It’s clear that strength and conditioning is an important part of any serious golfer’s routine. You only have to look at the transformation to Bryson DeChambeau to see the impact a training program (and arguably a nutrition plan) can have on performance. However, the specifics of how you train and how much you train (frequency, intensity and volume) can have a big impact on how efficiently and effectively you achieve your goals of increasing performance and reducing the risk of injury. With this in mind, have you ever considered – what do you want your weekly, 30 day and 90 day S&C priorities to look like? i.e what are you trying to achieve by working out?
We know that the golf swing starts from the golfer applying forces into the ground and the ground pushing back to allow the movements of the swing to occur. It therefore makes sense, that the more force we can create through an effective strength and conditioning programme, the faster we can swing the club. What we know from recent research about the demands of golf is that the greater the positive impulse (PI) you can produce in different tests (such as using custom calculations from a counter movement jump (CMJ) testing) the higher your clubhead speed is likely to be2,3.
Impulse = Force x Time
i.e. the force you produce over a certain period of time
A bit of physics thrown in there! Look out for a future article (coming soon!) that will dive into this in more detail. So, in layman’s terms, this means that for most golfers, getting as strong as possible over the off-season is critical to performance gains in the tournament season. This especially applies to being able to create more force through the ground – so deadlifts, squats etc. become important.
Developing strength, therefore, should be a priority in the off-season phases of any plan, with training focused on hypertrophy also providing significant benefits to increasing lean mass*, which we know is important in further increasing strength1.
*note, although hypertrophy is key to increasing muscle mass and your capacity to get stronger we don’t want that to be the only way you train and if taken to the extreme, for it to potentially have a detrimental effect on the movement you want to make in the golf swing.
Anecdotal case study
An extreme example of this is a former body builder that I (Ben) taught. This golfer discussed how when moving from body building to golf, he had to lose muscle mass from his pecs and biceps in order to improve his mobility and allow a backswing to take place!
So, strength is important. Towards preseason though, we need to ensure that golfers have gained as much speed from their training as possible. In this case we refer to this type of training priority as ‘power‘ (even though we know there are inherent measurement issues with using this term in research; see this blog for further information). This is where your plyometrics (e.g. box jumps) and med-ball throws come in to play!
While we have highlighted strength, hypertrophy and power there are other training priorities that you may be considering to meet various goals. Other priorities available to record in the AMI Sports: Golf app include:
Muscular endurance – this will mainly be used in prehab or rehab work to ensure the prevention of injury or the successful return to play after a period of injury, respectively. The rehab work may well be working towards a goal of ensuring the body can sustain the long term demands of both the sport and training.
Cardio – We know that fitness levels are very important for overall health, however for golf specific S&C programmes there may be other more significant priorities to meet performance goals. The demands of golf mean that as long as you’re fully capable of getting around the 18 or 36 holes without excessive fatigue then your fitness levels are adequate to not impede performance. It is important to keep cardio ticking over (especially for health) but not spending time on this as a priority to the detriment of strength work. Cardio work may also be used to achieve a specific goal of weight loss or in response to a health issue so cannot and should not be ignored.
Mobility and flexibility – golf coaches will provide interventions to adjust the swing in response to ball flight characteristics and impact factors and these require new movements to be made throughout the swing. Where there are physical restrictions, these movements will be impossible to achieve without compensation elsewhere, and indeed, some restrictions may never be overcome. However, where improvements can be made, mobility and flexibility foci in the gym will allow the golfer to progress towards optimal positions for their swing based on the coach’s recommendations.
Agility – for golfers, agility won’t play a massive part in their training, simply because the sport doesn’t require them to be agile in the sense of moving from point a to b as quick as possible and turning to get to point c.
Is there an argument to include agility as a training priority? Where it adds a motivating element to engage the golfer in S&C training perhaps agility training could play a beneficial role – this may be the case with groups of golfers who have relatively low training ages.
A note on junior golfers – While we have indicated that some areas of S&C may provide more of a priority than others, this may not be true for junior golfers who require the underpinning fundamental movement skills competency in order to progress towards being an athlete and increasing their training age. Some of these skills may well be developed through other avenues – e.g. school-based sport or other external sports clubs, however, where there are deficiencies in a junior golfer’s movement competency, various priorities may be called upon on their athletic development path.
In summary, monitoring your strength and conditioning training load and priorities are important to provide insights into where your training adaptations are coming from. It can also help you understand the influence other factors from your daily wellness surveys are having in terms of moderators of internal load responses (i.e. how your body responds to the training). In the first instance it’s key to build a plan that meets both the demands of golf and your needs as an individual golfer and this should include specific goals to work towards in the gym/home based training environment. Finding a strength and conditioning professional who can help you set and meet your training goals is critical. You should work with a suitably qualified trainer or S&C coach who understands the sport, who is willing to invest time into athlete monitoring with you and use your data effectively to optimize your plan.
Completing a plan with the correct workload and the right priorities in place for your training is key to optimizing your performance on the course and to protecting you against the demands of the sport. This is especially important when it comes to the increased volumes of range practice during the off-season and sudden, spiking workload increases during tournament season. Using your ‘Personal monitoring’ area on the AMI Sports: Golf app allows you to view your data to ensure you’re staying on plan and managing your workload and training priorities effectively.
- Hornsby, W. G., Gentles, J. A., Haff, G. G., Stone, M. H., Buckner, S. L., Dankel, S. J., Bell, Z. W., Abe, T., & Loenneke, J. P. (2018). What is the impact of muscle hypertrophy on strength and sport performance? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 40(6), 99–111. https://doi.org/10.1519/SSC.0000000000000432
- Wells, J. E. T., Charalambous, L. H., Mitchell, A. C. S., Coughlan, D., Brearley, S. L., Hawkes, R. A., Murray, A. D., Hillman, R. G., & Fletcher, I. M. (2019). Relationships between Challenge Tour golfers’ clubhead velocity and force producing capabilities during a countermovement jump and isometric mid-thigh pull. Journal of Sports Sciences, 37(12), 1381–1386. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2018.1559972
- Wells, J. E. T., Mitchell, A. C. S., Charalambous, L. H., & Fletcher, I. M. (2018). Relationships between highly skilled golfers’ clubhead velocity and force producing capabilities during vertical jumps and an isometric mid-thigh pull. Journal of Sports Sciences, 36(16), 1847–1851. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2018.1423611
Dr Ben Langdown is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching at The Open University and has published various journal papers in the area of golf and sports science. Specifically, Ben's research focuses on athlete monitoring, warm-up protocols, and training interventions in the sport of golf. Ben is also a Strength and Conditioning Coach for England Golf and over the past 15 years has provided biomechanics and S&C support to golfers from amateurs through to European (Men’s and Ladies’) Tours and a European Senior Tour Season Champion. Ben has presented at 4 World Golf Fitness Summits and the 2018 World Scientific Congress of Golf, where he also acted as an invited review panel member supporting education for >150 academics/coaches. He has delivered various invited keynote workshops with international organisations, including England Golf, The PGAs of GB&I, Spain, Czech Republic and Slovakia with all adopting his applied approaches. Most recently, Ben has developed the AMI Sports: Golf athlete monitoring app allowing further insight into golfers’ practice, tournaments, training and daily wellbeing.
Tim Roberts is the Director of Science + Innovation at Therabody and the Co-Founder of Scientific Athlete. At Therabody, Tim specializes in the development and execution of effective science and innovation strategies that translate to improved business functions. Prior to this role, Tim was Senior Sports Scientist with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and was based at their laboratory at IMG Academy (2011-2020). He continues to work with golfers at every level in both lab and field settings, whilst collaborating with several international golf organisations. Furthermore, Tim works with professional golfers providing sports science, nutrition, and strength and conditioning support.
Tim has presented two invited presentations at World Golf Fitness Summits and at the inaugural Golf and Health Symposium in 2018. These presentations covered the application of research into nutrition and hydration, sport science methodology and athlete monitoring in golf
In addition to this work in golf he has led the development and execution of both research and applied strategies for athlete monitoring in several other sports including with the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, and elite basketball, soccer, and baseball organisations.