Category Archives: Athletic Development

Why do you need to be strong anyway?

Considering the name of this blog, and the length of time I’ve been running it, it is pretty shocking to admit I’ve never actually addressed this question before now, I’ve made mention to reasons to be strong in almost every article but never actually fully answered this question, all in one place, in a (hopefully) succinct and useful manner, so this is my intention right here right now. And as it’s taken so long I guess I had better be good!

At first glance golf doesn’t seem to a sport that requires much in the way of strength. The club is a light implement and a highly co-ordinated movement in which flexibility and speed are clearly required to execute effectively. That may be the case but strength is vital to all of those physical qualities. Indeed, research has shown strength training to:

  • Reduce injury risk in golfers
  • Increase Club-head speed by 7-10 percent, or the equivalent of 10-15 yards, without any ill-effects on accuracy.
  • Increased strength and flexibility allows golfers to adopt more optimal swing mechanics
  • Improve muscular strength and muscular endurance, which has a positive impact on golf swing consistency during an 8-hour, 36-hole round of competitive golf.
  • Improve shot dispersion stats
  • Increase greens in regulation hit as a result of being closer to the hole after drive
  • Improve putting distance control
  • Lower scores
  • Strength training in lengthened position has even been shown to increase muscle length more effectively than static stretching

The strength-speed continuum

If you’re a golfer you’ve probably swung a 400 gram club your entire life, and have therefore got pretty good at swinging light objects at near maximal velocity. In other words, you are able to put the force you have into the golf ball reasonably quickly, but you don’t have much force in absolute context to put into the ball. This explains why research has shown time and time again that strength training improves club head velocity (there are still some that claim that weight training is bad for golfers and to them I will add this caveat; bad weight training is bad for anybody, good weight training can certainly help).

The speed strength continuum, then, goes from absolute speed on the left to absolute strength on the right.

AbsoluteSpeed

Somewhere in the middle lies a sweet spot between general force production abilities and the abilities specific for your sport, this will obviously vary from sport to sport with a power lifter needing more absolute strength and a golfer needing to be slightly towards the speed/ speed-strength end of things.

We have the average golfer on the far left side of this continuum from years of swinging a light club at near maximal velocity and we need to bring you towards the right side, because absolute strength is the basis for a lot of things, not just power output but also stability.

Once we’ve developed some strength and brought guys towards the absolute strength end, we can begin to work exercises that work on that ideal middle area with a little more specificity to golf. This is where med-ball throws, weighted jumps, kettlebell swings, etc come in. There is fairly obviously a consideration for individual needs here too, the classic big strong guy for example might need to be moved towards the speed end of this continuum and we would focus our efforts on speed and speed-strength work rather than strength work. There may even a place for expanding the continuum further and incorporating overspeed (underload) training in or supramaximal loading with some individuals. That said, the vast majority of golfers start way towards the speed end and moving them towards the strength end represents the largest and most easily improved window of adaptation.

Reduce injury risk

Right handed golfers typically display adducted or internally rotated right hips, low right shoulders, left thoracic rotation and rib flare (see picture below??)

To a certain extent many of these are sporting adaptations that help to perform the task of swinging a club, however they are also imbalances that left unchecked can lead to injury. As Eric Cressey said recently:

“Specificity works great until you’re so specific that you wind up injured and have forgotten how to do everything else”

A well designed strength training programs will include rotational drills on the opposite side, and you take you through various ranges of motion in various stances so as to round you out as an athlete and counteract the effect of the golf swing to reinforce these imbalances. As noted physical therapist James Porterfield says, a well designed strength training program, working within the individuals current movement capabilities will do wonders to prevent and rehab injury.

Strength is also the basis of stability – a lot of injuries issues are brought about when flexibility/ mobility are greater than your ability to stabilise in the end range position – indeed I’ve often said from an injury prevention point of view I’d rather have an athlete that is tight but stable than a hyper mobile athlete with no stability, as that person is typically spending a lot of time on the physio table!

A good example of this is the lower back, we know that repeated extension and rotation isn’t necessarily the best thing for our spines, hence why a huge percentage of  golfers suffer low back pain. Good core and glute strength provides more spinal stability and helps us to achieve better spinal positioning as we rotate, taking some of the pressure of the lower back.

Increased body awareness and movement context

As the world renowned golf biomechanist Mark Bull once put it to me,

“The biggest advantage of S&C as I see it is movement context”

The golf swing is a highly complex, co-ordinated movement requiring precise timing of movements of pretty much every muscle in the body. You need, therefore, a good understanding of where your body is in space to execute it effectively.

Strength training is a great educational tool to develop awareness of how your body is moving and how to control it. Further, external load has a seemingly magical property to make a movement pattern ‘stick’ and become engrained in our memory.

Take the hip hinge for example, in a good hip hinge the muscles responsible for thoracic extension must be activated to prevent c-posture. The core musculature must do the same to keep the lumbar spine from extending as we rotate, putting the back in a compromised position. Pushing the butt back loads the powerful muscles of the hip that create so much of the speed in the golf swing. Good golf posture requires the ability to bend from the hips whilst maintaining the neutral pelvic tilt and spinal alignment essential for efficient rotation. In short a good hip hinge teaches us many of the skills we need to get into and maintain a good golf posture, come to think of it many of the cues we use in the gym to teach the hinge, such as screwing the feet into the ground, pushing the butt back and bracing your core will drastically improve you golf posture.

stronger-golf-hip-hinge

Not only that but the more movement variability we have, the broader the foundation we build. The wider the base, the more we can stack specific skills on top of it. An athlete who is solely engaging in golf like movements and oftentimes cannot or has lost the ability to perform basic movement patterns, they therefore have also lost those wide foundations to build their sports specific skill upon.

The golfer who establishes wider context has a wider array of movement perspective and greater kinaesthetic awareness, they are therefore more likely to quickly grasp new coaching cues or swing changes. In short, they are more coachable. This is also my major argument against early sports specialisation for kids.

Hopefully this post has given you more of the why behind getting strong for golf, the rest of this blog is littered with articles on the how so please take a look around, then go pick up heavy things!

Does overspeed training increase my swing speed? What the research says

The idea that swinging an underweight club or bat, throwing an underweight ball or sprinting with reduced resistance, meaning you can therefore swing, throw or run faster, therefore leading to an increase in swing speed, has been around a while now. However the idea seems to have become really popular  in golf of late with SuperSpeed Golf leading the way.

reactive-stretch-cord-overspeed-accelerator

 Theory behind Overspeed Training

Overspeed training in general, affects the speed of the neuromuscular reaction that happens when the brain runs a motor pattern i.e. the golf swing. It’s well established in exercise science that there is a continuum of motor units and their associated muscle fibers based on various physiological factors (not just simply fast vs slow, but every option between), with the largest motor units typically being the most forceful and having the fastest contraction speed. Overspeed training is believed to improve velocity of movement by recruiting the fastest specific motor units used in a particular action. Put another way, the body has a “typical” response to any motor pattern that does not usually equate to its potential for efficiency and speed. When the body runs the motor pattern with a lighter implement (one that is lighter than the usual implement, but not too light as to cause the activation of a completely different motor pattern), the neuromuscular response to this motor pattern can happen significantly faster.  In a short number of reps, the body will develop a ‘memory’ of this new and increased speed of the neuromuscular response.  Essentially, we have tricked the body into resetting the typical speed of the motor pattern.

 The need for specificity

As you may have picked up from the above overspeed relies on the idea of specificity, meaning that the training must closely resemble the specific athletic action in order to lead to transferrable results. Take a look at the demo video below and notice that all the drills closely resemble the golf swing. For general training I’m not a fan exercises mimicking the golf swing as these exercises can’t be loaded progressively to drive strength improvement, however with overspeed training we are not after progressive overload by resistance but by velocity and specificity is paramount.

This also leads to the need idea of keeping the weights within about 12% is considered crucial (This value has been determined by the few studies done with baseball swings and throws, where they determined too great of a deviation from the standard weight actually led to velocity decrements rather than improvement). The thought is that more or less than that will lead to the training not translating to actual improved velocity in the action.

Single set response

Much like PAP training in the weight room, this effect if only occurs on a single use basis will fade gradually over about 20 minutes to an hour.  According to SuperSpeed, they have found that there must be a gradual increase in load during the training, in order to make this increase in response speed permanent (the reason for our 10% light and 5% heavy clubs in the set).  This load cycle repeated many times during the individual training session continues to alter the neuromuscular response speed in the body. SuperSpeed claim that with about 4-6 weeks of regular practice, we find that the player’s initial speed increase will become permanent, essentially representing a reprogramming of the ‘typical’ speed of the neuromuscular response to the motor pattern.

Effect on swing mechanics

According to SuperSpeed, their research on the effect on the biomechanics/ kinetic chain of the golf swing, have found significant increase in especially pelvic rotational speed in many players.  This directly results in more speed in the distal segments beyond the pelvis as well.  The more energy that is transferred in the first link of the chain multiplies greatly as the players gets to impact.  They posit that there are a few reasons for this increase: Improved Stability resulting directly from increased muscle activation from the non-dominant swings.  This allows for a stronger load and unload cycle in the lower body.  Increased Downswing Loading as a result of the step-change of direction swings, and general attempt by the player to get the club moving faster.  We find that not having the goal to hit the golf ball allows the player to “discover” the necessary sequencing elements of ground force interaction and lag. This can also lead to players seeing a significant improved in casting and early release in the golf swing.

What the research says

Currently there is no quality research with golf (although SuperSpeed tell me they currently have some underway, and rest assured we will bring you the result as soon as we have them), we must instead take what we have and see what results they’ve gotten. The idea of overspeed training originated in sprinting so there is a fair amount of research on how it affects sprint speed, however there probably isn’t too much carryover to golf. Baseball is the closest activity to golf that has been studied to any real extent and there are a few reasons the results from studies in baseball may apply well to golf:

  • Rotational sports have quite a bit in common, as they sometimes use similar musculature and often rely on the same kinetic chain pattern of muscle activation.
  • Baseball swings and throws rely on the same sequence as golf; generating force from the ground by the big muscles in the hips, glutes, and quads and transferring the force through a stable core into the upper body musculature and eventually out to the extremities to the ball.

Effects on Baseball bat velocity:

Sergo & Boatwright (1993)

Studied 24 collegiate baseball players and split them into three groups based on the bats they would use for practice swings. One group was a control and used a standard legal bat, one group used a heavier bat, and the final group used an underweight bat (overspeed).
They would end up swinging a bat 100 times a day, 3 times per week, for 6 weeks (1800 total swings) and found that all three groups had similar increases in bat velocity (about 8%). Concluded any bat swung that many times will increase velocity, with overspeed or overload having no additional benefit

DeRenne et al. (1995)

Incorporated the use of all three weights of bats seen above into a combined methods training, each individual would take 50 swings with a heavy bat, 50 with a light bat, then 50 with a standard. One group only performed practice swings (dry swings), another took these 150 swings during batting practice, and the final was the control who only used a standard bat. The addition of overspeed and overload in the dry swing and batting practice groups led to significant increases compared to baseline and the control (6-10% average increase). The biggest increases were with the batting practice group (10%) which might have to do with trying to impart maximal force on a ball in a sport specific manner rather than just practice swings with no ball involved

Effects of weighted balls on throwing velocity in baseball:

DeRenne, Ho, & Blitzblau. (1990)

Tested baseball pitchers on throwing velocity after training with underweight and overweight baseballs. Found significant increases when using a ball that was 20% heavier as well as 20% lighter in addition to regular practice with a standard ball.

Effects on swing mechanics and accuracy:

As you can imagine with research in this area being fairly new there wasn’t a lot to go on. One study on bowling in cricket (Petersen, Wilson, & Hopkins. 2004) that found decreased accuracy using underweight and overweight methods, but these decrements were nearly totally wiped out if they had properly matched their intervention and control groups for baseline velocities and skill.

The contention currently seems to be that if using a relatively small deviation from the standard weight, we probably will not see much loss in accuracy, if any at all, but I would like to see that incorporated into future studies just to be sure. In my opinion (and this is only my opinion) it is also certainly possible that it could have some benefits to sequencing as step drills and swings with the club held at the club head end have been used effectively by coaches to teach better release mechanics for a long time.

Conclusion (a.ka. the bit you skipped to anyway)

Baseball has shown an amount of support for the combination of specific overspeed and overload training in a sport that also relies on rotational power. Many golf specific results also report increased clubhead speed immediately after a training session with overspeed, which is going to happen due to maximal activation of the nervous system as well as loosening up the musculature specific to the golf swing. However as of yet, there has been no scientific evidence of long-term retention using overspeed-training devices in golfers, other than the case studies and testimonials of various golfers who are advertising for companies such as SuperSpeed Golf. Additionally no research exist to support it’s use to improve swing mechanics.

This is not to say definitely it doesn’t or doesn’t have a longer term effect simply that the research doesn’t exist to give a definitive answer yet. But we can say that it will have a short term affect for definite and the theory is grounded in well-established exercise science principles.

Finally, a few authors suggest that overspeed and overload training works more efficiently with those who have a pretty solid base of fitness and strength, meaning resistance training and other training methods could be more beneficial for the weaker athletes, at least at first. This would make sense, as it fits with the general thought process of power training for sports. So it maybe for optimal results the best idea is to combine overspeed training with resistance training and periodise both based on your needs and competitive season. Incidentally, I am a huge fan of opposite swings to develop speed and deceleration ability for golfers so this also needs to be built in to any overspeed training protocol in my opinion (SuperSpeed Golf protocols do a great job of this actually)

Hopefully this article has given you some background info on overspeed training and shown you some of the potential gains. If you’d like to add overspeed training to compliment your golf fitness training do take a look at SwingSpeed Golf as they’re making waves in the industry and more importantly are great people. Also if you do purchase be sure to use the code “strongergolf” at check out, that way you get a little discount and I get some money come way too so I can continue to write free articles for you guys. Win win!

This article was co-authored by myself and Alex Ehlert, Alex is former NCAA Division 1 Golfer who was able to gain 20 yards by becoming stronger and more athletic. He is now a Masters Student in Exercise Physiology and writes about optimising golf fitness using an evidence-based approach at his blogwww.golfathlete.blogspot.co.uk and can be contacted via twitter. Information for it was also kindly provided by SuperSpeed Golf.

 

Rate of force development: What golfers need to know

This is a guest post by Alex Ehlert, Alex has really caught my attention of late with his commitment to seeking out best practice for golf fitness by applying research backed evidence (something I like to think of as a defining quality in our training at Stronger Golf too).

One common complaint I have heard about golf resistance training is looking at something called the rate of force development or RFD, basically this is the amount of time it takes to develop force.

I’ve heard it said that strength is unimportant in golf because maximal force does not have time to develop during the short time-frame of a golf swing, or that the relative light weight of the club makes it irrelevant.

The first part is true to some extent, studies have shown that it takes about 300 milliseconds or more to create maximal isometric force and most athletic actions, including golf swings  occur in a shorter time frame than that (6). But if strength were not important for this reason, it would also be equally useless in nearly every explosive movement in the athletic world, which is obviously not the case. The modern golf swing takes no shorter time than most explosive athletic actions, yet resistance training is common practice in nearly every sport but golf. I want to show why resistance training is important for all explosive activities, including golf.

There have been multiple studies showing that resistance training increased RFD, meaning force was able to be produced more rapidly (1). In other words not only does resistance training allow a greater potential for maximum force, it also allows for faster development of that force. Further, one unique study compared the factors that influence RFD at various time points (2). They found that most of the variance between individuals’ RFD in the first 90 milliseconds was correlated with contractile properties. This refers to the contractile proteins within the cell itself and how rapidly they can cause action. The study found after 90 milliseconds, as much as 52-81% of the differences in RFD were attributed to the individual’s maximal contraction force A.K.A. maximal strength. 90 milliseconds is well within the time frame of a golf swing, so it would seem that strength plays a large factor in clubhead speed after all.

Part of the reason for the confusion on strength’s role in golf has to do with people throwing around the term “power” without actually knowing what it is. Power has a very simple formula of Work/Time, with Work being Force x Distance. So you can simplify it even more to Power = Force x Velocity since Velocity=Distance/Time.

power-formula-image

Therefore it seems pretty obvious that a couple factors influence the ability to create power. The first being the ability to generate a lot of force, and the second being the ability to do so with high velocity (5).

It is also important to note that muscle operates under the Force-Velocity relationship. As velocity increases, the ability to generate force decreases. Without getting too physiological, the explanation for this is that with higher velocities, there is less time to allow the contractile proteins to bind together and create cross-bridges which help produce force. This does not mean that a sport requiring high velocity like golf has no use for maximizing force, it just means that optimal power is performed at a level below maximal force as well as maximal velocity. This is not unique to golf, you want the right blend of velocity and force to create as much power as possible in any explosive action.

So how do we develop optimal power and rate of force development?

When trying to increase power, it is important to focus on several factors: overall muscle strength, the ability to develop forces rapidly (RFD), and the ability to utilize large forces at velocity (5). These factors work together, but it is strength that lays the foundation for the others. Put simply, stronger athletes consistently have more potential for high power output (3). Indeed, research with comparatively weak athletes, performing programs with just strength training, led to significant increases in power without any power-specific training (4).

Editors note: The take home message here is therefore the need to develop your strength base first.

This idea brings up another issue, how strong is strong enough? This topic is one without a clear-cut answer but a few things have been shown. First, one study with soccer players found that those who could squat 2x their body mass were significantly more proficient in power activities like sprinting and squat jumps (7). I have also seen consistently the idea of a broad jump of 1.2-1.4x an athlete’s height to be a good goal. Either way I would venture to guess that a large majority of golfers are not currently capable of these feats, meaning there is probably significant area for improvement in the strength department. Others have developed pretty good standards of strength that correlate well with golf performance that golfers should strive for.

It has been reported that stronger athletes are more responsive to power training than weaker athletes so having sufficient strength can help receive more of a benefit from power-specific exercises (4). It is important to note, however, that this does not mean stronger athletes should perform only power movements or that weaker athletes will not also benefit from plyometrics and other powerful exercises. It means that developing a foundation of strength is important for those who are deficient in that area and even once it is achieved a continued focus on strength will prevent detraining, or the decrease in strength over time.

Editors note: For our attempt at answering the question of how strong is strong enough for golf take a look at our strength standards for golfers post.

Once a foundation of strength has been built, golfers can further enhance power by incorporating plyometrics, ballistics, and other power movements into their program. These exercises will help the athlete develop force rapidly and utilize it at high speeds.

Remember that force velocity curve from earlier? To optimally train the body for athletic performance we need to perform at various areas of the force-velocity curve, meaning working on maximizing strength at the high-force, low-velocity end as well as working on RFD at the lower-force, high-velocity end.

Force-Velocity-Curve

This can be done by using a number of methods, either using certain exercises and altering the loads to train for strength vs power e.g. squatting with lower weight (50% max) some times and performing reps explosively, and squatting at a heavier range at others (80-100% or more), or by utilizing different exercises e.g. squats and deadlifts to develop strength and then incorporating more “power” movements like box jumps and medicine ball throws to incorporate speed and explosiveness.  Both of these methods have been utilized with success as well as a combination of the two as long as the program is very well designed and the individual is screened for movement and strength deficiencies before proceeding.

One last important idea to remember is periodization and the sequencing of a program. This refers to planning how the program is going to progress to fulfill the individual’s goals. This will be different based on the person’s needs from training. For those lacking the foundation of strength (which is many golfers), it often initially includes a time to correct any deficiencies in their movements that might harm their ability to train. Then it will include a time of resistance training to develop that foundation of strength. Then when the foundation of strength is sufficient, the athlete will be prepared for maximal benefit from a mixed methods program that includes explosive power movements. I also believe mobility and stability exercises should be incorporated into each stage of the training. Finally, the program should also be utilizing progressive overload where the individual is given more difficult tasks over time since the body needs to be challenged in order to change in a positive manner.

References

1.     Aagaard, P., Simonsen, E. B., Andersen, J. L., Magnusson, P., & Dyhre-Poulsen, P. (2002). Increased rate of force development and neural drive of human skeletal muscle following resistance training. Journal of applied physiology, 93(4), 1318-1326.

2.     Andersen, L. L., & Aagaard, P. (2006). Influence of maximal muscle strength and intrinsic muscle contractile properties on contractile rate of force development. European journal of applied physiology, 96(1), 46-52.

3.     Baker, D. (2001). Comparison of upper-body strength and power between professional and college-aged rugby league players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 15(1), 30-35.

4.     Cormie, P., McGuigan, M. R., & Newton, R. U. (2010). Influence of strength on magnitude and mechanisms of adaptation to power training. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 42(8), 1566-81.

5.     Kawamori, N., & Haff, G. G. (2004). The optimal training load for the development of muscular power. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 18(3), 675-684.

6.     Thorstensson, A., Karlsson, J., Viitasalo, J. H. T., Luhtanen, P., & Komi, P. V. (1976). Effect of strength training on EMG of human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 98(2), 232-236.

7.     Wisløff, U., Castagna, C., Helgerud, J., Jones, R., & Hoff, J. (2004). Strong correlation of maximal squat strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players. British journal of sports medicine, 38(3), 285-288.

Alex is former NCAA Division 1 Golfer who was able to gain 20 yards by becoming stronger and more athletic. He is now a Masters Student in Exercise Physiology and writes about optimising golf fitness using an evidence-based approach at his blog www.golfathlete.blogspot.co.uk and can be contacted via twitter.

3 (or 4) Exercises to do everyday for better posture and better golf

There are some exercises I believe golfers can’t get enough of.

Why?

Because they help offset the toll that working on a computer (or even a mobile device) takes on your body and your golf swing.

Specifically, that toll is forward shoulder position, downwardly rotated scapular, a flexed thoracic spine and forward head position. This can lead to issues rotating and even controlling the club-face in the golf swing, as well as to neck, shoulder, and back pain.

All the hours you spending at your desk, surfing the internet on your laptop, texting and playing angry birds on your phone can’t be undone with a few hours a week in the gym.

You need to up your game, the more frequently you perform these exercises the better.

Now just hear me out before you complain too much about not having the time: The best part is these no-weight, no-sweat exercises anywhere, even in the living room during the adverts of your favourite TV show! (the videos below are actually filmed in my kitchen and conservatory just to prove the point).

Exercise 1. Forearm Wall Slides w/ Scapular Retraction

Stop what you’re doing right now, and sit slumped forward in a chair. Now with your arms crossed in front of you try and rotate your shoulders to the left and right just as you do in the golf swing, take note of how much rotation you are able to achieve.

Next imagine that there’s a string attached from the ceiling to your chest and that string is being tightened, pulling your chest closer towards the ceiling, extending your spine and making you sit up straight. Cross your arms again and rotate, you are able to get more range of motion right?

This exercise drives the thoracic extension essential for good rotation mechanics. As well as teaching good scapular position essential for overhead movements and that also has a potential affect on club-face position.

For best results, do 10 to 15 reps of this exercise up to three times a day. (It’s easy to do in your office, and a great warm up before you lift weights.) Those of you with shoulder issues will love how good it makes your cranky shoulders feel too.

2. Hip bridge w/ leg extension

It’s not just slumping that hurts your posture. Simply sitting can be harmful, too.

For instance, when you sit constantly, as most of us do, the hip flexors on the fronts of your hips become short and tight. What’s more, your glutes—actually forget how to contract. (After all, when you’re sitting they’re not being used for much of anything except padding for your hipbones.)

The combination of tight muscles on the front of your hips and weak muscles on your backside causes your pelvis to tilt forward. This puts more stress on your lumbar spine, which can lead to low-back pain.  According to Lance Gill and TPI lower back pain is the number 1 reason why people stop playing the game of golf.

From a technical stand point too the glutes are important, when we talk about hip/ lower body stability, the ability to rotate around a stable lower body in the backswing without swaying, or the ability to post onto a firm lead leg during the downswing we are essentially talking about the strength and ability to contract of the glutes.

Enter the hip bridge with leg extension. It strengthens your glutes and teaches them how to contract —which helps allow your pelvis to move back in its natural alignment. Do 5 to 6 reps for each leg, holding the top position of the exercise for 3 to 5 seconds.

Bonus exercise: For extra credit perform the couch stretch (so called because you actually use the couch to do it) for 15-30 second holds to stretch out those pesky hip flexors.

CouchStretch.jpg

3. Quadruped rotation/extension

Like wall slides, this is another great exercise for your upper body posture. This exercise helps mobilise your upper back by rotating at your thoracic spine, it as teaches the good rotational mechanics (rotating at the upper back not the lower back) that are vital in good swing mechanics and will also help protect that lower back from injury. Do 3 sets of 10 on each side once, twice or even 3 times a day

 

You’ll be amazed what a few minutes a day can do to improve your mobility and movement quality. As well as undo the damage to your posture, and golf swing, slumping 8 hours a day can cause. And because posture and state of mind are linked you’ll feel better, happier and more confident too. Now that’s what I call a win win!

 

Fixing your squat

In my time carry out movement screens on golfers (14 golfers this week alone) and spending most of my life in the gym, helping athletes get strong, I have seen more than my fair share of poor squat form.

The issues are pretty much the same for everyone: poor ankle flexibility, inadequate core stability, lack of glute activation—and in some cases, poor thoracic spine mobility.

Let’s take a look at some common squat mechanics problems and how to fix them:

Finding Your Baseline

To break down your squat pattern and figure out where your form is going wrong, you need to establish a baseline to check against for improvement. A simple body weight squat performed with your hands behind your head works perfectly for this.

Ask a training partner to watch carefully—or better yet, use a camera—and do a few reps using your natural squat motion.

Pay particular attention to squat depth, whether your chest is up (can you see the logo on the front of your shirt), if you’re tucking your butt under in the bottom position, the angle of your back is at isn’t too horizontal, lateral weight shifts as you squat down, and whether your knees are tracking over your toes or caving in.

Once you’ve taken note of your baseline squat pattern, it’s time to make it better! Many people assume that if their squat depth is shallow or their torso leans forward, they lack hip mobility or calf mobility. But they’re are a few other possibilities that that are actually just as common too.

Core Stability

One of the most common causes of poor form is actually a lack of stability—or more specifically anterior core stability. Test yours by squatting with a light weight, held at arms’ length directly in front of you, as a counter weight. This automatically forces your anterior core to engage. If your squat form looks better, you know you have an anterior core issue.

Ankle Flexibility

Lack of ankle flexibility can be responsible for many off the same issues as a weak anterior core. The old trick of placing 5-pound plates under your heels when you squat reduces the dorsiflexion requirements of the squat. If the counterweighted squat doesn’t improve your mechanics, see if elevating your heels improves your form.

If the counter weight does improve your mechanics, keep the counterweight but repeat with your heels elevated, see if this improves things even further.

Just found out you need to improve your ankle mobility? Take a look at this article for exercises to improve ankle dorsiflexion.

Glute Activation

We know the glutes are the king of the golf swing, essential for stability in the swing and generating power. We also know that thanks to sitting at our desks all day, down regulated glute activation is pretty damn common! If your knees aren’t tracking over your toes when you squat, you probably have glute activation issues. Lack of glute activation can result in relatively stronger quads, creating a more profound forward pull on the femoral head, which in turn reduces the space available in the hip joint to squat, limiting your squat depth and/or cause butt wink.

Place a mini-band around your knees to force your knees out. This is a technique called Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT). A small amount of resistance is applied to ‘feed the mistake’ in order help establish what favourable alignment actually feels like.

It is important to note that the assistance in RNT drills actually assists the movement pattern. Thus decreasing the amount resistance is the proper way to progress these drills.

This drill uses a light resistance band that applies an INWARD pressure on the knees. The result is you activating your glutes and avoiding excessively moving the knee into valgus.

Lateral Weight Shift

Oftentimes, athletes show a weight shift to one side or the other when they squat, leaving them susceptible to groin, hamstring and quad strains as well as low-back pain. What normally causes this imbalance is that the hip adductors on the same side as your shift are too tight, while the hip abductors on the same side of the shift and the hip adductors on the opposite side of the shift are too weak.

My favourite drill to deal with the short hip adductors on shift side are these split-stance hip adductor mobilisations from Eric Cressey.

Adductor strengthening on the opposite side can be done pretty effectively with mini-band lateral walks.

RNT is also a great way to fix this once again, a band pulling TOWARDS the side of the weight shift will often fix this squat pattern error pretty sharpish. Additionally, incorporating more single-leg exercises will be important.

Thoracic Spine Mobility

After making the modifications mentioned above, if you’re unable to keep your chest up and squat with appropriate neutral spine in the upper back, then lack of thoracic spine mobility is usually to blame.

Simple test: can you still see the logo on your shirt throughout the Squat? If not, can you see the logo when you squat with your heels elevated, a counter weight and band tension forcing your knees out? If the answer is still no, you probably need to work on T-spine mobility. T-Spine Extensions on a foam roller are a great way to develop the mobility required to keep your chest up in the Squat.

Begin at just above the belly button. With the foam roller in position, do five crunch movements. You should feel the roller pushing the vertebrae slightly forward, in effect creating range of motion. You can do a series of these crunches all the way up to your shoulder blades.

Now it’s over to you! Go forth, identify your squat pattern issues, use these drills to fix them and  let me know in a few weeks how much better your squat pattern has gotten! 😉

What golf-specific training really is

In the simplest possible terms specificity means that if you wish to develop a certain aspect of training then you emphasise that aspect in your training programme. The training of a squash player, for example, will therefore look quite different from someone who is training for the London Marathon.

Athletes who compete in relatively specific directions and actions without the elements of contact and chaos, they can benefit from training with a high degree of specificity to their goal activities (although the athlete should be sure to train in both directions).

This obviously applies to golfers, but what actually is specificity in golf training?

Golf-specific training doesn’t mean the exercise has to look ‘golfish’ or mimic swing.

The overhead squat pattern, for example, isn’t seen in the golf swing. However, it is a highly popular screen for golfers and much has been written about its importance to a properly executed golf swing. As Grey Cook explains here, we know hip rotation is typically important to properly executing the golf swing, that same level of hip rotation is required to squat deep. Additionally the overhead squat requires us to maintain t-spine extension (vital for good posture and rotation in the swing) whilst activating the core (essential for the transfer of power up the kinetic chain in the golf swing). A movement pattern doesn’t have be seen in the sport to carryover to that sport. 

As Mel Siff writes in his book Supertraining:

“To fulfil the criteria of correspondence with respect to the amplitude and direction of movement, it is advisable to select the exact starting position and posture of the athlete, as well as to calculate the direction of action of the forces associated with the working links of the system and the additional load. The line of action of the applied external resistance and of the loaded movement as a whole must also be taken into account.

For example, in middle-distance running, skiing and skating, a knapsack full of sand or a weight belt are sometimes used as resistance. However, the muscles which bear the load are those which resist the weight of the body. This can increase the ability to cope with vertical loading and develop general strength-endurance, but does not strengthen those muscles which propel the body horizontally.

Similarly, a skater may execute jumps on one leg on the floor or from a bench. These exercises strengthen the leg muscles supporting the body and the static-endurance of the back muscles, but do not fully imitate the working of the muscles for the push-off, where the force is directed backward.”

The golf swing is largely dependent on rotational and lateral movement to develop power, although there are also elements of vertical and horizontal power to varying degrees – There is a hip extension moment as we approach the ball in the downswing, this means for most the pelvis we be closer to the ball on striking than at posture, from this we can assume a horizontal displacement of force as occurred. Similarly, many players (Bubba Watson being a great example, whom I talked about in more detail in this article) display a pronounced dip to begin their downswing and then explode upwards as the come towards impact, this demonstrates a more vertical force displacement – To me this suggests there is merit to developing force production abilities in all directions for golfers although it would be pertinent to move to more lateral and rotational measures as we move towards the start of a competitive season say. Interestingly, as some players utilise more lateral means of generating power, whilst others use more rational and horizontal, and some more vertical (anyone who has been put through a BioSwing screen you will know you are grouped into a ‘power package’ based on the directions of movement you typically use to develop power in the swing), an argument could be made that different exercises represent truly specific to different golfers.

Siff then explains how sport typically involves simultaneous coordinated tension of muscle groups, such as the simultaneous flexion and extension at the two hip joints in running, where the angular movement of one leg enhances the push-off movement of the other.

For the golf swing this most easily equates to disassociation of the upper and lower body

By this measure something like a sled push can be seen as fairly golf specific, featuring an element of hip extension to produce horizontal force, disassociation of the upper and lower body (the legs move whilst upper body remains stable), summation of forces proximally to distally (from the ground to the arms, through the core), whilst the position taken up to push fairly accurately mimics the golf posture.

Let us also consider speed and intensity for a moment as I believe this to be one the biggest failings in the weighted swings, cable machine or dumbbell swings and bosu/stability ball swings that might traditionally be considered golf-specific:

Training should be speed, time constraint and intensity specific, not just movement specific.

If we consider training as a continuum from maximal strength modalities (a 1RM deadlift for example) at one end and pure speed (sprinting) at the other. As the golf swing is an incredibly fast movement and the external resistance utilised (the club) is relatively light, golf will clearly sit pretty close to the pure speed end of the continuum. As such specific training should focus on low intensities (intensity being defined as percentage of 1RM) and high speed movements, occurring within a similar time frame to the golf swing.

11v16bd

An obvious example would be something like a split-stance rotational scoop toss. Much like the sled push this also features disassociation of the upper and lower body and summation of forces proximally to distally, whilst the position taken up to push fairly accurately mimics golf posture.

Specificity in energy systems training

If we consider the energy system demands of golf in more detail; we must walk (admittedly across sometimes substantially undulating terrain) for sometimes upto 5 hours (depending on the pace of play at your course, but the seemingly endless slowing down of play on the PGA tour is a topic for another day and another blog). Walking is relatively low intensity activity that utilises the aerobic energy system, so we must develop the capacity to operate at low intensity for a long period of time. The golf swing itself is obviously a high power output movement occurring very quickly, this utilises the ATP-PC energy system. This only provides energy to the muscles for a very short portion of time, but at a very high power output, it requires short intervals and long rest periods to train effectively. This is a somewhat controversial topic but my suggestions would be to make sure to train your steady state cardio at a very slow place for long duration, to me walking and playing golf itself are the best bets here, and to keep your interval training to short powerful bursts of 10 seconds or so with relatively long rest periods of even a minute or above, depending on your fitness level.

A note on when specificity is appropriate

For professional/competitive golfers, we must understand that the competitive golf season is a long one, whilst amateurs (and quite a few pros!), typically don’t have a lot of exposure to physical preparation for golf. Therefore, it is safe to say that most golfers live executing movements on the furthest end of the general-to-specific continuum. Therefore, the greatest training affect according to the law of diminishing returns and largest portion of their workload should be dedicated to work that falls on the other (general) end of that continuum. This is most easily identified as standard maximal strength training type modalities.

To put it another way ‘golf-specific’ strengthening exercises are not appropriate or necessary when generally weak. It’s much more valuable to become strong overall, and only then pursue golf-specific strength. Staying injury free should be the goal of any training program first and foremost. The ability to absorb the forces generated in the golf swing, for instance, is important in staying injury free and generally associated with eccentric strength.

6 Physical attributes of elite golfers

One of my major roles in working with a golfer is to identify and fix physical limitations that might interfere  with an athlete’s ability to best “acquire” the swing mechanics for them. As such when I’m watching the top golfers in the world I’m often looking to identify the physical attributes they share. Here are six physical attributes I’ve noticed in most longer hitters and elite golfers:

1. Sufficient Hip Mobility

You don’t have to do anymore than watch a slo-mo of a good golf swing to recognize just how aggressive the hip rotation is during the golf swing. In particular, it’s essential for hitters to have sufficient hip internal rotation.

Tour players have been shown to have hip internal rotation of at least 45 degrees on both sides, not having adequate hip internal rotation will limit your ability to rotate in the golf swing, possibly resulting in sway or slide during the swing.

Unfortunately, these ranges of motion are usually the first to go in the dysfunctional lumbopelvic (hip/lower back) postures we often see with younger athletes or desk jockeys. As the pelvis dumps forward into anterior tilt, it blocks off internal rotation – and the athlete will extend and rotate through the lower back instead of the hip.

This leads to not only limited hip function, but also an increased risk of injury. The athlete may develop a number of hip issues (bony overgrowth on the head of the femur or the hip socket, a torn labrum, sports hernia, etc). There may also be extension-based lower back pain, including stress fractures and disc injuries.

This loss in hip motion is generally related to point 2…

2. Sufficient Core Control

Many of the hip mobility restrictions we see in these athletes aren’t just because muscles are short, or bony blocks have developed to restrict range of motion. Rather, they may be in place just because the athlete’s core control is so out-of-whack that alignment issues limit range of motion.

“Imagine driving a car that’s out of alignment; turning to one side will wind up being more difficult”

The good news is that it’s often possible to get quick changes in an athlete’s hip mobility just by modifying posture, incorporating positional breathing, and doing a bit of activation work. I’ve regularly seen athletes gain 10, 20 or more degrees of hip internal rotation in a matter of 30 seconds without stretching or manual therapy, adding some core control in the right places can definitely be a powerful thing.

Remember, the research clearly demonstrates that the core works to transfer – not develop – force during the golf swing. Its job is to take the force developed in the lower extremity and make sure that it is delivered to the upper extremity and, ultimately, the club. This function should be reflected in the exercise selection we use, as we gravitate toward rotational medicine ball variations and chops/lifts rather than sit-ups, crunches, and side bends.

3. Sufficient Thoracic (Upper Back) Mobility

Thoracic mobility is obviously vital in achieving a full shoulder turn whilst maintaining core and hip stability in the back swing, but it is also of major importance in the downswing/transitioning:

Take a look at the video below of Jason Day’s swing sequence  – like all long hitters – gets his hips moving forward while his hands are still held back and up in transition from the top of backswing.

To do this, you need three things. We’ve covered the first two: hip mobility and core stability. However, you also need sufficient mobility through your upper back to allow this “separation” to occur. Even if the hip and core components are ideal, if the upper back isn’t sufficiently mobile, the hands can’t stay back to allow a) the x-factor stretch to be increased b) force transfer without “energy leaks” and c) the right timing for this transfer.

I should note that while thoracic rotation (transverse plane) is predominantly what we’re seeking, you can’t have sufficient rotation if you’re stuck in a rounded upper back/ forward shoulder posture (flexion/sagittal plane). If you look like this, you’ll need to get your extension back to help unlock the rotation you seek.

t-spine_mobs_on_foam_roller_image

t-spine mobilisations on a foam roller are great way to develop thoracic extension and fix your hunched posture.

4. The Ability to Hip Hinge

In the golf swing, you see a small amount of hip flexion as we go back, followed by seriously powerful hip extension in the downswing. It’s important though to distinguish the hip hinge (the hip flexion in the backswing) as pre-loading, whereas the extension and internal rotation that takes place in the downswing is actually unloading. In other words, the former stores the elastic energy we need, while the latter releases it over a sufficient range of motion to generate as much clubhead speed as possible.

To be honest I’m actually shocked at how many, even advanced,  golfers have lost the ability to hip hinge correctly. And they’re usually the higher level guys who have hip and lower back problems too! If you can’t effectively pre-load your hips, you’ll have to go elsewhere to get your power – or you just won’t create it.

Without getting too sidetracked, here’s a quick rule with respect to the hip hinge: players need to be able to touch their toes without a huge knee bend (greater than 30 degrees) or hyperextension of the knees.  We also need to consider how much posterior hip shift their is, whether they can reverse the lumbar curve, and whether they return from the toe touch with predominantly hip or lower back motion, and how much flexion in the upper back there is. It should look like this:

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Image credit: TPI

As a general rule with my athletes I look to develop a good hip hinge pattern with Bulgarian bag good mornings, barbell RDL’s and Kettlebell deadlifts, then to load up the pattern with heavy barbell RDL’s, Trap bar deadlifts and Sumo deadlifts.

5. Lower Body Strength/Power

You don’t have to be an elite powerlifter or Olympic lifter to hit home runs. However, you do need enough strength and – just as importantly – the ability to display that force quickly.

On the strength side, I seriously doubt you’ll find many hitters in the big leagues who aren’t capable of deadlifting at least 1.5 times their body weight, and if you do find some, they’re probably guys who have been around for quite some time and gotten much more efficient with their patterning to use every bit of force they have in the tank. Or, they’re just carrying too much body fat.

On the power side, it’s not good enough to just be a weight room rockstar. It’s also important to be able to take that strength and apply it quickly in more sport-specific contexts with drills like rotational medicine ball throws, sprinting, jumps and lateral jumps. Once you’ve got the foundation of strength, your power training can really take off – and that includes your swing mechanics. Until you’re able to put more force into the ground, it’s going to be difficult to generate more clubhead speed unless you have glaring deficiencies in your swing mechanics that can be cleaned up. For more on developing strength and power in a golf-specific context take a look a this article (it’s an oldie but a goodie!)

6. The Ability To Pelvic Tilt

If you take a look at the swings of the best golfers in the world you will see that whilst the pelvis usually starts in a neutral, it moves into a small amount of anterior tilt in the backswing and posterior tilt in the downswing.

Note how Rory’s belt line moves slightly to point dow towards the floor more as he swings back, then moves quite a bit during his downswing to a much more horizontal position at impact.

This really piggy backs on point number 4 from above, as we discussed there in order to generate power in the golf swing. We must first go into hip flexion to create power then quickly reverse this and extend the hip to release that power in the downswing. The problem with this is that a hip flexion to extension pattern causes the head to move down and up if neutral spine is maintained. The shift from anterior to posterior pelvic tilt allows us to extend and rotate the hip in the downswing, clearing the way for an ideal club path and angle of attack with the ball striking advantages that accompany that, without the head moving up and down too much, and the difficulties in timing and maintaining our centre of gravity and stability that would bring.

So there you have it, there’s my list. This is only my top 6 though and by no mans is it exhaustive, ankle doors flexion, ankle supination and pronation and glute strength are few that come to mind that could easily have been included too. Anything else you’d add in? What would your top 6 look like?

 

Olympic lifting for golf: What do the experts say?

The olympic lifts and their use in developing power for rotational sports has been a somewhat controversial issue in Strength and Conditioning circles. With some coaches claiming they offer the best carryover to all sports and are absolutely essential, whilst others state the risk-reward is simply not worth it or the movement isn’t specific to rotational sports and thus shouldn’t be done.

 

With that in mind I thought I’d get the opinions of some of the brightest and best in golf fitness, see what they say, and what conclusions (if any!) can be drawn on the issue.

 

Nick_Randall_Golf_Fit_App_Stronger_Golf
 Nick Randall

 

“I use parts of olympic lifts, the bits that are easiest to coach and have the least amount of load on the wrist; push press, split jerk, clean pull. Essentially I don’t use any section of the lift that involves a ‘catch’, this is because elite level golfers are prone to wrist injuries and I don’t want to increase the chance of that happening! Also, a lot of time and energy needs to be applied to learning how to clean and snatch properly. I would rather spend that time and energy working on areas that will have a more immediate carry over to performance. 

 

Sometimes I think we forget that performance in elite level golf (where I do the majority of my work) is getting the ball in the whole in less shots over the course of a 72 hole tournament, week after week. It’s tempting to focus too much on the glamour stuff of power and distance, and go chasing that with flashy looking olympic lifts. We have limited time with these athletes who operate in a playing schedule that is a nightmare to periodise around – is coaching these complex movements really the best use of our time with them?”

 

Nick is PGA tour golf fitness coach and owner of Golf Fit Pro. He has online programs, his golf fitness app and equipment available at  www.golffitpro.net and is gives a great snapshot of life on the PGA tour via his Facebook page.
 

Lance_Gill_Stronger_Golf
 Lance Gill

 

“In all honesty my golfers for 20 years haven’t been at that level (or under 5%) of them have been. However I do CONDONE that method of lifting. I have spent a majority of my career specializing in movement refinement which leads down a path towards higher level mechanical lifting such as Olympic. In the grand tradition of not stepping outside my box of expertise, I will make sure my athletes are properly taken care of when they are ready for this type of lifting, via a specialist. I can’t be all things to all people. Knowing this has really helped my athletes more than me hoarding them for the sake of not losing them. 

 

However to prior to utilising the olympic lifts with clients, we work to make sure they posses adequate: 

 

1) hip hinge mechanics / multi segmental flexion
2) multi segmental extension mechanics 
3) pelvic tilt mechanics 
4) cervical stability mechanics
5) shoulder flexion mechanics 
6) grip strength 
7) ankle dorsiflexion mechanics 
Those are vital” 
 
Lance is a golf performance coach and human movement expert. He is President of LG Performance, Co-Director of the Titleist Performance Institute Fitness Advisory Board, and lead Instructor for TPI Level 1 and Level 2 Fitness Seminars. He can be reached at his website www.lgperformance.com or via his Facebook and Twitter pages

Golf_Fit_Ltd_Stronger_Golf

 Craig Tumblety
 
“I do use OL in my programmes, in fact we have a specific lifting based class I run for elite youth players (ages 16-25), most of whom have come through our junior academy. It’s not hard too see why the Olympic lifts are such useful tools for an athlete to call on in training. They involve some of the most vital movement patterns needed to swing the club efficiently and require the same explosive triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips we see in almost any power sport, including golf. The eccentric phase the lifts can also give us that deceleration control that we lack in some other power exercises.

Obviously the lifts have their limitations and the reality is that we can’t expect every golfer we train to reach the stage of performing an acceptable overhead squat, never mind catching a loaded bar in that position.

However I will use some variation or component of the Olympic lifts with nearly all of my athletes. There is plenty of scope for taking these two lifts and stretching out the possibilities. If I have a golfer who is competent in their deadlift, but perhaps struggles with their squat, then I might introduce Clean pulls and Snatch pulls when their program calls for power training. Also we will often introduce variations involving dumbbells, kettlebells, med balls or any other kind of weight so that we can challenge players in other planes of motion and with the asymmetries they face in golf.

We don’t believe that mastering the full lifts needs to become the be all and end all for golfers, but there is the opportunity for almost all players to take something from this power sport and apply it to their own. That being said, those that can learn the full lifts will have some powerful exercises in their tool kit!

Craig is Head of Performance at Golf Fit Ltd, a UK based private gym chain providing strength & Conditioning, physiotherapy, nutritional support, biomechanical analysis and rehab support to golfers. For more information on their gyms and programs take a look at their website www.GolfFit.co.uk you can also  get some great content from them on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Mike_Joyce_City_Golf_Stronger_Golf
 Mike Joyce

 

“Yes to Olympic lifting for golfers!

 

At City Golf, we take our golfers through a fully comprehensive body and movement screen, followed by a series of performance tests. Based on how well (or not) they test, the player then enters into a training programme to work on addressing any physical limitations (mobility and/or stability), before increasing strength, then finally speed training. When the player is cleared physically for the more explosive types of training, they are moved onto Olympic lifts. There is a huge similarity between the demands of Olympic lifting and that of the modern, explosive golf swing. Specifically:

 

– The speed of the movement
– The skill of kinematic sequencing
– Ground force awareness
– The demands on the “golf” muscles, i.e. posterior chain
– Postural awareness
– Pelvic control
– Scapular control

 

 Lateral and rotational power work will run along side Olympic lifting, on separate days however. I typically keep the Olympic sessions fairly short and don’t include any other planes of movement. Twice a week of Oly then twice a week of lateral and rotational work is sufficient for our client base to bring on results. I usually run the Oly strength phase for 6-8 weeks, then add on 2-4 weeks of reduced load speed work, before deloading all the way back to body weight for a “rest” for 2-3 weeks.

 

When coaching a player who is new to Oly lifts, I will progress from lowest to highest exercise skill requirement. When one area is mastered we will add in the next move. My progression is as follows:

 

1) RDLs
2) Deadlifts
3) Clean to shrug
4) Power Cleans
5) Front Squat
6) Cleans
7) Clean and press
8) Hanging Snatch
9) Snatch

 

Our clientele are generally amateurs, spending 12 hours in front of a desk, and have the movement issues that accompany that, as such it is rare that I take a player into stage 8. 

 

Finally, our players often report back that Olympic lifting is the most fun and mentally stimulating of all types of training.”

 

Mike is a TPI Certified golf conditioning specialist and PT at City Golf. One of London’s best golf performance centres, City Golf gym provides one to one training programmes integrating the principles of core stability and total body conditioning to golfers in the London area. More information about City Golf can be found at citygolfclubs.com.Mike is also happy to answer any questions you may about his training approach via his email, Mike@citygolfclubs.com.

 

Physio_Dan_England_Golf_Stronger_Golf
 Dan Coughlan

 

“In England Golf’s S&C program we encourage everybody to work towards incorporating olympic lifts as part of a long term athlete development program. However, the olympic lifts are a highly complex, high power output movement, needing a great deal of active mobility, as such actually training the full olympic lifts may not be feasible for many but it should at least be a goal to work towards. As part of this long term athlete development strategy we introduce olympic lifting at young age, incorporating learning drills with broomsticks as part of warm-ups for our junior golfers. This builds the patterns used in the olympic lifts so when it comes to training strength and power later in their development we can utilise the olympic lifts, additionally these drills work great to develop mobility and stability.

 

We like the snatch especially, due to shoulder mobility requirements in the overhead squat component and as the hip motion/ velocities carryover to the golf swing well. The catch position of the clean can cause wrist issues, we stay away from the clean for golfers with a history of wrist injury. 

 

For advanced/ competitive athletes periodisation becomes necessary, as such the off-season starts with corrective exercise and recovery, before progressing to work capacity and strength, then incorporating the olympic lifts in a power phase. In-season we like our athletes to complete one ‘hard’ session a week, this will usually include olympic lifts as it’s a great way to maintain strength, power and mobility in a time efficient manner.”

 

Dan is Sports Science and Medicine Lead for England Golf and a member of the European Tour Medical Advisory Board. You can find out more about him at his website www.danielcoughlan.com and follow him on Twitter.

 

Assist_Perform_Chris_Costa_Stronger_Golf
 Chris Costa

 

 “I see value to olympic lifts, but too much risk with regard to injury. Especially when the same results can be achieved with alternative methods and isolation of the movements, the risk reward ratio just doesn’t stack up to me.

 

Additionally the olympic lifts don’t truly mimic sporting moment, in that they exclude the lateral and rotational movement planes universal to almost all sports.

 

At assist perform we use high and low pulls, box jumps, med ball work, multi planar exercises and plyometrics to produce a similar training effect. The exercises don’t have the steep learning curve you see with olympic lifts so we can utilise them and get a training effect right away, additionally the neuro-muscular fatigue isn’t as great so athletes recover faster, train with more frequency, and develop greater power endurance”

 

Chris is the TPI certified owner/coach at assist perform, the premier golf and ice hockey performance centre in Philadelphia. Find out more about Assist performance gym and programming at the website www.assistperformance.com and follow them on Twitter.

 

CONCLUSIONS AND MY OPINION

Ok so there are definitely areas of disagreement here, but there are also areas of commonality, and if all these guys are agreeing on something I think it’s probably worth considering!

The major commonly I see is that all see value to olympic lifts when done safely and correctly. The problem comes when people are not coaching correctly or haven’t developed the foundations of movement quality and strength to use the olympic lifts appropriately. Determining if olympic lifting is appropriate for you and  if you have the perquisites in place yet is where a good coach will be invaluable to you.

Secondly, all incorporate some resistance based sagittal plane power exercises (olympic lifts, high pulls, push presses, etc are included here) alongside reduced load speed work, and lateral and rotational power work (bodyweight exercises such as jumps or med ball work for example). This points to the importance of taking a rounded approach to power development for golf.A third commonality among many was a concern for the difficulty and risk involved in the olympic lifts. All those involved in using the olympic lifts had stringent checks and progressions in place before incorporating the olympic lifts.

Personally I love the idea of training these moments at very lightweight with juniors to develop the movement patterns. However for those of involved in training adult, and potentially more dysfunctional, athletes I think it is important follow a well planned progression, and bear in mind that it may not be appropriate to ever progress to the point of full olympic lifts with some individuals. I am in agreement with the idea that the catch of olympic lifts, particularly the clean, can be hazardous for individuals with wrist issues and should thus be avoided with these individuals. I also believe that teaching this person with no experience the olympic lifts may have such a steep and long learning curve that it is better to look for other options that can still provide the training effect we are after, but from day 1. To give you an idea my power training will rarely incorporate the full olympic lifts, typically I utilise weight squat jumps, clean grip low and high pulls, single arm dumbbell snatches, clean grip snatches and power snatches, alongside more speed based med-ball, jump and hop work.

Incidentally having good progression systems in place applies to all power work not just the olympic lifts, for an idea of how we at Stronger Golf progress med-ball power work take a look at this article I wrote for TPI.

7 must do’s for the off-season

The end of the golf season is fast approaching, and the days where we get on the course less are, unfortunately, fast approaching too. So let’s discuss the things we can do to make progress during the dark days of the off-season:

1.Rest

I’m sure this will prove slightly controversial but the fact is most injuries in golf are caused through over use, golf is a highly repetitive sport after all. Research has reported these injuries can be caused through poor movement increasing stress on certain joints/areas of the body (more on this in point 2), or simply as a result of the repetitive nature of our sport and the amount of swing’s a golfer is required to make in play and practice. After a long playing schedule in season I recommend reducing the playing and practice time for a month or so, in order to give the body a bit of a break from the wear and tear of the golf swing and to reduce the likelihood of injury.

Admittedly if you live in a rain and/or cold part of the world this will sort of happen naturally anyway, but if you’re lucky enough to golf year round, like most of the tour guys, it’s definitely something I think you should consciously do.

2. Corrective exercises

The reduced volume of golf being played gives us the chance to address the muscle imbalances and movement deficiencies that will likely have built up over the season as a result of the asymmetrical nature of the golf swing or just from daily life in general. As mentioned above, poor movement can mean you are placing increased stress on certain joints/areas of the body and therefore increasing injury risk, but it can also have a detrimental effect on swing mechanics too. For example, tour players have been shown to have hip internal rotation of at least 45 degrees on both sides, not having adequate hip internal rotation will limit your ability to rotate in the golf swing, possibly resulting in sway or slide during the swing. Lack of internal hip rotation has also be associated with with low back pain, especially in golfers, as you will be forced to rotate at the low bak to make up for a lack of rotation in the hips.

Golfers are typically deficient in t-spine extension and rotation, hip rotation, shoulder external rotation and flexion and ankle dorsi-flexion and pronation. But this is just a general list, to be sure what applies to you you should be assessed by a professional, any TPI, FMS or SFMA qualified coach will be able to give you a great movement screen. Once you know your movement deficiencies you can start work on appropriate corrective exercises to resolve them.

Stronger Golf provide online movement assessments, as part of which you will get a report with corrective exercise recommendations, if interested please head over to the online coaching page and fill out the contact form.

3. Locomotion exercises

A locomotion exercise is basically any exercise that involves travelling form one point to another, such as bear crawls or weighted carries. Locomotion exercises are a great way to take the isolated movements you developed through corrective exercises and integrate them in a more dynamic manner, whilst also developing dynamic stabilisation and core control. Favourites of mine include bear crawls, hill sprints, prowler pushes, single-arm carries and lateral lunge walks with overhead reach.

video credit: Eric Cressey

4. Increase exercise variety

“Far away from the fight you can do more that makes you tired/sore and effect your skill training.Closer to the fight you can do LESS that makes you tired/sore and effect your skill training”

Above is quote from Jim Wendler that I absolutely love. Yes it’s about prepping for an MMA fight but the same principle should still be used in preparing for the golf season.

The off-season should begin with more general physical preparation, and as we get closer to the season we shift focus to more sports specific moves. Trading in more sports specific exercises for movement patterns you don’t do as often, and increasing exercise variety, is a great thing to do during the off-season (think back to the point I made earlier about repetitive movement and injury). Variety also provides a richer proprioceptive environment which will carryover to better motor learning, core control, dynamic stabilisation, etc. The gym shouldn’t just be a place to throw heavy weights around, but also a place for skill acquisition.

So if you want to go for a bike ride, do sprinting or kettle bell work for conditioning, learn how to do a Turkish get-up or take up a new sport, the off-season is a great opportunity to do this.

5. Get stronger

Obviously the off-season is a great time to focus on getting stronger. As the quote in the previous point eludes to, you can do a little more volume and not have to worry as much about being to sore to play.

FMS-Performance-Pyramid

Yes golf is a skill game but you still need a solid basis of strength to be able to apply that skill. The pyramid above is taken from Grey Cook’s Functional Movement Systems material and clearly demonstrates the need for a solid base of both movement ad strength before we move into skill training later on in the off-season cycle.

As people like Jason Glass have commented recently, strength also goes hand in hand with stability in the golf swing. For example, I see a lot of golfers who sway or slide in the swing due to weak or inactive glutes. Strength is a surefire way to a more stable swing, more control and better ball striking. Plus there is always the fun fact of the more force you can produce the further you hit it!

6. Jumps and Throws

Once you have developed your ability to produce force it’s time to consider the other half of the clubhead speed equation – producing force quickly. The need to produce force quickly in the golf swing is pretty obvious when you consider that during the golf swing you must produce around 2,000 lbs of force in less than 0.2 seconds.

Jumps and throws are my absolute favourite way to develop explosive power, they require little or no learning curve for the most part (everybody learnt to jump as a kid!) and are safe and effective. I don’t really care how you do it, just take a light implement or your bodyweight and move it fast!

7. Anti-rotation core exercises

Golfers rotate a lot! We know that rotation can be problematic and increase injury risk for many folks (one of the reasons why I suggest you reduce the volumes of golf swings you make somewhat early in the off-season). We need to be strong and have a quality movement pattern in the rotational plane, with rotation coming from the hips and the t-spine whilst ensuring you maintain neutral lumbar spine alignment. Anti-rotation core work such as pallof presses are a great way to hammer neutral lumbar spine position, whilst stabilising in the rotational plane, laying the foundation for quality rotation and reducing the risk of injury as we build towards the season, and increase the amount of rotation we do.

That’s a few ideas of what I think should be included in a good off-season program. What does your off-season training look like? Let me know in the comments below.

3 ways to increase force production in the golf swing – strength, speed and stability

While strength alone isn’t enough, strength is probably the first factor you should focus on to improve velocity. To develop more power, you need to be stronger. Put plainly, the more force you can exert, the further you’ll hit it.

Studies demonstrate, lower body strengthening is an area that deserves a lot of attention. The legs are are essential in creating ground reaction force and the first stage in transferring that force from the ground through the body and into the club.

Take a look at pro’s these days. A lot of the guys that have big legs, hips, and butts are some of the longest hitters, and the ones who look like they do it most effortlessly. Jason Day is a great example:

Jason Day a.ka. Quadzilla

Jason Day a.ka. Quadzilla

The stronger your legs, the more force you can generate. This has been shown in numerous studies to correlate to velocity in all most all rotational sports including golf.

Whilst a base of strength is incredibly important and something I see many golfers still overlook, strength alone is not enough and could even be detrimental. Research in the strength and conditioning world has shown that training certain qualities, like strength and speed, results in velocity specific adaptations to the body.

Better stated – train slow and you’ll swing slow.

Once a baseline of strength is established, I tend to focus on evolving the ability to ‘explode’. What I mean by this is you want to move with intent – fast, quick and crisp. This is area many golfers are lacking, they don’t know how to explode.

Once an athlete understands how to move a heavy weight slowly, you want to transition to moving a moderate weight fast, and a lighter weight even faster.

Speed trap bar deadlifts against bands (the band tension makes it harder at the top so momentum means the faster you pull the easier it is) are probably my very favourite exercise at the moving moderate weight fast end of the spectrum. Exercises like plyometric jumps, med-ball throws and kettle bell swings are effective for the lighter weight even faster part.

On the golf training side of the equation, this is where underweight clubs, hand speed drills and simply practicing swinging faster come in to play.

Lastly, and probably the least well implemented, is training for stability. To improve clubhead velocity, you need the proper motor control and dynamic stability to stabilize both the arms, the core and the legs.

To properly transfer force that is developed from the ground, you need a strong AND stable legs.

You need front leg stability to efficiently transfer force in the downswing, also don’t forget the body has internal regulations to avoid injury. If the lead leg can’t stabilize the force, the theory goes, your body won’t allow you to develop maximum force in order to protect you from potential injury.

Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why I believe using weighted clubs is ineffective and can be harmful, especially for young golfers. You need the strength to be able to withstand the force to produce the force, your body will down-regulate force development to prevent injury otherwise.

To maximize velocity, you need to train the body to develop and withstand force. Too many programs focus on developing force alone. This can result in ineffective training programs as well as injury by pushing past your physiological limits. Whilst we use a lot of exercises to help develop force, we also use exercises such as reactive lateral jumps and lateral jumps with external rotation stick, which have a high deceleration component too.

Video credit: Eric Cressey

To recap; get strong so you can create more force, learn how to ‘explode’ and generate that force quickly, and develop stability so you can control and decelerate that force. Next, sit back and watch how far into the distance your drives now go flying!