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Four exercises to increase club head speed

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We all want to hit it the golf ball farther. We sit at the office during the week having day dreams of conquering that long par 5 in two mighty blows, or hitting our drive off the 1st tee in this weekend’s game 20 yards past our playing partners ball into the center strip of the fairway.

Faster clubhead speed requires a combination of strength, power, mobility and stability. A properly planned strength program is the best way to develop these traits. When we lift weights, our muscles adapt to be able to produce more force. When we learn to express this force quickly through training we improve power. By developing proper mobility in certain joints and stability in others, we lay the foundation to express this power in the golf swing, meaning faster clubhead speed and longer drives. Indeed, research consistently shows a strong correlation between weight training and an increase in clubhead speed.

A strong golf swing starts with strong legs

Biomechanical analysis of the golf swing has shown that the muscles of the legs initiate the downswing before the upper body reaches the top of the swing to allow for maximal clubhead speed at impact (what coaches refer to as the X-Factor). Data also reveals that a rapid weight shift to the lead leg in the downswing creating forces of more than 180 percent of a golfer’s body weight at impact. These robust weight transfer dynamics and torque during the downswing emphasise the importance of leg strength.

Trap bar deadlift

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  • Deadlifts build lower-body strength unlike any other exercise.
  • They teach golfers to apply force to the ground, just as they do in the golf swing to generate club head speed.
  • Deadlifts challenge upper back and core musculature to maintain proper spinal alignment, which is key to staying injury free in both the weights room and on the course.
  • Deadlifts requires good hip mobility to execute, just as in the golf swing.
  • To top it all off, deadlifts build incredible grip strength, useful for protecting the wrists from injury and hacking out of the long stuff on the occasions that you need to.

Goblet dumbbell split squats

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  • Deadlifts hit the glutes and hamstrings, which leaves squats to handle the quads. Golfers need strong quads, particularly in the target side leg, as strong quads allow a firm foundation for the golfer to “post” the leg as the upper body rotates around the body in the downswing.
  • The goblet dumbbell split squat is a challenging alternative to barbell back squats that require increased coordination, stability and allow you to work one leg at a time, just as when shifting weight in the swing.
  • The goblet grip has the added advantage of keeping your shoulders in a more neutral position compared to holding dumbbells at your side.

Plane-specific power

We know we have to get strong before we can be powerful. After all, you can’t express force quickly if you don’t have much force to begin with. When most people think of power exercises, cleans, snatches and box jumps probably top the list. However, research shows that power is plane-specific, meaning we only develop power in the direction we use it. Cleans and vertical jumps only build power in the sagittal plane (front to back), whereas golfers need to develop power in the frontal plane (side to side) as they shift weight away and toward the target in the backswing and downswing respectively, and in the transverse plane (rotational) as their hips and shoulders rotate to swing the club.

A recent study proved that straight-ahead power movements like jumps and overhead med ball throws do little to improve throwing velocity in baseball pitchers. The weight shift from back leg to lead leg and rotation of the hips and shoulders seen in pitching is biomechanically very similar to those movements found in the golf swing, so results from this study should also hold true for golfers. The study also found that only two exercises had significant carryover to a pitcher’s throwing velocity, med ball rotational throws and lateral jumps.

Med ball rotational throw

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  • Throw it like you mean it! Try to knock down the wall!
  • The key is to aggressively shift your weight from back hip to front hip, using your glute to fire towards the wall.

Lateral jumps

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  • Lateral jumps develop the ability to rapidly develop and decelerate force, just as you are required to in the golf swing.
  • Lateral jumps build this powerful movement while opening up the hips and creating stability in the knee and ankle.
  • Get the most out of lateral jumps by keeping your hips back to use your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Land softly from each jump, but minimize ground reaction time by quickly pushing off to reverse directions.
  • Increase the intensity of the exercise by holding a light med ball or looping an elastic band around your waist and attach it to a power rack at hip height, jumping away from the rack to increase the tension of the band as you land.

Putting it all together

These four exercises make up the bulk of a solid strength training routine. Here’s an example of how to program them into a lower body workout.

A1. Med ball rotational throws (3-to-5 sets of 4 reps).

A2. Lateral jumps (3-to-5 sets of 4 jumps per side).

B1. Trap bar deadlift (3-to-5 sets of 3-to-5 reps).

B2. T-spine, hip or ankle mobilizations (3-to-5 sets of 6-to-10 reps).

C1. Goblet dumbbell split squat (3 sets of 6-to-8 reps).

C2. Reverse crunches (3 sets of 10-to-12 reps).

Perform this workout twice a week, alternating with an upper-body workout. Start light with the deadlifts and squats (say 95 pounds for deadlift and just bodyweight for split squats) if you have no experience with these lifts and aim to increase by 5-to-10 pounds every week while keeping good form.

For the Med ball throws, start light and stay light! There really is no need to go above an 8 pound med ball, even for the strongest of you. The aim here is to move as fast as possible, not move the heaviest med ball you can slower than you would a lighter one. With hard work and enough time, the strength you gain in the weight room will have you performing better than ever on the course.

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Nick is a TPI certified strength coach with a passion for getting golfers stronger and moving better. Through Stronger Golf he uses unique, research based training methods to create stronger, faster, more athletic golfers. Golfers who are more coachable, achieve higher levels of skill mastery, play injury free, and for longer as a result of improved physical fitness.

22 Comments

22 Comments

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    May 13, 2015 at 5:00 pm

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  3. Webber

    May 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Rockin’ the Chuck Taylor og’s.

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  5. Daniel M.

    Apr 18, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Can you comment on some examples of T-spine, hip or ankle mobilizations?

  6. Alex B

    Apr 18, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Nice article Nick and the timing is great for me as I’m just starting to work out regularly now. Can you please explain a little more for the gym challenged golfer that I am how the exercises would work in a program? Would you do A1, B1, C1 in one workout and the 2s in another workout? Also, can you let me know where I can find out more about the spine, hip, ankle mobilizations? Many thanks.

  7. Wally B

    Apr 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I do a variation of the lateral jumps – I call it hop, hop, stick with dumbbells – so jump left, jump right, jump left and stick and hold the landing with 10 lb dumbbells – that’s one rep. With each rep try to lengthen the distance of the lateral jumps.

    • Nick Buchan

      Apr 18, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Wally, sounds awesome! ‘With each rep try to lengthen the distance of lateral jumps’ is key – the aim of this is to develop power so we should aim to go further each jump. Once we can’t jump further than we did last time the set is over. Doing loads of volume and tons of low quality reps is counter productive when seeking to increase power output.

  8. thefullsp

    Apr 18, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Great article Nick. I used to use trap bar deadlift as my go to into e gym, but so few gyms have them. In your view, what’s the best alternative exercise? Thanks!

    • Nick Buchan

      Apr 18, 2014 at 10:32 am

      Thanks. Great question…firstly the trap bar is a great piece of kit so if you can find a gym with one use it! That said, you are right that they’re pretty rare. The deadlift off low blocks or rack pulls (putting the bar just below the knees) is probably the closest alternatively anatomically, but in reality any deadlift variation will work. I choose the trap bar because it is probably the most user friendly, but as your training progresses you should probably seek to use all possible variations (trap bar, rack pull, sumo, convential, snatch grip, etc) at one time or another.

  9. Zarig Cooper

    Apr 18, 2014 at 5:11 am

    Nice article – as a physical therapist I know that it’s so important to get clients working out properly after their injuries or restrictions have been resolved.

    specialist advice from a dedicated trainer is key in order to properly motivate people and get them training effectively!

    • Nick Buchan

      Apr 18, 2014 at 5:28 am

      Thanks Zarig. Couldn’t agree more…the difference a trainer/coach can make to peoples motivation, adherence and results is huge, and sadly often overlooked!

  10. Brandon

    Apr 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Awesome article! Would love to see more golf fitness articles to come, golfers as athletes really is the new step in the game.

  11. Steve Pratt

    Apr 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Nick!

    Nice article! Have you ever personally used this regimen to increase clubhead speed? Or with any serious to elite golfers? What have you found in speed gains or what period of time?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Nick Buchan

      Apr 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      Hi Steve,

      I have tested this program (or more accurately individualised versions of it) with numerous elite amateurs and professionals. Results varied, depending on training experience, and obviously these guys will still putting a lot of hours practicing technique on the range so not sure all improvements can really be put down to me or this program. With that said, over a 10 week training block almost all indicators of athletic performance (vertical jump, lateral jump, 3rm chin up, etc) have increased for all, along with club head speed (most gain around 10-20yards in this period as well as improving performance, whilst those with no training experience at all have gained up to 40 yards off the tee. Training consistently over a longer period can add up to massive distance increases. I myself began training maxing out the driver around 270 and hitting a 5 iron 170, I now max out at about 320 with an average 5 iron carry of 197, as well as being much more consistent and solid technically.

  12. Nick Buchan

    Apr 17, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks Nick, Yeah sure. Pressing is still vitally important for golfers, studies have shown the chest, triceps and upper back to be some of the most involved muscles in the golf swing. For golfers with adequate t-spine mobility, I really like push presses, bench also works but it has you in a lying position which just isn’t as functional and can have implications for scapular movement and health. Include dumbbell or my personal favourite bottoms-up kettlebell presses for shoulder stability. It is also vital to develop good scapular and shoulder positional control so all pressing volume should be balanced with equal pulling volume. Pay particular attention to the upper back with exercises such as band pull-aparts, face pulls, no monies, chest supported rows, etc. This article and video give more information on scapular position and control than i can in this comment http://www.golffitapp.com/content/3-key-areas-your-golf-body-upper-back-and-scapula

  13. Nick Randall

    Apr 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Great article Nick, I like your selection of exercises a lot. If I was going to add a couple of upper body exercises, which ones would you recommend please?

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