In my professional capacity as a strength coach, and as a golfer myself, I’ve never meet a golfer who doesn’t want to hit it further!
Hitting it further ultimately means generating more clubhead speed. With this in mind, we as golfers, hit the gym and train for speed with great exercises like rotational med-ball throws and lateral jumps, makes sense right?
Indeed, research has shown consistently that when vertical jump and med-ball chest throw increase clubhead speed increases too. Additionally, and just as importantly, not much looks cooler or feels better than crushing step-behind shot-put throws against a poor unsuspecting wall.
The issue? Many golfers rush into these exercises without earning the right to progress.
These exercises have really high force output and neural demands, not to mention if they aren't done with picture perfect form, they create inefficient/ faulty neuromuscular firing and movement patterns, that potentially limit your progress and even lead to injury.
As I alluded to above you need to earn the right to do these exercises, by developing certain physical abilities, to ensure safe and effective progression. Here’s a quick checklist of what you are going to need:
Ability to stabilise the core whilst the limbs move
Good rotational mechanics
Sufficient eccentric strength
So how do you going about developing these qualities?
As luck would have it, after a bit of thought and experimentation I’ve got it down to just three exercises that pretty much cover the lot.
Take some time to get good at these exercises and earn the right to progress to speed and power work
Bird-dogs teach you to control a stable core and lumbo-pelvic position as you extend from the hips and flex at the shoulder. Creating power through hip extension or shoulder flexion (in overhead med-ball throws for example) is key to developing speed and power in a safe and efficient manner. Typically we start with a quadruped hip extension drill from the elbows with the knee bent, then move to a band resisted variation from the hands and with a straight leg. After that is mastered we progressed to a quadruped hip extension drill with feedback (shown below - make sure ball stays on the cone!) and finally a full bird-dog with feedback.
Quadruped t-spine rotation
This is a great exercise to teach proper rotational mechanics, the quadruped position makes it easy to cue and practice rotating from the thoracic spine, whilst keeping the hips and lumbar spine stable (keep that core on!), due to the lack of load and increased stability of the position. Watch that the arch in the lumbar spine doesn't increase too dramatically as you rotate and that the hips remain in place, rather than shifting laterally to find stability.
Goblet split-squat with extended eccentric
The split stance narrows the base of support and gives us good hip stability demands. During the squat we must stabilise the knee in a frontal plane whilst moving through a large sagittal plane range of motion. Split-squats also provide a pretty decent eccentric load as the working leg must control the weight as you descend. This eccentric strength is vital to good landing mechanics, force absorption, deceleration ability, and ultimately staying injury free when you move onto jump work. Indeed, if when doing plyometrics, your landings are heavy (good landings should be quiet!) your knees cave in or you even get knee pain, insufficient eccentric strength is the probable cause.
I really like varying these up with lateral squats and sideboard lunges prior to introducing speed work too. This ensures we develop these qualities in multiple planes and the slideboard does a great job of further increasing that eccentric load.
Take home message: Stop rushing into speed and power exercises.
Take some time at a lower threshold of training first and earn the right to progress by owning these exercises. You’ll get much more out of the speed and power work when you do progress to it and you'll ensure your training is keeping you injury resilient too.