Will resistance training negatively impact my golf swing? What’s the benefit? – Mercury

Golf is a popular sport in the United States, with over 32 million participants each year (National Golf Foundation, 2020). The most critical determinant of golf performance is the resulting combination of ball accuracy and driving distance. A significant amount of skill and deliberate practice is required to hit a golf ball accurately. Some golf pros and golfers believe that resistance training will “mess up” their golf swing; however, this dogma could not be further from scientific truth. In this article, I will debunk this myth and demonstrate how the proper golf exercise program can improve your game.

In the golf swing, many physical attributes significantly influence driving distance. The ability to hit a golf ball away from a body’s morphological perspective comes from explosive muscle contraction and segmental sequencing and stacking forces. Power starts from the ground reaction forces at the foot and ankle, moving up the kinetic chain to the hips. Then the kinetic energy passes from the trunk or torso to the shoulders. The force continues to move into the arms, hands and eventually the clubhead. Elastic energy amplifies power during the swing by wrapping and unwinding soft tissue (muscles, tendons, fascia), much like a “rubber band”. The optimal range of motion and flexibility during the swing sequence allows for an optimal stretch-shortening cycle. Optimal range of motion and flexibility are needed during the swing to create segmental body separations (ankle-knee, knee-hip, hip-torso, torso-shoulder, shoulder-arm, and arm-wrist) that amplify explosive power. Optimal clubhead speed can be achieved if all energy is transferred up the kinetic chain quickly and in an orderly fashion without energy leaks (movement inefficiency reduces energy transfer). Effective sound swing mechanics are essential to allow these events to occur.

However, the golfer must generate significant range of motion and power (force x velocity/time) to optimize the golf swing. Physical training can have a substantial impact on the development of clubhead speed. Many elite golfers use resistance exercise programs to improve their ability to hit a golf ball. Studies have shown that proper physical training programs can increase clubhead speed by 1.6-7% and increase driving distance by 4-8% (Wells, J Strength Cond, 2009). Research shows that those with the most muscle power in the core/torso, hips, legs and hands have the fastest swing speeds among elite golfers.

Will weight training negatively affect my golf swing?

A common myth is that weight training negatively affects an individual’s golf swing by reducing flexibility and range of motion. Some think weight training will create big, tight muscles like Arnold Swartznager or “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson; However, this is not true. First, most adults will struggle to build significant muscle. Second, strength gains occur slowly over months or even years. During the first six weeks of training, there is minimal hypertrophy (growth) in the muscle. The strength changes are neurological, i.e. a motor learning effect when lifting weights. Muscle hypertrophy occurs over time, provided there is any; good genetics (fast twitch muscle optimal for hypertrophy), high amounts of protein (1.6g per pound) to optimize protein synthesis (muscle building process), adequate amounts of quality calories and optimal hormonal levels (testosterone, insulin growth factor and growth hormone). Even with all of this, the maximum an adult will gain is 1-2 pounds. of muscle per month. With progressive resistance training specific to functional sports, that 1-2 pound muscle gain would be for the whole body, not a particular region. The type of muscle the golfer would gain would be lean muscle, not the bulky tight muscle commonly described in bodybuilders.

What is the best way for a golfer to train?

The optimal exercise prescription would be sport-specific functional progressive resistance exercise over resistance exercise. Strength exercises focus on isolated body movements (i.e. joint body movement, the biceps). This exercise creates strength and hypertrophy in a specific muscle group without regard to function or sport-specific movement patterns. However, sport-specific functional exercise trains multiple joints simultaneously in specific movement patterns that create strength and power relative to the individual’s sport. (Emery et al. Br J Sports Med, 2002) Functional exercise training would include; balance, flexibility, posture, core stability, strength, power and cardiovascular training. Training in functional exercises is based on the principle of specific adaptation to an imposed demand. (SAID principle). The SAID principle means that our body will respond specifically to how we train. So train specifically for the needs of the sport (Cook G. Movement: Functional Movement Systems. Aptos, 2010.)

Will sport-specific functional exercise prevent or minimize golf-related injuries?

The golf swing is a complex full-body movement that transfers power through every limb and most joints of the body. A recent large epidemiological study revealed that 60% of professionals and 40% of amateurs suffered an injury that took them away from the game. Overuse injuries account for up to 82% of all golf injuries. (Ludwig et al. Am J Sports Med. 2003) A study demonstrated that injury frequency is based on disability (59% injury rate with disabilities >18, 62% injury rate 10-17 and 68%

Many golf-related injuries are due to poorly prepared or poorly trained athletes. (Caine et al. Clin J Sports Med 16) 2016.) Several research studies have indicated that if trained appropriately (conditioning, strengthening, correcting muscle imbalances, balance, coordination, and correcting training errors) , 50% of injuries could be reduced. (Chan et al. Concept, 2006, Olsen et al. Br Med J, 2011)

Ultimately, sport-specific functional progressive resistance exercise will improve a golfer’s ability while increasing athleticism and preventing golf-related injuries.

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Dr. Mishock is one of the few clinicians with a doctorate in physical therapy and chiropractic in the state of Pennsylvania. He is the author of two books; “Fundamental Training Principles: Essential Knowledge to Train the Elite Athlete” and “The Rubber Arm; Using Science to Increase Pitch Control, Improve Velocity, and Prevent Elbow and Shoulder Injuries,” both can be purchased on Amazon.

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