What is Strength?
When I think back to my days studying Technology at secondary school, I can recall being provided with a very clear definition of what strength is. Strength, I was told by my teacher, “is the ability of a structure or material to withstand and resist force.”
For me this also has to be true in any sport. We often think of our bodies applying all the forces and other objects providing the ‘resistance’. However we must be able to resist any forces placed on our body (structure) and our tissue (materials), in order to be able to move against, resist or decelerate any external resistance.
So in simple terms, we must be strong so that we don’t break down and get injured when playing with external forces. That includes reactionary forces created by our own movements.
How does this apply to Golf?
If we think about golf specifically, strength has often been misunderstood in our sport. I know some people feel they need to be as strong as they can be to play their best, while others are worried about becoming ‘too’ strong or even strong in the wrong way. So what’s right for our game and our purpose? In order to answer that question we must first ask “what forces must we resist?” We don’t have any heavy objects to lift or opponents to tackle, well as long as everybody agrees on the score. So do we even need much strength to swing a golf club?
The truth is the most challenging forces are created from the speed of our movement. The faster we swing the golf club the heavier it will effectively become. The same is also true for the speed at which you apply force to the ground as you compress into the ground before pushing off again. Remember that those forces have to return back through your body as they gather momentum on their way to the club and then the ball. The faster you move the more you’re going to have to resist.
Think back to school again and your old physics lessons, remember the second law of motion (force = mass x acceleration). The answer to the question how strong is strong enough lies here. It all depends on your mass and the speeds you move at. So how much strength you need is individual to you and is really about your ability to control your own body. See all that Newton stuff was useful for something.
When should I train it / How often?
We all want to swing fast, which means we’re going to need a good strength base to build that speed on. So how often you train your strength for golf really depends on how often you currently train and how experienced you are with your exercises. Think of strengthening exercises as the moves which you would like to reinforce. So these would be movements that you know you do well and can be further strengthened with increased resistance. If you are not sure if you are performing an exercise correctly, then I would advise paying a visit to a fitness professional that can assess your movement patterns.
Once you are moving well I would recommend training strength exercises between 3-5 times per week and with 3-5 exercises in each session targeted towards this goal. The number of sets and reps you perform of each exercise will vary again depending on experience, but a good rule is that you shouldn’t exceed 5 reps in each set. This will provide you with enough training volume to see increases in your strength over time. The key is to continually increase the resistance as the reps become easier.
In terms of timings around competition, this too can become quite individual. If you are just starting out in a strength program, then you are going to feel sore and achy after the first few sessions. This subsides as your body gets used to the training. I would normally program my players training so that they weren’t performing any heavy resistance work within 48-72 hours of competition, to allow them adequate recovery time. However, as I said before this is individual and some feel able to continue with this type of training closer to competition.
Remember that strength should be reinforcing good movement patterns developed in previous programs. So that should mean you aren’t heading to the gym and trying to max out your weighted squats if that is still a pattern you are working to improve. Choose something else, a movement you are happy with in terms of your technique. There should always be an option for you to increase your strength in some capacity and if you run out of ideas, then check out www.myTPI.com where they have a library of thousands of exercises you can use for your golf game.
Some of our favourite Strength exercises:
Single leg deadlift – If you have mastered touching your toes (with straight legs wise guy) then the single leg deadlift is great for reinforcing that hip hinge pattern which is so important for good posture throughout the golf swing. Apart from getting stronger legs and hips, you’ll also be working on resisting rotation and balance. Plenty of bang for your buck.
Half-kneeling shoulder press – This has more to it than sitting on a bench to do an overhead press. This one requires good control of your shoulder, while stabilising your hips and torso. Great for progressing towards power exercises, many of which have overhead components.
Bodyweight row/Pull-up – If you are someone who sits at a desk all day, this is a good one for you. It will really help with opening up your chest and strengthening your back muscles. If you’re good at this movement, you have a much better chance of rotating efficiently in your golf swing.
If you would like to find out more about testing your strength and then how to train specifically for your goals visit us at http://www.golffit.co.uk/contact/ and book a golf fitness evaluation.