Whenever I step outside of the bubble of this great online community or the gyms I work out of this is probably the first reaction and most common question I get.
Obviously there is lots of great research and data to explain why but research is pretty boring and people often fail to see the relevance to the real world or to their golf game in particular.
This is where a good analogy comes in handy to help cut through the noise and fake news you get so much of on the internet these days and help people see the facts and engage with what we actually know works.
One such analogy I find myself using a lot is the analogy of a racing car.
The driver can possess all the skill in the world but if the car is not up to the job the driver will never be able to fully display that skill and will struggle to win/ drive up to their full potential - this is the same for the golfer.
The golfer will struggle to play to their full potential if their car (a.k.a their body) is not up to the task. It doesn’t matter how much you practice your game, if you are missing the key physical abilities (such as movement quality, appropriate ranges of motion, force production, speed, power, etc) it’s like practicing your driving when your car is way down on power - it’s not going to help you as much as it should/ would if you had that more powerful car!
Golf fitness is a relatively new discipline, certainly to most golfers, but we still have 10+ years of research along with lifetimes of experience/ expertise from strength and conditioning in a myriad of other rotational sports to fall back on. We have digested this information, taken what works and discarded what doesn’t, simplified and distilled where most effective and until we came up with 4 key pillars of physical preparation for golf:
- Build a balanced and resilient chassis
- Increase the size of your engine
- Improve acceleration
- Maintain peak performance by warming uptake engine prior to the race, re-feuling right, changing oil regularly and keeping wear and tear to a minimum
Build a balanced and resilient chassis
If the chassis is poor on your car it won’t handle very well. Additionally any imbalances, wheel alignment for example, can affect things like tyre wear, make the car less durable and more likely to breakdown if they aren’t corrected.
The same is true for the golfer - a well balanced, well aligned musical-skeletal system will mean less wear and tear of joints, for example, and ultimately less injuries over the course of a career. Additionally, less injuries means more time playing/ practicing, which probably means better performance and a longer career - name any athlete who’s had a long career and I bet they’ve managed to avoid injuries for the most part.
Additionally, just as a car with a great chassis handles better and is more able to do what you ask of it on the road, improving your posture, movement and mobility will enable you to make swing changes more easily, and ultimately swing the club how you want.
Increase the size of your engine
All other things being equal the car with the biggest engine and most horse power will win the race. Horse power is the largest determining factor in the top speed of the car - it doesn’t matter how light the car, how many turbos, how quick the transmission, or how well it handles, at a certain point if you want it to go faster you need to add more horsepower to the engine. This is the ultimate governor and limiting factor. The same is true of the golf swing - your strength levels determine how much force you can put into the ball. Sure you can be more efficient with putting the force you can produce into the ball, but a t a certain point if you want to hit it further you need to be able to produce more force.
“Strength is the road to speed and power"
Acceleration isn’t just about engine size/ horsepower. How quickly that engine revs and how fast the transmission is play a huge role too. The golf swing an incredibly short duration activity and just like a 1/4 mile drag race the car with the most horsepower isn’t always the one that wins - that’s the one that can put the most power down into the road in the shortest amount of time. In the golf swing, being strong is great (see above) but the golf swing happens in less than 0.2 of a second - you need speed to be able to apply the strength you have.
In my opinion bands are a much under utilised way to improve speed, power and rate of force development. Intent is key though - move as fast as with as much force as you can!
Maintain peak performance
Just as you maintain peak performance of your car, by re-fuelling with the right gas, changing the oil regularly and keeping wear and tear to a minimum, exactly the same should apply to your body. Fuel with the food, at the right times, and stay hydrated. Increasing strength levels, getting enough sleep and practicing meditation/ mindfulness to create an autonomic nervous system response that facilitates recovery are like changing the oil, tyres or getting a re-spray on your car - they make you more resilient and able to handles the demands placed on your body. Managing workload both in the gym and on the course will both keep yourself fresh and avoid the wear and tear you are exposed to as a result of a high force and asymmetrical movement such as the golf swing and therefore reduce those aches and pains associated with playing too much golf.
Similarly, you wouldn’t stick your car straight on the start line, you do some slower formation laps before you hit top gear, get heat into the tyres, rev the engine up a few times, before you go and hit top gear. Exactly the same applies to your body before your play golf. There is some great research showing really significant improvements in clubhead speed and shot dispersion as a result of a proper warm-up prior to stepping on the first tee - and no a few swings to ‘loosen up’ doesn’t cut it unfortunately.
When it comes to golf performance your body is your race car - ultimately it’s capabilities and how well you manage them are going to determine how well you perform - so it’s time to start treating your body with the same care and attention you would do your prized race car. Develop a balanced chassis, get the biggest engine you can, improve acceleration, fuel well, warm-up properly and do basic maintenance to keep everything in top gear.
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