By Matt Hombach
Tiger has one. Phil has one. Vijay has one. Why don't you?
The "one" referred to is a strength and conditioning coach to help with your golf game. The obvious response is that after paying the kid that mows your lawn and maybe a cleaning lady once a month, there isn't much room left in your budget for a strength and conditioning coach.
Tim Bishop is currently training dozens of local golfers through his Power Golf program.
For nearly 15 years Bishop served as the strength and conditioning coach for the Orioles. He worked with legendary Orioles like Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Mike Mussina and many others. Bishop played some pro ball of his own in the Yankees organization and even dabbled in pro football for a bit.
Bishop's Perform Fit operation caters to a number of different sports, but his recent offering for golfers is getting a lot of positive attention and producing results for men and women from several private clubs and public courses.
A majority of the people coming to work on their game are 35-45-year-olds who were good athletes in high school and college and for the past few years have been focused on succeeding in their careers. They haven't focused on strength training and fitness.
"A lot of the golfers I work with are competitive people who are looking to get back into shape to get a leg up on their competition on the golf course," Bishop said.
Some he works with do skew a bit older, but according to Bishop, any golfer is a candidate for his workouts, even if he's already a tri-athlete with six-pack abs.
"You may be in great shape, but you may not be in great golf shape," Bishop said. "The game of golf requires strength and flexibility from a different set of muscles than most sports."
In Bishop's Power Golf program, one of the main objectives is to increase a golfer's X-Factor (and no, the X-Factor cannot be achieved by driving Buicks, dating Swedish models or wearing a red shirt on Sundays). The X-Factor is a ratio that measures the difference in the upper body turn and strength and stability of the lower body.
According to Bishop, the lower body needs to be strong and sturdy since it acts as the foundation for the golf swing. The upper body needs to maintain a high level of flexibility and range of motion because it will turn back and around the lower body during the course of the swing.
After measuring the X-Factor at the start of the program to give a baseline to work from, Bishop tailors exercises and drills for individual golfers to increase their strength and flexibility in appropriate muscle groups, which in turn will improve their X-Factor.
"The golf swing is a unique athletic movement and many golfers take for granted what specialized training can do for them," Bishop said. "Golfers will find that with two to three workouts a week for six weeks, they'll see measurable results. They'll hit the ball farther, be more consistent and accurate, build up their stamina and have less risk of injury."
The results with the driver and woods can be quite obvious. Some of Bishop's subjects see 10-15-yard increases in their drives.
"Many golfers who are fairly weak or don't have much flexibility are pleasantly surprised by the results," Bishop said.
The less obvious, but perhaps more valuable, benefits come with short-iron play. Having a stronger and more flexible body allows golfers to repeat their mechanics and make a repeating swing each time. This helps make short-iron shots more consistent and accurate. It also helps combat fatigue later on in the round.
The Power Golf program is offered to golfers in small groups. The exercises are tailored specifically for areas of the body that need to be strengthened and stretched to improve the swing. Many golfers taking the classes find they could replicate the workouts at home quite easily, but still come to work out with a group.
"The class atmosphere keeps people motivated," Bishop said. "Sure, they could do most of it in their garage or basement, but it's hard to stick to it that way and achieve the results you are looking for."
Partnerships with a few local courses have brought in many new golfers, but, according to Bishop, there is still space in some classes and plenty of time to see results this spring.
"I'd encourage anyone who plays golf to give the program a shot for just a few classes," Bishop said. "Chances are, if the best players in the world are working on strength and flexibility to improve their golf games, you should be, too."
Issue 2.17: April 26, 2007