Strength can literally be broken down into a physics equation. Force/Area = Strength. But for this article we will go with the dictionary definition that it’s an object’s ability to produce or withstand force. Having strength, or being strong, is only beneficial to a golfer. There is a saying in the weight lifting community that goes, “you can’t go wrong with being strong”. This saying happens to apply to golfers as well. But won’t I get big and bulky which will restrict my body in my swing? Only if you eat the required excess calories, and lift strictly with a 3-5 set and 8-12 rep scheme, and don’t perform any positional integrity work. Do me a favor, go to your local big box gym, find the biggest guy you see, and ask him how easy it was to get big.
Being strong will allow you to hit the ball farther. You will not need to update your equipment, work on power drills, or change your swing. If you get stronger with all other things being equal, you will hit the ball farther. This is because golf is a power sport and one of the key aspects of power is strength. Power is force(strength)/time. This means that power will go up, if you either increase your strength or decrease the time it takes to make a swing. I can tell you that gaining strength is a hell of a lot easier than gaining speed, and the ceiling on strength is a lot higher than the ceiling on speed, therefore it’s lower hanging fruit. It just takes time, consistency, and a program.
Any skeletal muscles can get stronger. Want to get stronger biceps, do curls. Want to get stronger legs, do knee extensions. However, if you want to move athletically with more strength, compound movements are what will get you there. The body is working as one unit while we make golf swings, and when we are lifting to get strong we should try to incorporate multiple sections of the body for motor learning purposes, hormonal adaptations, and for efficiency purposes. Compound movements are those that utilize multiple sections of the body at once. The more well known lifts are the benchpress, deadlift, and squat, but should also include the military press, and pull up. Sure, the benchpress, military press, and pull up, look like they just use your arms, but they are actually a coordination of arms, shoulders, trunk, and even hips. If you are working with the intensity that getting stronger requires (very generally 60-80% of your one rep max for 1-5 reps) then you will know what I am saying is true.
Working within these intensity and set/rep ranges will result in your body recruiting more motor units in each muscle, allowing them to get more neural drive, resulting in increased strength. Sure, when a novice lifter heads to the gym and begins working on strength there will likely be some muscle growth, but this will taper off unless significant hypertrophy training is begun. For instance, 6 years ago my body weight was 184lbs and my maximum deadlift was 350lbs. Over the course of the next 3 years, I continually trained to get stronger. I didn’t do cardio beyond kettlebell snatch tests for 5 minutes, and I didn’t lift to get bigger. My deadlift went from 350lbs to 452lbs, and my body weight went up to 187lbs. These three pounds were definitely not enough to affect my ability to turn my chest, hinge my hips, and produce solid hip extension in my golf swing. The gains in strength were because my nervous system knew how to better recruit motor units of every muscle, and become more efficient in movement. I did not have to pack on dozens of pounds of muscle to do this.
What is important to note, is that I did need to consistently work on my positional integrity work (see part 1 and part 2) to continually deadlift and perform the accessory work needed to increase my strength. Without this, the increased tension that I was putting into my body likely would have resulted in changes to my joint mobility and flexibility. This positional integrity work allowed me to get into the positions I needed to in the gym, so I could be stronger on the course. I spent more time under tension (actually performing mobility, flexibility, and stability drills) than I did deadlifting, squatting, military pressing, or benching. The 3-5 sets of 1-5 reps usually meant that I was under 60 seconds of tension per exercise per training session. This amounts to a few minutes under tension. Compare that to the 1-3 sets of hip flexor stretching I did and still do every day for at least 1 minute per side, which gets me to 6 minutes of positional integrity work, and doesn’t include the thoracic spine/ankle mobility drills, and trunk stability drills I know I need to move my best. So you can see that doing positional integrity work does not need to take up hours of your day, and in reality it is best done spread throughout your day as part of your daily movement practice. Think of it as a great way to break up your sitting in a purposeful way that certain addresses limitations you may have.
Unlike positional integrity work, working on your strength will not improve all aspects of the training pyramid. But as discussed earlier it does hold the potential to improve your strength, power and skill work. Being strong will help you gain distance, finish rounds will less effort and fatigue, and when paired with a solid positional integrity program, keep you healthy and moving well.