Building Power and Speed for Your Golf Swing
Travis Burkybile is a certified S&C coach and fascial stretch specialist with more than 10 years experience. He’s worked with athletes of all ages and levels, from average joes to NBA ballers. In this blog, he’ll teach you how to develop power and speed in your golf swing with intentional, effective strength training.
Can You Even Carry Your Golf Clubs?
I was so embarrassed I considered sneaking off behind the trees of the first hole and leaving for good. This is not how I envisioned my first official high school golf team scramble. The only time we used any of my shots all day in a best ball format was when I was putting. At least I had that!
I was introduced to the game of golf by my grandfather on a trip to sunny California for my 13th birthday. He took me to the driving range and I instantly loved feeling the sweet ping off my driver when I made occasional decent contact… which was rare!
Grandpa started me on a set of junior clubs that trip, which I took home to the midwest. He then mailed me his old set a couple months later, after he found out I was playing on my high school team.
There was just one problem with my grandpa’s old set of golf clubs: I was too weak to carry them, let alone swing them!
I was all of 5 ft. tall and 80 pounds soaking wet as a freshman. Grandpa’s old set was forged iron, stiff shaft clubs (when graphite was the next big thing). My bag was the heaviest of anyone on the team, so I struggled hard early on. And of course, I was too stubborn to go back to my “kids” set.
I was exhausted just hauling my bag around the course, let alone using clubs that I didn’t have the strength to properly use. I slowly got bigger, stronger, and better just by hitting a growth spurt. If only I knew then what I do now…
Today, I’m still not a huge guy. But I am bigger, stronger, and a more capable golfer through intelligent strength programming.
3 Beginner Tips for Using Strength Training in Golf
Bryson DeChambeau and the current generation of stars have accelerated the long ball era. “Drive for show” isn’t the most apt way to describe the way distance impacts the game anymore. Golfers of all ages and abilities are looking for ways to get stronger and go longer than ever before.
So how do you get started in the weight room to improve your golf game? Should you do medicine ball throws? Swing any one of the many speed training devices that pop up every day in your Instagram feed?
Don’t worry, I’m here to help! There are a few basic principles I stick to when designing programs and coaching golfers to higher levels of fitness.
#1 Develop Stability Before Strength
This means that your body and all its joints and kinetic chains are as balanced as possible — left side and right side, front side and back side.
There will always be some physical asymmetries and differences that don’t form a perfect 1:1 ratio. In most cases they actually shouldn’t be perfectly even, but they should be relatively close.
For example, there are ratios of how much weight you should be able to bench press versus a chin up. If these lifts are dramatically out of balance, your body will slam the brakes on further progress in your upper body strength. Strive to put as much effort into the backside as the frontside of your body. Otherwise, you will limit how effectively and efficiently your body can move.
You should also show control on basic movements like presses, squats, and other exercises through a large range of motion, according to your body’s leverages and injury history. This will help build neuromuscular coordination and stability. The more stable you are in a load-bearing movement, the more confident you’ll be as an athlete.
Using slower tempos and pauses in your weakest positions (like the bottom of a squat) is one of my favorite ways to do this.
#2 Build Strength Before Power
Imagine your body as a growling 800+ horsepower sports car. What happens when you hammer the gas into a corner, but the tires and suspension can’t handle the speed? A BIG time crash!
I see people all the time with tendinitis/tendinosis, back pain, and many other issues that stem from a lack of control and tissue integrity. They simply can’t handle the speeds and forces that a full swing produces. They will hit a wall no matter how much speed work they do. Their body will limit the amount of power produced to try and reduce stress and avoid injury. Ignoring this is a HUGE mistake!
By training your body to handle heavier loads at slower speeds, you will develop density in your bones, larger muscles, and durability to your connective tissues. This will help keep your body from limiting its potential to produce force.
As a beginner, try to focus on basic compound strength training movements like squats, deadlifts, and presses. These lifts will build your core capacity and your fast twitch muscle fibers.
#3 Produce Power and Speed!
Once you are stable and your tissues are strong and resilient, you should train to move fast!
Your brain and nervous system need to practice using all the qualities you developed in the prior areas. This is where swing speed systems, jumps, and medicine ball work can really shine.
One efficient way to develop your explosive power is by perfecting your box jump. Box jumps focus solely on force production (albeit from the ground, but the concept is still relevant for your golf swing). Plyometric work like jump rope and agility drills teach your muscles to contract quickly, translating to a more powerful, explosive swing.
You don’t want to do too much of this kind of work, especially at first. Start slow with lower volumes and work your way up. Make sure to leave plenty of energy to get on the course!
Coach’s Tip: Check out this blog for tons of awesome rotation and anti-rotation core work with cables and bands — 5 Ab Exercises Every Athlete Should Do More
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Sample Strength Program to Power Up Your Golf Swing
Funky equipment and attaching a band to your club might actually do more harm than good. Stick to the principles above and master the basics. Your game will thank you.
Below is an example of moving from stability to strength and power in a three-phase progression for a rotational pattern.
You would spend several weeks using these exercises depending on your individual rate of adaptation. Don’t be afraid to focus on really mastering one phase before moving to the next!
Phase 1: Mobility / Warmup
Upper Body Floor Rolling
5-10 reps each direction.
Phase 2: Stability
Stability Ball Seated Cable Rotation
Light to moderate weight, 10-12 reps each side.
Phase 3: Strength & Power
Medicine Ball Wall Throw
Light to moderate weight, 4-6 reps each side.
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