Lift Weights or Swing Speed Sticks?
Why I argue for the former before the latter.
It’s pretty common that someone comes into our gym, does a couple of exercises with us, and then proceeds to ask about speed sticks. I love it, because it shows a desire to learn, and a desire to improve. But, my answer is almost always as follows, “They should be part of a balanced breakfast, so to speak”.
Too often folks read the marketing materials from Super Speed Sticks and see that they guarantee a “bump” in speed after the very first session (which is true and likely to happen). Then they read that it’s likely to produce a 10% increase in speed after just 6-8 weeks (also most likely true for those that follow the protocols).
But what doesn’t get mentioned is the frequency of injury, the following wildness off the tee, and other complicating factors that arise when one solely does the speed sticks before tackling other more basic steps.
What I mean is— there is a hierarchy to strength and speed, or a progression one should follow. This progression limits injury as much as possible, and allows for the highest ceiling to be created as well. Without following said progression, a small bump in speed might be the only possible outcome, rather than a more robust form of improvement.
The graphic below will show you the pyramid of progression: Mobility-Stability-Strength-Power-Speed. ( A very, very rudimentary outline of the pyramid goes as such: first, you need to be able to move something, then you need to be able to stabilize it (make it solid), then you can start building strength with it, which allows you to move stuff powerfully, and once you can move stuff powerfully, then you can start moving it very quickly…aka speed.) Super Speed Sticks want you to begin at the top of the pyramid.
Speed sticks fall into a category called neuromuscular training, effectively with the purpose to re-wire the brain. The part of the brain intended to re-wire would probably best be called the “governor”.
Speed Sticks will argue that if you can trick the governor into allowing faster speeds, you will then swing faster with the golf club. They’re not wrong. But a more important question remains to be answered.
Why does the governor exist at all?
My answer is safety. The body’s number one goal is safety, and this amazing machine is not wrong terribly frequently. We shy away from snakes, we don’t walk in front of cars, and we don’t swing faster than our body wants to with any regular frequency. Said differently, your normal swing speed is at a speed the body knows it’s mostly safe at. Speed Sticks would like to trick the brain into thinking it should go faster, which works, but then frequently produces other affects that might be considered negative (like an injury).
The saying goes, you can only swing as fast as you can stop. What this means is that if you swing 100 but can only stop 50, then the swing will keep going and that will take your body to positions it’s likely comfortable being in.
This plays out in the swing, it also plays out with muscle tightness. Your tight hamstrings aren’t due to the fact that those muscles can’t get longer, they just exist at the position they feel safest at. (I wrote a blog post about that, check that out here.)
The solution then is to increase the range at which we’re safe, or in this case increase the strength and our ability to handle more speed, not to blow past the regulator which will hold us together. We do that by starting at whatever point on the pyramid we need to and then working our way to the top.
Leapfrogging to the top produces results, but as I’ve mentioned, usually has adverse side effects. For one of my professional golfer friends, that side effect was likely his shoulder surgery from not being able to stabilize the new speed he gained from the program.
If you aren’t strong and aren’t lifting weights, start there. A good program with good form will increase your swing speed by a lot. And, as you gain strength and start being more powerful, your speed training will only increase in it’s effectiveness. Your capacity will have increased, and thus your results.
This is the way to increase your swing speed, raise your ceiling to it’s highest, and be as safe as possible while doing it. Speed training is necessary and important, so let’s do it as well as we possibly can.
In this case, remember that 1) strong is stable and 2) strong is fast.