Random Golf Fitness Thoughts: Masters Edition

We have some fantastic ambassadors for the strength and conditioning industry in golf

In the lead up to the masters golfers and trainers have been incredibly honest and open about their training programs. Check out the videos below for some great examples of the training methods being employed by tour players.
This is great for our industry and getting more information about what constitutes proper effect golf fitness training. Also its amazing to see what great shape everyone seems to have got into this off-seaon…anybody else notice what great shape Mickelson has got himself into!

Golf is a power game

To steal a quote from rory himself “Golf has become a power game, it really has. There’s obviously skill involved, but the longer you can hit it, the more advantage you’re going to have.”
To cite a few examples from the masters Jason Day hits 8 iron into 16 on day 1, almost all the field are now hitting irons into 13 and 15, with 8 irons into 13 by Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy on all 4 days. The importance of this evidenced by the amount of eagles we saw on the par 5’s, I mean Johnson, had 3 in one round for god sake! (The interesting thing about this from my point of view is if you had to name some of the best athletes in golf, they also be the same names as the guys dominating the par 5s this past week)

No success is really overnight

Jordan Spieth is a worker! Whilst it might appear his rise to the top has been pretty meteoric Jordan has been putting in the hard yards with Damon Goddard and the folks at AMPD Golf Fitness or years. I thoroughly recommend you check them out on fb!

Lastly, lets hope a rivalry between Jordan and Rory can flourish because that will be amazing for the game (and golf fitness will be at the heart of it!)

9 thoughts on “Random Golf Fitness Thoughts: Masters Edition

  1. Nick

    Golf is a power game but this is nothing new. Ben Hogan was long for his size. Arnold Palmer was long. Rory couldn’t hit it as long as Arnold when he tried: http://www.denverpost.com/golf/ci_26452907/pga-pros-test-cherry-hills-no-1-green

    Jack Nicklaus was long.

    The top players are generally longer hitters than average. But they just need to be long enough e.g. Nick Faldo. Jordan Spieth is long enough but not a bomber by any stretch.

    Tiger Woods was the poster child for training for golf and look at him now. I bet in a time not too far away there will be a call to cut back on training for power and train for injury prevention and longevity more. Over training has to be closely monitored and longevity in the sport needs to be encouraged.

    Golfers are not power lifters and are not training for weight lifting at the olympics.

    I think a lot of young golfers will sadly get the wrong idea about getting strong for golf and will get injured over and over again.

    Young golfers need highly specialized experts to monitor what they are doing to make sure they are doing it correctly and not risking injury. Plus they need to be on a program to protect there bodies before they try and pump big weights.

    The point is, there needs to be a balance between longevity and power.

  2. Stephen Blanchard

    How much is too much?

    I have been doing 5×5 for 7 months and as you know that is a constantly increasing program. I now have to use chalk to handle the bigger weight on DL and was noticing in these videos that I am probably lifting more than Rory. The weights they use look big but are plastic not steel.

    Is there a danger that too much powerlifting will start to inhibit my swing rather than enhance it?

  3. Stephen Blanchard

    How much is too much?

    Great post Thank you. I was looking at the weight these golfers are using. The plates are plastic not steel so would suggest about 50 to 70kg range for DL

    I have been progressing in 5×5 for 7 months and have slowly built it up to heavier numbers.

    At what point will compound exercise lifting start to inhibit a swing rather than enhance it. should I switch to lighter weights and explosive plyo etc

  4. nickbuchan Post author

    Thanks for the comments guys! Nick you make some points that I think are pertinant in the minds of many golfers, but I would like to give a few reasons as to why I disagree with you. No doubt Arnold and Jack were some of the longest hitters in their time and that the better players do tend to be some of the longer hitters. I’m abit wary of comporasons like the one in the article as players will learn to maximise the technology available to them through technique adjustments, for example the x-factor stretch seen in transition in rory’s swing would be very difficult to achieve in a heavier steel shafted club, he has tailored his swing to take advantage of the modern technology. Thats not really the point though, what we are talking about here is the ability to take a golfer and add a few yards to his drive via increasing his strength levels, power output, mobility, etc (I think we can all agree, and the stats bear it out, that all other things being equal the further you hit it the better you score).

    On Tiger I don’t think his fitness can be blamed for his lack of form, as he says himself he was fitter and stronger when he was winning regularly. On the injury prevention issue, research has shown time and time again that a properly executed resistance training program will reduce the likely of injuries in both elite and amateur athletes. Strength training has also been shown to counteract many of the physical affects of aging such as muscle loss, reduced power output, flexibilty, balance, etc. Indeed pro’s like Tom Watson and Miguel Angel Jimenez have attributed their success late in their careers to increasing their fitness levels. I know that people cite Tiger as an example that wieght training will get you injured but there are two problems with this: 1) one individual outlier does make fact peer reviewed studies with proper sample and control groups do and the research is pretty unequivical that proper resistance training does not increase and in fact reduces injury risk! 2) I don’t know the in’s and out’s of Tiger’s fitness programming but I cannot believe a guy that has had two ACL surguries is still logging regular 8+ mile runs, a lot of Tiger does seems to me to be for his general fitness and not particularly golf specific (nothing wrong with that if he wants to do that, but something to bear in mind when talking about him in a golf fitness sense).

    Golfers are indeed not powerlifters or olympic weightlifters and we train them as such, using a variety of methods (including strength training and olympic lifting variations) in order to increase power output, balance, motor patterning, injury resistance, etc in the golf swing.

    Lastly, I don’t see there needs to be a balance between power and longevity, the two are mutually exclusive and can be improved concurrently. Incidentally, by strength training.

    1. Nick

      Balance is the key with this. Here’s my train of thought. Golfers didn’t hardly practice until Ben Hogan dug it out of the dirt. Then basically everyone did it because it was the thing to do. Basically no one did exercise for golf before Gary Player and as I heard Tiger say a few days ago basically him and Vijay were the only guys that did it when he started…. now everyone has a trainer.

      As far as practice is concerned, you just can’t just hit balls and expect to improve. You have to practice the right things, for the right amount of times, in the right order.

      The same is true with exercise. You can’t just go and run a million miles, do heavy squats, plyometric exercise and think that you’re going to become Rory. Because Rory was good before he did any exercise.

      Olympic lifters spend a huge amount of time on the correct form. They do that because otherwise they are going to get injured first and not lift the amount of weights they should second. There’s no point in being strong and injured.

      I agree that strength is a part of the equation but how much is too much? I have seen studies done in the past when there is a big diminishing return on investment for strength training. Whereas flexibility training had a much bigger return on investment.

      Here’s a question for you Nick…. how strong does a male golfer need to be to hit it 300 yards or swing at 115 mph?

      A golfer that hit’s it between 280 – 300 can compete with anyone.

      I stand by my statement that a lot of young golfers are going to go about strength training the wrong way and do way too much. Or in other words…. the return on investment is not high enough. Squatting 400 pounds is never going to translate into a guarantee that you will hit it over 300 yards or break par.

      You need to be strong for golf, yes! How strong before you’re wasting your time?

      1. nickbuchan Post author

        You make some interesting points here. Obviously no-one is recomending good physical conditioning is all you need to become a good golfer, completely agree you need a holistic balanced approach.

        Olympic lifters do indeed spend a lot of time perfecting form but I feel there are two points to make here: Firstly, olmpic lifting is a sport in it’s own right and the movements are highly technical (much like the golf seing you need to practice) this is why we don’t use the classic olympic lifts (clean and jerk and snatch) in training golfers, using simplified versions and more basic lifts that have a much less intense learning curve instead. Secondly, form is not the injury prevention cure all it is cracked up to be by inexperienced lifters, most injuries in the gym (as in all sport) and freak accident or repetition based in nature. Form is important to make sure we are targeting the correct muscles and reduce the risk of overuse injuries but good form often varies from person to person anyway. In order to oversee correct exercise selection and form it is important we have proper coaches and programming in place, particular within youth development pathways.

        The diminishing returns arguement is an incredibly complex one but I shall attempt to give a brief idea of what I think and why I think it. You are correct that there is diminishing returns for strength training and that there is one study I can think of that suggests golfers, when looking to imporve power, should do flexibility training instead of strength training as it has lower diminishing returns. This reasoning I think is flawed because we know that the golf swing requires the efficient use of the stretch shortening cycle to generate power, and to horrifically over simplify the stretch reflex requires both flexibility and strength. So to not try to improve one of those elements (as one suggested in the study) seems to me nonsensical. The other point I would make here is that everything suffers from diminishing returns even practicing putting, technical improvements to the golf swing, etc. I like to use a quote from Martin Hall when talking about this; ‘feed waht you need’ he uses this when discussing implementing swing thoughts but I think it can be applied wider to the entire process of improving your golf game. If you have a real weakness putting work on that and put everything else on maintenance for a while, once your putting has improved and is no longer you weakness work on something else and put putting on maintenance. The idea here is to establish your weakest link and improve it, to the point where you have a new weakness then attack that, thereby always working on the attribute that is furthest away from diminishing returns. Physical conditioning to my mind has a role to play within this process.

        How strong a golfer needs to be is difficult to answer as its not a linear relationship, and there are many other factors such as flexibility, rate of force development, conservation of angular momentumand use of stretch shortening cycle (this is where technique comes into play greatly) rather than just pure strength. That said strength is the linchpin of all these things, it is the most general of all physical adaptations and the stronger you are the better you will be at all other physical adaptations to some degree. Therefore rather than saying how strong does he/she need to be I would say increasing strength can help them get there if they can’t. Particularly if, like most golfers, they have limited strength training experience and strength is the limiting factor.

  5. nickbuchan Post author

    Stephen, as you may have guessed I don’t belive you can do too much. Although the law of diminshing returns will obviously mean it may be better to spend the time on an area of your game where you can make faster improvements, the goal always be to at very least maintain if not improve strength. On th weight plates, they are rubberised bumber plates not plastic training plates so they are still the same weight. The guys in the VIS video are squatting 315lbs or 140kg, I also know Rory handles this weight and more when squatting (I think his max is around 350), I have also seen Justin Rose DL a very light looking 90kg for reps in a tour event gym. These guys a fairly strong athletes!

    the point to include power work is a slightly contensious issue in the strength and conditioning world with some coaches programming straight away while others say you should have a 1.5 or even 2x bodyweight squat before you need power work. My opinion is somewhere in the middle, I dont porgram straight away but as soon as the prequisite movement patterns are there I have no problem with trying to move fast in them regardless of your strength levels. It sounds like you have built a reasonable basis of strength and comfort with squat, bench and DL so my advice would be to include so lighter weight ‘speed’ sets or plyometric work such as box jumps, lateral jumps or med ball throws. The simplest way to do this is to half the volume you currently do on your heavy sets and add in a few sets of power work to replace those sets (if doing light weight speed sets do them after the heavy work, if jumps or throws before the heavy work). Hope this helps answer your questions!

    1. Stephen Blanchard

      Thanks Nick that does make sense and comes as a bit of a relief as I am enjoying the 5×5 and dont want to give it up just yet.

      Regarding injury prevention, I can state that since starting this program using good form and steady progress, my muscles and joints particularly in my core, knees and lower back have never been better.

      Sorry about the double post repetition earlier, I thought my first post hadn’t processed.


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