Golf Performance After the Age of Fifty
Golf fitness exercises and training can be very beneficial for the mature golfer. There is no doubt the aging process affects the body and in turn adversely effects the golf swing. The aging process decreases mobility, limits flexibility, negates strength, and lowers power outputs. All which are crucial components in the execution of the golf swing.
The good news is there is help: certain steps can be taken to alleviate these symptoms of the aging process. For example, modifications in equipment can help, changes on the mechanics of your swing can be of great assistance, and the implementation of a golf fitness program can be of immense assistance as well. These three steps can assist in returning your swing to a level previously achieved or even improve your game to a level higher than ever before. In order for this to occur, the mature player must remember it is a combination of all three of these parameters; equipment, swing mechanics, and golf fitness training working seamlessly together.
Looking at the golf fitness side of game improvement in your fifties, a few important statistics may provide some relatively to the importance of golf exercises for game improvement. First and foremost, research indicates after the age of 25, the body looses muscle mass at approximately 1% a year. This decreases both the strength and power outputs of the neuromuscular system. If nothing is done to improve both the strength and power outputs of the body by the time an individual is 50 years old they will have lost 25% of their muscle mass.
Why is this statistic important relative to the game of golf?
In order to execute each phase of the golf swing efficiently, the neuromuscular system must have certain levels of strength. This allows the golfer to maintain a fixed spine angle, execute the postural position required in the swing, and generate speed. Basically, a loss of strength equates to the loss of stability in the golf swing affecting every phase of the swing from taking away to finish.
A second component of the aging process relative to the golf swing is mobility and flexibility. Mobility is a combination of both joint range of motion and flexibility. Joint range of motion concerns itself with the actual articular structure of the joint (i.e. skeletal structures), and flexibility has to do with extensibility of muscle tissue surrounding the joint.
The aging process decreases the extensibility of muscular tissues thus causing tightness in the muscular system and decreased mobility in the joint system. Both of these conditions are detrimental to the golf swing. The mechanics of the swing requires mobility within the joint system and flexibility within the muscular system. This allows for the requirement of drawing the club through a large range motion to be met by the body. If mobility is limited and “tightness” exists within the muscular system compensations within the swing will occur in an attempt to execute the mechanics of the golf swing correctly.
It is unfortunate the aging process results in the aforementioned negative affects on the golf swing, but as stated previously, steps can be taken to address such situations and prevent decreased performances on the golf course. These steps on the “physical side” of the equation are contained within a golf fitness program.
A golf fitness program for the mature player will address the negative affects of the aging process through the development of the required levels of mobility, flexibility, stability, strength, and power required to execute the mechanics of the golf swing correctly.
Dissection of this formula for performance improvement through golf fitness training for the mature player breaks down the process into the development of “five physical pillars” within the body. The pillars are as follows: flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, and power. The cohesive development of these physical parameters creates the opportunity of developing sound swing mechanics.
To improve performance, remove physical years from the body, and prevent injury in your game, it is necessary to develop the “five physical pillars” of the swing. Additionally, the golfer must address them on order: beginning with flexibility, moving onto balance, and completing the sequence with power training. Following this suggested progression allows for the proper synthesis of developing the body in relation to the biomechanics of the swing.
To better understand this process let us review each of the “five physical pillars” of the golf swing. The first pillar is flexibility. Flexibility refers to range of motion. If can be defined as the optimal extensibility of all soft tissues in the body (Michael Clark, Director: National Academy of Sports Medicine) To allow the golfer to swing the club on the correct plane, every muscle in the body must allow for optimal joint range of motion.
The second “physical pillar” is balance. Balance is the ability of the neuromuscular system to maintain proper alignment, center of gravity, and coordinate the body during biomechanical movements (Gray Cook, PT). Throughout the entire golf swing, it is necessary for the golfer to maintain the proper spine angle, create weight transfer, and coordinate muscular movements. To perform this properly, you must be able to maintain balance of the body as a unit and control your extremities (i.e. arms and legs).
Strength is the third pillar. It is defined as the ability of your body to exert the required levels of force to perform the functional movement at hand. (Michael Clark, Integrated Training for the New Millennium, 369) In order to execute every phase of the golf swing efficiently and effectively, a certain level of postural strength is required. This allows your body to correctly sequence the muscular contractions required of the swing, maintain your spine angle, and generate power.
The fourth pillar of your golf fitness program is muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle(s) to repeatedly perform a physical action over an extended period of time without fatigue. Performing repeated physical actions such as the golf swing causes fatigue within the muscular system. As a result, muscular performance can decrease. Once this occurs the ability to swing the club efficiently is compromised. To prevent such a situation from occurring during a round or practice session, it is necessary to develop muscular endurance.
Muscular power is the final physical pillar, and is the final factor that is necessary for optimal performance on the course. Muscular power can be defined as the ability of the body to create the greatest amount of force in a short amount of time. (Vladimir Zatsiorsky, Professor Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Pennsylvania State University)
During the golf swing, the muscles of your body, in conjunction with the golf swing, generate power (i.e. clubhead speed). In order to increase the power outputs of your muscles, it is necessary to implement specialized exercises. The performance of these types of exercises over time will increase the power outputs of your muscles.
As we can see, the benefits of a golf fitness program to improve performance for the mature player are vast. Again, the aging process negatively affects the physical components required in the execution of the golf swing, but if the mature golfer takes the correct steps in terms of training and practice these adverse affects can be limited or even reversed. Allowing you to return your golf game to a level previously achieved or possibly achieving a level of play never attained before.