Understanding the strength attributes required in golf and learning how to develop them

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

In order to improve performance in any sport it is imperative to understand the physical demands and hence apply the correct physical stimulus to enhance and support the athlete. In this blog post we will be discussing the reasons golf performance and golf training has changed, the research developments surrounding the golf game. We will also go through the strength attributes that are required in golf and how to train them and finally how to apply all of this information yourself. I hope you enjoy!

Why Golf Performance And Golf Training Has Changed

The physical attributes of elite level golfers have changed significantly in the last 20 years. This has caused a change in the way the game is now being played. The main way the game has changed in the last 20 years is the increased driving distance that players can achieve. Player's such as Tiger woods, who could drive the ball monstrous distances compared to his competitors when he burst on to the scene, drew attention to the importance of physical strength and conditioning to golfers. This continues to this day where players such a Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas frequently post about their workouts on social media. Professional golfer's are now spending more time that ever in the gym.

The Developments In The Research Surrounding Golf

Along with improved athletic ability of professional golfer's in the current era, we now have access to 3D motion capture systems to develop a deep understanding of what the body is doing during the golf swing and to determine the most efficient way to swing the golf club. This information is then used to develop golf – specific work out routines. Based on this information, screening tests have also been developed (such as the TPI screen) looking at physical attributes. This can help players determine their strengths and weaknesses and therefore lead to optimal workout programs being developed to enhance their performance.

Understanding strength attributes in golf and how to train them

There have been many strength and conditioning programs developed that are aimed at improving golf performance.  Before starting, it is essential to understand and identify the main strength qualities linked to performance for a given sport or athlete.

In some sports, the amount of force, or the time to create force is not important. For instance, in powerlifting, there is no time limit to complete a lift. In the 100m sprint however, athletes want to produce maximal force production in the shortest time possible. In some sports, both the force and the speed of production are important.

When we think about golf, it is apparent that golf requires the player to repeat explosive movements throughout the course of a round. This does not, however mean that power, speed and maximum velocity should be the only strength qualities that the player should focus on or train.

Our ability to develop power is very much linked to our ability to create force and therefore our level of maximal strength. By increasing our maximal strength, it will cause the force-velocity curve to shift up and consequently, allowing the player to express greater force. This increases the ability to generate more power if the athlete trains at the correct speeds of movement. Thus, over the course of the year, the player should look to develop all the different types of strength qualities. In basic terms, heavier lifts improve strength (which will be performed at lower speeds), and lighter loads enhance explosive movements (which will be performed at faster speeds). One important note: lower speeds do not mean that the player slows the lift down, all lifts should be performed with the intent to move the load as fast as possible.

Understanding the strength qualities to focus on is the first step, the next step would be to look to understand the different types of movements to use in the programme. Most players get this the wrong way around and select an exercise and then load differently. It is important not to get this around the wrong way!

General Physical Preparation exercises

We will start with general physical preparation exercises. These are exercises that would seem to benefit many different sports. Taking on board some of the discussion surrounding these exercises, it is important for the player to understand the need to complete all the main movement competences to a high level. Due to the nature of these exercises have great versatility and are used for developing athlete potential and recovery.

Movement Exercise example
Squats Bodyweight squat
Hinge Deadlift
Push Press up or push press
Single leg lunges
Carry Farmers carry
Brace Plank
Bridge Glut bridge

Specific Preparation Exercises

Again, these exercises do not imitate the golf swing, however, they train the same muscle groups and physiological systems.

Examples of these could be: Jumps, Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts, bench press, weighted chin ups.

Specific Developmental Exercises

These exercises look to repeat or copy parts of the golf swing. The most common way to do this is by ‘overload training' a part of the movement or adding resistance to the movement. For example, in sprinting, the coach could programme resisted sprints, where the sprinter attaches a weighted sled to them. In golf terms, this is the area of training that is shown on social media the most. When players are shown to imitate parts of the golf swing with added load. Examples could be:

  • Medicine Ball throws
  • Cable Rotations 
  • Weighted clubs 
  • Resistance bands rotation

Competitive Exercises

These are training activities that are identical to the sport, or in this case the golf swing. It would be technical practice sessions or a competitive event. The primary reasons for classifications of exercises are so that coaches can help to understand the transfer of training, and which exercises will lead to this. It gives us an idea of whether the exercises we have been doing in the gym have been having an impact. There is no point improving in the gym environment if this cannot be expressed on the course.

In some discussions with coaches, the main comment is that general physical capacity is low in golfers, especially at the amateur level and that there is a considerable emphasis on using specific prep and development exercises. There are three points of importance here: General Physical Preparation exercises are necessary for substantial performance gains, they are vital to allow the player to develop correct movement patterns, that allow for load and increase speed to be used and they also develop a physical preparation base so that when the player uses Specific Preparation Exercise and Specific Developmental Exercise exercises they are able to get the most benefit out of them.

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Click here for our blog article on how plyometric exercises can be used to enhance golfing performance.

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