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Research Review...

Great study in the recent Journal of Strength and Conditioning on specific training for golf and fitness for adults......even if you aren't a golfer, check this one out because it does also test fitness parameters....

Functional Training Improves Club Head Speed and Functional Fitness in Older Golfers

Thompson CJ, Cobb KM, Blackwell J, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2007, 21(1), 131-137.

My comments

With the summer right around the corner and the weather starting to warm up, more and more people are heading out onto the golf course. So, I thought this would be a great study to look at for two reasons. First, most people are looking to enhance their golf game somehow and second, most people are looking to enhance their health somehow. This study really focuses on both golf and fitness, so it is nice to kill two birds with one stone when you can.

This study took 18 male golfers between the ages of 60 and 80 years old. The golfers had to meet the requirements of averaging more than 40 rounds of golf per year and they had to be free of any uncontrolled cardiovascular or metabolic disease. In orther words, they were normal healthy 60-80yr old men. The men were assigned to either a control or exercise group. The control group was instructed to continue their normal level of activity throughout the study; while the exercise group was placed on an 8-week exercise program. The exercise program was written specifically for this study and was based on the principles of the National Academy of Sports Medicine's (NASM) Optimum Performance Training model (a training model that has been used for the general public as well as professional and olympic caliber athletes with great results). All subjects in the test were asked to not take any golf lessons during the 8-week period, in-order to prevent any changes in swing speed or skill, which would throw off the results of the study.

Subjects were tested before and after the 8 week period for club head speed. As well, the subjects went through a battery of tests to assess strength, flexibility, and endurance. The reason these tests were used was to evaluate the subjects current fitness levels and compare them to their fitness levels after completing the 8-week exercise program.

Following the 8-week program the subjects were re-tested. The exercise group saw a 4.9% increase in Club Head Speed. Additionally, the subjects in the exercise group saw significant post-test improvements in four out of the six overal fitness tests.

What this means to us

This means several things to us. First, some may be wondering what the term "functional" means in the title of this study. Functional has become sort of a buzz word in the fitness industry. It seems to have a variety of interpretations, depending on who you talk to. To me, functional means nothing more than the fact that the exercise program is designed to enhance everyday activities (whether they are sports movements or life movements). That being said, just about everything is functional. I should make note of what the NASM-Optimum Sports Performance model is, as this will give you more understanding of exercise application. Basically, the program is a designed program which targets different skills at different times (periodization). For example, in this study the subjects were given 8 weeks to train. The researchers broke the model down into short phases which primarily focused on enhancing different factors. focusing on endurance (higher reps) and work capacity first, then moving into hypertrophy (muscle growth or structural changes) and finally strength and power. On their time line, it looked like this:

weeks 1-4: 1-2 sets x 15 reps

weeks 5-6: 3 sets x 12 reps

weeks 7-8: 3 sets x 8 reps

In the last two weeks, the researchers also added plyometric exercises (jumping and medicine ball throwing) to help increase power output, a vital characteristic in the golf swing.

The other two factors that are of critical importance in the NASM model of training are core and balance training. The program is set up so that the individual trains all three (core, balance and strength) in one day, like so:

1. core exercises
2. balance exercises
3. weight training exercises

So, now that we know a little bit about how the program was set up, we can take away from it the fact that aside from enhacing our golf game, this type of training can be used to enhance our fitness levels. We know that regular exercise is vital to overal fitness. Of special concern is the fact that as we age, we start to lose our ability to display power and we begin to lose muscle mass. By strength training and using some power training (low level plyometrics and medicine ball work as seen in this study) we can really delay this natural response of aging. As well, the balance and core training can be vitally important to prevent falling in this population and increasing these individuals confidence in their ability to move and be more "functional."

How we can use this to our advantage

We can use this to our advantage by taking a look at our currnet training program and making sure that we are accounting for these variables and setting up different phases of training so that we can continually improve and reach higher levels of fitness and health. Even by using something as basic as the repetition scheme given above, we can go pretty far.

Something as simple as that, when applied can be very effective to your exercise program.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, not only the golfers out there, but ALL of you, can use this information to better their current exercise routine. The study, while focusing on golf performance, was also geared towards showing improvements in health and fitness. Don't be afraid to take some of these ideas and use them to your advantage!