Tag Archives: Power

5 reasons why ‘golfish’ exercises don’t work

I’m not a fan of golfers using exercises that mimic the golf swing for ‘fitness’ benefits at all. There are much more effective methods to develop the raw materials of mobility, strength, speed and power we need in the golf swing, but more than that these exercises aren’t really that ‘specific’ in the first place. The law of speciality states that training should be specific to the sporting activity in terms of joint movement, direction of force, load and velocity.

Quote- New post design

1.Not appropriate when generally weak

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.

2.Competing motor demands

Mobility drills standing in golf posture for example – assuming appropriate stability has been developed these can be a great way to develop dynamic and functional mobility in the golf swing. As golf posture is being mimic the conditions and loads in which the body will be required to produce mobility are also replicated.

However if stability is an issue and the golfer doesn’t possess the ability to maintain these positions and joint loads while trying to demonstrate mobility then mobility will not be displayed nor will these exercises improve it. They could even do more harm than good as the athlete could attempt to generate more ROM and in doing so obtain it in a less than ideal manner (typically in this case by gaining ROM from the lower back and not the thoracic spine), potentially affecting motor control of the golf swing, applying faulty movement mechanics and even leading to injury.

This is where regressions moving away from the specific and allowing the introduction of more stability are vital.

3. Soley focusing on golf like motions leads to a lack of context and poor skill acquisition

It goes without saying that some athletes pick up new movements faster than others. Usually, this occurs because they have context from which to draw.

As an example, an athlete might have a great hip hinge because they’ve done it previously whilst playing sports that utilise the athletic base position. Having that hip hinge proficiency helps the individual to efficiently learn a deadlift pattern (among many other athletic movements).

Establishing context is just one of many reasons that children should be exposed to a wide variety of free play and athletic endeavours. The more movement variability we have at younger ages, the broader the foundation we build. The wider the base, the more we can stack specific skills on top of it once the time is right.

An athlete who is soley 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.

4.Direction of force

We talked earlier about the importance of direction of force as it pertains to specificity, citing the work of Mel Siff. One of the problems with many ‘golfish’ exercises using bands or cables is that the actually fail to apply direction of force specific to the golf swing. Take this cable backswing here:

Whilst the movement looks similar to the golf swing the direction of force is completely altered. In the case of the cable backswing, the weight of the cable stack is pulling you down and forward towards it, you must therefore activate the muscles to resist this, this doesn’t happen in the swing normally. The golf swing requires almost every muscle your body to be utilised in a specific sequence, in specific ranges of motion, and in correct tension relationships to all the other muscles. Altering the direction of force, causes your body to change the entire sequence and balance of the movement in order to achieve a similar outward appearance.

 5.Time constraint and intensity specific

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. The golf swing is a high speed movement, it therefore stands to reason we should train with the goal of developing speed. Additionally adding resistance (particularly via a cable which ensures smooth movement and equal resistance throughout) to the movement alters the velocity of the movement, research has shown in almost all speed based sports that swinging weighted implements decreases speed.

The reason they do

In a word, posture! When you train in the same posture as your goal activity, the forces (namely gravity) acting on your joints and muscles will be replicated. This can obviously be advantageous for sports specific training, the problem is that most of these exercises will contravene one, two, three or more of the rules above. One area I have found this idea to be usable is t-spine mobility drills – once you have gone through an appropriate progression i.e. from lying to kneeling positions before moving into standing – drills like the one below serve to develop the ability to utilise t-spine mobility in a position similar to the golf swing.

A Closing thought

if you are using a drill like this to improve a specific part of your technique/ motor pattern with your swing coach or something then absolutely all for it. RNT band drills for example can be really helpful in teaching correct shoulder/hip turn  or kinematic sequence in the golf swing. However, if your using drills like these in the gym in the hope it will improve your mobility, strength, power, you won’t have much success and when it comes things like rotational mechanics and lower back pain it may even be detrimental.

 

Why golfers still need the bench press

Today’s post is a guest post from Bobby Dattero. Bobby is Co-Owner and Sports Performance Coach at Evolution Sports Performance in Easton, MA, USA. He holds a Master’s degree in strength and conditioning, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and TPI certified. You can catch more of him at his blog or on twitter.

The fitness industry is often guilty of very all or nothing thinking, this leads to different people in the industry often stating seemingly completely contradictory or opposing things, this I’m sure can be really confusing and a little disconcerting.

But why does this happen?

Training is not black and white. As Dan John is a fan of saying “everything works until it doesn’t”. There is no such thing as a bad exercise only a bad fit for that particular person at that particular time.

Training for golf is no different. You can get conflicting opinions on methods or programs. Some of this also stems from controversial headlines used to grab a reader’s attention (which hopefully this did).

Unfortunately, this is the way things go. It is much easier to write an article that asks you to “throw out your bench press” than it is to say that “all upper body exercises are pretty much OK to do unless you have an individual reason not to.” There is nothing that’s going to grab your attention with that second example.

This is why it is essential to look at the whole picture and when designing fitness programs and making choices regarding exercise selection.

So, let’s get to that old staple of the weight room,  the bench press. There are a few reasons why someone might not want to bench press.

  1. If you have a shoulder injury bench pressing may be painful. Never train in pain
  2. The scapulae are not allowed to move freely in the bench press so it’s “bad”
  3. The exercise is often loaded too heavy which results in missed reps and a lack of progress
  4. Stability is created by the bench and not the user
  5. Some gyms are small and cannot fit racks and bench presses in them

With the exception of point 1, I don’t buy into these reasons. If someone has a physical reason why the bench press is not a good fit for them, I have no problem eliminating it from their program.

A combination of points 2 to 4 is oftentimes rephrased with regards golf fitness as “golf is played on our feet so we should train on our feet, its functional.” This is has lead to exercises like the cable press gaining huge popularity amongst golfers. Now, someone can work their pushing strength while on their feet.

The body needs a variety of stimuli to adapt and develop all the facets of fitness required to play the game of golf. The bench press can be one of the best means to build upper body strength and, well, the cable press isn’t perfect either.

“When appropriately programmed and loaded the bench press is one of the best exercises for developing upper body strength”

The Bench Press can be Progressively Overloaded

Progressive overload is a term used to mean that over time we must continually add stress to the body in order to adapt to training. If the training load never increases then progress will cease. Training load includes sets, reps, and weight.

The bench press’s best advantage is that it can be loaded extremely well. We get to use both hands to push against the bar and the bench provides support for us. It basically isolates pushing.

A cable press is limited by stability. You can only load the cable press as much as you can avoid being pulled back by it. This makes progressive overload a challenge.

Take myself for example. I weigh 68kg/150lbs. It is really hard for me to hold the cable resistance in place without getting controlled by the machine. The press is not as hard as getting in position for the movement. A standard bench press is only limited by how strong I am. It will be easier to gain strength with a bench press than a cable press.

Forgive me because I do not have a research study handy, but strong people usually have a good bench press. That means something. If you want to be strong, it isn’t wise to completely disregard its use.

As I’m sure you’re aware Rory McIlroy has added some significant muscle and strength to his golf game in recent years and the bench press has seemingly been a part of a what is doubtless and balanced program of pressing variations to help him get there

Bench Press and Shoulder Health

The bench press can expose shoulder issues and its disproportionate use can potentially cause them. If that is your main concern then you need to really take a look at the risk of the golf swing on the body. More shoulders are beat up because of the golf swing and daily life than through bench pressing and this article is not getting into backs, knees, and hips.

There are steps we can take to protect our shoulders for improved performance and long term health.

  • Monitor Volume – Volume can be problematic for joint health. I would like to see most golfers keep their bench press reps at 6 or less. We can get our volume elsewhere.
  • Add Pushups – Pushups allow the scapulae to move freely. This helps train rotator cuff health while improving push strength and core stability
  • Use the Cable Press – Just because the cable press has limitations does not mean to stop using it. Again, the scapulae move freely and we train core stability with the movement. It’s a win win.
  • Use DB’s and Neutral Grips – A neutral grip is more shoulder friendly than a pronated grip. Use that with DB’s or specialty bars to spare the shoulders.
  • Incorporate Posterior Shoulder Work – Add a lot of Y’s, T’s, external rotations, and breakaways to train the shoulder stabilizers. High reps/volume works well here.
  • Row/ Pull double: If you do 3 pushes in your program, try to have 6 pulls. This will give the shoulder and upper back the kind of strength it needs to fend off cranky shoulders.

I do not want to make this argument to make the cable press seem bad, because it is not. It should be in most programs. The core stability developed and pushing strength is definitely going to complement your training.

When appropriately programmed and loaded the bench press is one of the best exercises for developing upper body strength. Continue to use it if you want to hit the ball further and shoot lower scores.

 

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.

 

How golfers should progress core work

There are a myriad of different core exercises, a wealth of opinion on how to train the core and body of knowledge that has increased dramatically over the last decade or so and continues to do so, so it’s no wonder core training is a somewhat contentious and confused subject.

As I see it the problem with a lot of golfers core training stems from not understanding the anatomy and function of the core, and not utilising proper progression strategies to actually improve core function overtime. Static exercises like planks and side planks are great but doing them for ever increasing lengths of time in the name of progression invites fatigue and loses many of the benefits of the exercise with regard to muscle activation and spinal control. Hyper specific ‘core’ exercises that mimic the golf swing may have a place but if you don’t posses the segmental stabilisation to execute them in the first place they aren’t going to do anything for you, and may even leave you worst off. With that in mind this article is not a set of prescriptive exercises or not do’s and don’ts but rather a set of principles for you to follow when picking your own exercises and progressing your training.

Before we get to the progression element though we must understand the function of the core in the golf swing.

The function of the muscles in your core and lumbo-pelvic hip complex work is to work in tandem to provide protection for your spine, specifically at the lumbar segments in your vertebral column. In an athletic sense the core transfers force between the upper and lower body. Think of this as minimising any power leaks in your spine.

“Train the Function of Your Core; Not the Anatomy”

The work done by Dr. Stuart McGill proves, performing core training exercises that force your trunk and spine into excessive flexion (i.e., crunches and sit-ups), causes the facet joints and vertebral discs within your vertebral column to degenerate quicker. The same can be said for excessive extension.

Of course, we don’t want to avoid moving into rotation, flexion and extension at all costs during our daily lives or the golf swing. That’s not my point. However, spinal injury has been linked to the number of these moments we do so it’s make sense 1) not to increase that number in the gym (particularly by doing sit-ups or crunches). 2) train to be strong in resist these movements which will reduce injury potential.

Most notably, we want to train the abs to resist motion at the spine in an anti-rotation, anti-flexion and anti-extension manner.

Now we understand a bit more about what we want the core to do and the exercises we should utilise to reflect that, let’s take a look at where these exercises fit into a properly planned core training progression.

Establish correct spinal position and control of spinal segments.

This is vital if you want to achieve a strong core that functions well. The spine should have a slight lumbar lordosis (not too much, not too little) and a thoracic kyphosis.

spine-lateral-grays

If we want a core that functions well, resists movement appropriately, fires in the most efficient sequence, and is strong and powerful we need to first get the spinal segments in the right position and learn to control them.

Here’s a video of John Rusin, a.k.a. the strength doc, taking you through how to find neutral spine in a standing position (if you haven’t already check this dude out by the way…super smart!)

The cat-cow exercise is also an awesome way to learn how to find and control this position.

Additionally, most people can benefit from developing more thoracic extension. This will increase mobility in the upper back as well as improving posture, meaning movement can be better stabilised at the lumbar spine.

 

Achieve proper core stability.

Now you understand where neutral spine is and how to control it, you can begin to develop the ability of the core to stabilise the spine in that position against forces acting to pull it out of position

“If you can stabilise the muscles in your core in the presence of change (i.e., movement), than you’ll achieve a greater level of low back and core health and performance”

Static exercises that emphasise pelvic position exercises, planks, bird-dogs, dead-bugs, half-keeling positions, Pallof Press are the right call here.

The problem with these exercises is that they are often done incorrectly. With planks and side planks, for example, the key is getting into and maintaining a neutral posture where the spine, hips, and legs are linear, not arched or drooping. Common compensations are shrugging the ribs up, shrugging the hips up, rolling the shoulders or hips forward, or pretty much anything that’s not neutral. A good front plank should make your glutes incredibly tired from forcibly making them contract so that your hip flexors stretch and the abs bite down harder. Breathing plays a big role in this too, so tensed and halting breathing will negatively impact the effects of the core exercises compared to deep powerful and full breathing using the diaphragm.

Considering this a 10 second plank, done for 3 or 4 reps, with perfect neutral spine, glutes squeezed and controlled breathing produces much better benefits compared to a 30 or 40 second constant hold where fatigue may cause neutral spine to be lost and the glutes and abs not to contract as hard so as the hip flexors become the primary stabilising muscles and not a muscle on stretch as they should be.

Similarly, both bird-dogs and dead-bugs are predicated on holding stable core position whilst the limbs move, not moving through the greatest range of motion possible.

Keep the abs squeezed tight, hold a stable lower back position, and don’t allow the lower back to slip into extension (for dead-bugs, as in the video, keep the back flat to the floor throughout). Moving the arms or legs further while flexing the spine defeats the purpose.

Go slow. Gain control. And earn the right to progress.

Strengthen your core multi-directionally.

At this point begin to add forms of external resistance (i.e., medicine ball, resistance band, cable column, Valslides, etc.).

More dynamic planks such as planks with pulldown, planks with dynamic weight shift, rotational planks, rollouts, TRX fallouts and body-saw’s would all fall in to this category for anti-exetension work.

The Pallof press to overhead raise, Dead-bug with Pallof press or Pallof press with reverse lunge would constitute your anti-rotation work. Whilst weighted carries and deadlifts would make up your anti-flexion work.

Add power and explosive movement patterns into your core training.

Training a movement like a Pallof press to overhead raise sounds awesome and does a lot to work on controlling stability through transverse and frontal plane, all in a relatively slow and controlled manner.

For athletes who compete in relatively specific directions and actions without the elements of contact and chaos (i.e. golf), they can benefit from training with a high degree of specificity to their goal activities, as such it makes sense to train the core to produce force quickly just as in the golf swing.

Spinal organisation and posture

For golfers this also means anti-rotation core work takes a front row seat. Rotational med-ball tosses in half-kneeling or split-stance are my go-to here

Let’s think about a basic core exercise, such as the Plank Hold. During this exercise, your job is to brace your core muscles, create full-body tension and to hold posture, while gravity and your body-weight try to tell you otherwise.

On a higher level, you’re performing an anti-extension exercise, where you’re deliberately trying to avoid spinal extension, specifically in the lumbar spine. Basically, you don’t want to let your hips dip down toward the floor.

In order for you to be able to properly perform all of this at the same time, it’s necessary for you to have core stability. That’s the key. That’s also why I believe it is imperative to learn how to stabilize your core before adding strength. Similarly, just like training any other movement we want to develop strength and force production before we work on power and the ability to develop that force quickly

This progression above will help to bulletproof your spine for long-term health and performance. I recommend mastering the exercises in each section before moving forward along the progression line. Give it a try and see if your posture, you movement and how you feel don’t improve.

Also, I’ll be running a week long series of posts on lower back pain that will touch on many of the same concepts of spinal positioning and core stability on my Instagram page next week so be sure to follow us here if you’re not already, and to turn on notifications to make sure you see the posts.

Random golf fitness thoughts: April edition

1. Fitness isn’t just making the young guys hit it further and play better, it’s helping the older guys play longer and stay competitive

Bernhard Langer’s appearance on the Masters leaderboards was a reminder that working on your fitness isn’t just crucial for the younger guys on tour, or for adding distance to your drives (although it does that!), a good training plan’s main priority will always be to keep you healthy and playing longer.

As Langer has said himself in more than one interview for the PGA tour website:

“In my case it’s very necessary and I’m not sure I would still be here if it hadn’t been for the fitness”

Indeed, if you don’t know Langer has had two bulging disks in his lower back, as well as neck problems, and at the tender age of 19! He credits fitness work and mobility work for preventing these issues from becoming worst and allowing him to overcome them.

2. Go barefoot during your warm-ups

Going barefoot in your warm-ups (where developing movement quality and mobility should be our priority) really ups the ante on what we’re trying to achieve.

Going barefoot allows you to keep proper track of movement quality (foot positioning, is foot twisting, rollin, lifting etc). For example when we are doing ankle mobs we need to keep our feet on the floor and prevent the foot from rolling at all to make sure the motion is coming via ankle dorsiflexion not pronation. When the foot is in a shoe not only will the heel give you a falsely good impression of dorsiflexion but there is likely to be an element of heel lift and pronation that is hard to detect.

When doing stability work such single-leg balances, stork turns, single-leg mad ball taps and even single-leg hops if you are jumping on a comfortable enough surface, removing the shoes can be useful for the same reason. However, keep it to unloaded work in your warm-ups as form and comfort could suffer in heavier work, particularly in squats and other anterior chain dominant work.

3. Train outside

For most of you reading it will be heading towards summer and the weather will be getting better so why not! Training outside has not only been shown to have some great benefits on health, mood and mental state but, one of the things I’ve noticed over the years, with power work work, particularly med ball throws is that athletes seem to “hold back” when they’re indoors. They won’t throw at full speed because they’re already worrying about causing damage or more likely where the rebound will go, there just seems to be more inhibition as opposed to throwing outside in a big open space to a partner who is pretty far away. Maybe it’s the quantifiable feedback of actual distance, or maybe it’s just less restriction – but either way the effort and results are usually better.

4. Emphasise full-body exercises that teach transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.

As we move into the golf season introducing exercises that teach transfer of force from upper to lower body, oftentimes with a rotational element are a great idea. First off, they offer great ‘bang for your buck’ allowing us to train multiple qualities in one exercise. Secondly, they utilise force transfer in a way more akin to the golf swing and begin to bridge the gap between the strength you built in the off-season and using it on the course. Just make sure you have mastered the appropriate regressions before making use of these exercises

Cable lift variations in a split stance or with a lunge are my favourite to accomplish this task in core exercises, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options.

If you haven’t already be sure to check out the full article on in-season training I wrote here.

Lastly, this blog has been going a year or so now and this week is on track to be the biggest in terms hits so far, so a huge thank you to you all for reading and continuing to support! Special shout out too to The Grateful Golfer and Golf is Mental for there likes and comments on what seems like pretty much all the posts I’ve written in that time! Incidentally comment any golf fitness questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them in next months Random Golf Fitness Thoughts.

Thanks again,

Nick

 

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.

Strength Standards for Golfers

There has been a fair amount of controversy of late surrounding strength training for golfers, how strong a golfer needs to be, or indeed if a golfer needs to do any strength training at all (for the record I’m backing Rory in the Rory V’s Brandel charity boxing that will never happen, but definitely should!). This article is going to be my attempt answering those questions.

I am a strength guy (just in case the name of this blog didn’t give that away). I come from a powerlifting background and I firmly believe in the benefits of getting stronger, not just for golfers but for everyone.

Stronger means happier, more confident, more resilient injury, likely to live and be active for longer and research proves that!

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Why strength?

Besides the general health and fitness benefits listed above golf isn’t a sport that requires you to lift heavy loads or push 300lbs men out of your way, the golf club is light, so why do golfers need to be strong?

The most obvious benefit of improved strength and power is an increase in clubhead speed, which can be increased dramatically with proper training, countless research papers have shown this over the past 10, even 20 years.

Strength, is the mother of all physical adaptations. All other physical capacities, such as power, speed, mobility, balance, muscular endurance and coordination depend on force production within the physical environment. If strength improves, all other capacities improve with it, to varying degrees. With this being that case, strength training should form the heart, soul and major basis of your training programs for golf.

For example, biomechanical analysis of the golf swing has shown that the muscles of the legs initiate the downswing before the upper body reaches the top of the swing to allow for maximal clubhead speed at impact (referred to as the X-Factor stretch). Data also reveals that a rapid weight shift to the lead leg in the downswing creating forces of more than 180 percent of a golfer’s body weight at impact. These robust weight transfer dynamics and torque during the downswing emphasise the importance of leg strength.

Research has even shown than increasing strength improves putting performance. This is likely because stronger muscles helps improve fine motor control. In other words, because you are stronger, each swing is relatively less stressful, and the likelihood of making a mistake — or a small movement pattern error — is less likely.

Let’s not forget issues of injury prevention too, as research shows a comprehensive strength training program working all muscles and joints will help reduce the chances of injury by ensuring that you have a strong, stable musculoskeletal system.

As legendary strength coach Mark Rippetoe puts it “all other things being equal the stronger athlete always wins.”

How strong is strong enough?

The problem with Rippetoe quote above is that all other things being equal part. Golf is an incredibly high skill game with an almost infinite number of variables, additionally a properly executed golf swing demands very high movement capabilities.

While strength is important to build a foundation for the development of speed and power, it’s overvalued if you endlessly chase strength pr’s to the determinant of improving your ability to use it, i.e. relative strength, and movement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Maximum Strength isn’t important – It certainly is! It’s vital. Especially considering for professional/competitive golfers, 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. The greatest training affect according to the law of diminishing returns and largest portion of their workload should therefore be dedicated to work that falls on the other (general) end of that continuum. This is most easily identified as strength training type modalities.

That said, we are in the sport of golf not powerlifting, it is not the tool that’s important, it is that your body is working in a specific movement pattern, recruiting the correct muscles, and generating force when you need it.

The principle of specificity dictates that your body specifically adapts to the imposed demands, therefore maximising the carryover to your sport requires you train movements and patterns that are specific to the demands of your sport, in the case of golf explosive movements carried out in multiple planes of motion.

Focus should be on developing/maintaining a strength base, then improving relative strength and power in the movements you need for performance.

Strength Standards

First bear in mind, as I said earlier I’m a strength guy and have carried over some bias here for sure. But without further ado, let the fun start!

Below are the standards of strength I like to see from and what works for my clients. In my opinion if you are not able to complete these exercises at the prescribed weights you a leaving something on the table physically when it comes to force production for golf, swing speed and ultimately distance. (Of course, this doesn’t take into account movement quality, mobility and biomechanical efficiency)

  • Bulgarian split-squat 6-8 reps with 0.5 x BW in each hand

 

  • Chin-up 5 reps for men, 1 for women. And pull strength equal to push strength.

Your pull (i.e. the chin-up) strength should also equal your push strength, so if you can do a bench press with your bodyweight + 40lbs on the bar you should be able to do a chin-up with 40 lbs external loaded added to you.

  • 6-8 reps feet elevated push-up with 45lbs external resistance (this can be done with bands, chains or a weight plate) for men, 6-8 reps at bodyweight feet on floor for women.

feet-elevated-chain-push-ups

Note: This does assume a relatively normal bodyweight range for the persons height, if you are carrying some extra padding the external load recomendation will be lower.

  • 1.5 x bodyweight deadlift for 5 reps.

As I said earlier we are not powerlifters and as such we are not bound by rules on how certain exercises must be completed, we use what is most effective and safest. Oftentimes people don’t posses the adequate mobility to deadlift adequately from the floor, that being the case we modify the exercise to deadlift with the bar slightly elevated or using the high handles of a trap bar and that’s fine for our goals of increasing golf performance.

  • 120% height broad jump.

This isn’t technically a strength but a power test it maybe shouldn’t make it on this list. However, power is essentially your ability to demonstrate your strength quickly, and power is obviously of ultimate importance. From that point of view it’s important that as golfers we test our ability to develop power and have a standard to achieve. This also a test I love as it’s really easy to set-up, perform and measure…you can do it literally anywhere!

Conclusion

Strength will reach a point of diminishing returns in which in order to get stronger you will spend time in the gym accumulating training volume that for golf performance could be better spent focused on others of their game improvement.

That said I still firmly believe being stronger than you were makes you a better athlete and a better athlete is a better golfer. Everybody should be trying to get stronger, and at least part of their training should be focused to that end. How much of their training time or training year should be spent on that goal will however vary from golfer to golfer depending on their needs.

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.

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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.

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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.