It can be daunting when stepping into a training space - all those machines, all those weights. How do you know where to start, never mind which ones are the best use of your 45 minutes of gym time? Well, you ask an expert...
Micheal Dennington is the personal trainer and golf coach behind the app-based gym training programme GolfWod, used by golfing pros including the PGA Tour’s Scott Stalling.
Here, he reveals how to put your best foot forward and hit the gym for your own golf fitness and strength gains...
1. Start With Easy To Use Kit It’s tempting to go over to the most complicated machine, or a macho rack of free weights when you first step into a gym, but that won’t serve you well when you’re starting to train movement patterns after a hiatus, or for the first time.
The golden rule, says Michael Dennington, is to start simple: “Pick up dumb-bells, kettlebells, that kind of thing, where the technical side and the stress in the body is probably going to be a little bit less, but it's also going to be very dynamic, and it's going to allow you a very good progression.”
It’s important to spend a few weeks accustoming your body to training under resistance because this will also allow you to practice good form and get into good habits – for instance a kettlebell swing will work the hip hinge and help you to get your body in the right positions for more complex, compound lifts. you get the body in the right positions.
“Go through those motions with excellent farm, good movement patterns, and neutral spine, all the kind of things that you would look for, for anybody, to give yourself a pathway to progress,” he says.
Everything comes from strength because as we increase our strength base, our potential to create power and club head speed is going to increase, relative to that strength base
2. Focus On Functional Movements Rather than trying to emulate the movements you see in golf, your gym time should be spent building a good general strength base, says Dennington. “Everything comes from strength on the base level, because as we increase our strength base, our potential to then create power and create club head speed is going to increase relative to that strength base.”
“It's also going to mean that your body can withstand the forces that you ask it to, and it also provides stability, endurance, and really the foundation for all of the moving parts.”
So look to fundamental movements such as squats, deadlifts and jumps, which train you to be stable and neutral and in good body positions to use ground force. “In terms of increasing club head speed, the ability to use the ground and your awareness of the ground is huge.”
3. Once You’ve Progressed Load Up With Deadlifts Once you’re comfortable with the dumb-bells and kettlebells then you can start thinking about working with a loaded bar, and learning how to deadlift, and do moves that work your whole body, while protecting your lower back.
“Once you have the confidence of activating the posterior chain and working through those pans, then you can add more load to the body in something like a deadlift.”
Make sure you get a personal trainer to check your form on these heavier lifts. “And it's just that natural progression over time where you see success, you then take that success on to the next level. And that positive feedback loop is going to help you both in terms of your physical progress, and also, the mental aspect of trying to improve over time.”
The powerclean is something that we use an awful lot and it's very close to a golf swing just in a different plane of motion
4. Try This ‘Secret Sauce’ Lift If you’re feeling really confident then you may want to ask a PT to teach you a classic Olympic lifting move that Dennington has seen have a great impact in his gym.
“The powerclean is something that we use an awful lot. And I would actually say, it's very close to a golf swing just in a different plane of motion. Because you have a static, set position and you're going to work from the ground first."
"You have to maintain your posture, and then you have to accelerate at the right time to execute a different skill. So in terms of how they actually correlate, I would say that they are very, very similar.”
5. Measure Your Progress One feature developed for the Golf Wod app is a way to track your ‘golf fitness handicap’ because Dennington places great importance on being able to measure your progress. He advises keeping a record of your workouts in the same way that you do your scores.
Your body will adapt over time to the training load, so you need to keep progressing it to advance. At the same time, map your gym progress against your golf game, perhaps using Trackman or another technology, so that you can see if your efforts in the gym are paying off on the green.
“Just being able to set a baseline of where you are right now, applying some workouts and some training to your game, and then seeing a very clear increase in that data is all the feedback you’ll need to stay motivated and keep moving forward,” he says.
6. Don’t Neglect Endurance While it’s true that training for functional strength will improve your golfing endurance, you may also want to work some cardio into your routine. The fitter you are, the greater buffer you will have before becoming fatigued will impact your game, so it’s a key factor in consistency, says Dennington:
“It’s about feeling good for the whole 18 holes, as opposed to getting into a second nine and starting to slow down and maybe have skill deteriorate because of a lack of capacity.”
The golf swing is very demanding both physically and technically, so even if you can hit the ball further in isolation, once fatigue sets in there’s going to be a real drop in power and also the skill accuracy deteriorates. “But we often see that after training, in those last few holes, people are feeling completely different and really enjoying that and being able to play for 18 holes, to their full ability,” says Dennington.
WHAT NEXT? Try this full-body strength workout to maximise your ability to generate force from the ground and unlock new potential in your club head speed.
How To Do This Workout: Do the three grouped blocks of exercises below (see the images for reference) in order. Allow 60 seconds rest between each superset and 2-3 minutes between exercise blocks
Block One x3 12 Lateral Bounds (6 reps each side) 12 Up and Over Med Ball Slams (6 reps Each Side)
Block Two x 6 6 Single Leg Lateral Rotational Jumps (3 reps each side) 6 DB/KB Thrusters (3 reps each Side)
Block Three - WOD x 5, for time (rest 30 seconds between rounds) 12 Cal Bike/ Ski/ Row or 150m Run 12 Russian Kettlebell Swings