INTRODUCTION TO GOLF FITNESS
Many people automatically assume that “golf fitness” implies that building muscle will help you hit the ball farther, but as I read recently, those who usually hit the shortest drives on NFL football teams are the linemen – the strongest. One could easily draw the conclusion that based on Tiger Woods’ length and consistency, the fact that he does a lot of strength training is the main contributor. Not so. I saw Tiger hit a tee shot at the Canadian Open when he was a spindly 175 pounds, well before he started bulking up, and trust me, lifting weights wasn’t the reason he hit the ball so far. It was his ability to generate power.
Power is the product of strength and speed. Clubhead speed depends on having a full range of motion, generating elastic energy in the backswing, and efficiently delivering that energy to the clubface in the correct sequence without any "leaks." While improving strength does increase power, being strong doesn’t mean you will hit the ball further. As I pointed out earlier, the most muscular person typically has a woeful range of motion. Watch the biggest guys at any gym and you will notice they NEVER stretch. Golf fitness is much more about improving mobility (a muscle’s ability to contract through its full range of motion, and to move independently of static muscles), stability (a muscle’s ability to maintain a static contraction relative to the movement of adjacent muscles), and flexibility (range of joint motion, closely tied to mobility). These three elements - mobility, stability and flexibility – contribute significantly to one’s ability to develop a swing that will deliver the three important elements of golf – distance, accuracy and consistency.
There is however another important consideration in golf fitness - back health. The golf swing is a large movement involving several chains of muscle activation and release, timed to generate maximum power at the point of contact with the ball, in a consistent swing plane. When our bodies cannot efficiently produce the required movement, we tend to compensate by contorting ourselves to try and manufacture either greater clubhead speed or a correct swing plane. Often the result is strain on the lower back, although it can cause discomfort or injury in other places too. Shoulders, knees and hips can often be the victims of inefficient movement in the golf swing.
The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) has spent the last 12 years developing a training system that has proven beneficial to touring pros, college and university players, juniors and amateurs of all levels. Developed by golf, medical and fitness professionals, TPI Golf fitness training is built on a progression designed to correct swing limitations and provide a platform for developing power and consistency while reducing the risk of injury. Phase one addresses correcting functional movement limitations through a series of bodyweight exercises focused on increasing mobility and flexibility. Phase two involves building muscular strength and synergism in the areas involved in the swing. Phase three is about developing power.
Last but not least is cardiovascular training. While aerobic capacity is not particularly relevant to golf, muscular and cardiovascular endurance contribute significantly to performance on the golf course. When our bodies get tired, so do our minds. When we lose mental focus, it affects our performance. Golf is as much a mental game as a physical one, so staying fresh and alert makes a big difference on hole number 16 or on day 3 of a tournament.
In the final analysis, golf fitness training can bring you improved performance, reduced risk of injury and a better overall quality of life. Who doesn’t need more of that?