Fitness testing is important to undertake in whatever sport you play. It allows for the coach to identify key areas of concern and then be able to focus on these areas to improve. These areas may have been having a detrimental effect an athlete’s performance, hampering them from becoming an elite level athlete. Golf requires a wide range of fitness testing from core strength, to aerobic fitness. All the factors are important to create the best golfer. Improving strength, flexibility and balance may have a dual benefit of improving performance and decreasing the risk of injury. (Sell, T. et al 2007).
Studies have shown that good anterior and side abdominal muscular performance is strongly correlated with golfing performance (Wells, G. et al 2009). Testing core strength is important in the success of golf. There are several tests that can be done in order to test core strength, the most common is the plank test, where several plank positions are used to assess strength. This is a fairly easy and simple way to assess core strength.
Trunk stability can be measured in a simple procedure using a blood pressure cuff. The athlete lays on the inflated blood pressure cuff and proceeds to make various leg movements, whilst trying to keep the trunk as stable as possible. If trunk stability is good the needle on the dial will have limited movement. Excessive trunk instability can lead to injury in the vertebrae, especially in the lumbar spine (Gluck et al., 2007). Instability can also lead to a restriction on club head speed (Joyce, C. 2017).
During a round of golf, a large amount of distance is covered. On average around 6.6 miles is covered. Having good Aerobic endurance is important allowing the golfer to reduce the effect of fatigue on performance. To test Aerobic endurance, a Long Graded Exercise Test (LGET) and a Short Graded Exercise Test (SGET) can be used. The intensity in these tests increases at certain intervals (LGET- 3 mins, SGET 1 min), whether it be speed on a treadmill, or target wattage on a watt-bike. Gas Analysis is performed during the test and using the results ventilatory thresholds can be found. Therefore, a training protocol specific to the results can be created.
Performing a golf swing requires good flexibility. The inability to perform some movements due to poor flexibility would lead to a poor range of motion and movement patterns that are undesired (Smith, M. 2010). Flexibility can be measured in a variety of ways. A goniometer is a piece of equipment that can measure angles at the joints. Shoulder flexibility is a major component in the golf swing, therefore it should be measured using a goniometer during shoulder flexion and extension. The larger the angle, the greater the flexibility of the shoulder. The sit and reach test can be used to measure flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings.
Like flexibility, poor balance will lead to a poor range of motion with ineffective movement patterns. A successful golf swing requires the golfer to maintain the generation of linear and angular impulse whilst preserving their balance (Peterson, T. et al. 2016). In research elite golfers had better unipedal (one legged) static balance than less proficient golfers. A standing stork test is sufficient to measure the balance of the individual. The advantage of the standing stork test is that it shows whether there should be a unilateral or bilateral approach to improving balance. If the individual has better balance on one foot then the other, then a unilateral approach should be taken.
Muscle Activation- S-EMG
Surface electromyography (sEMG) measures muscle activation during a movement. The EMG can pick up minute electrical signal from muscles, however it is important to note that the measurements taken represent level of activation and not force development. There has been research into the different muscles involved with each movement of the golf swing. For example; during the acceleration phase of the golf swing, the most active muscles of the upper body are the pectoralis major and Levator Scapulae (Pollard, H. and McHardy, A. 2005). Other phases it would be beneficial to measure muscle activation for are the back swing, forward swing, early follow through and late follow through.
An increased golf club head speed has been shown to increase driving distances as well as being correlated with golf handicap (Read, P. et al. 2013). Research has shown that power is related to golf club head speed (Oranchuk, J and Mannerberg. 2018), therefore it is important to test the power of the individual. Medicine Ball Rotational Throw can test the power of the individual in a movement that is similar to a golf swing. The golfer would assume a golfing stance and would rotate with the medicine ball before releasing it, aiming for maximal distance.
Strength has been shown to be a major component of athletic performance and highly corelates to the athletic variables needed in golf (Parchmann, C and Mcbride, J. 2011). The one repetition max test is commonly used to test muscular strength. Testing can be representative of the major muscle groups, including chest (bench/incline press) and lower limbs (back squat). Strength, like power is also related to golf club head speed.
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Gluck, G. S., Bendo, J. A., & Spivak, J. M. (2007). The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: A literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention. The Spine Journal, 8(5), 1–11.
Joyce, C. (2017). The most important “factor” in producing clubhead speed in golf. Human Movement Science. 55, 138-144.
Parchmann, C and Mcbride, J. (2011). Relationship between functional movement screen and athletic performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning. 25(12), 3378-3384.
Peterson, T., Wilcox, R., & McNitt-Gray, J. (2016). Angular impulse and balance regulation during the golf swing. Journal of Applied Biomechanics 32, 342-349.
Pollard, H. and McHardy, A. (2005). Muscle activity during the golf swing. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 39, 799-804.
Read, P. et al. (2013). Relationship between field-based measures of strength and power and golf club head speed. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 27(10), 2708-2713.
Sell, T. et al. (2007). Strength, flexibility and balance characteristics of highly proficient golfers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 21(4), 116-1171.
Smith, M. (2010). The role of physiology in the development of golf performance. Sports Medicine. 40(8), 635-655.
Wells, G. Elmi, M. and Thomas, S. (2009). Physiological correlates of golf performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 23(3),741-750.