Golf Fitness Research Review 4

Lambeth, J., Hale, B., Knight, A., Boyd, J. and Luczak, T. (2013) Effectiveness of a six-week strength and functional training program on golf performance. International Journal of golf science. 2, 33-42.

I thought I would review this paper (Available HERE) because they did not find any improvements in club head speed (CHS) after a 6-week strength training programme. Of course I am bias towards strength training for golfers and would assume improvements in strength would see improvements in CHS.

I have tried to keep it shortish, so skipped over a few points.

Summary/Main Points

The aim of this study was to investigate the results from a 6-week general strength and functional training exercise programme on Club Head Speed (CHS). The rationale being, most people using gyms have access to fitness instructors who can write a ‘general’ strength training programme, yet most people do not have access to a golf fitness specialist to write a golf specific training programme.

The study included 10 male students (age 21.4 ± 2.3 years) and had not performed any strength training in the 8-weeks prior to participation in the study. Participants had handicaps of 8 or lower. No injuries were reported and compliance (or missed  training sessions) were not reported.

Five participants were assigned to the experimental group and performed the 6-week strength training programme with a warm up and cool down/stretches. They also attended a familiarization session (to run through exercise technique etc). The other five participants were assigned to the control group and did no training for the 6-weeks (just normal golf behavior etc). Both groups performed the pre- and post testing for club head speed.

Strength tests included 1-RM bench press and leg press, explosive strength was tested using the vertical jump and flexibility using the sit and reach test. Golf performance measures included club head speed.

The exercise programme was a general fitness programme (i.e. not golf specific). The table below is taken from Lambeth et al (2013) and shows the exercises, sets and reps.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 15.51.19

Table 1 – This table shows the exercises performed during the 6-week training programme. Sit ups and back hyperextensions were also performed during each training session.

Results

 

Pre Tests Post Tests

Test

Experimental Group Control Group Experimental Group

Control Group

Club Head Speed (m/s)

50.87±3.62 47.21±1.56 48.91±1.48

46.31±0.67

Bench Press 1RM (kg)

82.08±9.38 N/A 89.34±10.34

N/A

Leg Press 1RM (kg)

94.81±16.62 N/A 103.86±18.44

N/A

Vertical Jump (cm)

85.9±8.2 N/A 87.5±9.7

N/A

Sit and Reach Test (cm) 41.15 ±2.04 N/A 43.67±7.87

N/A

 

No significant differences were found for the experimental and control groups, between pre- and post exercise programme. Swing speed decreased for the experimental group by 3.9% and control group decreased by 1.9%. 1RM bench press and leg press both saw significant increases but flexibility did not see a significant increase.

This shows that strength training might not increase CHS and it might even cause a decrease. This seems to contradict much of the other research mentioned within literature review of this study. Vertical jump (explosive strength test) didn’t see a significant increase, which could explain why there was no increase in CHS.

Evaluation/Review

Its quite possible that as the training programme was not golf specific, this could be the reason why the improvements in strength did not transfer to the golf swing/CHS. The majority of exercises within the exercise programme were sagittal plane (i.e. forwards and hacksaws movements) when the golf swing requires movements in the frontal (i.e. sideways) and transverse (i.e. rotational) planes.

The golf swing is an explosive movement and therefore, it would make sense that explosive exercises are required to improve power (shown by the vertical jump) and swing speed (and not strength training alone). Improvements in strength might help improve CHS, yet if they are not accompanied with power based exercises, the new found strength might not be utilised at speed.

Interestingly, the vertical jump results were really high!! With an average of over 30 inches… that’s MASSIVE!! Its more than tour average (from what I understand) and similar to the ‘Long Drive’ guys. You’re not likely to see much improvements in vertical jump in a 6-week strength training programme without explosive exercises.

CHS was also very high. About 113mph, which is really good for an 8 or better handicap. Its good for tour pro’s. (heres the tour stats for club head speed so far this year). I think it is going to take more than a 6-week general strength training programme to improve these type of stats.

Annoyingly, there was very little information provided seeing it was a training study. Such as, how many days a week did the experimental group train? What sort of tempo was used for the exercises? What rest times were used? All-important. No information about the stretching routine was given either, apart from saying they were static stretches.

Participants in the experimental group were advised to increase weight of the exercises by 20% each week after week-2. This seems a big jump for 4 consecutive weeks. Unless there was a change in the repetitions (i.e. increase weight and decrease reps week by week). Yet again, this was not mentioned!

There were 22 exercises in the programme to be completed in 60-75 mins including a warm up and a stretching programme. I can imagine there was not much rest between exercises to complete all exercises in this time. Or, not all exercises were performed on the same day. But we shouldn’t need to guess this sort of information. This should be given within a study so that future studies can learn from this one and look to progress and compare. A little bit worthless in my opinion!!

There were no strict conditions for warming up for the CHS measures. Participants were allowed to take air swings and advised to use their usual practise routine before hitting a ball. This is good for validity (i.e. replicates golf) but not so good for reliability (i.e. warm up routine could effect CHS results and participants might perform something different pre- and post test and each participant might do something different… helping or hindering their results). In an indoor testing environment I would probably just opt to increase reliability and make a strict routine for everyone and leave the validity issues to another study.

Hitting balls off a mat into a net (in the lab) is obviously different to hitting balls on a course or even outside. That’s fine, as the researches wanted to test CHS and control other variables. However, I’m not sure about you, but hitting a ball into a net when my CHS is being measured, I’m likely to swing a little faster (as it doesn’t matter where the ball goes!). CHS values were really high within this study; this could be a logical reason for this. Seeing improvements after the pre-testing with CHS of tour levels doesn’t allow much room to improve.

A familiarization session was used for the exercise within the training programme but it didn’t mention a familiarization session for the strength tests. With a test using the leg press, for example, its an exercise where, without a familiarization session (or two), you could improve with practise (and without training).

The study kept saying/mentioning different aims, such as ‘the study is designed to improve upper and lower body strength and flexibility and overall fitness.’ Then ‘general strength and flexibility’. The study also tests for explosive strength, but the goal of the programme didn’t mention an aim to improve explosive strength. With an aim to improve flexibility, you would have also thought you would at least put the stretches in the article. This researchers have really made it difficult to work out what they did!

Conclusion

It might be just me, but if I were to do a training study, I would provide all the relevant information for other researchers to follow if they wanted to do the same thing with a different population or longer period of time or something similar. And for those fitness professionals and researchers reading the article, so that they can draw some conclusions and compare to other training studies.

What could be taken from this study is that a general strength training programme of only 6-weeks doesn’t improve CHS. Of course, other populations need to be tested and different lengths of training programmes can be tested. Possibly using a different population (such as middle-aged, higher handicapped golfers), which might represent a larger chunk of the golfing population and those who might be more likely to follow a general fitness programme.

It could be assumed that to see a transfer of strength to the golf swing, more ‘golf specific’ training is required, or at least some explosive or power based exercises to utilise strength at higher speed.

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