Speed is currently a hot topic in the golfing world. The more speed you can produce, the further you can hit the ball, which leads to shorter irons into the green, which ultimately leads to lower scores. There’s a reason why the top 10 money list makers on the tour in 2021 are scoring so well with all possessing an average driving distance of 300 yards or more.
One of the tools most of the elite golfers are utilizing to increase speed is overspeed training. This usually involves a 6-12 week training protocol using 3 different weighted clubs with the intent of swinging as hard and as fast as you can. This can often lead to injury if we DON’T possess the proper foundational components that are necessary prior to training for speed.
Below I will discuss the top 5 common mistakes made by the amateur golfer trying to increase club head speed.
1. Lack of Mobility in the rotary centers including neck, mid back, shoulders, and hips – Did you know that around 75% of adults over the age of 50 lack mobility in at least 2 of the rotary centers. Most golfers will increase swing speed just from normalizing their joint range of motion through those 4 rotary centers. If you lack proper mobility through those joints, we tend to place stress on other areas of the body leading to injury.
Cervical Spine (neck) – Believe it or not, you need approximately 80 degrees of rotation to each side due to your torso rotating underneath your head during the back swing and follow through. If we cannot rotate our neck, we will either end up with a shorter back swing, or lose eye contact with the ball when trying to rotate to end range, which can lead to poor ball striking.
Thoracic Spine (mid back) – This is a common area of stiffness I see in individuals that sit at a desk most of the day. Their backs become rounded which puts them in a poor position to be able to rotate. If we can’t rotate through our thoracic spine, we tend to place more stress on the lumbar spine leading to lower back injuries.
Shoulders – This is another area of stiffness that presents itself in conjunction with thoracic spine stiffness. In order to adequately rotate the trail shoulder you need at least 90 degrees of external rotation. Otherwise we have difficulty shallowing our shaft, on the downswing, into the proper slot for accurate and efficient ball striking.
Due to the rounding posture, the scapulas (shoulder blades) tilt forward and cause the shoulder joint to be placed in an impinged position leading to decreased ability to rotate the trail arm back into (external rotation).
If we have difficulty externally rotating the lead shoulder this can lead to chicken winging and difficulty with closing the club face through impact.
Hips – In order to create a proper turn into the back swing we need approximately 60 deg of total internal rotation on the trail hip, knee, and ankle. In order to properly rotate our pelvis during the downswing and follow through, we need 60 deg of total internal rotation on the lead hip, knee, and ankle. This is a common area as well for stiffness with golfers that sit for long periods throughout the day. Inability for the pelvis to adequately rotate around either hip is a large contributor to power loss, as we tend to utilize our upper body for power which can lead to outside in swing paths.
2. Lack Power – Power is defined as the ability to produce force over a period of time. The more force we produce in a shorter amount of time the more power we are able to produce. As we can see on the tour, the fastest swing speeds tend to occur with the stronger and more powerful players. It takes a solid strength and powerful foundation to gain the true benefit of overspeed training. Having an adequate strength and power foundation leads to improved performance, and significantly reduces injury risk while increasing longevity of play.
3. Taking too many reps – How many full swinging out of your shoes reps is too many? There was a randomized study performed by Par4Success in which they looked at two groups comparing swing speeds over a 6 week period. One group performed 100 swings 2x/week, while the other group performed 30 swings 2x/wk. They found there was not a statistically significant difference between groups at the end of 6 weeks. So if we are able to train 66% less and get the same results, that sounds like a great recipe for longevity.
4. Not resting – Too many golfers feel they need to swing the club every day at the range in order to groove the proper motor pattern. This is going to lead to injury if our bodies have not adapted to this practice schedule. My advice would be to take proper rest between range sessions, or work on the short game aspects such as putting and chipping between full swing days. Not only is rest between sessions important, but also rest between speed training sets. For example, if you are working through the overspeed training protocol, you will perform sets of 6-18 repetitions per set. It is very important to take adequate rest, such as 2-3 minutes between sets, so that for each set you can swing at full capacity.
5. Not properly warming up – If you ask golfers if they do any type of a warmup prior to hitting the range they will tell you that they just start swinging away. This is an important piece, as literature has shown that performing a proper dynamic warmup prior to swinging a golf club will improve the muscle activation and firing sequence of the body during the downswing which leads to less injury and faster clubhead speed. Research has also shown that static stretching, holding a stretch for 10 seconds to 2 minutes, does not improve performance.
So there you have it, some of the common mistakes that golfers make when trying to increase club head speed. You may be asking, how do I know if I have adequate mobility, power, or if I am even performing the proper warm up for a golf swing? We are here to answer those questions for you and would love to get you on a complimentary zoom or phone call to discuss your goals and questions. Feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a time to hear from you!
Ehlert, A., & Wilson, P. B. (2019). A Systematic Review of Golf Warm-ups: Behaviors, Injury, and Performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 33(12), 3444-3462.
Tilley, N. R., & Macfarlane, A. (2012). Effects of different warm-up programs on golf performance in elite male golfers. International journal of sports physical therapy, 7(4), 388.
Bliss, A., Livingstone, H., & Tallent, J. (2021). Field-based and overspeed potentiated warm-ups increase clubhead speed and drive carry distance in skilled collegiate golfers. Journal of Sport and Exercise Science.