Ivan Morris Column - Gym work plays big role for golfers

Ivan Morris Column - Gym work plays big role for golfers

STRONG and flexible bodies honed in the gym help golfers keep up with the competition

In days of yore, golf cynics were having some tongue-in-cheek fun when they said: There are only three ways to improve your scores: practice; take lessons or cheat. Practice is all very well but it's a hit-or-miss approach and it is often misguided.

Lessons can be helpful as long as you have a knowledgeable coach whom you can trust.

These days a fourth option has come sharply into play - to stay up with the competition and be able to hit the ball a long way, your body must be strong and flexible. To achieve this one needs to train. It's why so many top golfers today spend so much time in the gym.

To be told that such a slow-moving, non-contact pursuit is harsh on the body is a surprise. There is hardly a golfer of any ability who hasn’t experienced injury and chronic pain on occasions.

The left knee is a golfer's most vulnerable pressure point because it acts as a kind of shock absorber.

A lot of high speed twisting and turning takes place during the golf swing, which can lead to various neck, wrist and shoulder strains.

To avoid worse injury, gym work needs to be supervised. That's why I was lucky to meet 3rd Year Strength and Conditioning student at the Institute of Technology Carlow, Cathal O'Neill, who works part-time at Ballyneety Golf Club.

With the approval of Head Professional, Donal McSweeney, Cathal has a burgeoning Sports Performance Practice, SwingStrong Performance, up and running at Ballyneety Driving Range and Citygym Limerick, Sexton Street where he is inspiring Limerick golf athletes to reach their full potential.

Cathal plays off 5-handicap and is a member of the IT Carlow and Ballyneety golf teams as well as being their S&C Coach.On completion of his S&C degree, he will pursue the Titleist Performance Institute certification.

IM - Why is Strength & Conditioning so important for golfers?

CON - The golf swing is one of the most powerful movements in sport. Golfers are athletes. They should eat, sleep, train, prepare and think as athletes.

Golfers must be educated on the importance of proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, training and mindset. There are proven reasons for strength and conditioning being essential to any top golfers chances of success and wellbeing. 1)-it prevents injury. 2)-gain significant shot distance. 3)-more consistent and accurate shots from the fairway and rough. 4)-improves one's chances of competing at elite levels. 5)-helps golfers reach peak performance consistently. 5)-when you are fitter, you don't tire as easily and you can concentrate and focus better. 6)-improves your feelings of wellbeing and overall lifestyle.

IM - How does one go about strength and conditioning training for golf?

CON - To own an efficient and powerful swing, both swing biomechanics and physical function need to be in top shape. The Titleist Performance Institute coined the term Body/Swing Connection in relation to connecting the body to the swing, the swing to the body and how they affect and influence each other.

To do this we must assess the players swing and record movement patterns and swing faults in each individual. Then we must assess the player’s movement capabilities and physical limitations using a number of exercises and tests.

From both these assessments, I can identify movement deficiencies and limitations in the body and the swing, which can then be corrected with suitable training.

IM - What exactly do you do?

CON - To correct postural and movement deficiencies within each player, a strength and mobility program is developed to strengthen weaknesses and mobilize tightness in the body, everything is focused on general movement patterns and you won’t see my clients doing “golfish” exercises.

I can't underemphasize the importance of warming-up, pre-shot routines, proper nutritional and hydration habits. Practicing these creates a winning mindset that I can reinforce through psychological and mental drills.

It is paramount to be taught correct and safe techniques in all exercises while receiving monthly updates on progress in the gym programme.

My aim is to educate and help people understand the importance and benefits of S&C in relation to golf. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit!” – Aristotle

Anyone worried about a sore lower-back or just looking to generate power in their swing will find a series of sessions with SwingStrong Performance very helpful and useful - guaranteed!

As Tiger Woods informed us all not so long ago, the muscle group surrounding your backside region (glutes) is extremely important for not only your golf game but also your overall health.

Active, strong glutes not only help to generate incredible amounts of power in the downswing but are also a major contributor to injury prevention and postural restoration. Having active and strong glutes are of immense value to serious golfers.

Golfers who do not follow a proper S&C regimen will have no chance of succeeding in the months and years ahead. For more information, you can contact Cathal at (cathaloneill@swingstrongperformance.com or see www.swingstrongperformance.com)

“A lot of high speed twisting and turning takes place during the golf swing which can lead to golfers suffering various neck, wrist and shoulder strains.”