Overspeed Training – More Speed With Less Swings? – A 6 Week Study

The Effects of Reduced Overspeed Protocol Volume on Club Head Speed in Golfers – A 6-Week Study

Prengle, B. Cassella, A. Finn, C. Graham, T.

Sept 2018 – October 2018

As more data is collected, the importance of club head speed and driving distance cannot be disputed for both the professional and the recreational golfer. For PGA Professionals, driving distance has a significant correlation to strokes gained and Tour earnings (https://golfweek.com/2018/04/22/golf-by-the-numbers-distance-off-tee-pays-dividends/). For the amateur golfer, driving distance is incredibly important to manage approach shots, and Trackman has posted a great article on their blog about the impact 30 yards can have over the course of a round (https://blog.trackmangolf.com/performance-of-the-average-male-amateur/). Thus, it is incredibly rare on both the professional and the amateur front to find a golfer who is completely satisfied with how far they are hitting the ball.

In recent years, SuperSpeed Golf and other swing speed training methods have become an increasingly popular way for golfers to increase their Club Head Speed (CHS). The SuperSpeed method utilizes three specifically weighted clubs based on average weights of men and women drivers (20% lighter, 10% lighter, 10% heavier).

Golfers are directed to swing at maximal speeds throughout their protocols in order to increase how fast their driver and other clubs can be swung in future rounds. Explaining the science and methods behind how SuperSpeed or other types of overspeed training devices work is outside the scope of this research review, but if you are interested in further reading, check out www.superspeed.com.

Regardless of which system you use, overspeed training is an effective tool to increase CHS in athletes who have not already maximized their nervous system’s potential for speed. You can determine how much speed you stand to gain by taking a look at our research on normative values for golfers relative to their peers in the 3 main power tests that relate to club head speed the most HERE. We found three tests that correlated very highly with CHS in golfers and you can compare yourself to others your age to see where you stand.

For instance, if your CHS is 50th percentile for your age but your physical power tests are 90th percentile, you likely possess the physical ability to generate enough force to move faster in your golf swing. That is, of course, assuming your mobility in your four main rotary centers is sufficient. You can see if you have enough by taking the At Home Golf Fitness Assessment HERE.

If you pass the home assessment and you have a lower percentile CHS than your power tests, overspeed training is likely going to be massively helpful for you, especially if speed is the main element that you need.

If, on the flipside, your CHS is 75th percentile and your power numbers on the other tests are 25th percentile, trying to utilize overspeed training might not be recommended initially as the safest and most effective way to gain speed, especially if you have mobility limitations. The risk may outweigh the reward in this scenario, as your ability to control your rotational speed is likely going to be limited by how strong and/or mobile you are and swinging maximally repeatedly will likely return minimal gains while at the same time put you at higher risk for injury.

The reason we decided to complete this study came from questions with a few considerations we found ourselves having to take into account with our golfers at Par4Success. These questions included volume, injury prevention and time commitment.

The first consideration is the amount of prescribed volume. Most golfers, especially lower-handicap recreational and competitive-level golfers, are already swinging hundreds to thousands of times per week, but in the pursuit of more CHS, they are often more than willing to take on the extra 300+ swings per week (depending on the protocol) prescribed. This increases nervous system and musculoskeletal stress and strain and if not appropriately tracked with appropriate recovery, could lead to overtraining and decreased performance. This brings into play a second consideration.

The need for specific strength and conditioning programs in conjunction with overspeed programs is vastly understated in our opinion. Strength and conditioning programs reduce injury risks by reducing asymmetries, improving mobility, and improving strength in ways that the golf swing does not, and this is before considering a significant increase in swing volume via high volume overspeed protocols.

In the absence of a well structured and periodized strength and conditioning program, adding a high volume overspeed protocol drastically increases swing volume without giving the golfer any added resilience to injury. In a sport that already struggles with high training volumes and overuse injuries, a properly designed and periodized golf performance plan that focuses on mobility, stability, strength, speed and power development gives a golfer protection against potential breakdown and injury; especially in the presence of a high volume overspeed protocol.

To be clear, it is our opinion at Par4Success, that a “properly designed golf performance plan” does not only include one single element of overspeed training or traditional strength and conditioning. It is one that is periodized throughout the year for an individual golfer that includes soft tissue care, mobility, stability, strength, speed and power development both in general athletic and sport specific terms.

Power training in movement patterns and force vectors such as triple extension in the vertical vector as well as sport specific power work such as overspeed training where CHS is the sum of force generated + the speed at which that force was generated. We believe that all of these elements should be individually considered when looking at an individual golfer and designing their golf performance plan.

Where an athlete is on the long term athletic development continuum must be considered as well. A junior golfer will have a different blend of the necessary elements than a senior golfer with different tools and strategies being implemented. For example a senior golfer may spend more time on the mobility and soft tissue elements while a 16 year old junior might spend more time developing their push, pull, squat and hinge force generations proportionally.

Another major consideration is that high volume overspeed protocols are lengthy if proper rest and recovery is built into the protocol. This leads to the golfer completing much of the protocols out of breath with an elevated heart rate, the exact opposite effect you are looking for when training power.

The golf swing is an incredibly powerful movement, and requires significant rest in between swings for physiological recovery to occur. Because each swing occurs in seconds, the glycolytic systems is one of the major energy systems required for the athlete to be explosive. The problem is that this energy system requires a LOT of rest between bouts for it to recover fully. If you don’t allow for full recovery, each swing becomes a maximal effort of 90%, then 80%, then 70% and so on. Effectively, you trade quality for quantity and each subsequent swing is less effective than the next.

The challenge is that if 2-3 minutes of rest is taken after every 10 swings, as should be for these protocols, the rests can add close to an hour of extra time, which almost no golfers or person possesses. So, to make the time reasonable, rest is sacrificed, which sacrifices power and quality significantly, theoretically lowering the effects of this type of training.

In order to combat low quality reps as is inherent with high volume protocols, it is our goal to determine the most efficient and effective method of overspeed training for every golfer, allowing every athlete to reap the benefits of overspeed training with a minimally effective dosage, eliminating further variables of stress to the body from the golf swing and allowing valuable time and energy to be spent elsewhere both on the course and in life.

Purpose

This study was run in order to determine the effectiveness of a reduced volume overspeed training protocol on improving swing speed compared to a higher volume SuperSpeed protocol. This program was run in conjunction with other training methods through a structured strength and conditioning program.

Methods

29 golfers, aged 13-74 years, were recruited to participate in the study. Each was randomly assigned to one of four groups: the original SuperSpeed protocol using all three SuperSpeed sticks (All), a reduced protocol utilizing only the Light stick for their gender (Light), a reduced protocol utilizing only the Medium stick for their gender (Medium), or a reduced protocol utilizing only the Heavy stick for their gender (Heavy). The SuperSpeed and reduced protocols are as follow:

Overspeed Protocol:

Group 1: Complete all steps (except 3 & 6) with all 3 clubs in ascending order (Light, then Medium, then Heavy), and NO explicit rest periods

Group 2: Complete all steps with ONLY Light Club (Green Men, Yellow Women/Juniors)

Group 3: Complete all steps with ONLY Medium Club (Blue Men, Green Women/Juniors)

Group 4: Complete all steps with ONLY Heavy Club (Red Men, Blue Women/Juniors)

Speed Stick Protocol Steps:

  1. Kneeling 5 swings right
  2. Kneeling 5 swings left
  3. 3 minutes rest
  4. Standing 5 swings right
  5. Standing 5 swings left
  6. 3 minutes rest
  7. Happy Gilmore 5 swings right
  8. Happy Gilmore 5 swings left

Participants were asked to complete two sessions of swinging each week for a total of 6 weeks, either before their scheduled workout, on a non-workout day, or at least 2 hours after a completed workout.

As per Par4Success’s standard protocol, each golfer went through a set of mobility, power, and strength tests, including CHS. These tests can be referenced in our other research report here. CHS was measured using a FlightScope launch monitor for the most accurate results. During each swing testing session, each participant was allowed to warm up with an iron, and then was given 5 swings with their driver. The top driver swing speed, minus mis-hits (i.e. a severe shank), was taken and recorded for each individual.

Results

The results of the study are best understood in the table below:

GroupSample SizeAvg. % Change in CHSAvg. Raw Change in CHS (mph)Range of CHS Change (mph)
All Sticks63.02%2.43-1.10, 8.00
Light Stick4-0.24%-0.55-4.00, 4.30
Medium Stick*55.01%4.60-0.50, 7.10
Heavy Stick*7-0.15%0.03-4.70, 3.30

The average CHS increase across all groups was 1.8 mph (2.04%).

There was close to a statistically significant difference between the Medium and Light groups (p = .079), and a significant difference (p = 0.024) between the Medium and Heavy groups. No other groups showed statistical significance, most likely due to the small sample sizes. 7 subjects were removed from the study due to poor compliance.

Discussion

These findings have produced some interesting results as well as created a number of questions that must be answered with future studies. At this time, our main goal is to continue to study the effects of various training styles of overspeed training to create the most customizable and efficient program possible. The findings from this study do not appear to support utilizing either just the Light or Heavy stick to increase swing speed. In fact, the findings suggest this to be detrimental to swing speed.

At this time, we feel comfortable eliminating the single-stick protocols for the Light and Heavy sticks as they were negatively impactful which was not surprising given other studies that have found similar results. (1,2) Even further clinical significance can be extrapolated here.

Based on our previous data at Par4Success over 3 years and over 600+ data points, an adult can expect to gain 1 mph of club head speed with 3 months of consistent training. By using the single medium stick protocol, golfers were able to quadruple that expected increase over a 6-week period, compared to a 12-week period. This appears to be incredibly advantageous in two ways.

First, a single medium stick (10% lighter than the avg driver) outperformed the full Superspeed protocol by almost double. This means a golfer can possibly see better results with 66% fewer swings per session drastically decreasing overuse injury likelihood as well as the overall load demands on their nervous system and body.

Second, rest appears to be incredibly important to increasing the quality of the repetitions and overall power improvement. This is nothing new, as it has done so in many other sport science studies looking at other power sports such as track and field and Olympic lifting.

Obvious limitations exist in this study and should be noted. Aside from having a relatively small sample in each group, the wide age range poses an issue with further customization, as the combination of these two factors do not allow us to study the effects of age on utilization of the SuperSpeed sticks. The small sample size also does not allow us to properly control for other variables, which can hopefully be eliminated in future studies.

Overall, this is only one step in a long process of determining optimal usage of overspeed training protocols. At this time, the full Superspeed protocol and the single medium stick appear to be an effective way to improve CHS in a majority of golfers, our goal is to streamline and optimize this process.

Further studies should continue to focus on determining the possible value of decreasing overspeed training volume, understanding the impact that the order of clubs being swung can have on the athlete, understanding if there is a need for multiple overspeed swing positions and determining their impact on improving swing speed in the golfer, and understanding the power of intent by utilizing swing speed monitors during this type of training.

Conclusion

At this time, we believe that a golfer can viably achieve CHS gains in a six week period at a rate four times higher than average expected gains in 12 weeks. Golfers can do this while decreasing volume by 66% compared to the popular Superspeed Golf Protocols and focusing intently on taking increased rest between sets. This can all be achieved while still keeping total swing time to under 10 minutes. This is an incredibly important piece to take from this initial study as it suggests that the golf performance world can reduce the amount of overall load on athletes and still see meaningful gains in CHS.

There must be more randomized control studies expanding on this study in the future to further validate and improve the science available to the greater golf performance community.

Disclaimer

No monetary compensation was received by the researchers to complete this study.

References

  1. After-Effects of Using a Weighted Bat on Subsequent Swing Velocity and Batters’ Perceptions of Swing Velocity and Heaviness Tamiki OtsujiMasafumi AbeHiroshi Kinoshita
  2. Effect of Warm-up With Different Weighted Bats on Normal Baseball Bat Velocity Montoya, Brian S; Brown, Lee E; Coburn, Jared W; Zinder, Steven MJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 2009 – Volume 23 – Issue 5 – p 1566-1569

AUTHOR

Christopher Finn

Par4Success

"We give golfers a clear path to longevity in golf - low scores, more distance and less pain."
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