One of Mike Austin’s most often used sayings was, “Size and strength mean little in hitting it out there, it’s supple quickness.”
Anecdotally, I can think of of few great examples of this.
Aaron, a college freshman, stands 5’3″ and weighs just under 100 pounds. And yet he consistently drives a golf ball 275 yards straight. From his same local high school golf team, Nick weighs only 135 pounds at 5’9″, but swings 115 mph and can drive the ball well over 300 yards.
What these two have going for them is great swing technique and well fitting drivers.
But what they don’t have is a lot of muscle mass – they are both thin as rails. But they create tremendous speed.
So what makes their swings fast? What would make your swing go faster?
For this we will need to get a little technical – but I will try to keep it as easy to understand as I can.
Inside our muscles are three types of muscle fibers: Type 1, type 2a, and type 2b. For swinging a club faster, we are primarily concerned with the latter.
Type 2b fibers create a lot of force in a relatively small period of time. This translates to maximum speed and power. These fibers can fire to full contraction within 25 milliseconds.
They also tire out very quickly, and only get stimulated after the other fibers get contracted. So to train them you must always be going all out at 100% effort.
While the muscle fiber makeup is limited mostly by our genetics (i.e. some people are just born with more type 2b fibers), there is evidence that with training, type 2a fibers can take the characteristics of type 2b, and type 2b fibers can become quicker and produce more force.
However, most of your speed gains will come from muscle recruitment, which is a function of the central nervous system.
If you trained really hard to swing faster, chances are that your muscles won’t become bigger or stronger. Instead, the muscle fibers will become more organized and responsive in how they fire. Both intermuscular and intramuscular coordination increase.
A good analogy for this is the sport of rowing. The best rowing teams will have all oars in the water at precisely the same time. They could also row with more force. Finally, you could add additional rowers and that would also make the boat go faster.
The additional rowers are like your muscles when they are able to recruit every last muscle unit to fire quickly.
So if you’re going to get your swing speed up, your exercises should be very short in duration and highly explosive – otherwise you never stimulate the type 2b muscle fibers.
Lifting as heavy of a weight as you possibly can does stimulate all the fibers. Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches are also great ways to develop power in a golf swing, as they involve high speeds. High speed swings with under and over weighted golf clubs or implements is probably the most efficient way of going about speed training in golf because the movement is more specific.