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More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training

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The lower body in the golf swing is the engine that makes everything run. Swinging without it is like attempting to drive a car without an engine. Catch a downhill and sure… it may roll for awhile. But as soon as you encounter a hill, you stop moving. It’s kind of like most amateur’s golf swings. They compensate OK for awhile and think they’re making progress with their totally upper body driven golf swing. Then they lose it.

Related: More distance off the tee Part 1 (Upper Body Training) 

Losing your swing is not as unthinkable or shocking as many people in the golf industry would like you to think. It’s certainly not as dramatic or difficult to fix, either. As long as you are neglecting to use your lower body in creating the rotation necessary to swing the club and the rotary power to make sure the ball goes somewhere consistently, you are doomed. You will live on the roller coaster of good and bad rounds, found and lost swing thoughts and many lost golf balls. But hey, at least you’ll get a lot of strokes in your next club championship, right?

If you haven’t already read about the four major areas necessary for rotation in the golf swing and taken the tests to see how you do on them, that is what you need to do right now before reading any further. If you have looked at your rotational abilities and you are doing OK, then let’s continue on.

When it comes to creating power from the ground via the lower body, it’s all in the legs. The test that’s easiest to use when figuring out how much “pop” you may have is the vertical jump test. Average PGA Tour players jump between 18-22 inches, while LPGA players are between 16-20 inches. Long drive competitors often jump over 30 inches!

It’s simple to make an assumption that vertical leap has something to do with how much power a player can generate. In fact, the R-value that we have found with this relationship is above 0.85… for all you statistics buffs out there. The reason this occurs is because vertical leap is the simplest forms of assessing a person’s ability to generate ground reaction force, which propels them upward.  If you look at the force plate data in golfers, it is very clear that one of the critical components in generating club head speed is also the ability to create larger ground reaction forces.

So if you look at your vertical and you can only jump 13 inches, you probably have some power to gain. Conversely, if you jump 30 inches and only swing 95 mph, there are probably some other issues that you need to address (technique, upper body power, sequencing, equipment etc). But if you are that golfer with a less than impressive vertical leap, check out a couple of the exercises below to start working on your lower body’s ability to generate power. As with all power training, increasing your base level of strength will also help with exercises such as squatting, deadlifting and all other variations of lower body strength training.

For the sake of this article, I am going to assume you’re already doing all that and give you three of my favorite drills that we use with our golfers to improve their ability to generate better lower body power in the golf swing. Remember, no more than six in a set. Try to go all out on every rep.

180-Degree Jumps

The key here is to load into the inside of your loading foot and try to explode up as high as you can. When you land, control the deceleration and then explode back up into the air as high as you can.

Caveman Throws

This is a great option for those of you who would like to avoid high impact exercises like jumps. Triple extension is the single most powerful move we have as athletes. When we extend at the ankles, hips and knees in a coordinated and powerful movement, the force and speed that can be unleashed is quite impressive. Have fun with this one and just make sure you get out of the way of the ball.

90-Degree Box Jumps with Slam 

This one is for all you higher-level athletes out there who want to really get after it. Slam the ball on the outside of your foot to increase your load into the ground and then explode up onto the box as high as you can.

If you have knee issues, I would recommend avoiding the jumping exercises above and sticking to lower-impact exercises. There are, of course, lots of other options to increase your lower body power, but these are some of the most effective and simple to integrate. Enjoy!

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Chris Finn is the founder of Par4Success and a Licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Titleist Performance Institute Certified Medical Professional and trained to perform Trigger Point Dry Needling in North Carolina. He is regarded as the premier Golf Fitness, Performance & Medical Expert in North Carolina. Since starting Par4Success in 2011, Chris has and continues to work with Touring Professionals, elite level juniors & amateurs as well as weekend warriors. He has contributed to numerous media outlets, is a published author, a consultant and presents all over the world on topics related to golf performance and the golf fitness business.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Kit Lefroy

    Feb 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    A word of caution – 180 degree jumps and box jumping are potentially dangerous for seniors or anyone with knee problems. Great power exercises, but be careful.

    • the dude

      Feb 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      yeah…not to mention if you “catch” your foot on the box while going up and across….you could fall right on your head….and break ……your pride.

  2. Randy Bernard

    Feb 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Good stuff, Chris! One question: In the slam before the box jump, why doesn’t the slam begin with a squat, to fully engage the glutes and the quads? (Just to be clear, I don’t mean that the starting position is a squat but that the first motion is to squat, then explode up into full extension, then slam the ball.)

    • Chris Finn

      Feb 10, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Randy. The slam starts extended as much as possible to increase the force that is applied through the outside leg as much as possible before the jump takes place. Because of stretch shortening principles, the more force you can apply through the tendons and soft tissue into the ground prior to the concentric explosion phase the more energy the athlete will have available to exert into the ground as they push up into the jump. By starting with more of a rotation into the hip as you squat instead of just a standard sagittal plane squat, it is more multi-planar and pre-loading the rotary sling that is necessary to complete a rotational jump. Let me know if this makes sense. If not we can chat further. Great question! – Chris

      • Randy Bernard

        Feb 17, 2018 at 7:57 pm

        Thanks, Chris. That all makes sense, now that I see the rotational part of the slam. I think I was probably moving (i.e., looking) too fast the first time and missed that. I’ll give it a try next time at the gym here in Asheville.

  3. The dude

    Feb 8, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Why do people give this a shank???

    • CB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 1:37 am

      Because you never saw and, never will see, guys like Colin Montgomerie do it, and he’s still playing great, so why does anybody ever need to do any of these at all

      • The dude

        Feb 9, 2018 at 3:51 am

        Haha!…..fail

        So …. Mrs Doubtfire is your standard huh?,,,,it’s obvious you have never trained your body to perform better…you’d be pleasantly surprised if you did.

        • CB

          Feb 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm

          No thanks, I don’t to end up breaking my knees or my back or ribs or whatever like all them super athletes. I’d rather have a bit of a belly, feel relaxed, play fairly OK, make decent money, win a major or two and chill like Jason Dufner. And then have a career in the Senior circuit like Colin. I’d be OK with that. I don’t want to be fake like Eldrick and try to hump all them fake ladies and have no back or legs left and be left lonely. No thanks

        • Ross

          Feb 10, 2018 at 10:07 am

          Monty is one the best ball strikers about and always has been

          Monty is another name for God

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Gear Dive: Fixing my broken body with Michael Dennington of GolfWOD

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In this Coaches Edition Episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist Golf, Johnny discusses his physical decline and chats with Michael Dennington of UK based GolfWOD on how to go from broken to a golf warrior.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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