Golf Fitness - An Interview with Dimi Lulov

As part of a series of interviews I decided to undertake with various people in the golf industry, I was very fortunate to speak to Dimi Lulov last week who kindly gave up his time to give me a really helpful insight into golf fitness.

Dimi is a golf fitness expert. He is a qualified personal trainer as well as a FRCms and TPI practitioner. Although we’ve never trained together in person, I took part in an online fitness programme in the past where he played an integral role. I have a lot of respect for Dimi because he is clearly passionate - he has constantly demonstrated a hunger to learn more about fitness, and golf fitness specifically. His content on Instagram always impresses me because he explains fundamentals in an effortless way with clear photos on how to work on various aspects of the swing and his techniques have helped many of his clients.

Dimi started playing golf at the age of 12 when he went to the range with his mum. He got serious about golf very quickly, started playing junior competitions and, aged 14, he achieved his very first handicap of 12 and was able to get down to 2 which is very impressive! Dimi admits that he began going to the gym in order to do “bodybuilder type workouts” which were very much focussed on aesthetics but when he found that his golf swing was really getting affected by it, he began questioning how this made sense. He said “all the [professional] golfers go to the gym and they seem to thrive off it. When I got to the tee, I felt restricted.” Through a lot of research, experimental “trial and error” and speaking to other people in the golf industry, he was able to piece things together and that’s probably how he has got to where he is today.

I was able to ask Dimi several questions and I have summarised the key questions and his responses (by and large in his own words) in this blog post:

What is the difference between golf fitness and traditional fitness?

Golf training focusses on breaking down the movement within golf, looking at the golf swing in sections, understanding what we do with what joints, what forces we resist and where we get power from. Golf fitness then involves reverse engineering in order to generate exercises to work on those sections.

Traditional fitness or anything focussed on bodybuilding has the main purpose to essentially build bigger muscles but that restricts your range of motion and you don’t necessarily generate a lot of power from big muscles.

What are the key golf muscles?

Dimi explained that if he was asked to programme on the spot then you would be “very, very safe” with any single leg movements and any core training.

A very special question from one of my loyal followers (@foretofourgolf) - How does Rory hit it 350 when he is 5ft 7in in heels?

In golf, there is a concept of “vertical jump” or “vertical power” and a study shows a straight correlation between how high you can jump and how far you can hit a golf ball. Rory has been tested and has a very high vertical jump but he also creates a lot of torque – the separation of his torso and lower body have never been seen before on the tour. This torque combined with the strength in his legs creates a “slingshot effect”. This can be practised in the gym by doing exercises such as half kneeling cable chops or regressing that further and just using your own bodyweight and turning to separate your upper and lower body.

Should you do exercises in a traditional stance or a golf stance?

There aren’t many exercises that you would do in your golf stance and the only one I could think of is throwing a medicine ball to a partner or against a wall.

Are the core principles of the swing the same but technology has improved or has the fundamental golf swing changed?

The fundamentals have always been the same and the golf swing has not changed. You are still using the same components and the same joints. Now we just have all the technology to optimise everything.

What is the best balance between training, recovery and golf?

If you are serious about golf then training should just be “the side dish.” A training programme is very important and should factor in what days you’re playing and practising. Experiment with volume in the gym and then see how your body feels and evaluate what you did in the session and how the training should be tailored. Playing 18 holes of golf in itself is super strenuous and you are taking your body through a lot.

Is cardio important for golf?

Yes and no. If you are really deteriorating during a round of golf e.g. by holes 14/15 you are tired, then you should check your endurance and cardio. A good baseline of cardio never does any harm but there are many other things to improve golf performance that should be prioritised ahead of cardio.

During lockdown a lot of people are training at home. What are your top tips?

1. Keep it simple

A lot of people are doing crazy things to stand out on social media, but one kettlebell and one resistance band will give you a good workout without being on the floor as a sweaty mess!

2. Focus on mobility

Now we are spending a lot of time sitting and lying down, the joints that we normally move are sitting idle so more focus should be given on mobility.

3. Focus on nutrition

Now is the perfect time to get the basics right and eat healthily.

I know you’re not a trained nutritionist but what is the best fuel for golf? Do golf protein bars and golf protein drinks actually work?

Before your round you should have a good baseline of carbs and fats in your diet as they are your main energy resource but there’s a lot of experimentation to be done as people gain their energy differently from carbs and fats.

Half an hour or an hour before the round the good fats such as avocados or nuts should be consumed or carbs such as rice or pasta would be beneficial. Mid-round you cannot go wrong with a piece of fruit or a cereal bar.

A protein shake is a protein shake and it does work. With protein bars be careful with the sugar content and if there is any more than 10% sugar then put it down. Protein drinks/bars do work but are not golf specific however they are better than a chocolate bar.

What is the best golf warm up?

This is really person specific but if you have to do one golf warm up you have to look at what you’re using in the swing – your hips, spine and shoulders are the main three areas being used. The “greatest stretch in the world” or “world’s greatest stretch” is a great stretch for these areas:

Kneel down into the lunge position (left leg forward with knee bent 90 degrees and foot flat on the floor), place your right hand on the floor opposite your front knee.

Place your left elbow inside the left leg and drop it down as far as you can to feel a deep stretch in the front leg. From there, rotate and try to reach the sky with your left hand. Repeat on the other side.

Ladies Golf Blog's home attempt! :

Should you stretch after golf?

Stretching before golf is vital. The greatest players in the world stretch before golf and if more amateurs did this there would be less injury risk. It is not necessary to stretch after your round.

Are Pilates or yoga good for golf?

Pilates and yoga are helpful for golf but Pilates is definitely more helpful. Yoga is helpful but there are many better ways that you can train for golf. However, these classes are so widely available so if you don’t have a golf specific trainer you are still gaining more benefit from these classes than by just going to the gym and hopping from machine to machine.

Do you train ladies differently to men?

100%. Essentially the biggest difference is the menstrual cycle and that has a big impact on the weight training, programming and nutrition. Within the menstrual cycle there are two phases – the follicular and luteal phase. In the first phase you can get disorientated and not have as much balance so this needs to be taken into account. With females you have to take the training week by week and it may change over 4 weeks. However, you are still working on the same attributes for men and women.

For anyone wanting to start golf specific training, what are the first steps they should take?

If you use machines, venture off the machines and go into the free weights section. 90% of the time when you hit the free weights section, you’re going to do exercises that will then be of some benefit to you. Stick to the basics such as full body workouts and you will be quite safe that way.

The problem with machines is that they are what trainers call “one dimensional exercises” and isolation exercises don’t do that much for the golf swing but when you have a set of dumbbells in your hand then you are recruiting stability and balance.

If someone was to come and see you, what are the first few things that you do?

The first thing is to jump on a call, go through a history and find out their ambitions and what they want from golf in general. There is then a screening process to see what’s going on with their body - see what’s moving and what needs improving. The screening is a vital section within the whole training aspect because you can screen someone and essentially picture their golf swing from the screening and see what needs improving and then build a programme around that.

For anyone wanting to become a golf fitness specialist themselves what should they do?

Start with a personal training qualification as that is your baseline and from there you can branch out into other courses such as TPI. Essentially, study hard, speak to other people in the industry who have "been there and done that" as you can learn from them and everyone helps each other within the industry.

A big thank you to Dimi once again for doing this interview. I learnt a lot from my time with him and I hope you have too. If you’d like to contact him, you can use the details below:

Instagram: @dimilulovpt


Happy golfing!