By Ron Kaspriske
You can only swing the club as fast as you can slow it down. Think about that for a bit. I'll get back to that statement.
We're all looking for 10, 15, 20 more yards off the tee and to hit 8-iron where we once hit 7-iron. But how do you get it? A new driver? A new ball? Bigger biceps?
You might squeeze a few more yards out with any of those suggestions. But if you really want more distance, there's really only one thing you can do.
Swing the club faster.
I recently spoke with Tom House about this topic. House is a former major-league pitching coach who is now an athletic-performance analyst for the University of Southern California. He's also one of the world's leading experts on making athletes faster in any sport -- including golf.
The sobering reality is that as we age, we lose the flexibility and muscle mass needed for speed, House says. But you can still train whatever you have left in the tank, provided you first understand one simple, but brilliant concept:
You can only swing the club as fast as you can slow it down.
When House first said that to me, it took a little time for me to believe it. But when you think about it, it's true. Here's an analogy to help reinforce that concept. I believe Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute deserves credit for it: You're driving a Ferrari capable of going 200 miles per hour. But the braking system on the car will only work up to speeds of, say, 180 mph. Now I ask you, what's the fastest you're going to drive the car?
Your body works the same way. Your brain will only let you move as fast as can without getting hurt. It's like a circuit breaker. If it gets overloaded, it trips and shuts off the electric current. So if you really want to increase your swing speed and hit the ball farther, you first have to be able to slow the club down safely at faster speeds. Two key areas of the body responsible for deceleration are the hamstrings and the muscles around your shoulders -- especially the scapulae.
House explains about training these areas in the October issue of Golf Digest (look for Rickie Fowler on the cover). He also offers a three-step prescription for how to increase swing speed, and I'll discuss the other two parts in the coming weeks.
Read below to see his suggestions for how to train your body to decelerate the club at faster speeds.
1. Walk backward on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike backward to strengthen the back of your legs (hamstrings, calves, tendons, etc.). Spend half of your cardio time moving in reverse.
2. Pretend someone put a pencil between your shoulder blades, and you have to keep it there by pinching them together. Feel like the bottom of the blades are almost touching. Do this several times a day.
3. Stand with your forehead resting on a wall, arms out to your sides so your body forms a cross. Press your palms into the surface and pinch your shoulder blades together for a few seconds. Then turn around and do this same exercise with your back to the wall and your palms facing away. Do this five times in each direction, holding the squeezed position for several seconds. This will train all the muscles around your shoulder girdle to control the club better.
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(Illustration by Thomas Fuchs, exercises by Kagan McLeod)