Increasing club head speed will allow you to drive the ball further. This will help you reach the greens in regulation, and then you need to practice your putting. It’s that simple.
Doing the right kind of exercises that actually help you increase club head speed is another matter! In this post I will look at some common mistakes golfers make, what we do with the professionals and then answer some questions we get asked regularly which will allow you to get started at home.
Common mistakes golfers make in the gym
“I wish I was in as good shape as a golfer” said no one ever.
Where golfers go wrong is to try and copy bodybuilding exercises or personal trainer programmes from the internet. Bicep curls and deadlifts may have their place, as does trying to balance on a gym ball– but if done without thought, you will only get better at bicep curls, deadlifts and balancing.
Alternatively they might try to work on isolated low level muscles. I often get asked questions such as “how can I strengthen the multifidus” or “how can I improve core strength?” The body does not work in isolated parts.
Instead, if you want to increase your golf club speed and improve your drive length as a consequence, you need to look at your body and swing together.
That is one of the key points we do in our analysis before starting to train aspiring and professional golfers.
What we do with the professional golfers
I was speaking to Stuart (a golf coach I work with) about using the Central Nervous System to make athletes faster. He said he couldn’t see the application for golf, because club head speed is developed by sequencing a series of linking actions together.
That is what all fast actions require. The speed of any action- a downswing,a throw or a jump for example- is exponentially increased by involving joints together to provide acceleration. The technical aspect of speed- running, throwing or hitting a golf ball can all be improved by looking at 4 stages:
Intra muscular co ordination – how an individual muscle learns to act as required to perform an action.
Inter muscular co ordination– how groups or sequences of muscles work together
Thought (the CNS and reflexes to help put the previous 3 together)
When working with golfers, each one is different. Some may be very coordinated and have a fluid swing, but are just weak. Others are very strong with individual muscles, but struggle to get them to work together.
Others have the package, but could get faster- that is where using exercises to enhance the properties of the CNS help. This is quite advanced and requires 1:1 coaching. But, there is plenty for you to do at home.
How to train at home for golf
James working with golfers
That might be a bit advanced for those keen amateurs, so here are some tips that you can use at home to improve your gold.
If you want to increase your club head speed, you need to have good posture, balance, stability and mobility: what we call “Structural Integrity“. For some golfers, this may be a specific stretch to help get a better hip turn. For others, it is the stability of the stance as you shift weight through the downswing that needs working on.
“You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe” (Vern Gambetta), so alongside the technical aspect of your swing, you need a solid platform. I see a lot of Golf Professionals trying their hardest to get the golfer into positions that their body is simply unable to perform…yet.
Whilst it is tempting to look for the exercise to target the “golf specific muscle“, we find that it is usually a non golf specific reason for having poor control of the swing leading to a weak or inaccurate swing.
Once you have worked on your Structural Integrity to build a solid foundation, you are ready to move on to some exercises to help get you stronger. There is no “best golf exercise” and we try to work the muscles in coordination with each other using dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, sandbags and good old Gravity against the body.
Here are two videos showing medicine ball exercises and then dumbbell exercises.
I hope that is of some use to you.
Our Sports Training System was created to help aspiring athletes such as you get expert advice in your living room. The first 4 weeks get you off to a great start working on Structural Integrity and learning how to exercise safely on your own. Start now and by the Spring you will notice the difference on the course.
Improving strength, stamina and flexibility in young golfers
I have been working with England Golf for the last 15 months, coaching the South West under 16s boys and girls squads.
I have been responsible for their golf fitness, and we have made significant progress since adopting a new approach since September 2014.
I have developed a simple online tool to help develop the habits of the young golfers systematically. This has enabled the golfers to get fit in a structured manner, even though I only see them intermittently. I have been very lucky in having the support of the golf coaches: John Jacobs and Martyn Thompson, who understand the need for strength and conditioning in golf.
Train Well, Eat Well, Recover Well
These are the 3 aspects of fitness that we have been told to develop with our golfers. Unfortunately, these ideas are alien to most of the young golfers when they arrive at the squad. Despite the fact that most of them are doing either GCSE p.e. or a BTEC in sport and exercise, the lack of knowledge and sound practice is frightening.
Eating a bacon and egg sandwich 15 minutes before training is about to start is one example. A few of the golfers have personal trainers, but are unable to do 5 good press ups, nor do a single leg squat (unloaded) nor run 400m without walking when they arrive. The sleep habits and bed time routines are typical of teenage kids, rather than aspirational athletes.
Parents, especially of the girls, have very strong opinions on what is necessary to succeed in golf: some telling their daughters not to run! Most are well meaning, but need help on what the best foods are to eat and when, as well as the requirements of golf.
So, imposing a “you must do this” approach together with the “World’s best golf fitness program” would be destined to fail.
Starting fitness for golf
We started the good habits necessary when we held a joining boys and girls assessment weekend in September. I wanted the candidates to be clear from the start what the program would involve: like running! That way there would be no misunderstandings later.
Over the course of the weekend, I worked with every candidate and gave them a series of simple exercises that we developed many years ago called 5 by 5 by 5: 5 minutes of 5 exercises, 5 times a week.
I wanted every candidate to have this opportunity, because they and their parents had all invested a weekend of their time. That way they could go home and practice and try again next year if unsuccessful.
I then showed the candidates what their online reporting tool would look like, using google drive. All they had to do was create a gmail account and then report on what they had done the previous week, using a 1-5 scale for each category.
The first stage was:
Train Well: do their 5 by5 exercises
Eat Well: Eat 5 portions of fruit/veg a day
Recover well: Measure the overall sleep quality that week.
Their form would look like this:
Now, you may think that is too simplistic. My job is not to impress anybody with what I know, it is to affect change of behaviourwithin the golfers (and their parents).
We set this as the target for the next 4-5 weeks until I saw them in their respective squads. Their individual sheets linked into a global sheet that I then reviewed every Monday morning:
The grey areas are where the gaps are, the green amber and red indicate how successful the golfer has been overall. I can then look at the individual scores for each golfer week by week.
I shared this with the golf coaches and the squad managers, everyone can then see what the golfers have been doing: they are accountable.
Building up the golfers’ fitness
My main aim at the start was to get the golfers thinking about these areas every week. There were accountable for filling in 3 numbers.
I realise that they can falsify the numbers (more later on that) but at least once a week they had to think about the plan when they had to enter the numbers!
By giving them some relatively easy goals, I was hoping to create some small successes,build confidence and trust and go from there.
However, setting up a gmail account and inputting 3 numbers a week, let alone remembering where their one document was on Google Drive has proven too much for some of them!
So, at the next squad meetings, I went over it again. This time we changed the goals for the next 5-6 weeks, but kept it to 3 numbers.
Train Well: Run up to 5 miles in a week.
Eat Well: Eat breakfast with 1 portion of fruit and some protein.
Recover well: A stretch routine post training/ golf.
Whilst it may appear we got off to an inauspicious start, over half of the squad were really having a go and making themselves fit.
The simple goals, identifiable tasks and weekly contact made for a good conversation starter. Some were so keen, they took their exercises on holiday and we now have a collection of “me training on holiday” pics”.
Our third stage of golf fitness training was:
Train Well: Do 3 circuits +2 runs/week
Eat Well: Drink 2 litres of water/day
Recover well: Have a post training snack within 15 minutes of exercise/ golf.
This was where the intensity of training increased for the golfers. I gave them 3 different circuits to choose from before Christmas. I allowed for the proposed bad weather (it never arrived) thinking indoor circuits would be manageable over Christmas holidays, and a run twice a week when fine.
The girls especially nailed the recovery snacks, but most of them were making a real effort to change their behaviour.
This included stocking up with good food on the way home!
There is no hiding from The Hill.
I mentioned earlier that it is easy to fill out a form online, but much harder to do the underlying work.
That is why at every squad session we do a group run or circuit: it keeps everyone honest. I keep my mouth shut, and the rankings speak for themselves. On January 2nd we did a run on Frank Clarke’s Hill in Willand, which is pretty steep. This was the toughest thing some of them had ever done. Others were unable to run more than 50m up the hill without walking…
We are now in the situation where 80% of the squad members are really trying to get better.
There is a work ethic within the squad, and I get asked good questions about how they can improve their golf fitness.
We have a few more sessions left, but already this year we have made further progress than last year. There has been an increase in club head speed and a corresponding drop in their Golf Handicap.
Athletes come in all shapes and sizes, but no athlete can win if they are injured.
The treatment of children’s sports injuries is both costly and time consuming. It is far better to prevent injuries, rather than treat them.
Whilst there are no guarantees, I use a combination of exercises working on:
that help create a more efficient and robust athlete.
If the athlete has a lifestyle that leads to bad posture, in combination with overuse or over repetition of one particular sporting movement then they are more likely to get injured.
Getting the child to stand up straight and sit straight when working is a challenge in itself.
This current crop of SWT athletes are doing a 5 minute a day programme of injury prevention exercises, on top of their normal training programmes. It seems to be working well, with an enthusiastic uptake. They get a poster to take home as a reminder and a DVD if they are attending training once a month or less.
Making the athlete robust
This is in combination with a training programme that challenges the athlete as they progress in fitness. The secret is to push the athlete so that they get tired and have to adapt, but not to overload them so they break.
Parents often shy away from resistance training for children, but then send them on “camps” that flog them to death for 7 hours in a day doing repetitive running. That will lead to more injuries.
It is important to vary the different exercises that are used, as the sports that children play vary in their movements and running, jumping, throwing patterns.
By gradually increasing the loads and intensity of training, the athletes start to believe in themselves and are better able to cope with adversity. This not only helps them to concentrate in their sporting environments, but to be able to perform well when others are getting fatigued.
In short: get the children moving well in a co-ordinated fashion. Then start to load them and challenge them.
It is not about randomly “beasting” young people.
We shall shortly be running some injury prevention workshops for coaches in the South West to help more young sports people.
I recently did a staff training session at Young Ones Nursery in Cullompton,showing them how to use equipment that I gave them for their toddlers and pre school kids.
I needn’t have worried too much as the staff have a great understanding of letting kids learn and discover through play. In fact, aspiring S&C coaches would do well to work in this area to gain a knowledge of incremental learning and adaptation rather than “Death by Olympic Lifting”.
I always ask young coaches what their ambition is and often it is “to work with elite athletes” which I think is funny. Their ambition is not to become a great coach, or to help others, it is to bask in the reflected glory of other people’s achievements.
Working with these highly motivated and professional nursery staff, and seeing the joy on the childrens’ faces was much more rewarding than dealing with overpaid footballers or rugby players who have forgotten about fun and athleticism.
With all the hoopla surrounding the Tiger Woods press conference today, it is easy to forget what really matters with sport in this country. Young golfers have often been asked to think WWTD?
What would Tiger do? Well, now that has become a bit of a joke. Yesterday I had the privilege of working with about 50 young athletes from many different sports in the south west. Trying to plan fitness for: judo, boxing, equestrian riders, hockey, netball, fencing, table tennis, rugby, basketball and athletics as well as male and female, children and adults was challenging.
Brian Ellicott was doing some work epxerience with me and his observations from the outside were:
“Main points I picked up on:
* Young female athletes are generally more flexible than their male counterparts. * Nearly all young athletes lack a solid and robust foundation for everyday movement, let alone anything sports specific. * Lower back problems seem to be worryingly common among young athletes of both sexes and nearly always is caused by bad posture, inflexibility in the spine and being coached into the ground when they do have a problem. * Some equestrian riders seem be more agile than a lot of athletes who play team sports, such as Rugby and Football, even though it is not as important to them as it is the team sport players. Makes you question what the team sports’ coaches are actually doing when they train their athletes. * A great synergy between coaches and therapists produces the best results by far. * The young athletes who we worked with had either zero or next to no appreciation of the quality of the services, knowledge and skill that was being made available to them – for free!”