01 Mar Strength and Conditioning Programs for the Sport of Golf
Execution of a proficient golf swing requires the development of certain physical parameters within the kinetic chain. This allows the golfer athlete to maintain the required postural positions associated with the golf swing, execute the athletic actions of the swing in the correct order with timing, and generate speed into the impact position. A key component of the development of strength and conditioning programs for the golfer athlete is the principle of cross-specificity.
The concept of cross-specificity training is not a new principle in the field of strength and conditioning, rather it is a principle that has been applicable in strength training within sports for many years. As the acceleration of strength training, conditioning, and golf fitness occurs within sport of golf, it is necessary to revisit this principle and the application of it to the golf swing.
Cross-specificity training is a reference to the similarities between a training program or exercises and the athlete’s chosen sport, which in this case is golf. Cross-specificity training can be defined as training the athlete to the anatomical positions, biomechanical movements, and physical requirements of the sport. The goal of cross-specificity training is to impart a transfer of training effect. A transfer of training effect is the degree to which a conditioning program directly affects performance of the athlete during competition.
Biomechanics of the Golf Swing
Understanding the basic definition of cross-specificity training we can begin to dissect the requirements of a conditioning program in the adherence to this principle relative to the sport of golf. The first step in this process is a biomechanical analysis of the golf swing. The golf swing in general requires the kinetic chain to execute a series of biomechanics movements in a specific order and with timing. If the order or timing of these movements is altered the execution of the golf swing will be adversely affected.
The adverse affects relative to the execution of the golf swing are commonly referred to as compensations. These compensations lead to a direct effect on the distance, direction, and flight of the golf ball. As a result, it is of great importance for the golfer to execute the biomechanics of the golf swing effectively and efficiently.
In order to execute the biomechanics of the golf swing efficiently and effectively one must keep in mind the physical component attached to this formula. This physical component is your kinetic chain. The kinetic chain compromised of the skeletal, muscular, and nervous system of the body supports the execution of the golf swing. In the most basic of terms, it is the golfer’s body executing the biomechanics of the golf swing, and if certain physical parameters are not present within the kinetic chain, the golf swing will be negatively affected.
To ensure the golfer has the ability to perform the biomechanics of the golf swing correctly, it is necessary to develop specified physical parameters within the kinetic chain. Certain levels of mobility, flexibility, stability, balance, strength, endurance, and power are needed in order to achieve a biomechanically proficient golf swing.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the biomechanics associated with the golf swing and the physical requirements to support these biomechanics, we can begin to develop a cross-specific training program for golf. Referring back to our definition of cross-specificity training, the requirements of such a program are developing the kinetic chain to the anatomical positions, biomechanical movement patterns, and physical requirements of the golf swing.
Mobility and Stability for the Golf Swing
Empirical evidence suggests the application of cross-specificity training for golf commence with developing the physical parameters within the kinetic chain, and then proceed to developing movement patterns within the anatomical positions of the swing. Basically, it necessary to develop the physical foundation (i.e. mobility, stability, power) required of the golf swing before the introduction of modalities requiring the golfer to perform exercises in the anatomical positions utilizing movement patterns associated with the swing.
The simple way to look at this concept is move from general to specific. Develop fundamental levels of mobility, flexibility, stability, strength, endurance, and power prior to moving towards advance training techniques requiring a physical base of flexibility, strength, and power.
The first step in this process of developing a physical base for the golf swing is an understanding of the basic mobility/stability pattern of human movement. This concept was first noted by physical therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle. This principle states efficient movement within the kinetic chain of the human body occurs in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable segments.
If this pattern of mobile joints and stable segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns will occur, and compensations in these movement patterns will be the result. The table below provides a joint-by-joint view of this pattern with the human body.
Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement
• Foot – Stable
• Ankle – Mobile
• Knee – Stable
• Hip – Mobile
• Pelvis/Sacral/Lumbar Spine – Stabile
• Thorasic Spine – Moble
• Scapula – Thorasic – Stable
• Gleno-Humeral – Mobile
• Elbow – Stable
• Wrist – Mobile
• Cervical – Stable
As you can see from the above table efficient human movement occurs within this “feet to fingertips” alternating pattern of a mobile joint followed by a stabile joint throughout the entire kinetic chain. It is obvious joints such as the elbow and knee are not rod like pieces of iron that do not flex or extend, but rather these joints are stabile in terms of limited degrees of motion.
Relative to the golf swing the mobility/stability pattern of human movement allows for the execution of a biomechanically efficient golf swing, resulting in the creation and transfer of energy through the kinetic chain. If the mobility/stability pattern is dysfunctional relative to the golf swing, the execution of the swing will be hampered, development of speed will be limited, and the transfer of speed to the golf ball will be compromised.
Once we understand the mobility/stability pattern of human movement the process of developing a cross-specific training program for golf can begin. The first step is assessment of the golfer’s current levels of mobility and stability. This process is completed through a series of physical screens. Once this information has been gathered we can then begin the development of the strength and conditioning program to address the mobility and stability needs of the golfer.
The second step is the development of a strength and conditioning program to clear any mobility restrictions and stability deficiencies within the kinetic chain. This step may require the assistance of a medical professional, but at the very least it necessary to implement a program addressing these needs of the golfer first.
A mobility and stability program will address the deficiencies of the golfer in a systematic format. A systematic format allows the strength coach to progress the golfer when ready and measure results. In addition such a program will allow for the introduction of more cross-specific exercises for golf to be implemented once the client is ready.
Cross-specificity training for golf will train the athlete to the anatomical positions, biomechanical movements, and physical requirements of the sport. The first step in this process is assessing the golfer’s current levels of mobility and stability. The second step is the introduction of a strength and conditioning program to clear any mobility restrictions and stability deficiencies. Once this step is completed, the strength coach can then begin the introduction of more cross-specific training modalities into the golfer’s program.