In the first three installments of the "Better Golf" series we have addressed specific attributes to improve your game. While I believe that you must first consult a skilled teaching pro to review your swing before considering general conditioning, we must also deal with physical training in order to improve distance. While I often remind golfers of the immortal words of Harvey Penick,"The woods are full of long drivers," the question of how to improve distance off the tee needs to be answered.
Putting aside the technical issue of swing mechanics, effective distance off the tee is determined by the speed of the club. By generating great club-head speed, the goal of increased distance is achieved. While the golf swing itself involves some extremely complex issues relating to force, torque and power, golfers must direct their specialized training to the attributes (re: "Wheel of Conditioning") that will have the greatest benefit.
"Sport specific" training is often used as a selling tool within golf circles. As noted in numerous previous articles and books, "sport specific" training must directly mimic the sports actions with precise joint angles, muscular contractions, and ranges of motion. Specialized training offers an opportunity for very fit golfers to push their games to higher levels while it also eliminates many other golfers, including those of elite status, for whom more generalized training will provide greater assistance.
Whilst I always recommend professional trainers that I mentor within "Team Renegade" to first play the game to appreciate its unique qualities, there are many unique ways for the non-golfer to look at the needs of the golf swing. For example, athletes who use a rotational aspect in their sport, whether it is swinging a racquet or a right cross, the muscular action of the swing is reliant upon the powerful drive of the legs, hips and trunk.
Most devout golfers require a very broad generalized training regime that emphasizes range of motion. As stressed in the "Concepts of Training," particular emphasis on postural alignment needs to be an underlying theme. Considering the uniqueness of the sport, where we may start in our childhood with cut-down clubs and play into our "golden years," there are many training issues to consider. Besides leg and general trunk strength (each addressed in the "In Search of Power" series) and range of motion work (see the "Renegade Yoga for Athletes" sries). further work on the shoulder capsule must be done to maximize the training effect.
Possibly one of the most effective and easiest regimens is a unique four-step circuit program of banded movements that I utilize to help stabilize the shoulder capsule. Grasp a tennis ball or softball with a therapy band overtop and loop under opposite foot and (i) in a smooth action, laterally arc the hand across such that the arm, at a 45 degree angle, is just above parallel to the ground at the apex of the lift. After completing six to ten repetitions,
(ii) push the near foot over the band, increasing the band tension and perform a classic lateral raise by raising the elbow up with thumb pointing downwards. Once the required reps are completed, perform a Cuban Press by
(iii) first pinching the shoulder blades back and down, then raising
the elbow till the upper arm is parallel to the ground before raising
the hand till a right angle is created. In the final step
(iv) repeat the first step of the Cuban Press before continuing the hand straight as high as possible to perform a Muscle Snatch.
Using a basic six-repetition-per-movement set would result in twenty-four total reps and a firm workout for the shoulder capsule. Further work should be done for the internal / external rotation, but as with the above movements with a simple ball and therapy band, every golfer, regardless of their age can make major inroads with regard to the needs of the sport. For fellow golfers, I suggest you throw this into your golf-bag as those movements are great for loosening up and keeping posture perfect before, after and even during a round.
In the next of the Better Golf series we will look at further specialized exercises to improve your game. However as a final point, while this article dealt partially with the question of distance off the tee, I once again warn readers that the scorecard doesn't distinguish between a powerful one-iron or a three-foot nerve rattling putt. As the legendary Bobby Jones said, "no putt is too short to be despised".