Tag Archives: Strength

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.

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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.

 

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.

6 Physical attributes of elite golfers

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

1. Sufficient Hip Mobility

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

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

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

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

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

2. Sufficient Core Control

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

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

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

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

3. Sufficient Thoracic (Upper Back) Mobility

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

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

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

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

t-spine_mobs_on_foam_roller_image

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

4. The Ability to Hip Hinge

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

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

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

776p_bp_toetouches_thumb.248x248

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?

 

7 must do’s for the off-season

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

1.Rest

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

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

2. Corrective exercises

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

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

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

3. Locomotion exercises

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

video credit: Eric Cressey

4. Increase exercise variety

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

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

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

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

5. Get stronger

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

FMS-Performance-Pyramid

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

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

6. Jumps and Throws

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

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

7. Anti-rotation core exercises

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Day a.ka. Quadzilla

Jason Day a.ka. Quadzilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video credit: Eric Cressey

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

Why hip stability is important in the golf swing

A lot has been written about the need for a stable trail hip, trying to load a weak trail hip typically causes excessive internal rotation and adduction of that hip, perhaps a pelvic shift towards it, a.k.a sway. And maybe even elevation on that side and lateral bending of the torso towards the target in a desperate effort to maintain balance, a.k.a reverse pivot!

The position your trial leg is in at address is the position it should remain as you rotate in the backswing. Loading into the trail side leg, without over rotating the pelvis, requires stability in that trail side hip. If you have good hip  stability it will allow you to turn without any sway. You will also be able to keep your centre of pressure within the inside of the trail side heel, this is important as it enables efficient use of ground reaction forces. Vital as, in the golf swing, we use the ground to create a coil so we can unwind the club with maximum force into the golf ball.

If the trail hip is unstable it may cause you to sway, which can lead to poor shot dispersion and a major loss in power.

Speith_v_amateur_impact_position_Slide_rotation_strongergolfNow take a look at the picture on the right. It shows Jordan Speith’s impact position (on the left) compared to a typical amateur golfer (on the right) what differences do you notice? Yes Jordan has definitely rotated more through impact, but what has allowed him to do that?

Notice how much more of his front foot you can see, his hip hasn’t come across covered it as it has for the amateur, he is able to this as his lead hip is stable and therefore provides a solid platform for his upper body to rotate. Indeed force plate analysis research suggests centre of pressure moves hard to target side in transition, a stable lead hip is vital to to provide a solid platform for that centre of pressure change.

To properly transfer force that is developed in your backswing, you need a strong AND stable lead hip. This lateral movement of the hip for the amateur, a.k.a slide, is a major power leak.

Also don’t forget the body has internal regulations to avoid injury. If the lead hip can’t stabilize the force in theory your body won’t allow you to develop the force either. Not to mention a slide can also create a ‘reverse C’ spinal position through impact and follow through which places the lumbar spine at greater risk of injury.

The simplest training template ever: The 3 – 5 rule

Train 3 – 5 times per week

3 – 5 exercises per session

3 – 5 sets per exercise

3 – 5 reps per set

 

All great programs follow a set of guidelines that produce results in the goal they target. If you’re training for strength (if this blog is aimed at doing one thing its getting as many golfers as possible to strength train so if you’ve been reading it I hope you are) then take a look at any of the popular strength training programs or research into strength training you’ll find common consensus on most, if not at all of the guidelines above, so if you want strength gains you should be following these guidelines too!

 

Lets break this down a bit more…

 

I recommend you pick 1 or 2 compound moves – deadlift, squat, bench, chin-up, row, press, olympic lift variations, or med ball work, and follow that with lighter assistance or isolation exercises – scapular control, lateral and rotational movements, core work and single-leg exercises are my recommendations. A quick example workout that would work on a 3 or 4 day template would look something like this:

A. Clean High Pull or Med Ball Scoop Toss 3×3

B. Barbell Overhead Press 5×5

C. Back Squat 3×5

D1. Single-Arm Weighted Carry (or other core exercises) 5x5steps/ each leg

D2. Face-pull 3x1o

 

Research has shown strength improvements as a result of training anywhere from 60% of 1 rep max and upwards, however multiple sets of loads around 80% has most often been cited as most effective. This 80-85% number will usually equate to 3-5 reps for most people. Whilst one set does work for strength its not as effective, if you want to see serious strength gains you need more volume, and multiple sets is where it’s at! On the flip slide you don’t want to do too much volume that you exhaust the bodies ability to recover between sessions so there’s a balance to be struck here. Most trainers and textbooks will recommend somewhere are 12-25 reps as ideal for building strength, as you can see 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps fits in nicely.

There is a definite trend towards higher frequency training programs in strength and conditioning of late, with new research eluding to greater gains in maximal strength and hypertrophy with greater frequency of training sessions. Broadly this is something I favour as I have always found squatting 3 times a week to be more effective than squatting once a week (intuitively this just seems to make sense to me). The choice to train 3, 4 or 5 times a week will be based on you as an athlete, your recovery abilities and above all the time you have available to train – after all you’re not going to stick to a program that has you training 5 times a week if you only have time to train 3 times a week. The exact training in each session, the exercises, the volume, etc will depend on how many days you train.

If you train 3 times a week full body training is probably the best fit for most. When training 4 times a week the most common split is to go upper body/ lower body sessions twice a week. However I like to go with two upper body sessions, one lower body and one full body session. The reason for this is the upper body is more complex musculature system and in my experience often requires more volume, although ultimately this will depend on the individuals needs and preferences. Another nice way to break training is to have 2 days focused on lateral and rotational movements, and 2 focusing on traditional transverse movements i.e. squats and deadlifts, alla Mike Boyle.

A note on total volume: Total volume should remain the same weather you are doing a 3, 4 or 5 days. Consequently if you are training 3 days a week the volume you do each day would need to be higher than if you trained 5 days a week in order to keep total volume the same.

 

Progression

 

Progress these workouts in a linear manner (adding small weight increments to the bar each session) until you can no longer do so. At this point reduce the weight 10% and increase the volume (switch to 5×5 from 3×5 for example) and continue as before, when you stall at the higher volume, reduce the weight again and lower the volume significantly (3×3 from the 5×5 before) and continue to add weight to the bar. Another option when progress stops is simply to switch to an exercise that works the same muscles but in a slightly different manner i.e. switch from conventional deadlifts to sumo deadlifts, change to using a different grip width when pressing or change to a specialty bar squat or front squat. Continue to add weight in the same manner as before, switching to another exercise variation each time you stall.

Top 5 power moves for golfers

As I said in my previous article on the top 5 strength moves for golfers, golfers are not professional lifters and should not train as such. Pro lifters are only interested in adding weight to the bar whilst athletes and golfers have much more to contend with; developing strength, power and adequate mobility in a variety of planes for instance. When it comes to developing a well-rounded athletic development program, you can’t put in everything you’d like, you have to pick and choose your battles. Include only the exercises the get the job dost most efficiently so you can get in the gym, get the full benefits to your performance and get back on the course practicing!

If you hadn’t guessed already this article will focus on my favourite exercises for developing power in the golf swing. Keep in mind research has shown power development to be plane specific so if we are trying to develop power for a multi plane movement like the golf swing we must train to develop power in multiple plan not just the gym standard transverse plane (squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, presses, etc are a all transverse plane movements). Additionally, keep in mind the leaning curve associated with power exercises. Take note of what I said earlier about being time efficient so you can get back out on the course practicing, olympic lifts are undoubtedly great for power development but they take a heck of a lot of time to learn to execute properly especially with sufficient load to elicit a training effect (hell olympic lifting is a sport in it’s own right after all, and a technical one at that!)

As with strength training, when it comes to power training I find myself consistently using the same handful exercises that I know deliver superb results for golfers. Put simply, these are my Top 5 Moves because I have had the most success with them. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts/ to agree or disagree.

No. 5 – Box Jumps

Box Jumps are usually my baseline power exercise for clients. They are not only a great exercise for developing power in the lower body and learning to aid a powerful lower body movement with a well coordinated arm swing, but are also a great exercise to teach the good landing mechanics that will be required in more advanced jump variations. Jumping onto a box also reduces the stress associated with landing on the floor, and forces you to learn how to decelerate quicker – remember you can only swing as fast as you can control and decelerate that speed.

No. 4 – Half/Tall kneeling med ball throws

This is one of my favourite way to develop power and rate of force development in the upper body. The tall kneeling or it’s progression the half kneeling stance give an added bonus of challenging you to develop power whilst holding a stable core, something which you are also required to do in the golf swing.

No. 3 – Hang power snatch

Unlike the other exercises on the list this one does require a more than a little effort to learn good technique. However its totally worth it! The second pull phase of the snatch (basically the point you start from in the hang power snatch) is the fastest movement in all sports and will develop unbridled power across the whole body like almost nothing else. Whilst it may not be in the lateral or rotational planes more specific to the golf swing, hang power snatches involve generating power in the lower body and transferring said power into the upper and arms via a stable core. Sounds quite a look like the golf swing after all then!

No. 2 – Med-ball rotational scoop toss

No. 2 and here we are at the real fun stuff. I’ve mentioned before in a previous article the med ball rotational scoop toss is one of two exercises that recent research has shown to increase power output in rotation based sports (hint: the second exercise in this study is no.1 on my list). This exercise is so effective as it hits the principles of specificity perfectly. Use of relatively light load so the exercise works a similar point on the speed-strength continuum – check. Rotational plane of motion that is highly specific to the golf swing – check.

No. 1 – Lateral Jumps

Ok so I massively gave it away just a second ago, but this is the second exercise shown to increase power in rotation based sports by a recent study. The same reasons as to why the med-ball scoop toss is so good apply to the lateral jump too. The cool thing about lateral jumps is you can tweak the training affect with variations, for example adding band resistance will increase the rate of force development requirements whilst focusing on deceleration ability less.

 

5×5 for golf

Yesterday on social media is promised an adapted version of the StrongLifts 5×5 program tailored to golfers. So here it is…

StrongLifts 5×5 (and other linear progression programs using similar rep/set schemes, such as starting strength) are incredibly popular programs the world over simply because they are highly effective in delivering amazing strength, particularly for those at a beginner/ intermediate strength level.

However, herein also lies this issue with programs such as this, they are brilliant at what they are designed to do namely develop pure strength and teach someone how to express that strength with barbell exercises. Golfers and all athletes in general must develop strength certainly, but their training needs are more multi-faceated than just the need to develop strength. They must also develop/maintain the prerequisite mobility to swing a golf club efficiently and powerfully in the many planes of movement associated with the golf swing, develop the joint, postural and core stability required to effectively transfer force along the kinematic chain of the golf swing, and learn to express said strength in the golf swing, rather than just barbell exercises.

The original programstronglifts-golf

There are many version of a 5×5 program out there but this is probably the one known to most:

Workout A

Back squat 5×5

Bench 5×5

Row 5×5

Workout B

Back squat 5×5

Press 5×5

Deadlift 1×5

What’s missing?…Filling in the gaps

As I have said, whilst this program is undoubtably great at developing strength in the barbell lifts it leaves gaps that need to be filled if you are going to effectively carryover this strength development onto the golf course.

Single-leg exercises/Lateral exercises – Golf is played side on with power generated via weight shift between trail and target side legs, it is effectively a lateral single leg exercise, so it stands to reason we should train this way. Exercises like these will also help deal with the stability demands on the joints of the knees and hips posed by the dynamic weight shift of the golf swing.

Core Conditioning – The strength of the core musculature is king in effectively transferring power created by the legs, through the upper body and in to the club during the golf swing. Whilst it’s true the basic compound exercises used in the stronglifts program do provide a large core stimulus, as golfers your going to be needing a bit more specific core work. The exercises we will be using in this program are a pallof press iso-hold and a good old plank. These static core exercises teach that ability to transfer power in the golf swing and helps drive your up your lifts too.

Postural control/muscular endurance – Many people struggle to maintain good posture day to day and on the golf course fortunately there are exercises we can put in place to help control posture and movement overhead (as in the golf swing) better. Additionally better endurance in the postural muscles allows posture to be maintained more effectively throughout the golf swing and long periods of practice or play. Balancing the ratio of upper body pulling to pressing movements will improve posture whilst exercises such as face pulls or band pull-aparts also help deal with the stability demands placed on the shoulder and scapular by the golf swing. Balancing pressing and pulling motions is easily achieved in this program by pairing pressing and pulling exercises in supersets.

Power – The golf swing is a fast movement, trying to express you’re true maximal strength in less than a second is never going to happen. So your also going to need to learn how to develop that force quickly, this where power training comes in. Research has shown that power training is most effective when in the planes specific to the movement you are trying to be powerful in. There should also be consideration give to the speed-strength continuum. With this in mind the power exercises list in this program focus largely on developing power in the lateral and rotational planes with a bias towards the speed end of the continuum.

Mobility – The importance of mobility in the golf swing, to create an efficient and powerful golf swing is obvious to most. I will typically place my mobility and flexibility work as part of warm-ups in my programming. To give you a few list of warm-up option is unfortunately beyond the scoop this already rather lengthy article – thanks for sticking with me so far! However if you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll probably already have a good idea of the sort things I include in my warm-ups. If not, here are a few post that should help:

Mobility exercises you should be trying

Hip mobility

Shoulder mobility

Putting it all together

To add all these required elements straight on top of the template above would simply represent too much additional work for many (or at very least some mammoth duration gym sessions!) so as such we are going to split up the original template a bit and substitute a few exercises. One of my favourite quotes in exercise programming goes

‘you can’t add anything without taking something else away’

whilst we are not quite going to stick to that rule here it is still something useful to bear in mind. So lets get to the specifics of the program – aka the bit you skipped to in the first place.

Workout A

A. Med-ball scoop toss 3×5 each side

B. Back squat 5×5

C1. Bench 5×5

C2. Band pull-aparts or face pulls 3×12

D1. Pallof press iso hold or plank 3x30sec holds (each side for pallof press)

D2. Lateral lunge 3×8-10 each side

Workout B

A. Weighted jump 3×5

B. Bulgarian split squat 5×5 each side

C1. Press 5×5

C2. Chin-up 5×5

D. Deadlift 1×5

Below are videos for a few exercises I have included that may not be familiar to those who do the standard StrongLfts 5×5 program

Give this program a go for a few months and I’m sure you’ll be stronger, more powerful and swinging better as a result. Be sure to let me know how well it works for you too by dropping a comment at the bottom of this page or on our facebook or twitter page. I would especially love to hear from you if you have been doing StrongLifts for a while as incorporating some golf specific work into your strength training should really pay dividends for you.