Generating Greater Swing Power

In Articles on August 2, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Hitting the golf ball a long ways was actually the first thing I learned. I didn’t even know how to do the upper body portion of a swing, I just started working on how to do the lower body portion of the backswing, then forcing my body weight into my hip. All based on slow motion video of golfers, especially Tiger Woods. (Which reminds me of an important rule I live by: no matter what you want to do, spend most of your time studying how it’s really done by those who are successful at it, and only a little bit of time learning what instructors and coaches claim you should do.) I immediately found that when you generate the force for your downswing with your hip, your upper body will naturally come swinging around, and after much more study, I had a functional, and somewhat powerful, golf swing

Hopefully my experience is something I can relate here, and help you start generating more force with your swing if that’s something you’re having a problem with. Hitting with more power is not very complicated, and I’ll give you the short version right here to start: you need to begin your downswing by driving your upper body into your hip or hips. Do that, and you’ll soon be whipping that clubhead around with a mighty swoosh, and you’ll come to understand why they talk about “easy power” so much when discussing professional golf swings.

How Athletes Generate So Much Power

I first got interested in how people generate a lot of force “with their bodies” when I started studying Jeet Kune Do. That’s Bruce Lee’s own martial art he made up. Lee famously had a strike called the “two inch punch,” a very literal name for what it was, where he’d set his fist two inches from his target and then punch it surprisingly hard even though he basically had no space to stretch his arm out. Those with experience on the subject said this was no mere push where he’d keep extending the punch through the pad or the person wearing the pad after he hit them, but an actual snappingly forceful punch. And the way he did it was by using his lower body.

It turns out, that’s pretty much the way every athlete generates force. They use their glutes (the biggest muscle on the body) to generate force and then efficiently transfer that energy to whatever it is they’re acting on with their arms and hands. It’s why a professional outfielder can gun a ball back to home plate at 85 mph, but most normal guys strain themselves to throw much above 30 mph. Or why I once saw a 12 year old girl throw a 60 yard Hail Mary in a Pass, Punt and Kick competition. Or why professional boxers can punch people with 8 to 10 times the force of somebody who doesn’t punch people for a living. Us non-trained individuals tend to do motions involving our arms using our arm muscles. Makes logical sense, but it turns out, learning how to to do those motions by moving our glutes and then snapping that energy upward using the mechanics of our bodies yields way, way, waaaay better results.

How Golfers Apply This To Their Swings

To further belabor the explanation, I present a picture of this: a trebuchet style catapult.

It’s a neat physical metaphor for what your golf swing is going to look like once you start swinging with your hip. If you’ve never seen one in action, I recommend checking out a Youtube video or two, but basically they work by allowing that big weight to start falling toward the ground, which then moves around that big lever arm, which is attached to a flexible sling cradling the object you wish to launch several hundred yards through the air. Simply put, big force pulls around a lever, which whips around the flexible end. That’s what you want your golf swing to feel like!

Alright, hopefully that all gives you more of an intuitive understanding for what you’re about to do. When I started studying how golfers swing on a drive, I noticed that to start the downswing, they don’t torque their hips around, or start to swing their arms, or whatever else nonsense I’ve seen and heard. They thrust their weight down into their hip (or hips depending on the golfer), and that initiates the downswing movement. To see this it’s helpful to watch video of professional golfers from the hard-to-find butt-centric view. Here’s video of Tiger Woods, watch his lead leg and see how to start the downswing he’s pushing his weight into it, his knee just slightly bending from the force (important of course not to let that knee crumple when you compress your hip). But as he does so, his glute pushes back, and the imbalance in his hips caused by the standard knee bend on the backswing, sends his body torquing around.

Watch till you get a feel for it. There are videos around for many of today’s pros so you can always find your favorite or model golfer and see exactly how he does it. The important point is, it’s a straight downward force which compresses your solid, largely unyielding hip joint, which creates so much force. It’s not a turning motion. You can’t generate very much force by trying to actively rotate your hips. But you can thrust down into your hips and let that energy be turned into a torquing motion.

Power Generating Drill

Okay, even if none of that made sense or you’re just largely untrusting of strangers on the internet, I would suggest it will all come round to you by doing this drill. First a disclaimer: if you have a bad hip, or frail joints, or for any other reason your body may be too infirm to go thrusting your weight into your legs and then come spinning around, you probably should be very cautious and not do this. Otherwise, hopefully you will not hurt yourself.

So the drill is to learn how generate force the same way I learned. Take an easy to swing club, like a wedge or even a shaft with no head attached, that’ll be what you use for this exercise. Get into position like you’re about to hit a mid-iron shot, very in the middle in terms of stance and all that. Do a normal backswing, making sure to send your weight toward your back foot (60%, 65%, 70% whatever amount you normally do), and then at the top of the backswing stop. Now comes the important part. Without worrying about making a correct swing, or about form, or about not looking like an idiot, or even accidentally falling down, thrust your upper body weight downward into your lead hip as best as you can figure out how to. Remember that your lead leg is not supposed to give, but should remain as strong as reasonably possible.

IF it works, you may find your upper body whipping around after. That’s a good sign. It probably will take awhile for the movement to make sense for you though, so after your first try, no matter what happened, if you’re still standing, try again. Backswing up to the top of your swing, make sure your form is good, thrust your upper body weight into that lead hip and let it push back.

This is literally what I did to learn how to initiate a downswing. I had no idea what I was doing, felt like I was going to fall down if I tried to do it, and yet when I did it, the club shaft came zooming around with no other thought or effort. I will note, it’s of course best to do this someplace with plenty of space around you, and nothing in the way that will get damaged should the club come out of your hands. Which is possible.

Again, do this drill as I describe, and don’t try to do whatever else it is you normally do for your downswing. If to start your downswing you begin to turn your hips, or start coming down with your hands, or tense up your back, or whatever else, don’t do that. Just get to the top of the backswing and thrust your weight down into your lead hip and don’t let your leg buckle under the pressure. If you can successfully get this working (and it may take some weeks of practice), you will be swinging like a pro does and I’m quite confident you can start generating more force for your swings.

Further Pointers

As you get used to downswinging with your hip, you’ll come to understand why pros talk about not tensing up the body, having relaxed muscles, easy speed. Basically all the tensing and effort goes into pushing down on your hip and your glute counteracting it. From there, the more your upper body and arms can act like a flexible whip, like the sling of the trebuchet, the faster you will be going. And you’ll feel it, your best swings in terms of speed will feel very relaxed, also slightly violent in terms of the spinning, but relaxed. Load up at the beginning of the downswing and let your body unwind.

There are of course more techniques to use from there. Proper wrist snapping allows you to unload all that kinetic energy into the ball at the most optimal time, and straightening out your lead leg right as your about to strike the ball can add a lot of power too. Those are things you can practice getting the timing down on. Even more advanced stuff can be used for driver swings, like letting your upper body pivot downward from your lead shoulder and letting your spine contort your torso into a backward C and all that. But for now, try out that drill and see if it helps you. If not, sorry, I tried. And if so, great! It’s a non-intuitive technique that you have to really feel out at first, but it’s the best way to swing for distance.


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