The Strength and Conditioning world surrounding golf is growing, and we hear more and more about how athletes are working different focuses on becoming the most effective player they can be. What should we be training for in the gym? Why lift weights? What are the most effective and efficient ways to train to improve our golf game? There are a number of theories surrounding the best ways to train. What I want to address is the importance of Ground Reaction Forces (GFR), what they are, and how pertinent they are into creating a powerful golf swing.
Ground reaction forces are the vertical and horizontal forces that are generated through the ground up through our connected extremities. There are numerous studies out that suggest vertically oriented strength training should be implemented in most sports strength and conditioning programs in order to increase GRF resulting in a more powerful athlete (Raszeja, Anderson, McInnis, Baily, 2017). One of the priority goals of the golf athlete is to hit the ball further, to gain more yardage. So looking at the laws of physics, as a strength coach, I want my athletes to increase their Power output to yield a faster swing speed.
First thing we should do is break this down. The definition of Power is the force multiplied by the velocity of a movement. Speed (velocity) is defined by distance covered over a period of time, and force is defined as mass multiplied by acceleration. A heavier massed object moving at a high speed generates more force than a smaller massed object moving at that same speed. A fixed weight moving at higher speeds will produce more Force than the slower moving object of the same weight.
Lets now go back to my initial point of ground reaction forces. With all this built Force we have acquired, we now want it to be passed to the club for increase club speed. The Force is passed through the kinetic chain in a specific sequence from the ground up. The Force produced through the ground is passed up initiated at our feet through our legs to our hips and torso, to our arms and shoulders, and finally down the golf club to the club head. The more torque (horizontal forces) produced at the base, the more rotational Force passed up through the chain to the club due to the rotational movement of the swing. So not only do we want to build vertical force output in our athletes, but horizontal forces as well.
The most efficient way to build power and increase ground reaction forces is by utilizing high loaded and quick accelerative movements. Olympic weightlifting movements are one of the best things to utilize in order to get aquire this.
However, as a Strength and Conditioning Coach in the golf world, I do not need to be spending massive amounts of time teaching my athletes how to Clean and Jerk and Snatch with perfect technique. If you break up the lifts into segments (ie. the set up, first pull, second pull, triple extension, catch), teaching each of these individually takes time to perfect. Putting them together is then just another battle. Now we can definitely teach the quick accelerative parts of these movements and see results in building peak power. Utilizing the High pull or Clean pull can be a benefit to athletes who want to see an increase of power. We can even utilize equipment such as dumbbells and kettlebells to do so with the same intent. However it is not in either of our benefit to spend extra time perfecting weightlifting technique and increasing risk with adding the catch. Although the catch to these movements are highly beneficial in athletic development and overall force absorption, it also comes at a higher risk because of the positions that they need to be in in order to properly finish a catch. To quote Coach Cory Schlesinger of the Stanford Basketball team, “I want to put them in a position where there is low risk of injury but they are getting high reward”. I want to put them in positions where they can execute at a high level, and not one where they are uncomfortable.
What I can do more than anything for them is get them stronger and more versatile. The foundation of force is strength. If they do not have a base of strength, I can’t coach any of these movements at all. My philosophy behind this is to get strong first. Before jumping into any kind of complex power movement. With strength comes stability, versatility, and overall increases in performance.
McGhie, D. (2018). Ground Reaction Force | Swing Catalyst. [online] Swingcatalyst.com. Available at: https://www.swingcatalyst.com/learning-center/articles/ground-reaction-force [Accessed 4 Oct. 2018].
Raszeja, N., Anderson, K., McInnis, T. and Bailey, C. (2018). NSCA 2017 Poster Gallery | eventScribe Poster Gallery. [online] Eventscribe.com. Available at: https://www.eventscribe.com/2017/posters/NSCA/SplitViewer.asp?PID=MTA5MTczMjQxOTY [Accessed 4 Oct. 2018].