Blog By Dr John Cronin
First up, I am the first to admit that I am not a golfer. In fact, I play once every 3-4 years and I call my style, recovery golf. I drive and I spend the rest of the hole trying to recover. So why this blog, and what right have I discussing golf with people so much more learned than myself. Well, where I want to come from is that I do know a little about wearable resistance (WR) and the biomechanics behind it. And I do think it can be beneficial to golf players. So where I would like to come from is a place where I am really comfortable, that is discussing some findings and applications of a study that has been recently published using WR.
The purpose of this research was to explore the effects of wearable resistance on golf swing club head speed (CHS) and flight distance. Five female golfers with an averaged handicap of 4, performed a series of golf shots with and without wearable resistance of 1.6 kg (this equated to about 2.8% of their body mass) attached laterally to the posterior trail side of the body. You can see how we loaded the players below.
What we did then was to set up a Flightscope launch monitor as per the manufacturer’s instructions behind a force plate. The launch monitor measures a number of variables and we were interested in CHS and flight distance. The force plate measures the ground reaction forces at the feet associated with the swing. This would help us to see if the loading changed the forces in any manner.
So the players did a warm-up and then either hit 10 unloaded or 10 loaded (~1.6 kg of WR) shots with their own 6 iron. What we found was when the players were loaded with WR, on average there were statistically significant increases in CHS (3.5%), flight distance (7.0%), relative vertical ground reaction forces (11.4%, lead side) and relative mediolateral ground reaction forces (7.1%, trail side) as compared to the unloaded condition.
How do we explain these improvements – this is where you can help? We speculated that:
1) there is more mass in the system, the golfers 2.8% heavier, and therefore this additional mass combined with movement velocity results in additional momentum (momentum = mass x velocity) in the system, which if stroke mechanics stay consistent should be transferred to the ball; and,
2) related to this was the additional load from the WR positioned posteriorly and laterally on the trail side of the body may have assisted with increases in ground reaction force (GRF) and weight transfer from the trail to the lead side resulting in a significant greater CHS and flight distance.
The increases in vertical GRF were interesting and we found with reading that increasing the peak vertical GRF on lead side before impact was considered a beneficial movement sequence for a golf swing contributing to faster CHS. After lead foot initiation and subsequent increases in vertical GRF, proximal-to-distal sequencing of the pelvis, ribcage and arm occur, each successive segment (large to small) accelerating in an incremental manner, which results in increased CHS at impact.
So what does this all mean:
1) It seems that WR did not negatively influence the golf shot
2) Although the golf swing is often considered to be primarily an upper-body activity, a portion of the power of the swing is derived from the lower body, therefore, the loading of the lower body can effect performance positively
3) These finding could influence how you might want to train body parts/anthropometry for better performance.
At the same time, as with any new knowledge or technology, there seems to be a lot of opportunity to explore different applications of WR in golf, like:
1) Is there better effects with a driver or other clubs?
2) Does training with such loading result in a better kinaesthetic awareness of weight transfer and/or lead to long term adaptation i.e. hitting further?
3) What influence would loading the arms have?
There are most likely a heap more ways that WR can drive better golf performance (excuse the pun), but I’ll leave it for people much more learned than myself.
Dr. John Cronin is recognised internationally as one of the world’s leading sports scientists. He is a Professor of Strength and Conditioning at Auckland University of Technology’s Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand. As our Head of Research, Dr. Cronin oversees all EXOGEN® wearable resistance research globally.
The Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) is New Zealand’s number one rated sports research institute with a growing global reputation. SPRINZ is a group of dynamic and innovative researchers producing applied research in improving human health, sports performance and long-term athletic development.