If you haven’t heard yet, here it is now. Power is king. The greater that you can produce power, the further you will hit a golf ball, and lower your handicap.
Power is the product of force times velocity. So, when we talk about training power, we talk about creating an immense amount of force as fast as humanly possible. Golf requires a ground force. So, golf athletes need to be able to use the ground to create this force. Without it, we’d all just be trying to hit golf balls while trying to float in space, not so easy.
So, we’re trying to create a greater amount of ground force in a very short amount of time. The average time of a golf swing with the driver is less than 2 seconds. So, we’re trying to create at least our body weight in force in less than 2 seconds. How do you do it?
Heavy Strength Training
Yes, there I said it. Golfers need to be training with heavy weights. Your muscular system is made up of many pieces called motor units. Higher force production requires a larger amount of motor units to be activated. So, you need to be exercising a larger amount of motor units in training.
To do this, you need to be doing two things. One, is to train the large muscle groups, using multi joints, and compound movements. The more moving parts to the movement, the more motor units you’re activating. For example, the squat, this exercise requires large muscle groups of the lower body, multi joints (ankles, knees, and hips), and is compound in that it’s requiring flexion and extension simultaneously of the entire lower body.
Two, is that these exercises need to be loaded. They need to be heavy. The more weight you perform the movement with the more motor units you’re activating. This needs to be done at low volume (sets of no more than 5 reps). This is why it’s often mistaken that higher reps and less weight are good for increasing distance off the tee. That is false. Doing a high rep protocol limits the amount of load you’re training at and therefore limits the motor unit recruitment.
In a nutshell, multi-joint exercises for low reps and heavy weights will recruit greater amounts of motor units and will increase distance off the tee.
I know what you’re thinking by now…. “If I train with really heavy weights, won’t the movement slow down and actually make me slower?” Again, this is false. A well-designed training program will have the fancy and flashy speed component to it, and we know everyone likes to go fast!
The nervous system is key in training for speed. You want to feed your nervous system a double shot from Starbucks here, because the faster the system can work, the fast you can move. This can be done with different movements such as Olympic lifts, jump variations, medicine ball throws, or banded pulls and punches. Whichever variations best fits your training limitations are what I recommend here. For example, a golfer with osteo-arthritis in their knees probably shouldn’t be doing depth jumps of an 18” box.
Most importantly with training speed is the work to rest ratios. You want, at minimum, a 1:3 work to rest ratio. That means if one set of your exercise takes 15 seconds, you should be resting a minimum of 45 seconds before beginning the next set. Again, this is where “golf fitness” doesn’t work. Long endurance activity trains the wrong energy system and actually demotes power development.
To wrap up speed training, fast movements for short amounts of time and long rests will ramp up the nervous system and give you that increased distance.
At the end of the day, you want to be doing heavy strength training with multi-joint, compound movements. You also want to include some speed training into your program as well. Speed training should be low volume and longer rest to ensure the appropriate nervous system adaptation. Do this, and I can guarantee that you’ll be hitting the ball further in no more than 6 weeks.