Golf Mobility: Is there more to it?
The picture in the heading sets the scene for this article and misunderstandings when it comes to golf mobility. Last month I asked my followers to vote for which physical department they felt most deficient in. As you can see from the results, 59% voted for mobility, 22% voted for general conditioning, 16% voted for strength and power, and 3% voted that they did not know.
This begs the question about what type of physical traits golfers need to possess in the first place? Do golfers need to be strong or flexible, or both? What about endurance, golf lasts 4-5 hours and you feel tired afterwards, even though you are only walking around. Should you get out and run some miles to improve your aerobic fitness and lower body endurance?
Why Do People Feel They Are Lacking in Golf Mobility?
The first point I would like to address is, what informed peoples opinions? i.e Why do they think a certain department is where they are most deficient? Have they been assessed by a high quality practitioner? Do they feel restricted in their back swing, or weak in their move through the ball? Do they get very tired towards the end of a round? Did they hear something that a commentator said on TV?
Requirements of Golf
Lets go over a quick recap of what is required in both the golf swing, and game of golf from a physical competency standpoint.
Very short duration (less than 2 seconds), extremely explosive, powerful, full body action. Comparable to baseball swing or pitch, hockey slap shot, long puck in hurling, throws in track and field. In general, minutes elapse between swings, so full recovery is generally ensured.
High levels of mobility also required. Especially at hips, trunk, torso, and shoulders.
Game of Golf
Walking, relatively slowly in between shots. Low intensity, cardiovascular demand. Unless player is pretty unfit, or playing a hole with a significant hill.
In short, it is desirable for golfers to be very powerful, and very mobile, as both of these qualities will allow the production of high functioning swings, with appreciable club head speeds, much easier to attain.
Back To The Poll
I am not at all surprised by the results of the poll. “Tightness” or “lack of flexibility” is one of the most common complaints I hear from the golfers. In contrast to this however, often when I ask golfers what exercise they are currently doing, or have done in the past, stretching features prominently. Especially in the senior demographic. This is often done in an effort to improve symptoms of lower back pain they are dealing with “on and off” (without having a decent understanding of what may be causing their lower back issues), or because they feel “stiff”.
In my experience with golfers, there are indeed often issues with golf mobility, particularly at the hips and shoulders in the senior population, but even more common are low strength and power levels, and poor general conditioning. Excessive body fat levels fall into the category of general conditioning.
The casual golfer (and general public for that matter) have a skewed perception, in my opinion, on what baseline levels of mobility, strength, power, and general conditioning should be. This skewed perception is likely why 59% of people voted for “golf mobility” as their biggest deficiency. When I first begin training a golfer in person, or they start using my online training services, strength and power are often of primary importance, or at least equal to, mobility. During the initial training sessions, it’s regularly not range of motion that strikes me as sub standard, but either the power the athlete can produce, or the level of strength they have in the particular movement.
This is very problematic for the ability to create appreciable club head speed. A good practical example of the importance of strength and power for generating club head speed, over mobility, is comparing professional female golfers to male golfers on the LPGA and PGA Tours. The average driver club head speed on the LPGA tour is 94mph, while the average driver swing speed on the PGA tour is 114mph. With a 6 iron the average on the LPGA tour is 78mph, while on the PGA tour is 92mph. I think it is reasonable to assume that the LPGA players are not a mobility or technical disadvantage, but one of strength, power, and muscle mass. This is the same reason why a 12 year doesn’t hit it as far as when he/she is 21, even though they are more mobile at 12. Obviously there are biological reasons to explain these discrepancies, but all these physical traits & states, strength, power, and muscle mass, are highly responsive to appropriate training (and nutrition in the case of enhanced muscle mass).
How Do You Know If You Are Strength & Power Deficient?
I have written before in more detail about the importance of training strength and power, especially if maintaining or gaining club head speed is a goal of yours. Without going into specific tests to assess your strength and power, first think about these questions, which will likely give you your answers.
- When was the last time you sprinted as fast as you can, jumped as high as you can, or threw something as far as you can?
- When is the last time you lifted something that required real effort, was within 20% of your maximum weight for that movement?
- How long has it been since you were doing this somewhat regularly?
If the answers to these questions is “never” or “a long time” then you can be pretty certain your strength and power levels are not where they should be, and are negatively affecting your club head speed.
The good news is that strength and power levels respond to training very quickly. The training does need to be severely taxing, especially in the beginning. Additionally the benefits are huge, and you get a much better return on your training time and energy than with most other modalities. With well structured appropriate strength and power training you can improve:
- Cardiovascular Health
- Reduce Injury Potential
- Build Muscle Mass & Lose Fat (especially when combined with a sound nutritional approach.
For those worried about general conditioning levels. Getting control of your diet, and consistent training with a mix of the training modalities will take care of your needs.
I Am Not Against Golf Mobility
I understand the importance of mobility, and it is part of the vast majority of my clients training programs. You definitely want a certain amount in specific areas to become a high level ball striker. I do however see it over emphasised by many (especially static stretching), which takes away from precious training time that could be spent on other modes of training, that provide far greater over all benefit.
In summary, I am trying to get you to realise that your golf game and over all health and wellness requires a variety of training types. Strength and power are often forgotten about our grossly misunderstood. Over time this will cost you club head speed and distance.
Make sure you know where you stand in the following training categories:
- Movement Control
- Power & Speed
- General Conditioning
Once armed with this information you can make far better decisions on how to spend your training time.
If you are interested in following a training program that is designed specifically for golfers check out the Fit For Golf App
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