How to Drive the Golf Ball Farther

One of the most common questions we get at Champion from our golfers is “how do I hit my drive farther?”

There is no doubt that driving distance is crucial in the modern golf game. As golf courses continue to get longer and more challenging, the premium on hitting long, straight, consistent drives continues to grow.

Driving distance has increased substantially on the PGA Tour over the last 20 years and some pros even look discouraged after they hit a 320 yard drive right down the center of the fairway.

We are clearly in the Distance Era in pro golf. As equipment technology continues to improve and players are getting stronger and faster, it’s no wonder that the worlds best are blasting monster drives.

On the amateur golf levels, however, we have seen a less dramatic increase in driving distance. In fact, amateur golfers with a handicap of less than 5 have only had an average distance increase of roughly 5% since 1996. Compared to the nearly 12% increase in the same time span in professional golf, it is clear that amateurs are struggling to keep pace in the distance era.

Want to see how you compare?

Look at the chart below and see how far golfers of similar skill level to you are hitting the ball. It is no mystery that longer and straighter drives are correlated to lower golf scores, so it makes sense that lower handicap golfers hit the ball farther on average. More distance off the tee can lead to using a shorter iron for an approach shot, more greens hit in regulation, and more made putts.

If you currently don’t hit the ball as far as the average player in your handicap bracket or you are looking to lower your handicap, you will benefit greatly from more distance off the tee.

drive the golf ball farther

Credit: Golf Digest

Luckily, most golfers can increase their driver distance fairly easily by focusing on a few things.

In our Golf Performance Program at Champion, we break driving distance down into three interconnected components. In order to reach your distance potential, golfers need to maximize each component.

hit your golf drives longer

how to hit your drives farther

While many golfers are quick to buy new clubs or even take golf swing lessons, very few focus on improving their physical characteristics.  This in fact may be backwards. If you have limitations in your mobility, strength, or power, it’s going to be hard to drive the golf ball as far as you can no matter how good your clubs are!

Don’t forget, most adults slowly lose mobility, strength, and power as we age and sit all day at work.

Research related to golf performance has continued to show the benefits of a strength and conditioning program with the emphasis on mobility, strength, and power to improve driving distance and golf performance. This research shows that working on mobility of the trunk, hips, and shoulders while developing strength and power in the legs, trunk, and arms can lead to increases in club head speed of 2-6%.

 

3 Steps to Drive the Golf Ball Farther

Based on the above information, we often focus on 3 steps to improve your driving distance and maximize your potential.  Follow these 3 steps to hit your drives farther and you’ll be well on your way to lower golf scores.

 

Step 1: Optimize Mobility

The golf swing requires the body to move through a large range of motion at multiple joints at a high rate of speed. This repetitive motion requires a great deal of mobility and stability of your joints and flexibility of your muscles to achieve a consistent, powerful swing. If you are a golfer who works a 40+ hour per week desk job and often feels tight and stiff, working on mobility is the first major step to take to increase your distance. A lack of mobility in key areas can lead to suboptimal swing characteristics that drain power out of your golf swing.

Improving mobility has been shown to improve performance and can potentially decrease the amount of stress on certain areas of the body that the golf swing creates. Gaining mobility does not have to involve complicated drills that force your body into uncomfortable positions. In fact, we have found that low to moderate intensity mobility drills performed consistently over a period time can be effective.

While mobility of your hips and shoulder are super important, one area that has the biggest bang for the buck tends to be your thoracic spine.  Any limitation in how well you spine rotates is going to limit your backswing and decrease the power of your golf swing.

Here’s an example of a great mobility drill that all golfers should perform routinely, we usually recommend on a daily basis.  Try this and be sure to also perform it prior to your next round of golf too

 

Step 2: Build Strength

Strength training for golfers has been shown to improve performance metrics in golfers of all levels in previous research. A golfers routine should focus on building baseline strength through training the fundamental movement patterns such as the squat, hinge, push, pull, and lunge while also having more golf-specific components and core training. Getting stronger overall has been shown to have a significant correlation to clubhead speed. This increase in swing speed has been reported to show increases in driving distance of up to 4-5%, meaning golfers can increase their drives by 8-10 yards simply by getting stronger.

Remember, a powerful swing starts with strong legs.  Try this exercise at home by performing 3 sets of 8-12 reps 2-3 times per week.  Be sure to slowly go up in weight when it gets easy:

 

Step 3: Increase Power Development

In the golf swing, power is developed through creating ground reaction forces with the lower body, transferred from the ground through the core, and dissipated with the arms as the clubhead accelerates to impact.

For optimal performance, this transfer of energy occurs in a specific sequence known as the kinematic sequence. An optimal transfer of energy through the kinematic sequence leads to less energy wasted and a maximal amount of energy transfer to the ball at impact, leading to higher club head speed and greater distance.

Power development has three major components: muscular strength, rate of force development, and the amount of force that can be developed at high velocities of movement. Golfers must have baseline strength to safely and efficiently transfer power (see step 2 above), and be able to move explosively through a rotational movement to develop large amounts of force at a high velocity to generate club head speed.

Golfers training, therefore, must incorporate exercises that are specific to the needs of the golf swing.

For golf, this tends to be focusing on rotational power.  Check out one of our favorite drills for power development in golfers.

 

Playing the best golf of your life this year does not have to be complicated or tedious process. Spending some time working on improving your mobility, gaining strength and power, and utilizing a few key swing tips from a coach can go a long way to hitting the ball farther and shooting lower scores.

Focus on the 3 steps of improving mobility, strength, and power and you’ll easily add distance to your drive and start lowering your golf handicap.

 

Want to Take Your Golf Game to the Next Level?

golf swing physical assessmentIf you are serious about improving your game, it’s best to develop a complete game improvement plan based on your unique needs and goals.  In our Golf Performance Program at Champion, we start by performing a thorough assessment of you, your body, and your swing to see where we can make most impact.  We’ll be able to see exactly what may be holding you back and then develop a comprehensive program individualized just for you.

 

 

The Benefits of Physical Activity in Children

Today’s guest post comes from Adam Smith, DPT, CSCS. Adam is a former student at Champion PT and a recent graduate from Northwestern University PT School. Adam just started a sports residency program at the University of Southern California in August. Today, Adam discusses the benefits of physical activity in children and adolescents.

 

Physical Activity in Children – A Lifetime of Benefits

Physical Activity in ChildrenThe benefits of physical activity among youth is well documented, however it still seems as if our kids are not maintaining an active lifestyle. This is a disturbing trend that may have long-term ramifications on future generations.

Physical activity can be defined as any sort of bodily acitvity and can simply be defined as any form of running, weight lifting, or even playing games like tag. Despite the benefits, programs encouraging exercise are decreasing. Financial issues limit the creation of more programs in our school systems, so programs designed outside of school-time should be encouraged and sought out by parents.

Recently the New York Times released a really interesting article emphasizing the benefits of physical activity by comparing two identical twins. This article talked about the short-term (3 years) benefits of physical activity in young adults by comparing one who exercised regularly to one who did not. They were able to show that the active twin had decreased body fat, a decreased risk of metabolic disorders, and improved coordination.

To give some personal perspective, I have worked with public school systems and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.  Here are some of the lessons I have learned throughout this experience and my academic career.

 

Physical Activity Improves Bone Mineral Density

Bone grows in the direction that force is placed onto it. For example, basketball players have increase bone growth just below the knee due to frequent muscle tension of the quadriceps during jumping. This is important for the young athlete because improve functional bone growth for their sports can lead to a decreased risk of injury throughout their entire athletic careers and beyond.

Physical activity, especially resistance training (weight lifting), was thought to be harmful to children (8-18 years) due to their maturing skeletal systems. This belief is not only outdated but also harmful to the child’s long-term bone growth, and even their academic performance.  Countless research has been published to show the strength and conditioning training in children is safe, appropriate, and beneficial.  In fact, the most frequent cause of injury is actually from lack of supervision and coaching.

During this pivotal time of maturation, children should be attempting to promote as much bone growth as possible. Increased bone growth during this time leads to increased bone density and decreased risks of fractures and osteoporosis as they age.  They should seek out an age-appropriate strength and conditioning program with adequate coaching.

 

Physical Activity Improves Mental Capacity

Physical Activity in Children Another myth I’ve heard is that children focusing on physical activity will decrease the time they spend on their academics. As the previous New York Times article points out, their subjects had improved mental capacity and even physical changes within the brain to improve one’s ability to function mentally.

Many other research articles support the idea that children who perform the recommended amount of physical activity and above are performing better than their peers on standardized tests.

By comparing children’s motor function in their youth and then high school age academic performance, one article linked obesity and decreased physical activity to overall GPA and performance in math, reading, and writing. This article further suggested that the lack of activity early in childhood decreased the motor development in the participants thus further increasing their risk for obesity, lack of activity, and future academic performance.

Children who perform physical activity are able to focus better, think clearer, and have a higher self-esteem driving them to take on more challenging subjects. Encouraging this early on sets good habits that will often continue throughout the child’s life.

 

Physical Activity Does Not Lead to Injury

“If my child performs physical activity or weight lifting they will most likely get injured” is another statement I have heard more often than I would like. Does physical activity or weight lifting lead to more injuries? The short answer is no.

As I mentioned earlier in the bone growth section, children who perform physical activity and lift weights are less likely to have athletic injuries simply due to improved bone growth alone. Also, resistance training improves coordination, muscular strength, and physical conditioning. Physical activity also decreases the participant’s risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Again, most resistance training injuries occur due to lack of supervision or a poorly individualized program. Both of these problems seem preventable by having an age appropriate training program.

Appropriate training programs include proper warm-up and cool-down, extensive instruction of lifting with light weight, individualized regression and progressions for exercises, and supervision. Also, for kids it’s important to provide incentive to keep performing physical activity by making it fun while tracking and praising them for their improvements.

 

Physical Activity is for Every Child

I’ve heard parents say many statements such as; their child doesn’t like physical activity, their child isn’t good at weightlifting, even that their daughter would not enjoy or benefit. These beliefs are misinformed and should be addressed with parents and coaches.

In fact, we have seen just as many, if not more, beneficial gains in athleticism, overall health, body awareness, and self esteem in our young female clients at Champion.

First, disliking the common forms of physical activity is not uncommon. A child who is forced to run is most likely not going to enjoy running. Luckily, running and walking are not the only form of activity that is encouraged.

Physical activity can be disguised into games, social activities, and even video games. If your child doesn’t like to be active, there are many other avenues to promote movement and improve their view of exercise. Be creative! Even disguised activities can lead to improved self-esteem and increased interest in physical activity in the future.

Next, early weight lifting should focus on improving one’s ability to perform the exercises while improving their self-confidence to exercise. Not many people are good at doing something they have never practiced and this is no different.

 

Set The Stage for Future Athleticism

 

It is important to encourage physical activity in children. One of the best predictors for continued physical activity into adulthood is a high level during their youth. Children and adolescents are at a crucial time of development in which physical activity can create changes both physically and cognitively that will last for a lifetime.

3 Rules to Follow When Implementing a Plyometric and Speed Training Program

A recent research report in the Journal or Strength and Conditioning Research has shown that a combination of plyometric and speed training has been proven to improve jumping, sprinting, and agility performance.  Incorporating these training techniques into your strength and condition program will have a beneficial impact on explosive actions in sport, such as sprinting, jumping, and change of direction.

While an increase in performance is reason enough to incorporate jump and sprint skill training, we also feel at Champion that learning proper technique can reduce injuries.  In athletics, sprinting and jumping puts a lot of stress on muscles and joints. In order to increase performance and safety, an athlete must learn proper mechanics, and then build on them.

Here are the three rules we follow at Champion when implementing a proper plyometric and speed training program.

 

Focus on Mechanics

First, focus on mechanics. According to the previously mentioned research report, it is recommended to start with a general adaption phase to ensure proper movement technique and safety. This is because many athletes do not truly understand proper mechanics. Incorrect mechanics can lead to excess stress on joints and overcompensations when absorbing and producing force.

An initial adaption phase should last at-least two weeks, and often more depending on the age and skill of the athlete. During this phase a coach should teach jumping, landing, sprinting, and change of direction mechanics. Jumping and landing mechanics should focus on absorbing force correctly with a soft and solid landing, as well as a good arm drive when jumping.  Sprinting and change of direction mechanics should focus on foot, knee, and arm angle, as well as weight distribution when changing direction.

plyometric and sprint training program

 

Increase Volume Over Time

One mistake we often see in program design involves the amount of volume of these techniques. The amount of sprinting and jumping drills included in your program is key. When working on increasing force output, less is more. Volume should always be low when performing explosive exercises.

After an initial adaption phase, athletes are ready for increased resistance and volume.

Resisted plyometric and sprinting training can be introduced in a periodized fashion. This means that the volume or amount of work done should be increased over-time. Remember, if you are going to increase the difficulty of an exercise or drill, you should consider the need for a new adaption. Like the initial adaption phase, a new stimulus must be learned and built upon.

Each drill or exercise should be practiced for at-least four weeks. It takes the central nervous system time to adapt to a new training stimulus and really get good benefits.

 

Decrease Load Prior to Competition

Lastly, a decrease in volume or “de-load” phase must be introduced before competition. The body needs time to rest before going through a season. But, don’t completely drop training. Strength and power must be maintained throughout the season.

This can be done by continuing a strength, plyometric and speed program but at a bare minimum. The focus should be on form and technique, not on loading. Stay sharp with perfect mechanics and keep the explosive power you have build during the program.

For example, if an athlete has built up to a specific height for a box jump, or used a specific weight on a sled for sled runs, try to maintain this over the course of the season. At-least three sets once a week will help maintain explosive power. Remember to not over do it.

 

Incorporating plyometric and speed training techniques into your strength and conditioning program can enhance your explosive skills and overall athletic performance, keep these 3 rules in mind when designing your programs to assure proper implementation.

 

 

 

How to Prepare For and Perform a Throwing Program

With all the baseball players that we train at Champion and start of the season right around the corner, we thought it would important to share some of the recent articles that I have posted on my website at MikeReinold.com regarding how to prepare to throw and how to perform a throwing program.

How to perform a throwing program-1Working with so many injured pitchers over my career, one common theme that I often hear when players describe how they got hurt was that they did not properly warm up and prepare themselves to throw.  Throwing is very dynamic and aggressive on the body.  You have to treat it like any other activity and assure that you are properly prepared before you just start throwing the ball as hard as you can.

One of the most common mistakes I see in young and amateur players is improper throwing programs that may be hurting them more than helping them.

In these articles I share some of the pearls that I have picked up over the years and the exact sequence of activities that we use during throwing programs with our professional baseball players.

This is what the big leaguers do to prepare their body, and trust me, they aren’t throwing as hard as they can on the 5th throw of the day, they are using a progressive method of warming up the arm before they start throwing hard.

They know there is a difference between preparing to throw and getting in their work, and this is a key thing to learn to reduce your chance of injury and enhance your performance.

To prepare before your throwing program, you really need to do two things: 1) Prepare your body and 2) Prepare your throwing.  You’ll see what I mean when you read the articles:

 

In-Season Programs

Champion is offering in-season strength and conditioning and arm care programs this spring.  These are the same programs we have designed and implemented for many Major League Baseball players.  Maximize your performance, recover better between games, and reduce your chance for injury.   If you are serious about baseball, contact us now for more information, including info on our current special pricing for in-season arm care programs.