Power and Clubhead Speed Development in the Golf Swing

08 Jan Power and Clubhead Speed Development in the Golf Swing

Power in the most basic of formulas is strength plus speed. It is the combination of these two entities cohesively working together that allows a sprinter to sprint fast, a pitcher to throw hard, and a golfer to swing with power. The scientific definition of power states it is the ability to generate the greatest amount of force in a short amount of time. (Vladimir Zatsiorosky, Professor Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Pennsylvania State University)

Power in the golf swing is measured as clubhead speed, and a review of the kinematic sequence in chapter 2 indicates clubhead speed is developed in stages. Speed development begins with the lower body, progresses to the torso, and is completed with the wrist angle of the lead arm. It is a combination of all these body segments working together to develop clubhead speed. In order for clubhead speed development to occur, it is necessary for each segment of the body to have certain levels of strength as well as have the ability to generate speed.

Speed development by the body is contingent upon the neuromuscular system having the ability to generate force in a short amount of time. The process by which speed development can be improved within the neuromuscular system is through the utilization of power exercises. Realize even a small increase in clubhead speed will allow the junior golfer to hit the golf ball a greater distance with every club in the bag. For example, if you were to increase your clubhead speed from 95 mph to even 100 mph, the distance you hit the golf ball would increase significantly.

Power Training Principles

The process of increasing the power outputs of the body and corresponding clubhead and ball speeds is achieved through specialized modalities. These modalities are typically classified as plyometrics (neuromuscular reactive training), jump training, and Olympic Lifting. The key component of all three of these power development modalities is the stretch shortening cycle.

The stretch shortening cycle is a eccentric muscular action where a muscle is lengthened, followed immediately by a concentric muscular action where force production is enhanced. Through the utilization of the stretch shortening cycle within power training the rate of force production can be enhanced. This in turn will increase the rate of force production, increase motor unit recruitment, motor unit firing frequency, and synchronization, all of which will enhance the golfer’s ability to generate higher speeds in the swing. (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 198)

It is important for the golfer athlete to note traditional weight training where high loads are executed for a specified number of repetitions increases strength and hypertrophy, but does not adequately increase the maximum power outputs of the kinetic chain.

As result it is necessary to implement power developmental modalities to increase the rate of force production required in the explosive muscular contractions of most athletic activities including the golf swing. In order for the fitness professional or golfer athlete to accomplish this requirement successfully it is imperative to understand the three phases involved in the power training exercises which are: The eccentric phase, the amortization phase, and concentric phase.

Eccentric Phase

The eccentric phase of power training modalities is classified as the time frame within the exercise where potential energy is stored within the muscle(s) due to a pre-stretch or active elongation of the muscle(s) (Donald Chu, Jumping into Plyometrics, 3). The potential energy stored within the muscle fibers during the eccentric phase will be exploited within the concentric phase of the exercise.

Amortization Phase

The amortization phase is classified as the time between the eccentric and concentric phase of plyometric training. The amortization phase is characterized by dynamic stabilization of the kinetic chain prior to concentric muscular contractions. In addition research indicates a prolonged amortization phase results in less than optimal neuromuscular efficiency, a loss in potential energy, and overall decreases in power production. As a result of this research the more speedily an individual can move from the eccentric to concentric phase, the larger amount of force production that will occur from the exercise.

Concentric Phase

The concentric phase of power training is classified as the phase in which force production occurs via the neuromuscular system. The concentric phase follows the eccentric and amortization phases of such training modalities.

Power Training Mechanisms

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine research indicates power-training modalities improve the rate of force production via three different mechanisms. These mechanisms are as follows: 1) Increased Muscle Spindle Activity, 2) Golgi Tendon Desensitization, and 3) Improve neuromuscular efficiency.

  • Increased Muscle Spindle Activity – Contractile speed is governed and limited by the neuromuscular system. The faster a muscle is loaded eccentrically, the greater concentric force production regardless of strength (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 203).

 

  • Golgi Tendon Desensitization – The golgi tendon organ is sensitive to both change in tension and rate of tension change that directly affects muscular inhibition. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine desensitization the golgi tendon increases the stimulation threshold of muscular inhibition allowing for increased force production with a greater load applied onto the kinetic chain.

 

  • Improved Neuromuscular Efficiency – Plyometrics, Olympic Lifting, and power training improves force production through enhancing the ability of the nervous system to react at maximum velocity to the eccentric action of the stretch-shortening cycle (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 203). This in turn allows for maximum force production during the concentric contraction.

 

Plyometric Training

Plyometrics as stated previously is one type of modality utilized in the development of power within the kinetic chain. Plyometrics are a category of exercises enabling a muscle to reach maximum force in as short a time as possible (Thomas Baechle, Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, 319). Plyometrics incorporate the force of gravity to store potential energy within the muscles. This occurs during the eccentric phase of such exercises. This energy is then used immediately after a brief amortization phase in the opposite direction during the concentric phase of the exercise.
The golfer athlete requires the development of lower body, upper body, and rotational power. These three power components can be achieved with the utilization of plyometric activities. Lower body plyometrics commonly referred to as jump training will utilize gravity and the stretch-shortening cycle in conjunction with jumps, hops, and bounding to develop power.

Upper body plyometrics will develop rotational, throw, and push power. These modalities will typically incorporate a medicine ball with throwing actions to develop improved power outputs within these aforementioned movement patterns in the upper body.

Olympic Lifting

Olympic Lifting is a second type of training modality where power for the golf swing can be developed. Olympic lifting is comprised of the clean and jerk and snatch lifts. Both of these lifts are very technically orientated for proper execution. As a result, hybrids and partial movements of these two lifts are commonly utilized in the development of power within the kinetic chain. The hang clean, push press, hang snatch, and single arm dumbbell snatch are examples of hybrids or partials.

Olympic Lifting recruits the entire kinetic chain, encompasses the stretch shortening cycle, necessitates stabilization of the kinetic chain during execution, develops high levels of rapid muscle fiber activation, and increases force production within the neuromuscular system. As a result the inclusion of Olympic Lifts is very beneficial in the development of power production within the kinetic chain. Olympic Lifting and hybrids are very beneficial in developing both upper and lower body power though these exercises tend to be linear movement patterns. As a result rotational power development is a void of the Olympic Lifts. As a result, a golfer implementing Olympic Lifts will need to add rotational modalities to address this speed aspect of the golf swing.

Systematic Training

A comprehensive strength and conditioning program for golf should follow a systemic and structured approach to the development of power within the musculature system. The processes by which this goal is achieved is through sequential training stages, where modalities are implemented in a progressive manner to continually challenge the physical qualities of the kinetic chain.

Empirical evidence indicates a systematic training system for the power development in the golfer athlete utilizes a progressive four-tier system. Each tier within the system incrementally increases the training intensity and incorporates more challenging exercise modalities to progressively improve the rate of force production, neuromuscular efficiency, and coordination within the kinetic chain.

Characteristics of modalities utilized in a systematic training program for power development are exercises which are: multi-planar, multi-faceted, multi-joint, proprioceptively enriched, speed orientated, integrated, progressive, require rapid rates of force production, and are generally cross specific to movement patterns of the golf swing.

Systematic 4-Tier Power Training System for the Golfer Athlete

  • Tier One – Low Intensity – Sample Exercises: Low Box Jumps, Kneeling Rotational Medicine Ball Throw, Medicine Ball Stationary Overhead Throw
  • Tier Two – Moderate Intensity – Sample Exercises: Box Jumps, Standing Medicine Ball Side Throw, Medicine Ball Stepping Overhead Throw
  • Tier Three – High Intensity – Sample Exercises: Multiple Hurdle Jumps, Stepping Medicine Ball Side Throw, Medicine Ball Slams
  • Tier Four – Advanced Intensity – Sample Exercises: Depth Jumps, Single Leg Side Medicine Ball Throw, Medicine Ball Scoop Throw

 

Summary

This information provides both the fitness professional and golfer athlete the general characteristics of power training for the sport of golf. Understanding the differing modalities and mechanisms by which power training improves the force outputs of the kinetic chain and supplies the underlying structure for the creation of power developmental programs for the sport of golf is integral in increasing swing and ball speeds.

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy. He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.

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