Recent research shows upper body power might be the key to faster clubhead and ball speed.
- A recent study shows elite golfers with higher upper-body chest strength drive the ball faster and with more power.
- Researchers found that the ability to pump out power in a bench press is directly related to the club head velocity and ball velocity
- Other studies looking at overall bench press strength support these findings regardless of handicap.
Strong legs and a solid core are important for a powerful golf swing. But upper body strength is key, too. In fact, a recent study shows that golfers who can crush their bench press hit the ball harder and farther using the driver and 7-iron.
In the study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers assessed club head velocity, ball velocity, and power output on a ballistic bench press (think: pushing heavy weight up as fast as possible) in elite golfers. The 13 golfers included in the study ranged from 19 to 44 years old, and their handicaps ranged from one to 10.
The results showed that those who had more powerful bench presses had higher club head speeds and faster ball velocities. “You’ll see more explosiveness off the tee when you have strength and power in the upper body,” says Deb Ryan, Titleist Performance Institute Certified Coach and founder of Redi4Golfn. “Developing these skills in your strength training program will help you at farther distances, where you need it most.”
Max Artsis, Head of Sport Performance Strategy & Athlete Experience at Tonal, agrees. “In golf performance training, we focus a lot on the power coming from the hip, rotational core movements, and spinal stability in your stance,” he explains. “But from start to finish, the golf swing also requires an explosive transition from the lower body to the upper body as the club swings upward. Increasing the power output in the upper body helps your lower body and core create a more efficient and dynamic power drive.”
While this study had a small sample size of elite athletes and only explored the correlation between variables, other research supports its findings. One study found that chest strength in a chest fly exercise had a positive relationship with club head speed regardless of handicap. A different study found that lower handicap golfers (higher-skilled athletes) had 17.4 percent greater bench press strength compared to higher handicap golfers.
Related story: 4 Data-Backed Ways to Improve Your Bench Press
“When I’m training the upper body, along with strength, it’s a lot of rotary power, chest power, and even wrist release power,” says Ryan. Incorporating power by moving faster and more explosively in your reps is important in rotational chops, push (bench press or overhead press), and pull (rows and lat pull downs) exercises, she explains. It not only prepares you for your distance work on the course, but it can also challenge your core and provide muscle balance across the entire body.
“The goal of training is to increase capacity for stress, increase resilience, and create a larger ‘reservoir’ for power,” adds Artsis. “So the larger the reservoir, the more opportunity someone has to develop power, protect against injury, and ultimately improve performance.”