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As Tiger Woods says, “explosive power starts from the ground up”

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“You can’t start a car from a dead start and put it immediately up to 70 miles per hour. No matter how powerful your engine, you must have a gradual acceleration of speed. So it is in the golf swing.” — Mickey Wright

“Explosive power starts from the ground up..flat-out, lower body initiated power…my legs and hips drive forward and my upper body simply unwinds.” –Tiger Woods

We all have a love of power and yearn to achieve more of it in the golf swing. Muscular power is the rate of energy expended and it depends on the amount of energy available and the time taken to expend it. This is really about the amount of weight moved and the time involved to move it. Why is this relevant to the golf swing? Simply put, you have permission to move when making a full swing motion!

The modern swing seems to be all about rotation (torque, twist, turn, X-factor, etc.) are swing buzz words that are understood as the answer to a powerful swing and thus, increased distance. I believe these things can create substantial power, but done alone, could they be creating the possibility for injury. It seems to me that the more that I understand about anatomy, the more I believe that the body is not designed for the said rotational activity by itself in the golf swing. However, if there is some lateral movement allowed, this alone could put less stress on the back and joints, freeing up the shoulders to turn. Thus, shifting and turning (movement) is both accepted and possibly necessary for both power and accuracy. Movement, to me, is natural, athletic, and rhythmical…all words we strive for in sport.

I can appreciate the concern about lateral movement in the swing. We all are afraid of “swaying” or “sliding”. Simply, if your head movement is minimal the motion will instead look efficient and powerful. Additionally, if your swing is a result of a good kinetic chain (the muscle groups in the body working in a series or order of movement) and you utilize a good pivot, I think you will believe in movement.

A good pivot is a shift-turn-shift-turn sequence. Many times, it can seem like a player is only turning because this pivot sequence is happening in such a small amount of space. Upon closer examination, you will see that the most efficient swings incorporate a two-legged balanced start with a one-legged balance top swing position to a one-legged balance finish position.

Basically, you are creating a right side axis that will free the left side to turn outward behind the golf ball. This not only gives more time for the club to get to the top of the backswing, but also permits a good shoulder turn. As it is in the backswing, the forward swing is simply a change of axis and weight shift from the right foot to the left foot with a turn through to a balanced finish position.

The assertive leg drive/thrust/step is desirable to create a “running start” at and through the golf ball, creating optimal clubhead speed. In almost all sports that involve throwing or striking, the athlete makes a “running start” of sorts. Not only does this legwork/hip-work provide additional club speed in the golf swing, but it also gives you the secondary benefit of maintaining balance as your arms swing forward.

There are several ways to “get” this weight transfer ideal. Some like to think of shifting their center of gravity to the right and left and others imagine a lower spine shifting from right to left in a “wrecking ball” image. With both of these images, the top of the spine (head relatively still) remains in a fixed position, acting as a fulcrum for the swing in a pendulum-type motion. The head may move some but will not move in such a way that the movement becomes metronome-like.

Students who learn to swing a golf club with me are given “permission to move”. For so many, it is such a relief and their swings (in terms of power and accuracy) improve and overall enjoyment intensifies. These things, coupled with less strain and pain in the body, have convinced them that this is the way to go. Go back to being an athlete…step and throw the club around the circle like you are throwing a ball and you will be convinced that this is the way to go too!

 

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LPGA Master Professional/PGA Honorary Director Deb Vangellow holds both a BA and a Master Of Science Degree in Health/Physical Education/Coaching and Educational Leadership/Psychology from the University of Northern Iowa and Miami (Ohio) respectively. She currently is the Director Of Instruction at Riverbend Country Club in Houston, Texas. Deb is the 2012 LPGA National Teacher Of The Year, an LPGA, Golf Digest Woman, and Golf For Women “Top 50” Teacher, a Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine “Top Regional/Best in State” Teacher”, a US KIDS GOLF “Top 50 Master Kids Teacher” a Golf Tips Magazine “Top 25 Teacher”, and a GRAA “Elite Top Growth Of The Game Professional”. She served as the National President of the LPGA Teaching And Club Professionals and is a longtime lead instructor in the LPGA Global Education Program in the U.S. and Asia. An educator/coach who offers wellness based developmental programming integrated into her “student centered” philosophy; Deb can be reached at online at www.debvangellowgolf.com.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Jesse V

    Jul 6, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Due to back issues I have had to learn a different way to swing a club.

    I found Jimmy Ballard who’s teachings allow for the shifting of weight in the back swing and of course the shifting of weight forward in the down swing. Has made a tremendous difference in how my back feels after a range session or after a round.

  2. L

    Jul 5, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    Eldrick is a liar.
    If he was able to use the ground better he wouldn’t have a broken back. Eldrick swings all upper body. He has no idea how a golf swing really works. Sam Snead did. Lee Trevino did. They actually used their lower body. Eldrick used to get his lower body out of the way with an upper body twist.

    • Travis

      Jul 6, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      The above post might be the worst take on golf that simultaneously lacks any basis in reality. You completely lack an understanding of swing mechanics. Have fun breaking 100.

    • Patricknorm

      Jul 8, 2019 at 4:58 am

      Tiger didn’t hurt his back from golf. Tiger hurt his back training with and for the Navy Seals. Ironically, Tiger lower back became worse when his Achilles and knee issues became pretty well useless. I’ve had exactly the same issues as Tiger regarding my knees, hips and then lower back. The more I’m able to use my legs, bend my knees the less stress on my lower back. Maybe have a look at Matthew Wollf’s swing to see how he uses the ground to increase his swing speed.
      Plus, I think a comprehensive physics course would help you better understand what Tiger was referencing.

      • Jim

        Jul 8, 2019 at 2:46 pm

        That’s bull. He got the celebrity visit.

        He did however pack (buy) 30lbs of muscle into that skinny frame in one winter – years before his specwar days.

        Earl was a Green Beret & they would’ve given him a warm welcome and then run him ragged.

        He did nothing BUDS

      • geohogan

        Jul 8, 2019 at 5:10 pm

        Maybe have a look at Matthew Wollf’s swing to see how he uses the ground to increase his swing speed.

        Yes have a look. Wollf jumps all over the place at impact.
        his left foot slides backwards, which prevents damage to his left knee and spine. If he posted on a straight left leg as Tiger once did
        and /or kept his left foot flat, his lower back would be toast.

        FYI, the only solid connection between the lower body and upper body is in the pelvic basin.
        How many HP are you going to transmit through that connection before damage is done. In some, its permanent.

        The only physics we need to understgand, is Newtons Third Law:
        For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction force.

        When the force created in upper body isnt supported properly by lower body, damage will be done to the weakest point(where lower and upper body are joined.. the spine).

    • James Awad

      Jul 8, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      That ridiculous squat move the big brains & biggest mouths on wrx don’t understand – IS WHAT ATE HIS BACK!

      historically many great players have described ‘what they did’ as they thought they were – but video shows otherwise.

      Jack once said he ‘started his downswing by stomping his left heel down’….I tried it & almost broke my back…same month he ‘corrected himself’ and said he ACTUALLY shifted (drove off) from the right foot FIRST and that inertia started the upper body and arms (torso) to return to center THUS STOMPING THE LEFT HEEL DOWN – AT WHICH POINT THE UNWINDING OF THE LEFT HIP (not the right sided squat & unwind like Tiger) “was what he meant was being the official ‘start’ of the downswing.

      I was discussing the derotational shear forces he was putting on his back with Butch & stood right next to him at his Vegas HQ when he told him ‘Son, that’s going to kill your back’

      Tiger NEVER drove from the ‘ground up’

      He squeezed his hips out from under his head like toothpaste out of a tube by crunching down – then unwinding huge – but the stress on the discs was NOT spread over a ‘greater range of motion’ ala Jimmy Balard

      The best part of his swing – was the set up and huge ‘LEVEL’ LEFT SIDED TURN – ALLOWING His head to move to the right and maintain the same spine tilt orientation he had at address.

      Norman & Els had same move – but shifted their ‘entire being’ back to ‘center’ from the right foot & leg – then unwound from the front hip.

      Unwinding from the front after shifting the weight back CREATES centrifugal force, and if done from a good top of backswing position, allows the arms to just drop – not have to be pulled – into the downswing and produces a natural inside out swing WITHOUT having to ‘pull down’…

  3. Yomomma

    Jul 5, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    To start the downswing simply roll your feet and roll your arms.

  4. geohogan

    Jul 5, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    ” Its old time golf wisdom and its wrong.”

    Tiger fired his lower body to detriment of his knee and spine.

    Upper body firing is also old time golf misconception.

    It is momentum beginning with the feet and ground, that begins the kinematic chain and it is properly sequenced deceleration of proximal to distal that results in acceleration of the clubhead.

    Only when shoulder joints, elbow joints and wrist joints act as free swinging hinges does the multiplication of force result; NOt power hinges.
    A critical distinction.

  5. PSG

    Jul 5, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    A common myth that hurts a lot of players. 76% of the power in the golf swing comes from shoulder turn, the right elbow unbending, and the wrists firing at the proper time.

    If your article was true nobody could hit it 300 yards on their knees. But they can. Because the vast majority of power comes from the upper, not lower, body.

    The issue is that everyone *feels* like it comes from the lower body because it doesn’t come from your upper body’s muscles, it comes from your upper bodies joints. This is a critical distinction. You are not hitting with your biceps and lats, you are hitting with your shoulder ball-and-socket joints and elbow joint.

    Nonetheless, the hips add about 8 mph and a forward weight drive can get up to around 14 mph. The rest comes from above the waist. You can put your lower body in concrete and hit 110 on trackman. Try doing that without your upper body firing. You’d be lucky to break 50.

    Stop. telling. people. this. nonsense. Its old time golf wisdom and its wrong.

    • JCGolf

      Jul 5, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      You are right and also not right at the same time. A swing from the knees also results in the hips rotating a decent amount, it just removes the lateral component of the swing and removes the requirement for a strong legs because the plane is extremely flat so there is hardly any upward/downward force and the force is transmitted through your rigid femurs rather than knees/quads/hamstrings.

      The best players in the world have 70% of their ground pressure on the front foot before the downswing even begins. From there it is an upper body unwind, much like a baseball swing and the legs react to the force generated above, rather than the legs driving the movement. All the lower body does is stabilize the movement. On your knees the legs cant do much, but the force goes through the femurs.

    • Sean M

      Jul 8, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      This lower body myth has to end. Distance comes from speed. And speed is generated from the upper body. Tiger Woods and my grandmother have the same lower body speed.

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Instruction

Faults & Fixes: Losing height in your swing

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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.

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Dangers of overspeed training revealed: What to do and what not to do

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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? 

I would.

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 Challenge

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 

  1. Your equipment
  2. Your technical prowess
  3. Your joint mobility at your rotary centers (neck, shoulders, spine, and hips) 
  4. 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.  

Your Solution

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.     

Rest Matters

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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Faults and Fixes: Arms too far behind body at the top

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In this week’s Faults and Fixes, we’ll look at the issue of the older player getting the arms too far behind the body at the top. When this happens, the clubhead speed is compromised, and the ability to create height, spin, and distance is diminished. For older players, Brandel Chamblee has the right idea by wanting the left heel to raise and the arms to work themselves into a more upright position.

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