Every wonder why one golfer is so proficient with his driver, but cringes when has has a wedge in his hands? Another golfer may be an excellent short iron player, but he is scared stiff of his long irons. Is it all just skill level and practice?
For years, I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to build the tools I need so that I could validate the notion that “one optimal swing type for a complete range of golfers’ needs” just doesn’t make sense.
It seems to me that teaching just one swing type without showing a golfer how to adjust for each particular shot is very much like trying to select one car to suit all the family’s needs. Basically, it’s just a series of comprised decisions that invariably never meets the total needs.
Since 2010. I’ve been building digital tools that will finally inspire us to validate that “there is an optimal swing pattern for each and every type of golf shot and all golfers will need to acquire several of them to have a complete game.“
Working with a medical company called Patientech Vista in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, our team developed a golf pressure mat called BodiTrak that measures center of pressure.
By measuring the average position of a golfer’s vertical forces while in either in a “static” (set up in the address positions for various shots) and or “dynamic” position to capture complete swing data using sound as the trigger for determining impact and the web cam off your laptop for integrated video, we now can now bring center of pressure, or C.O.P. golf pressure mapping to the masses.
What you will see below are actual screen shots of the BodiTrak user interface.
A bit about BodiTrak: BodiTrak is a highly portable golf pressure mat that can be rolled up into a trim carrying case, weighs approximately 8 pounds and can be used both indoors and outdoors on any type of lie, putting, chipping, downhill and even side hill lies and sells for under $2,000.
Dr. Sasho MacKenzie, a well-known golf biomechanist from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada and I did the initial validation of the BodiTrak Golf Pressure Mat as compared to an AMTI Force Plates that many of the top researchers in golf use. The results were positive and the trace patterns near match up in near identical fashions.
Much of the information we all can now capture has never been seen before, in particular the C.O.P. traces from the unusual lies, downhill lies, sidehill lies and so forth.
Pressure mapping itself is not a new topic. All successful golfers innately understand the significance of proper weight and balance issues. But until now, the lack of portability and high costs of force plates have restricted validating weight and balance issues. Most of the data collected to date has been restricted to but an elite group of researchers, biomechanists and advanced golf academies.
Recently, an article was written comparing the brake effect of a baseball player to golf, and this was just the encouragement that I needed to reach out and submit this article. It turns out that this brake effect is exactly what we refer to in our pressure mapping system as the power trace.
While conducting an early spring symposium at Holland Golf College in Prince Edward Island earlier this year, I ran through all 43 golf students on the golf pressure mapping device. The results were obvious and very interesting, and I’d like to share them here with you.
Hockey is Canada’s national sport, and it’s easy to understand that so many of the Holland College group I was testing were well versed in slapshots. I was very curious to see if many of these young golfers that had the power trace actually knew what they were doing to create the power. Amazingly, most did!
It turns out that in hockey (just it as in baseball), the most powerful slapshots are produced when the front foot is used as a brake, slowing down the forward momentum providing resistance to hit against. This is a well-established fact among hockey players and makes total sense. Otherwise, you would be sliding forward and very little power would be generated in a slap shot if this technique wasn’t used.
The power trace illustrated below indicates that the C.O.P. DOT (white dot) moves hard to the front foot even before the golfer completes his backswing. I refer to this as the “resting” position. Next, the vertical forces in the C.O.P. trace reverse toward the back foot just prior to impact, allowing the golfer to create the resistance that generates his impressive power.
When polling the students, I asked this distinguished group of power hitters to describe their short iron and wedge play. Most indicated that their irons was not their strong suit. This made perfect sense. For if you use this C.O.P. power trace for all your shots, you are effectively pulling up prior to impact, which may not be ideal for short iron play.
Below is a great example of the C.O.P. power trace collected at my Holland College symposium. By the way, if you slow down the new D.N.A. golf shoe add by FootJoy, you’ll see the same C.O.P. Trace they are showing on their pressure map.
A Holland College player selected by his peers as the best iron player. The same player as above C.O.P. iron trace.
C.O.P. Linear Trace: Irons
When these power trace hitters were questioned about their personal iron play, I also asked all of their power trace peers who was the best iron player in their group.
The same golfer, Ben, who used the power trace with his driver, demonstrated a completely different C.O.P. trace with his irons!
Through thousands of hours testing with the BodiTrak Golf Pressure Mapping device, I’ve come to call this C.O.P. trace “linear,” as it illustrates the a golfer’s transfer of a weight in very simplistic manner: straight back and straight through.
In actual field testing, I’ve found that this linear C.O.P. trace is used by very accurate golfers and a very reliable C.O.P. trace of a golfer with strong short iron performance, where power generation is not a crucial part of the optimal overall result.
Of all the various C.O.P. traces, the linear trace is not the most powerful, but it does seem to represent the most accurate C.O.P. trace for short iron play.
I’ve posted the power trace at on Youtube for your greater scrutiny.
[youtube id=”kdOYrn9ckgo” width=”620″ height=”360″]
While C.O.P. analysis is purely research at its infancy, it’s very clear that the ideal C.O.P. trace for optimal distance is not the one that is to be used for optimal control. Each set of clubs, be that driver, fairway woods, irons and the likes, all will have their own optimal C.O.P. trace patterns. That is not likely a revelation to most.
Finally, a solution to understanding that one swing for all shots is not an optimal solution. This science shows that predictable traces serve each particular shot required and help golfers quantify feel. Unfortunately, as I learn more and more about C.O.P. golf pressure mapping, my lifetime obsession to prove my notion has not subsided, rather it has grown.
Clement: Short game consistency for chipping and pitching
There is simply no excuse left for poor chipping and pitching. The techniques, focus, and task implementation you will get out of this video will be simply fantastic and is the surest way to bring your scores down and your fun factor way up! This is the way Steve Stricker does it too! Enjoy!
Faults & Fixes: Losing height in your swing
In this week’s Fault and Fixes Series, we are going to examine the issues that come with losing your height during the swing and its effect on your low point as well as your extension through and beyond impact.
When a professional player swings, there is usually very little downward motion through the ball. Some is OK, but if you look at this amateur player you will see too much. When the head drops downward too much something, has to give and it’s usually the shortening of the swing arc. This will cause issues with the release of the club.
Dangers of overspeed training revealed: What to do and what not to do
Speed: a key factor to more money on tour. The key component sought after by many amateur golfers to lower their scores. The focus of many infographics on social media this past PGA Tour season. A lot of people say speed matters more than putting when it comes to keeping your tour card and making millions.
Overspeed Training: the focus on tons of training aids as a result of the buzz the pursuit of speed has created. The “holy grail” for the aging senior golfer to extend their years on the course. The “must do” training thousands of junior golfers think will bring them closer to playing college golf and beyond.
Unfortunately, overspeed training is the most misunderstood and improperly implemented training tool I see used for speed in the industry. Based on the over 50 phone calls I’ve fielded from golfers around the world who have injured themselves trying it, it is leading to more overuse injuries in a sport where we certainly don’t need any help creating more than we already have. Luckily, these injuries are 100 percent preventable if you follow the few steps outlined below.
Don’t let your rush to swing faster get you hurt. Take five minutes to read on and see what the industry has not been forthcoming with until now.
Understanding how to increase your speed safely and with as little work possible is the path to longevity without injury. If you could train 75 percent less (to the tune of about 8,000 fewer reps a year) and still see statistically comparable results, would you rather that?
Would it make sense to you that swinging 8,000 times fewer (low volume protocols versus high volume protocols) would probably decrease your risk of overuse injuries (the most common injury for golfers)?
I think so.
But I’ll let you draw your own conclusions after you finish reading.
Your biggest challenge is that the answer to more speed for you is not the same as it is for your friends. It differs depending on many factors, but there are four main ones that you can start with. Those four are
- Your equipment
- Your technical prowess
- Your joint mobility at your rotary centers (neck, shoulders, spine, and hips)
- Your ability to physically produce power
If you are not totally clear on these, I’d recommend checking out the earlier article I wrote for GolfWRX titled Swing speed: How do you compare? Go through the testing as outlined and you’ll know the answer to these four areas in five minutes.
Basically, you have the potential to pick up speed by optimizing your equipment (ie. find the right shaft, etc), optimizing the technical element of your swing for optimal performance (ie. launch angles, etc) or by optimizing your body for the golf swing. Understanding how to best gain speed without putting your body at risk both in the short and long term is what 95 percent of golfers have no idea about. It is the single biggest opportunity golfers have to make lasting improvements to not only their golf game but their overall health.
Are You a Ticking Time Bomb?
In my earlier article (link above), I described three main categories when it came to physical factors. Step one is to determine what category you are in.
The first option is that you might be swinging faster than your body is able to control. In this case, you are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in injury. We all know that friend who just has a year-round membership to the local physio or chiro because they are always hurt. If this is you, DO NOT try overspeed training, it will only make your visits to the physio or chiro more frequent. There are much better areas to spend your time on.
The second situation might be the rare, sought-after balanced golfer. You might have great mobility in the four main rotary centers (hips, spine, shoulders, and neck) and your swing speed matches your physical power output abilities. It should be noted that based on our mobility research of almost 1,000 golfers, 75 percent of golfers over the age of 40 don’t have full rotary mobility in at least one of the four centers. When you age past 50, that 75 percent now applies to at least two rotary centers. Hence why “the balanced golfer” category is elusive to most golfers.
The final option is the sexy, exciting one; the “more RPMs under the hood” golfer. This is the one where overspeed training is your fountain of youth and you can pick up 10, 15, even 20 yards in a matter of weeks. You might have more RPM’s under your hood right now. Being in this category means you physically are able to produce way more power athletically than you are doing in your golf swing currently.
The Good News
The “more RPMs under the hood” golfer describes over 50 percent of amateur golfers. Most of you sit at work and don’t train your body to move at maximal speeds outside of when you swing the golf club. The number of adults and senior golfers who train maximal speed at the gym, run sprints and train with plyometrics (correctly) is under five percent.
Why is this good news?
Because if you don’t move fast at any point in your life other than on the golf course right now, doing pretty much anything fast repetitively will make you faster. For instance, you can jump up and down three times before you hit a drive and your speed will increase by 2-3 mph (6-9 yards) just from that according to a research study.
This means that for the average amateur, adult golfer in this category, picking up 5-8 mph (12- 20-plus yards) almost immediately (it won’t stick unless you keep training in though) is incredibly simple.
The Bad News & The Fine Print
Remember earlier when I mentioned you needed to “also have full mobility in the four main rotary centers” and that “75 percent of adults over the age of 50 lack mobility in at least two rotary centers?”
That’s the bad news.
Most golfers will get faster by simply swinging as hard as they can. Unfortunately, most golfers also will get hurt swinging maximally repeatedly because they have to compensate for the lack of rotational mobility in those rotary centers.
This should be a big bold disclaimer, but is often not. This is the fine print no one tells you about. This is where the rubber meets the road and the sexiness of overspeed training crashes and burns into the traffic jam of joints that don’t move well for most amateur golfers.
The first step to your solution is to make sure you have full rotational mobility and figure out what category of golfer your body puts you in. As a thanks for being a WRX reader, here is a special link to the entire assessment tool for free.
After you determine if you have the mobility to do overspeed training safely and you know if you are even in the category that would make it worthwhile, the second and final step is to figure out how many swings you need to do.
How Many Swings are too Many?
Concisely, you don’t need more than 30 swings two times per week. Anything more than that is unnecessary based on the available research.
As you digest all of the research on overspeed training, it is clear that the fastest swing speeds tend to occur with the stronger and more powerful players. This means that first, you need to become strong and be able to generate power through intelligent workout plans to maximize performance, longevity and reduce injury likelihood. From here, overspeed training can become an amazing tool to layer on top of a strong foundation and implement at different times during the year.
To be clear, based on the two randomized overspeed studies that Par4Success completed and my experience of training thousands of golfers, it is my opinion that overspeed training works in both high volume (100s of swings per session) and low volume protocol (30 swings per session) formats exactly the same. With this being the case, why would you want to swing 8,000 more times if you don’t have to?
The research shows statistically no difference in speed gained by golfers between high-volume overspeed protocols compared to low volume ones. Because of this, in my opinion, high volume protocols are unnecessary and place golfers at unnecessary risk for overuse injury. This is especially true when they are carried out in the absence of a customized strength and conditioning program for golf.
In order to combat low-quality reps and maximize results with fewer swings, it is necessary to take rest breaks of 2-3 minutes after every 10 swings. Anything less is not enough to allow the energy systems to recover and diminishes your returns on your effort. If these rests are not adhered to, you will fatigue quickly, negatively impacting quality and increasing your risk of injury.
Rest time is another reason why low volume protocols are preferable to high volume ones. To take the necessary rests, a high volume protocol would take more than an hour to complete. With the lower volume protocols you can still keep the work time to 10 minutes.
The Low Volume Overspeed Protocol
You can see the full protocol in the full study reports here. It is critical you pass the first step first, however before implementing either protocol, and it is strongly recommended not to do the overspeed protocol without a solid golf performance plan in place as well in order to maximize results and reduce risk of injury.
This is just the first version of this protocol as we are currently looking at the possibility of eliminating kneeling as well as some other variables that are showing promising in our ongoing research. Be sure to check back often for updates!
Commonly asked questions about overspeed training…
Once initial adaptations have occurred, is there any merit to overspeed training long term?
None of the studies that I was able to find discussed longitudinal improvements or causation of those improvements. This is the hardest type of research to do which speaks to the lack of evidence. No one actually knows the answer to these questions. Anyone saying they do is guessing.
Do the initial gains of overspeed training outperform those of traditional strength and conditioning?
There appears to be a bigger jump with the addition of overspeed training than solely strength and conditioning, by almost threefold. In 6 and 8 weeks respectively, the average gain was just around 3 mph, which is three times the average gain for adult golfers over a 12 weeks period with just traditional strength and conditioning.
Can we use overspeed training as a substitute for traditional strength and conditioning?
No. Emphatically no. It would be irresponsible to use overspeed in isolation to train golfers for increased speed. First off, increasing how fast someone can swing without making sure they have the strength to control that speed is a means to set someone up for injury and failure. Secondly, if they are appropriate and you increase someone’s speed, you also need to increase their strength as well so that it keeps up with the demands the new speed is putting on their body.
Are long term results (1 year+) optimized if overspeed training is combined with traditional strength and conditioning vs in isolation or not at all?
It would appear, based off our longitudinal programs that using overspeed training periodized in conjunction with an athlete-specific strength and conditioning program and sport-specific training (ie. technical lessons, equipment, etc—not medicine ball throws or cable chops) in a periodized yearly plan maximizes results year to year.
In order to keep decreases in club speed to no more than three-to-five percent during the competitive season (as is the normal amount in our data), it is imperative to keep golfers engaged in an in-season strength and conditioning program focused on maximal force and power outputs. By minimizing this in-season loss, it assures that we see gains year over year.
It is unclear if overspeed training in conjunction with strength and conditioning during the season further decreases this standard loss due to nervous system fatigue, but this would be a great area for future research.
What sort of frequency, protocols or volume should one utilize for maximal benefit and minimal risk of injury?
Most of the studies that I was able to find specifically on swinging looked at about 100 swings three times per (baseball). The Superspeed protocols which are the most popular in the golf world, follow a similar volume recommendation after an initial ramp up period. It is a concern, especially with untrained individuals, that adding more than 11,000 maximal effort swings over the course of year might increase risk for injury due to the incredible increase in load. Especially for the amatuer golfer who only plays on the weekends and does not engage in a strength and conditioning program, this is a significant volume increase from their baseline.
The Par4Success studies in 2018-19 found no significant difference in swing speed gains between high volume protocols and a lower volume protocol which required only 30 swings, 2x/week but required a 2 minute rest between every 10 swings.
More studies beyond these two need to be done looking at this, but it would be my recommendation, specifically in golf, not to engage in the high volume protocols as it does not appear to increase speed gains while also increasing load on the athlete significantly.
Do any potential gains of overspeed training outperform the traditional methods that are proven to transfer to sport?
It does not appear that overspeed training is superior to any one training method, but rather a tool to use in conjunction with other proven methods. The key here is to assess yourself and look to implement this type of training when mobility is not an issue and the physical ability to produce power is higher than the ability to generate club speed. In the right scenario, overspeed training can be a game-changing tool. In the wrong scenario, it can be a nail in a golfer’s coffin.
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