Strength training for golfers is often performed with the intention of increasing distance. It can also be used as injury management as well as injury prevention. Today we are going to discuss the use of plyometric strength training for improving performance through increased distance.
Plyometric exercises are ones where the muscle is quickly stretched before it shortens. An example of this would be squat jumps. A traditional squat would have you squat down and then back up at a slow steady pace with a pause in between repetitions. The plyometric version of this would have you jump in the air and upon landing you would quickly drop down into a squat and jump up as high as possible out of the squat position. This would be continually repeated without pausing between repetitions. Almost any exercise can be turned into a plyometric exercise.
In order to discuss distance we are going to assume that an increase in club head speed directly relates to increased distance as it has been shown in previous studies.
"Three main factors affect club head speed: muscular force applied through limb segments, the distance over which the force acts, and the segmental sequence which contributes to final velocity (1)."
Plyometric training is intending to improve the muscular force applied through limb segments.
"If you lead with the hips, trunk and then shoulder, the movement adheres to the summation of speed principle and therefore greater torque being applied to the club through eccentric/concentric sequence of spinal rotators. The action of the golf drive can then be classified as a stretch shortening movement, which would be grouped as a plyometric action, because of the limited transition time between the eccentric (back swing) work and the concentric (down swing) action. With this in mind, the evidence strongly suggests that plyometric training or combined weight/plyometrics is the best form of resistance work to produce superior performances. Incidentally, this type of training appears not to cause the excessive hypertrophy that many golfers are concerned about (1)."
Hypertrophy is the enlarging of muscles that often comes with weight training and in extreme cases can restrict flexibility of joints.
According to Chu, "plyometric training causes changes in the musculotendinous system and the neuromuscular system, helping slow twitch fibres to take on fast twitch characteristics (3)."
Slow twitch fibres are used for endurance based exercise whereas fast twitch fibres are for explosive powerful activities.
Fletcher et al. studied the effects of such training and found "a significant increase in driving distance and clubhead speed following and 8-week combined weight training and plyometric conditioning program with the increase in driving distance lay between 5.1 and 17.3 m" (1). Doan et al. also found "a significant increase in clubhead speed following plyometric strengthening over an 11-week period" (2).
Research has found that in as little as 2 months driving distance will improve 5 to 17 metres with plyometric strength training.
At Perth Golf Physio we have a gym on site and are able to provide individually tailored golf exercise programs for all golfers whatever their need.
Fletcher, I.M., and M. Hartwell. Effect of an 8-Week Combined Weights and Plyometrics Training Program on Golf Drive Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 18(1), 59-62, 2004.
Doan, B.K., R.U. Newton, Y.H Kwon and W.J. Kraemer. Effects of Physical Conditioning on Intercollegiate Golfer Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 20(1), 62-72, 2006.
Chu, D. Explosive Power and Strength: Complex Training for Maximal Results. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1996.