Tag Archives: Hit it further

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.

 

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?

 

Home workout for strength, power & longer drives

Don’t let not having access to a gym keep you from improving as an athlete and a golfer! With just a few pieces of equipment (even homemade will work) you can get a great workout. In fact, as long as you have a bar capable of supporting your weight, an object heavy enough to challenge you when squatting and deadlifting with it, and a basketball filled with sand to act as a medicine ball your good to go.

After an appropriate warm up (ideas can be found on this site and all over the Internet…anything by Grey Cook or Eric Cressey is gold).  The workouts begin with a paired set of core or bracing exercises. Starting your workout with core exercises is gathering popularity with strength coaches, and there is considerable anecdotal evidence to suggest doing ab exercises first ‘turns on’ the core increasing engagement in subsequent exercises. Ultimately, this means better performance in the rest of the workout. I like to pair a dynamic exercise with a static one, and hit a range of angles.

A1. Side plank

A2. Mountain climbers (band resisted, TRX, or on a Swiss ball to add difficulty)

or

A1. Superman plank

A2. Half kneeling band chop (basketball or med ball chop will also work)

*paired sets mean completing A1followed by 30 seconds rest then A2, 30 seconds rest and so on. 2-3 sets of 10 reps, static exercises held for 20 seconds.

Power Exercises

You’ll only do 1 exercise here, no paired sets. The aim is to be explosive and throw, jump or push as high, fast our far as possible. Full recovery between sets and light weight is the order of the day. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps works well.

B1. squat jump

or

B1. Med ball rotational throw

or

B1. Clap push up

or

B1. Lateral jumps

Strength & Mobility

The main portion of these workouts features paired sets of a strength exercise and mobility exercise. I love these sets for golfers for so many reasons; they allow for improvements in strength and mobility simultaneously without one being detrimental to the other, it keeps training density high and works the two key components for increased clubhead speed. 2-3 sets for as many reps as possible (if you can do more than 15 reps on any set the weight is too light).

C1. Goblet squat C2. Fire hydrant hip circles

D1. Chin up          D2. Hip drops

E1. Lateral lunge E2. Pec doorway stretch

or

C1. Sumo deadlift   C2. Wall slides

D1. Press up            D2. Hip windshield wipers

E1. Horizontal row  E2. Quadruped thoracic rotation

Finishing Up

Many of you might finish up right here, and you’ve still got a kick ass golf workout in. But for those of you who really want to amp it up, what do you do next? Well the answer really is it will depend on your needs and goals but here’s a few ideas.

Most would benefit from some static stretching and foam rolling to improve mobility and aid recovery. Guys and girls looking to up the anti with their strength levels couldn’t do much better than to pick up the two heaviest objects to hand and go for a walk! Seriously, locomotion exercises such as weighted walks do wonders for movement quality and if the weight is heavy enough to challenge you will sky rocket strength levels. Those that want to lose a few pounds can really kick up the metabolic challenge and power output by employing tabatas. Pick 1 to 8 exercises, locomotion exercises like weighted walks of bear crawls are again great choices, as are battling ropes, sand bag carries and lifts, med ball throws for high reps, or even strength exercises such as squats and push ups. Just keep the weight light on everything and move fast, work for 20 seconds, rest for 10 and repeat 8 times for a total of 4 minutes work…not as easy as it sounds!

Give these workouts a try, you’ll have fun and improve your golf…I bet you!