No matter how great a shape we are in, our bodies all experience physiological changes as we age. These changes typical result is a loss of strength and power that makes it more challenging to maintain a high degree of performance when playing sports.
Virtually all golfers over the age of 50 begin to notice a drop in their ability to hit the ball for distance. While there are strength-training exercises you can do to put some of the lost power back into your swing, you must bear in mind that results are specific to training. Simply put, to see improvement in your swing, you must use strength-training exercises that engage the exact same muscles you use when swinging your golf clubs.
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Swing a golf club requires compound accelerating and decelerating, high-velocity movements. Flexibility, upper and lower-body and core-muscle strength are essential for a stable, smooth and efficient swing. Even though general weight-training exercises will help you stay fit, being able to bench press twice your body weight isn’t going to improve your golf swing all that much.
Strengthening Muscle After 50
Golf is commonly played by middle age, and older, adults. Without some form of resistance training, people will lose about one percent of their muscle mass each year as a natural part of the aging process. This process, known as sarcopenia, can cause a golfer to lose 10 percent of swing power every 10 years, if left unchecked.
It was once believed that people over the age of 40 could not build new muscle cells, but many studies have proven this not to be the case. One recent study, designed specifically for golfers, measured golf-club head speed and driving distance of eleven male golfers over the age of 50. Measurements were taken both before and after an eight-week training program.
The experimental group consisted of six participants and the control group had five. Each member of the experimental group preformed weight- and plyometric-training exercises two days a week. The exercises were designed to work the same muscles involved in swinging a golf club. The control group continued with their normal training routines.
The experimental group performed plyometric exercises and free-weight resistance training and the control group preformed cardio and light resistance training on weight machines. At the conclusion of the eight-week study the control group demonstrated no improvements. However, the experimental group showed an average improvement of 1.5 percent, equating to an average increase of almost five yards in driving distance.
Another study focused on club-head speed of 18 male golfers averaging 71 years of age. Participants were randomly assigned to a control or experimental group for an eight-week period. The subjects in the experimental group performed mobility, stability, core, balance, resistance and power exercises. The experimental group did not engage in any training outside their normal routines. All subjects were instructed not to engage in golf lessons during the study. The experimental group demonstrated significant gains in golf-club head speed, averaging five percent per subject, whereas the control group showed a slight decrease.
Resistance Training to Increase Swing Power
There are a number of factors that can slowly down new tissue growth, such as age-related hormonal changes, a poor diet and a decrease in activity. While many of these factors are typical age related, most of these issues can also be mitigated.
Power involves components of speed and force, or strength. Humans, and most other animals, have two types of muscle fibers. Type I, or slow-twitch, fibers enable people to perform endurance exercises, like walking or running great distances. Type II, or fast-twitch, fibers are used for powerful bursts of movements, like swinging a golf club. However, fast-twitch fibers fatigue quickly.
The speed the muscles contract at can be reduced by as much as 25 percent in older adults. Getting slow-twitch fibers to fire can become more difficult as we age for several reasons. The ability to tense, or contract, the muscles decreases as the body ages, and this typically occurs in both fast- and slow-twitch fibers. Additionally, motor neurons that send and receive signals to and from the brain can also lose efficiency.
When trying to increase power and speed for any specific movement you must perform an exercise that precisely simulates the motion you wish to achieve improvement for. For golf, you will need to perform a resistance-training exercise that uses the same motion and engages the same muscles as swinging a golf club.
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While some loss of power is an inevitable part of getting older, engaging in a well-structured performance-based training program can slow the decline significantly. Plyometrics are exercises designed to exert the maximum amount of muscle force in a short time interval with the goal of increasing speed and strength. These types of exercises are best performed with a kettle ball, medicine ball or on a cable-weight machine with a short bar attached. These exercises will allow you to apply resistance while replicating the motion of your golf swing and will be the most effective at developing swing power for golfers over 50. However, it is important to note, muscle tears tend to become more common and severe as people age, so be sure you are properly and thoroughly warmed up before engaging in any sudden or explosive movements.
About the Author
Tim Reilly loves spending time on the golf course which is not surprising, but he also enjoys writing about it. He created At The Tee to help people discover new courses, fine tune their game, and find the right products.