By Dr. Ben Langdown and Jennifer Fleischer
In our previous article we presented 7 anti-rotation exercises to help maximize clubhead velocity. In this article we will present more dynamic movement-based exercises for generating impulse through disassociation, an idea we will explore in detail shortly. These exercises are designed to increase your clubhead velocity and help you create a more efficient kinematic sequence by:
Improving your ability to disassociate or create separation in your swing
Challenging your stability to provide braking forces
Increasing your hip mobility
The goal of the exercises we’ve selected is to help you create further mobility, stability and strength in the legs, hips, glutes and trunk as well as the shoulders -- the key areas of transferring force through the kinetic chain. Research from Cheetham and Broker (2016) tells us that only 25% of 95 PGA Tour and 39% of 31 LPGA Tour golfers used an ‘ideal’ kinematic sequence as we discussed in our previous article. These players still have to generate high clubhead velocities to remain competitive on tour. How do they do it?
According to research, the key to generating longer drives and hitting more fairways may lie in our ability to transfer force efficiently throughout the swing. Golf is not a static sport. We know that it requires us to transfer our centre of pressure from the trail side to the lead side during the downswing. In some individuals this is followed by a backing up of the transfer. We must be able to complete this transfer rapidly over the stance width, whilst maintaining control of the clubface. Hence the need for elements of stability and mobility throughout the body.
Linking back to our previous article - the ability to separate the upper body from the lower body allows us to generate greater force through the kinetic chain (remember we discussed the transfer of force from the ground up and out to the clubhead). It makes sense that the more force we can create through an effective strength and conditioning programme, the faster we can swing the club. But how does separating the upper and lower body help? Some answers can be found by exploring the term ‘impulse’.
There have been many discussions around this term “impulse” with another applied golf researcher, Jack Wells (@jackwells009). Jack’s research demonstrates that the ‘countermovement jump peak impulse’ can be used as a significant predictor of clubhead velocity (Wells et al., in press).
Here’s a summary of our discussions and an application of the information:
The laws of physics dictate that being able to generate increased impulse can lead to greater clubhead velocity. But how do we increase ‘Impulse’?
Impulse = Force x Time
Firstly, we need to know that peak force can’t be generated instantly by the body, it has to build up over approximately 300ms (Aagaard et al., 2002).
The average downswing only lasts around 230ms (Cochran and Stobbs, 1968)
This duration is too short to allow peak force to be achieved by the musculature involved. With this in mind, let’s take another look at the formula for impulse and see how as golf or strength and conditioning coaches we can manipulate things to result in increased clubhead velocity:
Impulse = Force x Time
Increasing the time over which our downswing force can be generated is key for increasing clubhead velocity. Why? Because
Impulse = Force x Time and is directly proportional to the change in Momentum (Mass x Velocity)
i.e. if impulse increases so does momentum
Stay with us here…
Force x Time = Mass x Velocity
Now, we know that the ‘Mass’ of the golfer doesn’t change during the round (as long as they stay hydrated!) so the only way to increase impulse in the same time frame is to increase force.
As a result, in order to increase velocity we need to:
a) Generate more ‘Force’
(i.e. by using the ground more effectively – or getting stronger in the gym),
AND / OR
b) Increase the time over which the force of the downswing can be generated.
How can we increase time?
One option that tour players do is to take a longer backswing so the club has farther to travel in the downswing (Hume et al., 2005). Another option is to do what a lot of the longer hitters on tour also do:
Start the downswing earlier with the pelvis
i.e. disassociate the pelvis from the torso, which will still be moving into the backswing!
Hence the importance of being able to separate and create that stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) (otherwise known as the X-Factor stretch and recoil) that is so often discussed.
These ideas all link back to our previous article about generating a highly effective kinetic chain. As previously mentioned, we know that even tour golfers don’t all produce an ‘ideal’ kinematic sequence, but what the long hitters may often possess is the ability to separate the pelvis from the torso, thus allowing greater SSC force to be achieved over an increased time frame resulting in increased impulse.
Here’s a more simplified explanation:
Force x TIME (increased through disassociation) = greater impulse
So both impulse and therefore momentum have increased:
Momentum = Same Mass of the golfer x Increased Velocity (due to the increased impulse!)
We’ve just thrown a lot of science at you, but what does all this mean for training in the gym?
If we want more impulse we need (among other factors):
The ability to stabilise the torso while the pelvis rotates and vice versa. (Increasing TIME through disassociation and FORCE through the X-factor stretch and recoil)
Increased force production – i.e. increased strength to push into the ground more! (Increasing FORCE and probably MASS through muscle mass)
Ability to apply braking forces on the body segments too so that the kinetic chain can be as effective as possible at transferring force out to the clubhead. (Increasing velocity through the kinetic chain)
Good range of movement through thoracic rotation and internal and external rotation of the hips.
Ready for some exercises to help increase impulse?
We know that the big lifts such as deadlifts and squats and their various derivatives are effective and commonly used exercises to increase lower body strength. You can find several options of single leg squat and deadlift variations here. We have also already shown you 5 exercises to increase your thoracic mobility – a key to lengthening the backswing and allowing an X-factor stretch to occur.
If you want to maximize your clubhead velocity here are 14 additional exercises to help. As stated previously, they will challenge your stability to provide braking forces, improve your ability to disassociate through anti-rotation, and increase your hip mobility.
For strength work try working at (or build up to) 80-90% of your 1RM and increase the load by 5% every week (if you are training regularly).
Exercise 1: Deadlifts/Trap Bar Deadlifts
Sets and Reps: 4 x 5 reps
Coaching Points: Trap (hex) bar deadlifts place less load on the back so it can be a safer alternative for adding load, especially with less experienced lifters. Ensure the spine remains in a neutral position throughout. Begin both lifts by taking the strain on the bar, setting the shoulders and scapula, back neutral, chest pushed through and weight distributed through the mid-foot. For the Olympic bar, ensure the shoulders start forward of the bar. In both, the hips should start higher than the knees and the arms should be straight but relaxed at the elbows. Drive up explosively from the bottom position to the top. Return to the start position and repeat.
Exercise 2: Lateral Goblet Squats
Sets and Reps: 4 x 5 reps each side
Coaching Points: Make sure to keep your chest upright throughout this exercise and don’t let the knee drift off the toe line in the lateral squat position. Shift your weight towards the heel in the bottom position and the drive out of the floor as you come back up to standing.
Single Leg Strength and Stability Exercises:
Designed to challenge your stability to provide braking forces.
Exercise 3: Clock band work
Sets and Reps: 2-3 sets x 2 reps in each of the 4 directions on each side
Coaching Points: With a light mini-band around the ankles, perform a lateral slide. Then come back up to center and raise that leg into a stork position. From there, go into a reverse slide, a front slide and end with a crossed reverse slide. Maintain the standing knee over the toe line throughout.
Exercise 4: Clock Lunges to Stork
Sets and Reps: 2-3 sets x 2 reps in each of the 3 directions on each side
Coaching Points: With a light barbell on the shoulders adopt the stork position. Lunge forwards to a stable position with the foot flat on the floor, knee tracking over the toe line and torso remaining tall. From there, press hard into the floor to return to a balanced stork position all in one movement. Repeat out to the side and to a reverse lunge. As you become more stable you can add resistance to the bar.
Anti-rotation / Rotation Exercises:
For improving disassociation and strengthening your core muscles.
Exercise 5: Roll Out Progressions
Sets and Reps: 3 x 10
Coaching Points: As the ball, ab wheel or bar rolls away from you, maintain a neutral spine and resist the urge to arch your low back or round your upper back. Ensure your hips move in line with your shoulders and knees to get maximum benefit from these exercises.
Exercise 6: Stir the Pot
Sets and Reps: Build up to 2-3 x 10 circles in each direction
Coaching Points: Keep your lower body as still as possible while your upper body creates a large circle with the ball.
Exercise 7: Cable Punches
Sets and Reps: 8-12 with 70% 1RM - repeat on each side
Coaching Points: Maintain a stable lower body throughout this exercise. You can adjust the tempo of this exercise depending on the weight you select. If using lighter weight, go for a faster cable punch.
Exercise 8: Russian Twists
Sets and Reps: 3 x 10 (5 rotations to each side)
Coaching Points: Try to maintain as much stability as possible through the lower body. Separation of the upper and lower body is key in this exercise.
Exercises 9 & 10: Farmer Walk and Waiter Carry
Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-20m walks with each hand
Coaching Points: Farmer Walk: Maintain an upright posture with your head in a neutral position and your gaze forward, not down. Take small steps to ensure the weight does not swing throughout this exercise. If doing the Kettlebell Waiter Carry, pack your shoulder down into the scapula and keep your arm straight throughout and take small steps to ensure ideal posture. Progressions to this include adding in lunges to the carry.
Internal / External Hip Rotation Stretches:
For increasing hip mobility.
Exercise 11: Internal Hip Rotation Sit Back
Sets and Reps: 2 x 5 reps each side
Coaching Points: From a neutral pelvis position, rock back towards your heels using a kettlebell to keep one foot out at a slight angle (increasing internal hip rotation). You should maintain neutral pelvis through the range of your movement. Pause at the last point you can maintain this, hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position. Switch the weight over to the other side and repeat.
Exercise 12: Foam Rolling of glutes
Sets and Reps: 2 x 30 seconds on each side 3-4 times per week
Coaching Points: Using a foam roller, a foam roller ball or lacrosse ball, look for tight spots in the gluteals. To increase the intensity, cross the foot of the side you are rolling over the opposite knee to get deeper into the gluteals.
Exercises 13 & 14: Figure 4 Stretch / Pigeon Stretch
Sets and Reps: 2 x 30+ seconds on each side
Coaching Points: These stretches are designed to help increase your external hip rotation and to stretch the glutes. For the Figure 4 stretch: Place one ankle on the opposite knee, pull the other leg towards you and use your elbow to press against the knee on the side being stretched - this increases the stretch. The Pigeon Stretch can be increased by leaning the torso forwards and relaxing onto the ground. Play around with the angle of the leg tucked under the body to ensure you feel the most effective stretch through the muscles around your hip.
As seen in parts one and two of this article, it’s not enough to consider anatomy when it comes to golf fitness. If we truly want to improve golf performance we also have to understand the underpinning biomechanics governed by the laws of physics! Impulse is a factor we can look to increase both in the gym and on the golf course through increased force and increased time over which the force can act. We hope these exercises and stretches help you maximize clubhead velocity and lead to playing more years of pain-free golf.
Aagaard, P., Simonsen, E. B., Andersen, J. L., Magnusson, P., & Dyhre-Poulsen, P. (2002). Increased rate of force development and neural drive of human skeletal muscle following resistance training. Journal of applied physiology, 93(4), 1318-1326.
Cheetham, P. & Broker, J. (2016). Kinematic Sequence Parameters Expose Technique Differences Between Male and Female Professional Golfers in Abstracts from the World Scientific Congress of Golf VII. International Journal of Golf Science, 5 (Suppl.), S19-S20.
Cochran A, Stobbs J. (1968). The search for the perfect swing. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott.
Hume, P. A., Keogh, J., & Reid, D. (2005). The role of biomechanics in maximising distance and accuracy of golf shots. Sports medicine, 35(5), 429-449.
Wells, J.E.T., Charalambous, L.H., Mitchell, A.C.S., Coughlan, D., Brearley, S.L., Hawkes, R.A, Murray, A.D., Hillman, R.G., & Fletcher, I.M (In Press) Relationships Between Challenge Tour Golfers' Clubhead Velocity and Force Producing Capabilities During a Countermovement Jump and Isometric Mid-Thigh Pull, Journal of Sports Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2018.1559972
Twitter: A useful summary tweet from Jack Wells can be seen here