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Brief Review

Effects of Resistance Training Methods on Golf Clubhead Speed and Hitting Distance: A Systematic Review

Uthoff, Aaron1; Sommerfield, Lesley M.1; Pichardo, Andrew W.2

Author Information
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: September 2021 - Volume 35 - Issue 9 - p 2651-2660
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000004085
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Abstract

Introduction

Golf is a popular sport throughout the world, with more than 60 million people estimated to participate in the game annually (2). Each player's goal is to achieve the lowest possible score within a given round by hitting the ball from the starting point (tee) into the hole 150–700 yards away (3) in the fewest shots possible. Drive distance is strongly correlated to a player's handicap or current ability over an entire round of golf, which includes long game, short game, and putting performance (21). Golf clubhead speed ([CHS], the velocity at which the golf clubhead impacts the golf ball (20)), is easily measurable and influences drive distance, which can make approach shots shorter, particularly on longer holes. Therefore, improving CHS is often a goal of physical training for golf.

An effective golf swing is determined by proper biomechanics, kinetics, and neuromuscular factors (20), such as strength and power. The opportunity to improve CHS through technique improvement is limited because of the complex nature of a golf swing (7,26,66), so coaches and athletes may also focus on force and rate of force development (RFD) to improve hitting performance, which is a predictor of overall score. Several studies have shown that hitting performance is related to strength and power (16,27,45), whereas endurance capacity is poorly related to CHS (38). In fact, golfers with greater CHS are stronger than lesser skilled counterparts (7,23,30,50,59). Chest, back, and lower-limb maximal strength assessed using nonspecific compound movements (e.g., upper-body presses, upper-body pulls, and squat movements) were moderate to strongly correlated with CHS (23,30) and ball speed (59). Ballistic movements that require the projection of one's own body mass, such as jumps, are similarly related to CHS (28). Furthermore, single-leg jumps had stronger correlations to CHS compared with bilateral countermovement jumps and squat jumps (28,47,59), suggesting unilateral power transfers to hitting performance more than bilateral measures. The assessment of rotational power has been limited to machine and seated medicine ball protocols and is similarly correlated to strength testing (23,47). Furthermore, strength in biomechanically similar movements, such as the golf-specific cable down swing, has stronger correlations with CHS when compared with less specific rotational movements (30,47). Given the relationship between strength, power, and hitting performance, it seems prudent to target these qualities to improve CHS.

Resistance training is widely regarded within the golfing community as a means to improve golf performance (60) and CHS by improving kinetic variables such as peak force (PF), impulse, and RFD (8). These improvements allow golfers to increase drive distance and CHS, which may influence approach shots as well, with little to no change in swing technique (8). Resistance training for golf can be classified into 3 categories: nonspecific, specific, and combined. Nonspecific resistance training commonly refers to traditional gymnasium-based exercises such as the power clean, back squat, and bench press or other functional body mass movements (65). Specific resistance training refers to methods that closely resemble the biomechanics of the movement (e.g., golf swing) (65), for instance, using weighted clubs, swinging medicine balls in a golf swing motion, and performing swings with wearable resistance. Combined resistance training refers to a blend of nonspecific and specific methods in which traditional gymnasium-based resistance exercises are performed with some form of specific strength exercise, such as a back squat and weighted golf swing (52).

The principle of training specificity suggests maximal transfer of training occurs when exercises are biomechanically similar to the sporting movement (4,33). However, it is currently unclear which resistance training methods are most effective in improving hitting performance. Therefore, the primary purpose of this review is to compare the effectiveness of nonspecific, specific, and combined strength training methods on clubhead speed and drive distance. Based on the literature synthesized, we also aim to provide resistance training recommendations for golf and highlight areas for future research.

Methods

Search Strategies

A systematic review of literature was undertaken for longitudinal studies assessing the effects of resistance training on golf performance (CHS and hitting distance) in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) statement guidelines (43). The search for scientific literature relevant to this review was conducted using 4 electronic databases: PubMed, SPORTDiscus, MEDLINE (EBSCO), and Google Scholar from inception to March 2020. Key search terms used were “golf” AND “strength,” OR “training,” OR “conditioning,” OR “resistance,” AND “club head speed,” OR “distance,” OR “performance” using Boolean logic for query “resistance training and golf.” A manual search for related articles was conducted by screening the reference lists of the retrieved articles (Figure 1).

Figure 1.
Figure 1.:
Selection process for articles included in this review.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

The articles were deemed appropriate for use through the following inclusion criteria: (a) studies included injury-free subjects of any age, sex, or activity level; (b) training interventions lasted at least 4 weeks; (c) was published in English; (d) was published using a peer-review process; and (e) reference “golf” in relation to resistance training. Studies were excluded if they (a) used a single-group study design; (b) were a cross-sectional correlational study; (c) examined the effects of a warm-up; (d) examined postactivation potentiation; and (e) did not report pre-post results on either clubhead speed or hitting distance.

Study Quality

A scale designed specifically for sports science research (42) was used to assess the quality of the included studies. This scale uses a combination of items from the Cochrane, Delphi, and PEDro scales and expands on a scale designed by Brughelli et al. (6) to evaluate research in athletic-based training environments. The methodological scale assesses 10 domains of the study: inclusion criteria stated, subject assignment, intervention description, control groups, dependent variables definition, assessment methods, study duration, statistics, results, and conclusions. The scale uses a rating system of 20 points where zero represents clearly no, one is maybe, and 2 is clearly yes. Table 1 provides a detailed overview of the scale.

Table 1 - Study quality scoring assessment (42).
No. Item Score
1 Inclusion criteria stated 0–2
2 Subjects assigned appropriately (random/equal baseline) 0–2
3 Intervention described 0–2
4 Control group 0–2
5 Dependent variables defined 0–2
6 Assessments practical 0–2
7 Training duration practical (acute versus long-term) 0–2
8 Statistics appropriate (variability, repeated measures) 0–2
9 Results detailed (mean, SD, percent change, and effect size) 0–2
10 Conclusion insightful (clear concise, future directions) 0–2
Total 0–20

Statistical Analyses

To evaluate the effects of strength training on CHS and hitting distance, percentage change ([postintervention group mean − preintervention group mean]/preintervention group mean × 100) and effect size (postintervention group mean − preintervention group mean/preintervention SD) were calculated using Microsoft Excel. The effect sizes (d) were classified as small (0.20–0.49), moderate (0.50–0.79), and large (≥0.80) according to Cohen (12).

Results

Search Results

The searches identified 4,557 potentially relevant results. After a review of titles and abstracts, the total was reduced to 31 training studies. Twenty studies met the inclusion criteria and were analyzed. These studies included a total of 412 subjects (297 men, 77 women, and 38 unspecified). The subjects included were characterized as either healthy sedentary, recreational golfers, or elite golfers (as classified by handicap), as described by the authors of the reviewed articles.

Characteristics of Included Studies

There were 20 studies that examined the effects of resistance training on either CHS or hitting distance in 308 golfers (220 men, 69 women, and 19 unspecified) (1,10,16,18,20,27,29,31,32,35,37,44–46,49,52,54,56,62). One of the 20 studies examined both nonspecific training and combined training, so it was included in 2 tables (27). The training interventions for the studies ranged from 6 to 18 weeks in duration. Most studies used high repetition (8 to 25 repetitions), slow movement speed, or rehabilitation exercises (9,18,20,22,32,35,37,56,62), with the exception of 3 studies that used strength and power repetition ranges (5–6 repetitions) (1,19,45). The following sections provide a summary of the available literature on the effectiveness of nonspecific, specific, and combined strength training methods on golf hitting performance.

Study Quality

The average assessment quality score obtained from the McMaster (42) scale was 15.3 ± 2.22 and ranged from 10 to 19 (Table 2). This demonstrates a moderate to high study quality for the included studies. Items 2 (subjects assigned appropriately [random/equal baseline]), 4 (control group inclusion), and 9 (results detailed [mean, SD, percent change, and effect size]) were the most variable factors distinguishing between high-quality and low-quality studies.

Table 2 - Effects of nonspecific resistance training on clubhead speed and hitting distance (n = 13).*
Study Subjects Duration Exercises Sets Reps Intensity Results QS
Cummings et al. (16) INT n = 5
Males
20.8 ± 1.0 y
CON n = 5
Males
20.7 ± 1.0 y
Collegiate golfers
8 wk Resistance exercises:
Front squats, val slide push-up, DB row, val slide reverse lung, dips, DB squat press, partner 4-way stick push, speed quarter squats, DB bench, stir-the-pot, chin ups, snatch-grip BB RDL, rotary push-up plank, overhead lunge, trap-bar deadlift, barbell row, TRX body saw, plyometric push-up, DB RDL, landmine rotations with lunge, and Turkish get-up
3 4–12 Self-selected loads and 60–80% 1 RM INT:
↑ 4.5%; d = 1.53 CHS
↑ 5.2%; d = 1.22 distance
CON:
↑ 1.2%; d = 0.63 CHS
↓ 2.2%; d = 0.37 distance
17
Doan et al. (17) n = 10
Males
19.8 ± 1.7 y n = 6
Females
18.5 ± 0.8 y
Intercollegiate golfers
No CON group
11 wk Resistance exercises:
Bench press, upright rows, pullover, leg curl, back extension, step up, cable row, military press, good mornings, barbell squat, shoulder circuit, lunges, leg extension, and wrist curl
Medicine ball exercises:
Speed rotation, and standing throws
3
2–4
7–12
10–15
N/A Males:
↑ 0.6%; d = 0.21 CHS
Females:
↑ 3.4%; d = 0.59 CHS
14
Driggers and Sato (19) n = 10
Males
18–22 y
Collegiate golfers
No CON group
10 wk Resistance exercises:
Sprints, overhead squat, DB bench press, DB shoulder press, push press, step-ups, back squat, midthigh pull, clean pull from knee, supine DB pullover, single arm DB row, lying leg lift, bent-over bar row, and DB reverse fly
3 2–8 65–90% 1 RM ↑ 1.4%; d = 0.31 distance 16
Hegedus et al. (27) n = 15
Females
58.2 ± 2.1 y
Amateur golfers
No CON group
10 wk Traditional resistance exercises:
Back extension, wrist curls, side plank, bench press, seated lat pull-down, shoulder shrugs, bent over row, hip abduction machine, modified Russian deadlift, and reverse hyper hip extension
3 10 N/A Driver
↑ 2.5%; d = 0.23 CHS
↑ 5.9%; d = 0.34 distance
7-Iron
↓ 0.8%; d = −0.06 CHS
↑ 10.7%; d = 0.61 distance
14
Hetu, Christie, and Faigenbaum (29) n = 17 (12 males, 5 females)
52.4 ± 6.7 y
Recreational golfers
No CON group
8 wk Resistance exercises:
Leg extension, leg curl, chest press, lat pull-downs, lateral raise, abdominal exercises, lower-back exercises, DB press, internal rotation, external rotation, wrist flexion, wrist extension, body mass squat, DB squat, and DB power clean
2 6–12 N/A ↑ 6.3%; d = 0.37 CHS
No results by sex reported
12
Lamberth et al. (32) INT n = 5
Males
CON n = 5
Males
21.4 ± 2.3 y
Collegiate golfers
6 wk Resistance exercises:
Back hyper, leg press, leg curl, reverse lunge, Bulgarian lunge, walking lunge, DB forward lunge, Smith machine squat, bench press, DB rows, shoulder complex, DB incline bench press, lat pull-down, double curls, DB bench press, DB upright row to curl to press, double LAT pull-downs, horizontal pull-ups, standing cable twist, and cable wood chop
3 8–25 N/A INT:
↓ 3.9%; d = −0.54 CHS
CON:
↓ 1.9%; d = −0.58 CHS
14
Loock, Grace, and Semple (37) n = 9
Males
17–76 y
Recreational golfers
No CON group
12 wk COREPOWER machine 2 3 min N/A ↓ 2.6%; d = −0.26 CHS 10
Olivier et al. (44) n = 43 (36 males, 7 females)
24 ± 8.9 y
Amateur golfers
No CON group
7 wk Lunge variations, push up variations, prone hold, Russian twist, barbell wood chop, DB rows, renegade rows, and resisted band sprints 1–3 5–15 N/A 0%; d = 0.00 CHS
↓5.4%; d = −0.38 distance
No results by sex reported
16
Oranchuk et al. (45) INT n = 6 (3 males, 3 females)
21.2 ± 0.9 y
CON n = 6 (3 males, 3 females)
19.5 ± 1.5 y
Collegiate golfers
7 wk CON exercises:
Single-leg squat, DB SL-RDL, leg curl, plate sit up, MB twist, pull-up, DB 1-arm bench, band pull-apart, face-pulls, MB golf swing, MB walking lunge, cable internal rotation, cable wood chop, MB sit up, and 1-leg back extension
INT exercises:
Hang clean, push press, front squat, incline DB bench, seated row, deadlift, back squat, trap-bar-jump, DB shoulder press, pull-up, power clean, BB RDL, DB bench press, and BB rows
3–4
3–6
6–10
2–10
N/A
75–100% 1RM
INT:
↑ 1.0%; d = 0.11 CHS
CON:
↓ 3.7%; d = −0.20 CHS
17
Seiler, Skaanes, and Kirkesola (49) SET n = 10
15 ± 2 y
CON n = 10
15.8 ± 2 y
Junior golfers
No sex reported
9 wk SET exercises:
Hip abduction, pike, lat extension, bridge and curl, unstable bilateral squat, unstable unilateral squat, and suspended push-up
CON exercises:
Bench press, squats, biceps curl, dip, back extension, 1-arm row, sit up, and seated MB rotation
2
3
5–10
6–12
10% BM SET:
↑ 3.7% CHS
CON:
↑ 1.2% CHS
13
Sung et al. (52) CEG n = 20
Males
23.0 ± 0.5 y
NCEG n = 20
Males
23.2 ± 0.6 y
CON n = 20
Males
24.0 ± 1.0 y
Elite golfers
8 wk CEG exercise:
Crunch, reverse crunch, trunk twist, good morning, and DB side bend
NCEG exercises:
CEG core exercises, DB curl, wrist curl, reverse wrist curl, triceps extension, DB press, and side lateral raise
3 12–15 60–70% 1RM CEG:
↑ 4.8%; d = 0.24 distance
NCEG:
↑ 10.9%; d = 0.95 distance
CON:
↑ 0.4%; d = 0.05 distance
17
Thompson, Cobb, and Blackwell (54) INT n = 11
Males
CON n = 7
Males
70.7 ± 7.1 y
Recreational golfers
8 wk Functional training
Spinal stabilization
Balance training
Resistance training
1–3 8–15 BW INT:
↑ 4.9%; d = 0.33 CHS
CON:
↓ 0.9% CHS
18
Weston, Coleman, and Spears (62) INT n = 18
Males
CON n = 18
Males
47 ± 12 y
Recreational golfers
8 wk Resistance exercises:
Squat, bent leg curl, superman, supine bridge, prone bridge, quadruped, lunge, and side bridge
N/A N/A N/A INT:
↑ 1.7% CHS
15
*QS = quality score; INT = intervention; CON = control; DB = dumbbell; BB = barbell; RDL = Romanian deadlift; d = effect size; N/A = not available; CHS = clubhead speed; BM = body mass; RM = repetition maximum; SL = single leg; MB = medicine ball; SET = sling exercise training; CEG = core exercise group; NCEG = nondominant arm and core exercise group.
Standard deviation not available so effect size could not be calculated.

Nonspecific Training Methods

Thirteen studies used nonspecific resistance training methods varying in volume and intensity (16,18,27,29,32,37,44,45,49,52,56,62) (Table 2). For the 9 studies using high-repetition, low-load training, CHS increased an average of 0.9% (d = −0.26 to 0.59) and hitting distance improved an average of 4.1% (d = 0.24–0.95) (17,27,32,36,44,49,52,54,62). For the 5 studies including low-repetition, high-load strength training and explosive exercises, CHS increased an average of 3.3% (n = 4, d = 0.11 to 1.53) and hitting distance improved an average of 3.3% (n = 2, d = 0.31–1.22) (16,19,29,45,49).

Specific Training Methods

Only one study examined the effects of specific resistance training methods on hitting performance (10) (Table 3). Hitting distance improved 7.1% and CHS improved by 15.9% after an 8-week training program. Specific training had a large effect on CHS (d = 1.60) and moderate effect on hitting distance (d = 0.82).

Table 3 - Effects of specific resistance training methods on clubhead speed and hitting distance (n = 1).*
Study Subjects Duration Exercises Sets Reps Intensity Results QS
Choi, Kim, and Oh (10) INT n = 9
36.22 ± 5.91 y
CON n = 9
35.83 ± 9.01 y
Amateur golfers
No sex reported
8 wk Medicine ball exercise:
3-kg and 5-kg golf-specific throws
N/A 4-5 per minute N/A INT:
↑ 15.9%; d = 1.6 CHS
↑ 7.1%; d = 0.82 distance
CON:
↑ 1.4% CHS
↑ 1.5% distance
14
*QS = quality score; N/A = not available; d = effect size; CHS = clubhead speed.
Standard deviation not available so effect size could not be calculated.

Combined Training Methods

Seven studies examined the effectiveness of combined resistance training methods on either CHS or hitting distance (1,20,27,31,35,46,54) (Table 3). Clubhead speed improved 4.1% on average, ranging from 1.5 to 11.1%, whereas hitting distance improved 5.2% on average, ranging from 1.9 to 8.1%. Combined training had a moderate effect on CHS (d = 0.51), ranging from 0.17 to 1.41, and a moderate effect on hitting distance (d = 0.52), ranging from 0.13 to 0.89 (Table 4).

Table 4 - Effects of combined resistance training methods on clubhead speed and hitting distance (n = 7).*
Study Subjects Duration Exercises Sets Reps Intensity Results QS
Alvarez et al. (1) INT n = 5
Males
24.2 ± 5.4 y
CON n = 5
Males
23.9 ± 6.7 y
Low-handicap golfers
18 wk Maximal strength training:
Bench press, seated row, barbell squat, military press, calf extension, and triceps push-down
Explosive strength training:
Bench press + plyometric push-up, seated row machine + explosive pull-downs, barbell squat + vertical jumps, seated barbell military press, seated calf extension, and triceps cable push-down
Golf-specific strength training:
Weighted clubs and accelerated drives with tubing club system
3
3
3
5
6–10
10
85% 1RM
70% 1RM
INT (1st phase)
↑ 4.1%; d = 0.62 clubhead acceleration
INT (2nd phase)
↑ 2.7%; d = 0.43 clubhead acceleration
INT (3rd phase)
↑ 4.3%; d = 0.56 clubhead acceleration
INT (Overall)
↑ 11.1%; d = 1.41 clubhead acceleration
CON:
↑ 1.2%; d = 0.06 clubhead acceleration
19
Fletcher and Hartwell (20) INT n = 6
Males
CON n = 5
Males
29 ± 7.4 y
Club golfers
8 wk Resistance training:
Bench press, squat, single-arm row, lunge, shoulder press, upright row, abdominal crunch, back extension, and side bends
Medicine ball exercises (3 kg):
Seated horizontal twists, standing horizontal twists, standing back extension, and golf swing
3
3
6–8
8
N/A INT:
↑ 1.5%; d = 0.31 CHS
↑ 4.3%; d = 0.63 distance
CON:
↑ 0.5%; d = 0.04 CHS
↓ 0.7%; d = −0.08 distance
18
Hegedus et al. (27) n = 14
Females
57.6 ± 3.7 y
Amateur golfers
No CON group
10 wk Golf-specific resistance exercises:
Back extension, cable wrist flexion/pronation, standing cable diagonal chop, 1-arm/1-leg cable bench press, standing lat pull-down, shoulder shrugs, 1-arm/1-leg cable row, 1-leg Russian deadlift, lateral plyometrics, and standing cable hip abduction
3 10 N/A Driver
↑ 2.0%; d = 0.20 CHS
↑ 1.9%; d = 0.13 distance
7-Iron
↑ 7.2%; d = 0.60 CHS
↑ 7.6%; d = 0.50 distance
14
Kim (31) INT n = 9
Females
22.9 ± 3.7 y
CON n = 8
Females
21.8 ± 4.4 y
Professional golfers
12 wk Part 1 (home exercise):
Tubing deadlift, tubing squat, incline crunch, gymnasium ball back extension, leg raise, tubing hip abduction, total body twist, kneeling rollout, and medicine ball rotations
Part 2 (fitness club exercise):
Deadlift, squat, incline crunch, hyper extension, body turning, hip abduction, cable crunch, kneeling rollout, and 3-kg medicine ball swing
3
3
12–14
12–14
60–70% 1RM INT:
↑ 3.5%; d = 0.63 CHS
↑ 4.3%; d = 0.89 distance
CON:
↓ 1.96%; d = −0.56 CHS
↑ 0.47%; d = 0.11 distance
15
Lephart et al. (35) n = 15
Males
47.2 ± 11.4 y
Trained golfers
No CON group
8 wk Resistance exercises:
Hip abduction/adduction, scapular retraction, resisted backswings, resisted downswings, resisted through-swings, and crunches
Balance exercises:
Static front squat, single-leg stances on floor, and single-leg stances on foam pad
Stretching exercises:
Supine hip flexion, prone torso flexion, kneeling lunge, seated hip rotation, seated torso rotation, seated torso rotation with club, and standing lateral bending
3
1
1
10–15
30 s
30 s
N/A ↑ 5.2%; d = 0.61 CHS
↑ 6.8%; d = 0.65 distance
15
Parker et al. (46) IK n = 10 (6 males, 4 females)
22.0 ± 4.0 y
IT n = 10 (7 males, 3 females)
22.0 ± 4.0 y
Intercollegiate golfers
No CON group
9 wk IK exercises:
Isokinetic and isometric exercises performed with free weights and body mass, isokinetic standing rotation golf swing, and loaded isokinetic squat
IT exercises:
Isotonic and isometric exercises performed with free weights and body mass and ballistic rotation exercises
3
N/A
5
N/A
N/A IK:
↑ 1.7%; d = 0.17 CHS
↑ 8.1%; d = 0.59 distance
IT:
↑ 1.9%; d = 0.18 CHS
↑ 3.6%; d = 0.28 distance
14
Thompson & Osness (56) INT n = 19
Males
64.3 ± 6.2 y
CON n = 12
Males
66.2 ± 5.9 y
Recreational golfers
8 wk Resistance exercises:
Chest press, leg press, biceps curl, lat pull-down, abdominal crunch, leg extension, seated row, shoulder press, leg curl, and back extension
Flexibility exercises:
Lateral trunk side bends, chest muscle stretch, posterior and inferior shoulder, back extensor, quadriceps, hamstring, angry cat, and lateral trunk rotations
Weighted swings:
1.3 kg slow and controlled swing
1
1
1
12
20–30 s
10
80% 10RM INT:
↑ 2.5% CHS
CON:
↓ 0.6% CHS
17
*QS = quality score; INT = intervention; CON = control; d = effect size; CHS = clubhead speed; IK = isokinetic; IT = isotonic, N/A = not available.
Standard deviation not available so effect size could not be calculated.
Calculated from the end of training program, before a 5-week washout period.

Discussion

This review was the first to examine the effectiveness of different nonspecific, specific, and combined training methods on CHS and hitting distance. Clubhead speed and hitting distance were found to mostly improve regardless of training type. However, preferential responses were apparent between training methods.

There were mixed results regarding the effect of nonspecific resistance training on hitting performance. Training programs using weightlifting movements or suspension systems showed improvements of CHS in collegiate and youth golfers (45,49), whereas similar traditional resistance training methods had negative effects on CHS in male and female collegiate golfers, despite increases in leg and chest strength (32,45). This suggests that although there is a positive relationship between strength and CHS (23,30), gaining strength alone may not necessarily result in improved hitting performance.

Three of the 13 studies using traditional resistance training methods observed decreases in CHS (27,32,37), so the lack of kinematically specific exercises and velocities may have influenced the magnitude of performance gains (45). For example, Loock et al. (37) observed a small decrease in CHS after 12 weeks of COREPOWER machine training (2 by 3-minute sessions, 3 times per week), which only allows movement through a sagittal plane (37). Furthermore, several studies also used single-joint, open-chain exercises, such as leg curls and leg extensions. On the other hand, several studies reported greater CHS or hitting distance after performing multijoint free-weight exercises such as squat, deadlift, bench press, and weightlifting derivatives (16,17,19,27,45,61), supporting nonspecific training as a means to improve sport performance. Given the diversity of exercise selection and inconsistencies in the program design, it is unclear which nonspecific method is optimal for enhancing predictors of golf performance. However, a golf swing is a closed-chain, multijoint movement, so resistance training should incorporate similar exercises for maximum transfer to hitting performance.

Specificity of movement and speed is critical for training methods to transfer to the desired sporting task. Hitting distance improved after 8 weeks of training with a 3- and 5-kg medicine ball, mimicking a golf swing as the ball is released. Specific training may have the highest transfer to golf-specific performance, provided the previous suggestions that training at a specific velocity improves strength primarily at that velocity (14). High-velocity, low-load movements, such as golf-specific medicine ball training used by Choi, Kim, and Oh (10), seem to enable strength gains in biomechanically similar movement patterns to the golf swing, subsequently enhancing performance.

Unfortunately, this is the only standalone specific resistance training study available in golf. The INT group in another study (1) also improved clubhead acceleration after performing golf-specific resistance training using weight clubs and a band-resisted drive system for a 6-week phase but was part of an 18-week progressive training program. The lack of literature on the effects of specific resistance training methods highlights the need for future research into other specific methods. Specifically, further research is needed using wearable resistance because it provides an easy method to incrementally load certain body segments and has been shown to improve other complex athletic activities (39,40).

Subjects in the combined training method studies range from amateur to professional level and range in age from 22 to 65 years. Of the 7 combined resistance training studies, 3 have used an air-resisted device, elastic tubing, or cable pulley system to mimic the golf swing (27,35,46), 2 used medicine ball throws to replicate swing movement (20,31), and 2 used weighted clubs (1,54). Combining traditional exercises such as bench press, lat pull-downs, and Romanian deadlifts with pulley machine–resisted golf swings lead to the greatest improvements in CHS for recreational golfers older than 47 years (27,35). The study by Alvarez et al. (1), which had the greatest training effects, included 3 training blocks of 6 weeks, each with a different focus: maximal strength training and golf-specific strength training. This study also included a CON group that performed basic resistance training exercises once a week and core stability training once a week throughout the 18-week intervention, but the improvements in clubhead acceleration were much smaller compared with the INT group. This suggests a long-term approach using phase potentiation is most beneficial for improving hitting performance.

Given that high-load and high-velocity resistance training uniquely affect muscle morphology (57) and different components of the force-velocity curve (14,15), using a combination of both slow and fast exercises may enable strength training to transfer to golfing performance. For example, strength training can be used to increase maximal force production capabilities through increases in physiological cross-sectional area of muscles (58), whereas high-velocity exercises (e.g., medicine ball rotations, elastic swings with tubing, or cable pulley swings) may enhance the neural determinants, such as intramuscular and intermuscular coordination (64), subsequently enabling increased swing performance (14). However, this postulate requires further investigation because no studies have looked at the effects of combined training using golf-specific methods on muscle architecture or mechanics.

Training load is the interaction between training volume and intensity. This metric is used to guide exercise prescription and plays an integral role on adaptations to strength (41,51). Training programs aimed at improving golf-specific performance have used one to 6 sets ranging from 2 to 25 repetitions (1,10,16,18–20,27,29,31,35,37,44–46,49,52,54,56,62). These set and rep schemes are tailored for adaptations to power (45), maximal strength (1,19,20,44,46), hypertrophy (16,18,27,29,31,45,49), and strength endurance (32,35,52,54).

For nonspecific strength training, using one to 4 sets of less than 12 reps show the best average results for CHS (16,18,19,27,29,45,49,56,62), whereas programs using 15 reps or more had the least amount of transfer. Studies examining the effect of combined training methods on CHS and hitting distance used 3 sets with rep ranges between 5 to 15 (1,20,27,31,35,46,54), with sets up to 15 repetitions having the greatest average effect on CHS performance. Given that combined training includes golf-specific movements, the high repetition range may improve swing technique, whereas sets with lower repetitions improve the athlete's kinetic profile. Two studies, including the only specific training study, did not report the set and repetition schemes (10,62).

Given the inverse relationship between load and volume, it is also important to consider whether there is an optimal training intensity that transfers to predictors of golf performance. Of the 20 available studies, only 6 reported training intensity. Five studies using nonspecific training methods reported intensities from body mass up to 100% one repetition maximum (1RM) (16,19,45,49,52,54), 3 studies using combined training methods used intensities from 60% of 10RM to 85% 1RM (1,31,56), and there was no intensity reported for the only specific training study. There were no distinguishable differences regarding intensity between nonspecific and combined strength training methods. However, using relatively low repetitions allows for greater intensities to be used and maintained, which allows for greater gains in strength and power (53).

Intervention length ranged between 6 and 18 weeks. Strength transfers from the training programs were the least effective for 6-week and 12-week interventions. The most effective training duration was 8 weeks, where CHS increases ranged from 2.0 to 16.0% (10,16,20,27,29,35,52,55,56,62) and hitting distance improved between 1.9 and 10.9% (10,16,20,27,29,35,52,55,56,62). These findings suggest that training adaptations to hitting performance are influenced by intervention duration. A novel training stimulus may elicit improvements in neuromuscular coordination and strength in the early periods of training; however, as subjects accumulate training experience, training intensity must be continually increased to elicit strength adaptations.

When assessing the influence of intervention duration on hitting performance, it is important to consider the types of training used for different intervention lengths. For example, the only 6-week training intervention used nonspecific training, so readers should consider the limitations due to limited research in this area (32). Studies between 9 and 18 weeks used either nonspecific or combined training methods, resulting in improvements in CHS ranging from 0.5% (12 weeks) to 2.4% (9 weeks) and hitting distance from 4.3% (12 weeks) to 6.0% (10 weeks). Interestingly, 8 weeks of training was still the most effective for both CHS and hitting distance, regardless of training type.

With only a single study investigating the adaptations associated with a full training cycle for golf-specific strength and power (1), it is problematic to extrapolate these findings for general strength and conditioning purposes. Despite the lack of investigation into periodized training for golf performance, previous literature supports the effectiveness of periodized training programs on general strength and power adaptations, which can improve CHS and hitting distance (24,25). Based on the available evidence, programs as short as 8 weeks may cause meaningful changes in hitting performance. Given the variety of study designs and training methods, there is still uncertainty regarding optimal training duration.

Different training methods result in improved neuromuscular capabilities, which transfer to golfing performance. However, subject's characteristics may influence the level of adaptations depending on age, sex, and skill level.

Age is a factor that may influence the effectiveness of strength training interventions (34). However, the effectiveness of strength training on hitting performance of golfers of different ages has not been previously investigated. The available literature examined a large range of subjects, spanning from 15 to 76 years. Golfers younger than 30 years had lower improvements than golfers aged between 30 and 50 years. Furthermore, golfers aged between 50 and 70 years had greater improvements than golfers younger than 30 years but had lesser improvements than those aged 30–50 years. In the only study that examined athletes older than 70 years, nonspecific training improved CHS almost 5% (54). One possible explanation for the greatest transfer of strength to hitting performance in 30- to 50-year-old golfers is that resistance exercise can minimize or negate the onset of connective tissue stiffening in this age group (5), enabling a more effective transfer from elastic musculotendinous structures (63). Furthermore, better golfers tend to be younger, which may affect the amount of improvement from a training program and account for the relatively small improvements in CHS and hitting distance. Based on these results, 30- to 50-year-old golfers have the greatest improvements in hitting performance after resistance training, and combined training should be used to optimize strength transfers to golf performance for golfers younger than 70 years. However, readers should be aware that no studies have yet investigated specific strength training methods for golfers younger than 30 years or older than 50 years or the effects of combined training on golfers older than 70 years.

Previous research has established that both men and women can increase muscle size and strength from resistance training; however, it is unclear if there are sex-specific adaptations from the same training stimulus (48). Specifically, it is unclear how sex differences influence strength training adaptations and CHS and hitting distance. Twelve of the 20 studies investigated the effects on male golfers (1,10,16,18–20,32,35,37,52,54,62), 3 investigated female golfers (18,27,31), and 5 used a combination without distinguishing the results between sexes (29,44–46,56). Overall, men and women responded similarly to the different training programs. In addition, when the only specific training study was removed from analysis (10), regardless of sex, combined resistance training methods resulted in greater relative strength transfers to CHS and hitting distance compared with nonspecific strength training methods. However, no study has examined the effects of specific resistance training on CHS and hitting distance in female athletes and only one is available in men, so research in this area is sparse.

Another important factor to consider when examining the current literature is the skill level of the subjects. Because experienced and professional golfers exhibit more efficient biomechanics (67), it is likely that strength from resistance training may transfer more efficiently to predictors of golf performance (1,52). This is supported by findings that experienced and professional golfers with handicaps less than 10 report the largest gains in both CHS and hitting distance (1,31,35,52) compared with less skilled amateur and recreational golfers. Furthermore, less skilled golfers respond more positively to combined resistance training methods than nonspecific strength training for both CHS and hitting distance. This may be partially explained by providing more practice to simulate the sequencing of segments in a golf swing, such as swings with a medicine ball or cable. Over time, the specific training may aid in improving swing technique, whereas the nonspecific training allows for greater force and power production from the muscles.

Finally, although specific training was the most effective method for experienced or professional golfers, there were no studies that investigated the effectiveness of nonspecific strength training on CHS in experienced or professional golfers. This highlights the need for research examining strength training in higher-level golfers. Furthermore, the available literature suggests that less skilled golfers should be prescribed combined strength training methods to enhance performance and skilled golfers should use specific and combined training to maximize their golfing performance.

A lack of relevant studies examining resistance training for golf highlights several limitations and areas for future research. First, there is a glaring lack of research investigating specific training methods on CHS and hitting distance. The one study in this area featured amateur golfers 30+ years training for 8 weeks using 3- and 5-kg medicine ball exercises. Although the improvements in CHS and hitting distance were promising, further research in younger, more skilled golfers and longer interventions with specific resistance training is needed.

Another limitation in the available literature is the lack in female subjects. Only 8 of the 20 studies used female subjects and often in smaller numbers than the men. Given the differences in anthropometrics and physiology, further research is warranted to determine whether and how resistance training for golf should differ between men and women.

Finally, intervention length varied greatly, with most training programs lasting 8 weeks of less. Given that golf is a sport typically played year-round, more long-term interventions are needed as resistance training can be performed alongside other forms of training with proper integration. In addition to the lack of literature, one limitation of the systematic review procedure was the focus on CHS and hitting distance, specifically. Furthermore, there was a high level of heterogeneity in the studies regarding the age, skill level, sex, and type of exercises used. Practitioners should be cognizant of this when interpreting the effectiveness of different training methods in this review.

Collectively, resistance training positively affects golf CHS and hitting distance, but adaptations vary depending on the type of training (1,9,18,20,22,29,31,35,56,62). The variation in results is indicative of the training stimulus offered, as greater improvements to CHS and hitting performance are seen when higher degrees of movement specificity are integrated into the training program through ballistic methods (10,27,35,46). Regardless of sex or skill level, using a combination of nonspecific and golf-specific training seems to enhance CHS and hitting performance more than nonspecific strength training. Although evidence is limited, the one study investigating exercises kinematically similar to a golf swing resulted in improved hitting performance; however, more research is needed to substantiate this type of training. In addition, compound movements (i.e., jump type movements, upper-body pressing, and pulling) with higher velocities (ballistic, high velocities) and moderate loads (i.e., maximal power training) should be incorporated to maximize effectiveness.

Program duration and training load prescription are integral variables to any training program and facilitate specific neuromuscular adaptations. Neuromuscular training adaptations may improve hitting performance in as little as 8 weeks. Furthermore, using 3–4 sets of 5–15 repetitions are recommended because they have the largest effect on increasing CHS and hitting distance. Unfortunately, the lack of reporting from the available literature leaves little understanding regarding which intensity is most effective. Nonetheless, strength endurance training does not seem to transfer to golfing performance. Therefore, it is recommended that strength and conditioning practitioners use a combination of either neuronal schemes (e.g., 85–100% 1RM) with one to 6 repetitions per set or hypertrophic schemes (e.g., 60–80% 1RM) with rep ranges between 8 to 12 per set (13), alongside low-load ballistic training with medicine balls, pulleys, or elastic tubing.

When designing golf-specific strength and conditioning programs, strength and conditioning professionals should consider subject's age (biological age and training age), skill level, and flexibility. A progressive, periodized approach should be used, where exercise technique and base strength are developed before undertaking maximal power-based movements. Although evidence is limited, rotational training may provide greater benefit than traditional sagittal or frontal plane movements. Furthermore, maximal power and ballistic type movements should be integrated into any golf-specific program. However, explosive movements such as Olympic lifts require high levels of joint stabilization and mobility and may not be appropriate for all age and skill levels unless expert coaching is provided. Of note, the effectiveness of training could be dependent on the performance metric of interest. For example, CHS is primarily a product of force production, whereas ball distance is affected by clubhead angle and ball trajectory. If clubhead angle and ball trajectory remain unchanged, greater CHS would result in greater drive distances. Hence, although resistance training may improve force production and CHS, optimizing swing technique is paramount for overall golf performance.

Practical Applications

Strength and conditioning coaches should aim to follow best practice and implement resistance training programs based on subject ability and training goal. When training golfers, exercises should be multijoint movements, similar to a golf swing, an intention to move with high velocity, or load the trunk safely (33). Such protocols may improve muscular kinetics such as PF that transfer to golf swing kinematics and CHS (1,11). Thus, practitioners working with an elite cohort should use low repetition sets to allow for high movement velocity of biomechanically similar movements. In addition, a long-term program with phases that build upon each other, transitioning from general to specific training over time, may be most effective to improve CHS and hitting distance. Finally, given the limited research regarding the utility of specific strength training for predictors of golf performance, future investigations should aim to explore the effectiveness of golf-specific resistance training using novel training protocols, such as wearable resistance, on CHS and hitting distance. Further research investing the influence of training load and intervention length, as well as subject's age, sex, and skill level may provide further insights into resistance training prescription to improve CHS and hitting distance.

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Keywords:

driver distance; golf performance; strength training; specificity; golfing

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