Tag Archives: Strength Training

Why do you need to be strong anyway?

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

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

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

The strength-speed continuum

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

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

AbsoluteSpeed

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

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

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

Reduce injury risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increased body awareness and movement context

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

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

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

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

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

stronger-golf-hip-hinge

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

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

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

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.

 

5 tips for in-season training

In-season training for golf seems to be a pretty confused area for most golfers with opinions and attitudes ranging from; “I just play during the season,” to fully periodised in-season programs, altering exercise selection, load,volume, etc, to just carrying on with normal training regardless.

In this article I aim to give you some actionable tips, but also explain why this first option isn’t a good idea, why the other two both have merit, and which may best apply to you, your schedule and your on course performance.

Tip 1: Still Train

Realistically, you should be looking to train twice per week. Indeed a 15 minute, one set, workout is better in the long run than a missed day of training. In-season training will allow you to:

  • Maintain the strength and power you built in the off-season (especially important if you travel to play or are lucky enough to live somewhere with a long summer, and thus have a long season)
  • Prevent the build up of asymmetries and muscle imbalances that could lead to injury/ will have to be dealt with later

Tip 2: Manage Fatigue

All stress is stress; physical, emotional, mental, money, spouse, whatever. Once the stress bucket is full, theres not much you can do other than take a break to fix the problem. If the golf season sees a significant increase in the amount of golf swings you are making, walking you are doing (and probably more stress!) we had better factor that in.

Keep training volume low – In my experience, lifting twice per week with a 3 to 6 rep range during the in-season is appropriate for most. The off-season is the time for 4 or 5 day programs and tons of reps. In-season is the time for maintaining strength and preventing injury.

By keeping overall volume low, you can ensure you feel fresh during your round and not slow or tired, 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps will be enough to achieve these goals.

That said, reducing volume is going to mean different things depending on the needs of the individual. For golfers that are weaker/have less training experience or are playing less frequently  a reduced training volume may only need to be minimal and occur the workout before there their round (a Thursday/Friday workout before a Saturday round for example), for stronger golfers and/or those with a busier competitive schedule it may be necessary to cut training volume for the whole in-season period.

Train light and fast – There comes a point where continuing to pile the plates on to the barbell is tough on the bodies recovery ability and max lifts sap mental and physical energy that could be best used elsewhere during the season. Again this one for the stronger guys and you can get away without it more the relatively weaker you are but, dynamic effort reps and low volume will maintain the strength you have built in the off-season but allow you to feel fresh and ready to go exiting the gym. As an added bonus this type of lifting more closely mimics the high speed muscle contractions you’ll be using in the golf swing. Adding bands is a great way to achieve this, and the trap bar deadlift against a band is one of my favourites.

Tip 3: Avoid Soreness

I can tell you from personal experience that swinging a golf club when sore, particularly in the chest and shoulders, is not fun!

Cut out the eccentric portion of the lift as much as possible – eccentric muscle contractions have been shown to be correlated with higher levels of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). When working out during the season, we want to minimise eccentric work, the lowering portion of the lift, and maximise concentric work. This means no slow-tempo lifting and absolutely no negative sets.

You should complete the lowering portion of the lift as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining control, to limit the amount of time your muscles are under eccentric stress. Deadlifts (you can even drop the bar from lockout if you’re lucky enough to have a lifting platform), box squats and floor presses are great exercises that lend themselves well to this type of lifting.

Keep exercise variety low – After performing an exercise that produces soreness, the muscle will quickly adapt to reduce any damage from further exercise. As a result, not only is soreness reduced, but other side effects, such as swelling, reduced strength and reduced range of motion are also more quickly recovered from. This effect is known as the repeated bout effect, and is most specific to the muscles that have been worked. Therefore by picking the same exercise for each body part, and working the muscles in the same manner each time, we can make the most of the repeated bout effect to prevent soreness.

Tip 4: Reduce explosive rotational movements

Things like rotational med-ball throws are usually best left to the offseason. Firstly, golfers get plenty of explosive rotational work just playing their sport. Secondly, we know there is a link between high repetition of spinal rotation and back injury. So, at a time when the number of rotations we do is likely increasing, why add to that load in the gym? You are better off focusing on movements that groove good rotational mechanics and preserve anti-rotation strength to keep your spine healthy. T-spine mobilisations, split stance anti rotation scoop tosses and Pallof presses are my go to’s here.

Stronger-golf-half-kneeling-pallof-press

Tip 5: Mobility/corrective exercises for common trouble areas

It’s called strength and conditioning, but the truth is we could probably scrap the conditioning part with respect to golf and replace it with ‘mobility.’ All the eccentric stress of a greater volume of golf swings leads to significant losses in mobility. For those that couple this with walking the course for 3 to 5 rounds a week and travel long distances to tournaments (even if it is in a private jet), this tends to lead to missing out on basic functional movement patterns  like squatting and lunging.

The hips, low back and shoulders tend to get pretty chewed up in the golf swing, particularly during a long competitive season. Performing hip windscreen wipers and 90/90 stretches for the hips, corrective exercises like bird-dogs or glute bridges for lumbar and pelvic control and soft tissue work for the shoulders will help you preserve full range of motion and stay injury free throughout the season.

 

In-season training is incredibly challenging to manage correctly, as there are so many different stressors and variables in play depending on the individual. However, if you do your best to follow the tips outlined here, chances are you’ll be more successful than most!

P.S. If you want more information pertaining to your individual in-season needs then fill out the contact form below and we can arrange a Skype consultation to discuss it in more detail.

 

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.

Introducing you to your lower traps

The lower traps don’t get a lot of attention, as they don’t make you fill out your t-shirt as impressively as big upper traps, you can’t see them in the mirror and most of all you probably simply don’t understand their importance.

Oftentimes, the lower traps are another one of those little muscle groups that no one cares about until they’re injured. It’s only then that they realise how important these muscles are.

Anatomy and function of the lower traps

Before we get into activation and strengthening drills let’s first understand the role of the lower traps in creating and resisting movement, and how this can impact the golf swing – a.ka. me getting my anatomy geek on!

Whilst most people may think of the big lumps of meat between a bodybuilder’s head and shoulders as the traps, these are in actual fact just the upper traps. The trapezius muscle actually extends all the way down the entire red section seen below, and is generally broken down into three sections  – upper, middle and lower.

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In order to properly understand the role of the lower trap first we need to briefly run over the joint-by-joint approach. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (thanks by the way!) you’ve probably come across this before, but here’s a recap:

The joint-by-joint approach states that the body’s joints are stacked on top of each other and that each joint typically requires mobility or stability in an alternating fashion. The ankle typically requires mobility, for example, whilst the knee requires stability and so on up the chain.

JointByJoint

If we follow the logic of the joint-by-joint approach, we know that the scapula typically needs more stability. This is to allow the gleno-humeral (shoulder) joint to move freely and effectively.

In fact, depending on which research paper you read, between 12 and 21% of all golf injuries occur at the shoulder. Further loss of range of motion can be a predictor of injury and we also know that amateur golfers tend to lose shoulder flexion, abduction and external rotation range of motion as they age. So scapular stability should also be a big concern for injury prevention, especially for those with shoulder issues already.

Due to faulty thoracic spine extensibility and/or overactive upper traps, our lower trapezius are often lengthened and weak. This promotes scapular elevation and downward rotation, which in turn leads to internally rotated shoulders. This is not good for golfers as firstly we know which we know that forward hunched position we call ‘S’ posture is not helpful to achieving good rotation in the golf swing. New research and ideas are starting to point to the scapular’s possible role in controlling the clubface too. For example a downwardly rotated right scapula internally rotates the shoulder, which unless the golfer makes adjustments in the swing or grip, will pronate the elbow and wrist, leading to a closed clubface.

The lower trapezius is important in all this as it promotes scapular depression, and work synergistically upper traps, and serratus anterior all work synergistically to promote upward rotation is vital if you ever want to exhibit full shoulder flexion, put simple the ability to get your hands above your head.

Dave Phillips was involved a great video on Adam Scott recently, in which he referred to the pelvis the pelvis as the ‘power plug’ in the golf swing. Any time you unplug the pelvis you lose posture and ultimately power. So what happens we you don’t have good shoulder flexion? Well every time you go to put your hands above your head, like in the backswing, you will either have to stand up out of your golf posture to get there, pulling the two power cables of your upper and lower body apart and unplugging the power plug, or you will go into excessive anterior tilt at the pelvis, again pulling the two power cables apart and unplugging the power plug, but extending the muscles of the abdominals so they can no longer contract as effectively and also putting the lower back in a more compromising position. Both of which may also lead to a reverse spine angle. Indeed, research has shown that better golfers exhibit more shoulder flexion and abduction, which in turn is linked to more shoulder turn in the backswing.

The Exercises – a.ka. The fun bit you skipped to anyway!

So we now know people tend have lengthened and weak traps that can lead to problems controlling scapular position. We also know there needs to be a balance of strength between the upper traps, lower traps, and serratus to upwardly rotate the scapulae.

Although in reality, poor upper trap strength is rarely the cause of poor upward rotation. Especially if you are a regular gym goer and/or have been following a standard body part split all those deadlifts and shrugs with no lower trap work will have left you with a lower trap strength deficit. If this is you, you need to nix the shrug in favour of something that will actually help your shoulder function and your golf swing. Even if your not, and especially if you have little gym or designated lower trap work experience your scapular stability and shoulder health will likely improve hugely by including these exercises.

So next let’s get to activating and strengthening those suckers so we can develop and actively stabilise better scapula position:

Floor Slides

Floor slides are a pretty good place to start. Low level and not too much can go wrong. Try to pull your elbows further down and actively depress the scapulae down at the end range.

Wall slides with scapular retraction

We are now working on elevation of the arms and scapular retraction/depression, a double whammy for those lower traps. As Mike Boyle says: “the key is that the forearms must slide up in contact with the wall while the shoulder blades stay down and back.”

Bent-over Y-raise

The bent-over Y takes away all support and requires us to stabilise our own body to move well. It look’s a simple exercise but it is often done poorly. Firstly, use light weight, you are never going to move heavy weights in this exercise and don’t try to. Secondly, the end of the dumbbell (or thumbs if you are just using bodyweight, which recommend to start) should be pointing straight up throughout.

From the starting position, drive through the scapulae and allow them to actively depress down. The key is not to think about moving from the elbows and shoulders, and also not to gain range of motion by extending the lower back – think solely about moving from the scapula.

Strength Progressions

Once you have these lightweight activation exercises absolutely nailed, you can amp thins up in the strength building department.

A well-performed chin-up or pull-up, where you actively depress the scapulae at the top, may be one of the best shoulder stability exercises you can perform. Unfortunately, this leads us to another issue. Performing a chin-up or pull-up with full scapular depression at the top is damn hard!

This is where the lat pulldown machine can be really useful, put an appropriate weight on the machine and go through a full range of motion. Focus on actively depressing the scapulae at the bottom position and hold it there for a 2 count before completing the rep.

3 exercises you must master before you start training speed and power

I’ve never meet anyone who doesn’t want to hit it further. Hitting it further means generating more swing speed, so as golfers we hit the gym and train for speed with great exercises like rotational med-ball throws and lateral jumps, makes sense right?

Indeed, research has shown vertical jumps and med-ball throws correlate with increased swing speed. They also look pretty damn cool, and not much feels better than crushing step-behind shot-put throws against a poor unsuspecting wall!

However these exercises are high force output, high neural demand and can even do more harm than good, creating inefficient/ faulty movement patterns, if your body isn’t physically prepared to achieve what needs to be achieved. Here’s a quick checklist of what you are going to need to be able to do if your going to make the most out of these exercises:

  1. Lumbo-pelvic control
  2. Ability to stabilise the core whilst the limbs move
  3. Good rotational mechanics
  4. Hip stability
  5. Sufficient eccentric strength

So how do you going about developing these qualities?

As luck would have it, after a bit of thought and experimentation I’ve got it down to just three exercises that pretty much cover the lot. Get good at these exercises below and earn the right to progress.

No 1. Dead-bug and bird-dog variations

These are obviously great exercises to strengthen the core, but more importantly in this context, they also teach you to control stable lumbo-pelvic position in a more static manner as means of preparing you for the more dynamic setting of speed and power work and to stabilise the core whilst the limbs move.

Note that our aim here is to develop core stability and jumbo-pelvic control, not to increase range of motion. Keep that core squeezed tight throughout and your lower back MUST remain neutral (don’t let it arch of the floor in the dead-bug and you can use a broomstick placed on the back to check when doing the head-bug), don’t go chasing range of motion at the expense of control.

No 2. Anti-rotation split-stance scoop toss

This is a great exercise to teach proper rotational mechanics, the split-stance puts the lumbar spine in a somewhat ‘locked’ position meaning you must learn to rotate from the thoracic spine (upper back). The split stance has another great affect of narrowing the base of support and therefore enhancing the stability requirements and giving a great feeling of turning into a firm front side hip. As with all rotational type exercises be sure to work both sides, not just the side you work in the golf swing.

No. 3 Split-squat

Again the split stance narrows the base of support and gives us good stabilisation demands. The single-leg squat amplifies this as we must stabilise the knee in a frontal plane whilst moving through a large sagittal plane range of motion. Single-leg squats also provide a pretty decent eccentric load as the working leg must control the weight as you descend. This eccentric strength is vital to good landing mechanics, force absorption, deceleration ability, and ultimately staying injury free when you move onto jump work. Indeed, if when doing plyometrics, your landings are heavy (good landings should be quiet!) your knees cave in or you even get knee pain, insufficient eccentric strength is the probable cause.

I really like varying these up with lateral squats and sideboard lunges prior to introducing speed work too. This ensures we develop these qualities in multiple planes and the slideboard does a great job of further increasing that eccentric load.

So, stop rushing into speed and power exercises.

Slow down and build your base first.

Earn the right to progress by owning these exercises first. You’ll get much more out of the speed and power work when you do progress to it!

Lastly, I’m putting together an entire e-book including when golf specific training is appropriate, what you need to have in place first and what golf specific training should actually look like. It’s going to be free too! Keep your eyes peeled for it’s arrival!

3 training methods for the unstable golfer

Injury prone?

Can’t seem to get stronger and more powerful in the gym?

No amounts of stretching or mobilisations seem to help your mobility?

Your fitness program doesn’t seem to carryover to the golf course?

As a coach I’ve had a fair few clients who would answer yes to most if not all of these questions (I’m sure all of us coaches have) so what’s the deal?

You could be trying to add functional adaptations and sports skills to an unstable base.

The goal of this article is to give you some ideas for developing that stable base. If you can learn (or teach your clients) to effectively stabilise, the answer to those questions above should start to change for the better. But first:

A Quick Look at Performance Model’s

I am a big fan of Gray Cook’s performance model. In case you haven’t seen it before, here it is:

FMS-Performance-Pyramid

As you can see, the foundation of the pyramid is quality movement. Movement quality is the base you want to build athletic development on top of.

Without high-quality movement, you’re simply laying strength, power or sport-specific development on top of a cracked foundation.

But let’s break that foundation down a bit further (and hopefully guys like Gray and Charlie Weingroff would agree here).

Within that bottom tier, you have at the very least two primary goals:

  • Mobility
  • Reflex stabilization/motor control

Many factors will affect mobility, the least of which is muscle length. There are 3 reasons why a muscle shortens:

  • You tell it too
  • It feels there is a need to protect something in the body
  • It’s hanging on for dear life, to keep you balanced

Note those last two. They mean that the mobility you can display will be effected by the ability to stabilise (simply put, if the joint is stable at a particular range of motion the the brain will allow you to go to that range of motion).

For those with stability issues static stretching is on par with having someone with a headache bang their head against a wall.

So now lets look in a little more detail what stability actually is. As Gray is famous for saying:

“stability doesn’t mean strength.”

Stability can be even further broken down into static stability and dynamic stability. An example of static stability would be training someone in half-kneeling, whereas a lunge or split-squat would be training dynamic stability.

Once you have good mobility and stability, you’ve earned the right to load those patterns. There are many many ways of going about adding load, and this is another area where a good coach can be vital in determine what is appropriate. I believe that, as well as creating physical adaptations and increases in strength and power, once you have adequate mobility and stability, loading those squats, deadlifts, etc, helps cement these quality movement patterns.

Now that we have a baseline understanding, let’s look at some of the ways I try to improve stability with unstable clients. We’re also going to assume (just to make things simple), there are no obvious mobility deficits or asymmetries – as always a movement screen such as FMS or TPI is recommended to determine this.

Method #1 – Utilise Continuums

We all know that trying to fit a round peg into a square hole doesn’t work.

So why would we train athletes with a “one-size-fits-all” approach? Or list of exercises?

This is exercise progressions and regressions. Without it, you’re really just throwing random exercises and hoping they will stick.

For example, If someone has trouble demonstrating stability in a hinge or bend pattern, you probably wouldn’t want to start them off with a kettlebell swing. It’s a fantastic exercise, but the speed of movement may make it difficult to dial-in the technique. A conventional or Sumo-style deadlift may also not be appropriate due to the integrated nature of the movement.

Another option could be if someone simply can’t figure out to hinge in a standing position, you may want to give them a more isolated regression of that same pattern, without the weight bearing demands. As far as the hinge pattern goes, hip thrusts fit the bill here:

This will allow the athlete to perform and develop the movement pattern without too many inefficiencies in movement, re-learn the movement with proper reflexive stability and progress from there.

Here are just a few factors to consider when developing progressions and regressions for any movement pattern:

  • Low to High Speed
  • Isolated to Integrated Movements
  • Low Complexity to High Complexity
  • Small to Big Ranges of Motion
  • Single to Multi-Joint Movements
  • More External Stability to Less

Method #2 – Slow down rep speed

For those who are unstable, I like to use times of slow concentrics, as well as a ton of slow eccentrics.

Slow eccentrics provide several benefits for unstable clients:

  • They improves proprioception and body awareness
  • They shift the focus on active stability versus passive (it’s harder to hang on joints when you’re moving slow!)
  • The develop strength in the muscle
  • They develop connective tissue strength (tendons, ligaments, and joints)

Too often, people who are floppy and/or unstable get overuse injuries. Various studies have shown the effectiveness of eccentric exercises in dealing with/ managing tendonitis.

In my experience, when movement patterns are dialed in, and slowed tempos made a dedicated component of a training program, stability and performance increase dramatically.

Finally, isometrics and paused reps are an excellent choice as well. When you force someone to pause and control a motion at the midpoint, they really have no choice but to learn how to stabilize more effectively.

Method #3 – Add External Stability Initially

This is my go to option to begin with. Too often, we assume that just because our clients/athlete walk around every day, that they have earned the right to exercise on their feet.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

If an athlete can’t even stand on one leg without falling over during an assessment (incidentally the single-leg balance is probably one of the most commonly failed assessments we use, particularly in a sedentary population), then we need to dial someone back as far as necessary for them to get some traction. Again, you have to earn the right to exercise standing up!

The progression may look something like this…

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These positions are in reference to the methods in which baby humans learn to explore movement. Yes, infants are basically made of rubber and their hip joints look more like shoulder joints, that possess ridiculous mobility.  However, those little guys learn to control that mobility by putting in months of work and progressing from position to position – supine/prone, sidelying, quadruped, half/tall kneeling; until they have developed the necessary stability to stand, squat, walk, run, jump, etc.

As adults, it’s beneficial to revisit these positions to hone and refine our movement -especially since today’s more sedentary lifestyle seems to cause some loss of mobility and reflexive motor control.

The half kneeling position, for example, is a fantastic tool to improve these attributes.  By lowering the centre of mass (compared to standing), the athlete can practice moving through the hips and shoulders with less compensation and unnecessary motion through the pelvis and lumbar spine – which is common and more difficult to overcome in a standing position.

Summary

If you’re more prone to injuries, and/or the progress you do see isn’t as significant as you would like then instability could be the issue. Get you movement assessed, then try incorporating some of the options outlined above, and let me know how they work out!

If you’re interested in having us conduct a movement screen or develop a program individualised for your needs, that will absolutely get you more resilient, improve your athleticism and see carryover to your golf game get in contact via our online coaching page.

Progressive overload trumps specificity

Golf, in its most specific sense, relies on lateral and rotational power. Therefore golfers often place all their eggs in this basket. In some respects this is wise, specificity is, of course paramount.

However this is only the case if said specific means are continually improved upon a.k.a we use progressive overload, getting more efficient, moving faster or using more resistance in these exercises.

I believe it is a mistake to ignore sagittal strength and power development, as I have found sagittal plane exercises to be vital to driving continual improvement in rotational and, particularly, lateral modalities.

For example, lateral power development reaches a point of diminishing returns quite quickly. Lateral power movements are high skill, and single leg dominant. Single leg dominant power exercises are extremely hard to yield high outputs from. If the athlete is not well prepared in a force production, force reception, and a force transfer sense they will not be able to even produce medium outputs on these movements. Considering this, you can develop these force qualities more efficiently using bi-lateral sagittal plane measures first and continuing to use them alongside once lateral measures are introduced.

 

skater-jump-comp

Single-leg jumps are hard to yield high power outputs from and a therefore best used alongside bi-lateral sagittal plane jumps to increase force output most efficiently over time. 

 

There has been some debate recently on the use of the bench press in golfers programs, with Jason Glass espousing golfers to ‘burn the bench’ and Lance Gill publishing this article on the TPI website. Whilst I completely understand the advantages of ground contact, core bracing and scapular function (I loveeee push-ups for the same reason, just ask anyone who I train) the simple fact of the matter is you cannot load these exercises with small, systematic increases, in order to drive progressive overload and continued improvement in force production qualities, as easily as you can with the bench press. Not to mention you can utilise progressive overload with the bench press exponentially.

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Cable presses and push-ups definitely have their place but nothing can beat the bench press for ensuring progressive overload.

 

This is also one of the (many) issues I have with many of the ‘golf specific’ exercises in which cables or bands are pulled into various positions mimicking positions found in the golf swing (see picture below). Aside from these exercises potentially messing with the motor patterns of your swing and the direction of resistance not matching the swing so the muscles being used and manner of contraction not matching the golf swing anyway, these exercises simply do not allow the systematic use of progressive overload as you will quickly lose the ability to increase resistance.

 

In the context of 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.

The 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 sagittal maximal strength training type modalities.

General strength training has tremendous carry over to golf, but it is the furthest removed means of preparation from the actual task(s) of their sport. It is so effective because it is largely under-trained in the golf population. To my mind general strength training should therefore typically make up at least 70% of the workload for the golfer.

 

For more on common myths in golf fitness why not take a look at our e-book, the 5 biggest myths & facts of golf fitness here. All you have to do is pop in your e-mail address and it’s completely free. As always thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!