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eeping Fit

Should Golfers Do Strength Exercise?

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series

All of the strength exercises were performed on Nautilus machines, and included leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses, chest crosses, chest presses, super pullovers, lateral raises, biceps curls, triceps extensions, back extensions, abdominal curls, neck flexions, neck extensions, weight-assisted chin-ups, and weight-assisted bar dips. The participants performed each exercise for one set of 8 to 12 repetitions, and added approximately 5 percent more resistance whenever 12 repetitions were completed. Working in a circuit training protocol, the subjects required less than 30 minutes to complete the strength exercises.

All of the stretching exercises were performed on the StretchMate apparatus, and involved six stretches specific to the hip, trunk, and shoulder areas. Each stretched position was held for at least one minute. The six stretching exercises were completed in less than 10 minutes, making the total training time approximately 40 minutes per session.

The subjects of this study (average age 57 years) trained three days per week, and attended 82 percent of their scheduled sessions. They participated in small classes (4 or 5 members each) conducted by the same instructor. It should be noted that the subjects did not practice golf during the course of the study, which took place in Boston during January and February.

Immediately before and after the eight-week training program, each participant's maximum swing speed was carefully assessed by means of a radar monitoring device (Swing Mate by Beltronics). After several warm-up swings, we recorded the average club head speed for five maximum-effort drives into a golf net. We also evaluated each subject for body weight, body composition, muscle strength, joint flexibility, and resting blood pressure.

Study Results
The results of this study were similar to our initial investigation, and were highly encouraging to the program participants. As shown in Table 1, the golfers increased their club head speed by 5 miles per hour. Without even practicing golf, two months of strengthening and stretching exercises produced a 6 percent improvement in their driving power. Because the true test of performance enhancement is on the fairways, we were pleased that the golfers reported consistently longer drives during the 1995 playing season.

Just as important as their increased swing speed, the subjects experienced significant improvements in all of their fitness assessments. As presented in Table 1, they improved their body composition by about 2 percent, lost 3 pounds of fat weight, added 4 pounds of lean (muscle) weight, increased their muscle strength 56 percent, enhanced their shoulder and hip flexibility an average 24 percent, reduced their systolic blood pressure 7 mm Hg and reduced their diastolic blood pressure 3 mm Hg. To say the least, these changes represent impressive fitness improvements from a basic program of strength and flexibility exercise.

Table 1. Changes in club head speed and selected fitness measures for the exercise subjects (N=17).

Variable Before After Change % Change

Club Head Speed (mph) 82.4 87.4 +5.0* +6%
Bodyweight (lbs.) 183.9 185.0 +1.1 0%
Percent Fat (%) 24.5 22.9 -1.6* -7%
Fat Weight (lbs.) 45.3 42.3 -3.0* -7%
Lean Weight (lbs.) 138.5 142.6 +4.1* +3 %
Muscle Strength (lbs.) 58.1 90.0 +31.9* +56 %
Shoulder Abduction (Deg.) 166.6 178.5 +11.9* +7 %
Hip Flexion (Deg.) 75.8 92.1 +16.3* +22 %
Hip Extension (Deg.) 18.1 26.1 +8.0* +43 %
Systolic Blood Pressure (mm Hg) 140.9 133.5 -7.4* -5%
Diastolic Blood Pressure (mm Hg) 83.2 80.5 -2.7 -3%

* Statistically significant (p<.01)
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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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