We’re all looking for an edge – often in the form of a new golf club, glove, shoe, swing-aid, or food supplement – that will lead to lower scores on the links.
While these products may offer some value, the edge I’m promoting is much more powerful and has been in golf hibernation for almost four decades. That edge is: To add more muscle on your body.
Let me explain . . . and, please note, my explanations will be based on experience, education, and science.
Your performance in golf is governed primarily by six factors:
- Bodily proportions (Upper Body v. Lower Body, Body Weight)
- Neurological efficiency
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Movement and Flexibility
- Muscular/Body strength
All of the above factors are important, but it should be clearly understood that only one of them is productive.
Productive or Supportive?
Ideal bodily proportions for hitting a golf ball may be almost entirely responsible for a winning performance if the other five factors are at least average. But bodily proportions perform no work on their own. Their contribution to performance consists of providing the working muscles with an advantage in leverage.
Superior neurological efficiency is also important. But again, it performs no work itself. It merely permits the muscles to contract with a higher degree of efficiency.
Cardiovascular endurance is an absolute requirement for life itself and a lack of heart-lung ability will certainly prevent a high level of performance. Yet, no amount of cardiovascular endurance will perform work. Action is produced only by the contracting muscles.
Flexibility is the range and ease of movement around a joint or joints. A greater range of movement of the shoulders and hips gives you the potential to generate more force. Yet, increased flexibility doesn’t provide force. Only the muscles supply force.
Skill, no doubt, is the most important factor in golf. But skill cannot perform work. What it does do is provide the involved muscles with a higher level of precision. It channels the force produced by the muscles into a proper direction and helps to prevent the waste of energy involved in a clumsy performance.
Clearly, the first five factors are critical, however, none of them do the slightest amount of work. The sixth factor, muscular strength, is the only factor that is actually productive. All the others contribute, but only the muscles perform work.
When the above points are understood, it becomes clear that the six factors should be divided into categories . . . five supportive factors in one category . . . and one productive factor, muscular strength, in another.
The same six factors should also be divided into two other categories since two of the six factors are determined by genetics and four are not. In a practical sense this simply means that two of the factors cannot be improved – and consequently, four can be improved. So, our attention and efforts should be limited to the four factors that can be improved.
Nothing can be done to improve body proportions or neurological efficiency. We must do the best we can with what we have. Whether we’re above or below average or exceptional – they are outside our realm of control. But we can do something about the other four factors. These can be improved. Let’s concentrate on those all-important four.
In today’s game, the majority of training is devoted to skill – and it should be since skill is the single most important factor in golf or in almost any sport. Cardiovascular endurance for golf is closely related to skill since an ample amount of it is developed from hours of practice.
Additionally, many athletes employ some form of cardiovascular training to increase stamina – so, generally speaking, cardiovascular endurance is given adequate attention.
The same can be said about flexibility, as golfers perform stretching exercises to keep their joints mobile, as well as repetitive practice that provides some degree of flexibility.
Finally, of our four improvable factors, only one remains largely neglected. And, sadly, that just happens to be the single productive factor on the list. It’s the only factor capable of supplying movement, the only factor able to perform work.
Neglected and Misunderstood
Generally, a lot of golfers do what I call “exercise light,” such as push-ups sit-ups, and knee bends. But what I’m advocating here is “exercise heavy,” such as the lifting of barbells, dumbbells, and the use of weight-resistance machines. I’m talking about adding some significant muscle on your arms, shoulders, chest, back, hips, thighs, and calves.
Ten pounds of muscle, spread throughout your body, is going to make the difference between the golfer you are and the golfer you can be.
Significant muscle – significant muscle on a golfer’s body – has been taboo and it’s certainly the most misunderstood factor. This misunderstanding has been based on myth, a lack of educational material, and outright fear.
Moving in the Right Direction
A particular individual will reach his or her own limit of functional ability only when all four of the improvable factors are advanced to the maximum degree. Additional enhancement is impossible only when skill, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and muscular strength have all been raised to the highest level consistent with the requirements of a particular sport such as golf.
Yet, in the real world, we have a situation where literally millions of golfers are doing little in the way of improving muscular size and strength, usually because they are afraid to increase size or mass. They are afraid that added mass will reduce the speed of movement, afraid it will impede the range of movement or flexibility, afraid it will somehow limit functional ability. All of the fears are without foundation – all of these anxieties are based on false beliefs that are the exact opposite of the truth.
The truth is larger, stronger muscles will make you faster, not slower, in golf or in any sport. Proper strength training will actually increase your flexibility, in any area of movement. Greater strength will improve your functional ability in any activity related to sports.
And greater muscular size and strength throughout the body will go a long way in the direction of preventing injuries. Research studies have tested repeatedly the above strength-training concepts and found them to be valid. It’s long overdue for golfers to welcome muscle into the locker room and on the links.
One hour of total training time devoted to heavy exercise on a weekly basis will produce 100 percent of the potential benefits of strength training. Two weekly workouts of less than 30 minutes each are all that are required. Longer workouts, or more frequent workouts, are neither necessary nor desirable.
Exercise performed for the purpose of increasing muscular size and strength should be brief, infrequent, and very high intensity – as hard as possible, carried to the point of momentary-muscular failure. Conducted in this fashion, strength training cannot only be brief but literally must be brief. More than two weekly workouts would actually result in a reduction in strength instead of an increase.
But again, misconception rears its ugly head. Common belief tends to equate more with better. In effect, if some is good, then more must be even better – which may be true of some things, but which is certainly not true in the case of proper strength training. The widespread result of this myth being that the minority who do train for strength almost always train far too much, and seldom train with a high enough level of intensity.
So even the few people who are aware of the potential benefit of intense lifting usually miss the mark by a wide margin. The edge that most coaches and athletes constantly look for has been in plain sight for a long time – but remains largely untapped.
The Strength-Training Edge
Achieving the strength-training edge requires that you understand and apply the basic rules. The rules of proper strength training can be condensed to the following:
- Select resistance on each exercise that allows you to do between 8 and 12 repetitions.
- Perform one set of 2-4 exercises for the lower body and 4-6 for the upper body and no more than 10 exercises in any workout.
- Continue each exercise until no additional repetitions are possible. When 12 or more repetitions are performed, increase the resistance by 3-5 percent at the next workout.
- Move slower, never faster, if in doubt about the speed of movement of each repetition. It’s especially important to do each lowering phase of each repetition slower than the lifting phase.
- Strive to progress in every workout, either in repetitions or resistance.
- Train twice a week on non-consecutive days.
One set of each exercise will yield very good results in almost all cases. Multiple sets are seldom required for the purpose of increasing muscular size and strength, so long as each exercise is continued to the point of momentary failure in good form.
If several sets of an exercise are used, then it quickly becomes literally impossible for a golfer to involve maximum intensity in each set and attempting to do so will produce losses in strength instead of gains. Stick to one set of 10 exercises or less and do each of them for 8 to 12 repetitions. Repeat the routine in a progressive manner twice a week.
In summary, Arthur Jones was correct in 1974 when he noted that building muscular strength was a vastly neglected and feared factor in golf. Even though barbells, dumbbells, and weight-resistance machines are much more prevalent and available today, little has changed. Most golfers still fear bigger, stronger muscles.
Shed your fear. Understand that your muscles are your best allies. They supply a wide window for you to better your game.
If you’re a serious golfer, then the time is right for you to challenge intensely your muscles – to increase the size and strength of your arms, shoulders, chest, back, hips, thighs, and calves.
From a training time of less than one hour a week, spread over 26 weeks or six months, you can expect to double your strength. Doubling your strength will result in 6, 8, or even 10 pounds of solid muscle being packed on your body.
And doing so will most definitely improve the distance and consistency of your game – and protect you from injury. Get productive, incorporate the strength-training edge, and MUSCLE UP.
Ellington Darden, Ph.D., is the author of 74 books on physical fitness, with such bestselling titles as The Nautilus Book, Living Longer Stronger, The New High Intensity Training, and Men’s Health Killing Fat. Dr. Darden resides with his family in Windermere, Florida, where he conducts Intensive-Coaching Workshops in his private gym. For more information, or to contact Dr. Darden, visit his website: www.drdarden.com.
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