We've all heard about Bryson DeChambeau's off-season gym antics. Our resident fitness expert gives her take on the benefits of improving your golf fitness
Bryson DeChambeau, you may have noticed, is taking golf fitness very seriously. DeChambeau took the decision to spend the majority of his off-season working hard in the gym, often training for more than three hours a day. His goal? To increase his bodyweight from 195lbs (88kg) to 230lbs (104kg) – an overall increase of 16kg, or the average weight of a 5-year-old.
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Why? By increasing your size and muscle mass, the body can produce more force and will be less susceptible to injury – meaning you can hit the ball further and practice harder.
Ahead of the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship – DeChambeau’s first since the Presidents Cup – he was already seeing the benefits.
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While DeChambeau is encouraged by the changes, many commentators have questioned his decision, suggesting it’ll prove detrimental to his game. So here’s where I see the benefits.
DeChambeau’s golf fitness plan: The pros
More muscle mass means more force: If you look at world-class 100m sprinter, you’ll notice they’re bigger and bulkier than long-distance athletes. This is because they need to create more force and therefore need to have more muscle.
It may come as a surprise, but due to the explosive nature of the swing, golf is actually more like a sprint than a marathon in terms of the physical demands.
Training the brain effectively for increased muscle potential and power: When discussing his training regime, DeChambeau said: “We make sure the neurological threshold is just as high as the mechanical threshold.”
Basically, this means he’s training with the intention of not only increasing the size of the muscles but the ability for the brain to use the muscles to their full potential. Training the muscles to absorb force and then use that force to re-accelerate and create more force is one of the biggest determinants between good and elite athletes.
In all sports – and this includes golf – the biggest difference between good and very good is how quickly they can change direction or reverse a specific muscle action, whether this be seen via agility in football or rugby, or the transition in a golf swing.
Maintaining quality movement and control: As well as increasing strength and muscle, DeChambeau is still working to maintain movement which is imperative in the golf swing. Many fear that ‘bulking’ will negatively impact your ability to move and swing effectively.
This dates back to the idea of a typical body builder whose only focus is on increasing muscle mass for aesthetic, and not functional purposes.
Again, like the 100m sprinters, technique is imperative in golf so you CAN bulk but still maintain optimal movement, as long as you are predominantly training movement as opposed to isolating muscles.
Increasing muscle mass and strength reduces injury risk: There is plenty of evidence to support that increasing muscle mass and strength can reduce the risk of injury risk for golfers.
The European Tour Performance Institute (ETPI) have found that not only does more mass mean more clubhead speed, but increased strength also decreases injury by up to 50%, allowing players to stay healthy for longer and practice more at speeds in excess of 100 mph with reduced impact on the body.
Strength & Conditioning –
What is it's true value in golf?
— ETPI (@Etpi) January 16, 2020
There are other factors that influence performance but, all in all, everything suggests that increased strength and muscle size has a positive impact on your game and, like DeChambeau’s, can change it entirely for the better.
Rachael Tibbs is a TPI L2 certified golf fitness professional based in Leeds. She specialises in golf-specific strength and conditioning. If you are looking for your own ‘golf strength programme’ visit her website for details about in-person and online programmes or follow her on Twitter.