With a better understanding of the various physiological factors that frame the sport of golf. It is time to focus on the different training variables that determine program design. There are several variables that stand out as more important when training for golf.
Flexibility refers to the range of motion of a muscle. Mobility primarily refers to the range of motion of a joint. The range of motion of any joint is limited by the skeletal, muscular and surrounding connective joint tissue. Being able to take the joints through a large range of motion will considerably help in obtaining the correct bio mechanics of the swing. When looking at the body’s ability to separate i.e. the amount of upper body rotation created with respect to the amount of lower body rotation created, the player needs to have increased flexibility in the hips, pelvis and back. If this degree of flexibility is un-attainable it becomes impossible to coil the upper body around the lower body to load the muscular springs. On the flip side, it will be impossible to initiate the downswing by separating the hips from the pelvis and lower back. As a result the club head path may be faulty (over the top) and power generation will suffer. For these reasons, flexibility should be addressed each and every day, more than any other training variable.
Motor learning refers to utilizing practice and experience to cause a relatively permanent change in one’s capacity to produce skilled movements. Balance can be described as the ability to maintain a state of equilibrium over a stable base of support while the body moves dynamically in the different planes of motion. The two can be dependant but are often interchangeable. Including golf specific movement patterns and stability challenges within a golf training program is a component that is often overlooked. But it is vital to performance improvement. If major swing flaws are occurring on the course, a need arises to re-train the brain to “feel” the proper kinematic movement of the golf swing. Results are best when these movements are carried out slowly with an emphasis on precise form. Only when the movements are mastered can we add speed to them.
Not to be confused with cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance refers to the body’s capacity to sustain and repeat muscular actions for an extended period of time. The muscles that make up the core are often referred to as slow twitch muscle fibers and provide stability to the spine, pelvis and shoulders. If trained properly, these muscles will help to support the back during and after long bouts of ball beating on the driving range. The firing frequencies of these muscles are best trained by engaging in high repetitions of a dynamic movement or sustained holds under tension. Either way, the individual must maintain a neutral position of the pelvis and back throughout to achieve the desired effects.
Muscular Strength refers to the maximal force that a muscle or group of muscles can generate. The golf swing in its complexity requires a high degree of strength from the neuro muscular system to transfer force to the ball while maintaining a proper spine angle, maintaining posture and generating speed. At this phase of training, muscular endurance and joint stability have already been established. The repetitions will lower. And the resistance will increase in an attempt to train the muscle(s) to apply greater levels of force.
Simply put, power is the combination of strength and speed. It is the functional application of the two and the key component for almost all athletic events including golf. It is put fifth in the ranking only because muscular endurance and strength phases traditionally precede the power training phase in most periodized training programs. This is not to say that an element of power training should not be applied to your workout in the earlier stages of development. We found out in the “needs analysis” that it takes about half a millisecond to apply 900kg of force to the ball and club head speeds can reach 130mph. In some way, training for this has to be addressed within the program. Generally, power training utilizes less weight or resistance and combines it with controlled speed of movement. The repetitions are usually lower in number, around 10 or so to avoid fatigue.
The fun part of any sport specific program design is the exercise selection.
At the PGA National Performance Academy, we structure our resistance exercises into 6 divisions of movement.
1. Push/Chop – Any movement that involves the elbow extending. This could be a dumbbell chest press, tricep press or cable chop. We can equate this movement to the downswing segment of the golf swing.
2. Pull/Lift – Any movement that involves the elbow or shoulder flexing. This may include pull ups, front shoulder raises or bicep curls. We can equate this movement to the back swing segment of the golf swing.
3. Legs/Hips – Any non-isometric movement that involves just the lower body. Exercises like the squat, lateral lunge or dead lift fall into this category. We can equate these movements to all three segments of the swing: the set up, back swing, and down swing.
4. Rotation – Any rotary movement involving the trunk and/or hips. This may include standing cable torso rotations, russian twists, or rotational medicine ball throws. We can equate this movement to both the back swing and the down swing.
5. Rotary Stability – Any movement that focuses on spinal stability through isometric holds, or trunk flexion and extension. For example, the side plank, abdominal crunches and back extensions would fall under rotary stability. We can equate this movement to the set up position in golf as well as the back swing and down swing.
6. Combo – Any movement that involves the combined effort of multiple joint actions to produce coordinated movements. These exercises are more demanding metabolically and require higher levels of neuro muscular recruitment. Exercises may include the squat to press, straight legged dead lift to upright row, or the lunge with medicine ball rotation. We can equate these movements to the full swinging action of the golf swing.
7. Motor Learning/Balance – Any movement designed to re-enforce the proper motor skills required to make an efficient golf swing. Generally these exercises will address the different segments of the swing rather than the swing as a whole. For instance, standing in a lunge stance while rotating your trunk into the back swing repeatedly, will challenge the proprioceptive abilities of the neuro muscular system and create the correct separation needed for proper sequencing.