golf is becoming such a popular sport because players of all skill levels, shapes, sizes, ages, etc. can play with high amounts of success. You can even play if you are out of shape.
But can disc golf be a form of effective exercise to get into shape? I say yes, disc golf can be an effective form of exercise if you implement the proper modifications I recommend in this post.
We all know that we should exercise. We all know the benefits of doing it and the negatives of avoiding it, so I won’t go into all of that. What I do want to do is offer up some ideas and tips of how to integrate effective exercise into the time you are already spending. The only way I have found to consistently exercise is to couple it with something else I actually enjoy doing. Going to the gym can be fun for many people, but if lifting weights isn’t your thing there aren’t many options available. You need to get creative.
Disc golf on its own really isn’t a great form of exercise in my opinion. Technically it is exercise though. Although its too slow paced and doesn’t get the heart rate up enough (unless perhaps you’re in a tight race in a tournament). If you’re accustomed to playing disc golf a few times a week, then these disc golf modification will be perfect for you. My recommendations are not going to add any real significant length of time you spend on the course. It might even speed it up to where you can play more if you so choose.
What I can promise you is by the time your round is over you’re going to be more wore out and sore than you’re used to. Some of these exercise ideas can use during group or tournament play, but it isn’t necessarily practical to do so. Personally, I like to play a round early in the morning before work and before anyone else is on the course. This gives me plenty of leeway out there.
Okay, let’s dive in. Make sure you pack a ton of water and hit the course with these effective disc golf exercise tips.
What Is Effective Disc Golf Exercise
For most people, they just want to exercise to stay healthy, lose weight, and live longer. Simple as that. If you’re looking for something else like gaining a ton of muscle, then this isn’t the article for you. We all just want to live longer and stay at a healthy weight so we can play more disc golf, right?
Before moving into my ideas for integrating exercise into disc golf, I want to first establish some of the requirements for classifying exercises as effective. In here, we will focus on a few elements: cardiovascular exercises, flexibility exercises, and resistance exercises. Ultimately, the goal with all of these is to burn calories. Burning calories is going to go a long ways toward losing the weight. But there are some other factors to consider.
Cardiovascular health has to do with the blood circulation in your body from your heart to your blood vessels. Without it, there’s a plethora of serious conditions that you can get. To improve this, we’ll be looking at ways to have sustained exercise with intervals and repetitions to get your heart rate up. When you perform sustained exercises, your muscles require more oxygen, so your heart begins to pump faster to bring more oxygen carrying blood to the muscles. After a while, you heart will adapt and become more efficient at this.
Bottom-line: you need to get your heart rate up during your round. More cardiovascular = longer life.
Your flexibility has to do with developing free range of motion with all of your joints. Having fully joint mobility is absolutely essential in disc golf, but is also important for everyday life. Flexibility is ancillary to your overall fitness. If you are going to improve your cardiovascular health, you need to have this full joint mobility so you can do the activities that get your heart rate up. To
Bottom-line: you need to stretch to improve flexibility. Better flexibility = less injuries.
Resistance training is typically associated with weight training. However, there are other ways to do this. Essentially, you want to focus on anything that is going carry a load on your muscles. And there are a ton of ways to do this. You don’t have to rush out and purchase a bench press, since the most effective load you can carry is your own body. You just need to use it in creative ways. We’re not talking about bodybuilding here. We’re talking about regular, functional muscle building.
Bottom-line: you need your muscles to carry a load to build more. More muscles = burning calories.
1. Warm-up Before Playing Disc Golf
You learned this one in grade school during P.E. But lets be honest. No one is actually doing this that often. If you are, then hats off to you, because you are among a small population of players, most of whom are probably professional. When you’re in a hurry (or even when you’re not) this is the first things to be forgotten. Let this just serve as a friendly reminder that you SHOULD be doing this.
In all seriousness, if you are going to use disc golf as a way to stay fit, you need to get your body ready for what is to come. During just a normal round of disc golf, you should be stretching as many areas as possible because throwing a disc requires a number of muscle groups and joints. Typically, I can get away with not stretching before a normal round of disc golf, but when I’m integrating more intense exercise it becomes a requirement.
There isn’t any particular assortment of stretches that I’ve found to be special. Just make sure you hit all the major muscle groups. Here are a few of the ones I do:
- Runner’s Stretch
- Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Lung Hip Flexor Stretch
- Seated & Lying Back Twist Stretch
- Overhead Triceps and Shoulder Stretch
- Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
- Wrist Extension and Flexion Stretch
The important thing to remember is to find a stretching routine that you like which hits all the muscle groups that you’ll be using. The more you perform your stretching routine, the better your flexibility will be for avoiding injury.
2. Vary the Pace of Your Round With Interval Training
Disc golf is setup perfectly for interval training. The concept of interval training is simple and it is thought to be the effective way of burning calories (and therefore unwanted fat).
Interval training, commonly referred to as HIIT (high intensity interval training) is accomplished by alternating between high and low intensity exercises for short specified periods of time. There have been a number of scientific studies conducted that have confirmed short, intense workouts laced with short rest periods are highly effective. You can ready more about it here. The concept can have application is a huge amount of sports and workouts. Chief among these is running, which is what I use during my solo disc golf rounds.
Start your round as usually, throwing your first drive. Once the disc comes to rest, grab your gear and jog or run to your disc. Once you arrive at your lie, throw again but this time simply walk to your next lie. Continue to alternate this pattern throughout the round. The pace at which you move between your discs is going to be dictated by how fit you are at the moment. But don’t slack if you know you can do better. Every 10 minutes, take a short break to catch your breath. If you want you can continue to play and casually walk during the break time if you so choose.
I only ever do this for around 30 minutes sessions during a round. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious I may push it up to 45 minutes. I’m happy to say that it works. The process is designed to increase your heart and lungs (cardiovascular health), which is great for athletes in any sport. Although the most desirable result from interval training is the high calorie burn and weight loss.
I hope this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyways. Safety is number one. If you are on a treacherous disc golf course, please do not attempt to jog or run if there is a possibility you could get injured.
3. Squat to Pick Up Your Golf Disc
As a natural response, whenever I go to pick up my golf disc I bend over forming a C curve with my spine. This… is… bad… And it is a very hard habit to break. There is a correct way to bend over and pick up objects from the ground, but hardly anyone does this. Instead, I started doing something differently.
When my son was younger, around 18 months old, I noticed something interesting when he would pick up objects from the ground. He would perform a perfect squat. And this is true for most babies. It comes natural to them. However, somewhere along the way we stop this and we start bending over, likely because as we get older we are sitting in chairs all day. This C bend puts our backs in serious jeopardy for a spinal injury.
Now, whenever I go to pick up my disc I think of my son and perform a squat. Not only does this protect my back from injury, it is a great form of strength training with just using body weight!
How to Perform a Squat
Yes, yes we all know how to perform a squat, but let’s review the steps just to ensure we are executing everything correctly:
- Stand with your feet at shoulder length directly over your disc
- Allow your feet to be pointing outward slightly
- Look straight in front of you
- As you squat down focus on keeping your weight on your heels and balls of your feet. Not on your toes
- During the squat, your knees should be directly over your feet
- Keeping your abs tight and pelvis tilted will allow your back to stay straight during the movement
- Do not bent your neck down looking for the disc as this compromises the spine
- Bring your hip joints slight below your knees, grab the disc, and stand back up
Over the course of an 18 hole round, you could be performing around 60 total squats. Starting out this is an incredible amount of squats if you aren’t used to it. The key is to start small The good news is you’re going to be building those muscles and burning serious calories in the process.
A great alternative to squatting when picking up your golf disc is a hip hinge, or table bent. If you aren’t squatting then don’t revert back to the C bent where your back is getting crunched.
The hip hinge refers to bending at the hips while keeping your back completely flat like a table. There is a partial bent at the knees and the hamstrings are slightly engaged during the moment. If your hamstrings are at all tight, this movement is going to be difficult. That’s where stretching and flexibility comes in.
4. Disc Golf Resistance Training
Players have been using resistance training for years to improve at disc golf. Recently, I started using the Pro Pull Resistance Trainer to work on my form and increase my throwing power. It’s been absolutely great.
The concept is simple. There is a disc golf disc attached to a pulley and elastic band, which you attach to something solid. Such as a tree or door in your house. You then pull the disc out as far as necessary to create tension in the band. With this tension, execute a throw.
Not only does this exercise help with your form and technique, it will also build all those vital muscles you need to make long distance shots. And as we discussed before, whenever you are building muscle you’re burning calories. You could even use interval training along with this tool.
Check out this video of professional disc golfer Dave Feldberg walking through all the applications and benefits of this type of resistance training.
If you are looking for a lower budget option can always pick up a regular exercise band and get more or less the same benefits. The only draw back is you won’t have the disc attached to the end which can help with building grip and wrist strength as well.
5. Weigh Down Your Disc Golf Bag
If you’re looking for just a little bit more of a challenge when moving around the course, you can always tack on some extra weight. In the past, I’ve done this by adding more weight to my bag. I usually just used normal barbell weight plates.
Recently I started using a weighted vest. I’ll warn you, this is not for the faint of heart. If you’re cruising through your round with the interval training and squats, and find you’re needing just a little something else to get your heart rate up, grab one of these. Play with it for a few round. The next time you take it off to play, you’ll have zero endurance problems.
6. Cool-down After Your Disc Golf Round
Similar to warming up before you start, you should take some time to also cool-down after your round is over. For this, I recommend going back to your stretching routine. There are a few benefits.
First, this will allow time for your heart rate to come down. Second, the stretching is going to help with the recovery process your muscles are about to undergo. This should help minimize soreness. Lastly, you should take this time to re-hydrate and refuel with and drinks and food you brought along with you. In total, I only spend about 10 minutes on my cool-down routine.
When I started using these disc golf exercise ideas during my solo rounds, I was concerned that it would negatively affect my overall game. For example, would my game be thrown out of wack when I go to a tournament? Or when I was playing with a group of friends? In these instances, I want to be strictly competitive. Not focused on fitness. If I practiced differently than how I compete, would my body be confused on how to perform.
What I found was my competitive rounds actually improved as a result of my fitness focused solo rounds. I was rarely tired. Especially during long weekend tournaments where you play two rounds a day. Because I practiced while I was exhausted from all the added exercises, it was an absolute breeze to play when I was just focused on disc golf alone. And my technique and form didn’t suffer at all because of all the resistance training I was doing with the pro pull resistance trainer.