In this post we take a deeper look at how Muscle Activation Techniques helped Bryson DeChambeau transform his golf and recover from a back injury.
Bryson DeChambeau has undergone a physical transformation over the last few months that’s had a significant impact on his golf game.
He now leads the professional tour in driving distance, averaging over 323 yards.
Inevitably the headlines have focused on the visible results of his training programme. In this post we take a look behind the curtain at the principles he’s applied to transform his body and his game.
Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) gets to the root of the issue.
Bryson initially used MAT to resolve a back injury that he thought might require surgery.
Like most athletes who seek MAT to recover from injury, he wasn’t concerned with putting on muscle at that point. He just wanted to play golf without pain.
At 24 years old, he’d already developed muscle imbalances that were leading to issues whenever he played. He recalls how he used to get out of bed in the morning feeling stiff and in pain.
Because MAT views tension in the muscular system as a symptom of weakness elsewhere, an in depth range of motion assessment can be used to locate the muscles that require attention.
Muscle function as a spectrum.
Think of muscle function as a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum you first need the ability to contract a muscle on demand at any given point in its range. At the other end, as a golfer, you require that muscle to generate powerful contractions.
The MAT assessment procedure enables us to first locate muscles that aren’t operating at the lower end of this spectrum. In other words they’re unable to contract or resist even a minimal amount of force.
Muscles in this situation may also have difficulty performing basic tasks such as keeping your joints stable. This leads to tightness in the muscular system as your central nervous system (CNS) will limit motion when it considers that motion unsafe.
If you’ve ever injured yourself you’ll be familiar with the immediate loss of motion that results. This demonstrates how your CNS can manipulate tension in your muscular system to keep you safe.
Improving the ability of a muscle to contract is the first and most fundamental step in both recovering from injury and improving sports performance. Just this step alone will lead to increased range of motion and improvements in your swing.
Having greater control of your joints will also reduce unpleasant sensations like stiffness the day after you play.
Resistance training for golf.
Once range of motion has been restored, the next step is to train the muscular system to maintain it. To do this we need to apply resistance.
You’ll notice that unlike other golf training videos that you’ve seen before, the exercises that Bryson is using don’t look like the golf swing. There’s a good reason for this.
The MAT assessment gives a clear indication where weak muscles are located. In Bryson’s case, they were on the left side of his trunk which is common in right handed golfers.
It therefore makes sense to target those muscles with isolated exercises. Applying more global exercises may only reinforce the muscle compensations that are already present.
Just like when you have an issue with your car, the mechanic doesn’t advise you to keep driving it in the hope the problem will resolve itself. They carry out diagnostic tests to locate the precise source of the issue and work on that part in isolation.
Transfer to the golf swing.
It should be clear from Bryson’s example alone that training muscles in an isolated way will transfer to your golf swing. This isn’t widely accepted in practice however. Many coaches still have golfers performing exercises that look like a golf swing. This is both unnecessary and may have a short term influence on the timing of the swing itself.
Additionally, the greater the number of joints involved in an exercise, the greater the opportunity your CNS has to programme movement around weaker muscles.
That doesn’t mean the exercises you select shouldn’t directly relate to the golf swing however. It makes sense to assess the joint motions involved in the swing and include exercises that challenge those motions.
Training in this way can also help to restore motion when it’s been lost. Something Bryson has made reference to before.
He says he plays golf in the morning and then views working out in the evening as a way of taking care of any aches and pains that require attention.
Do you view resistance training as restorative? Or is it something that leads to further pain and discomfort? If it’s the latter then you can undoubtedly make improvements.
Yes but I don’t want to bulk up.
I’ve heard this many times from golfers who are concerned with putting on too much muscle. In short, don’t worry, you won’t. Adding 20lbs of muscle, as Bryson has done takes a considerable effort.
It also requires more than just lifting weights. You’ll need to ensure you have an excess of calories and your minimum protein requirements are met. It won’t happen just because you visit the gym a couple of times a week.
Also bear in mind that increasing the size of a muscle is part of the equation if you want to develop more power and hit the ball further. Look at any athlete who’s sport requires power and you’ll see muscular development.
Power is the result of both the force you’re able to generate and the speed at which you’re able to generate it. The amount of force a muscle can produce is directly related to its cross sectional area.
Whilst you don’t necessarily have to focus on bulking up to improve your game, there’s certainly no need to fear it.
The future of golf fitness training.
The nature of every sport has been changed by improvements in physical conditioning. Tennis players didn’t used to look like Nadal. Rugby players couldn’t run 100m in 10 seconds as they can now.
Golf has been slower to change. Largely because you could still compete even if you were a little overweight and sparked up the odd cigarette on the course. This is changing.
Golfers are now rightly considered power athletes. Bryson has raised the bar and shown what modern training techniques can offer to help an athlete recover from injury and improve their performance. Inevitably this bar will be surpassed as players work the angles to find an edge.
If done correctly, training specifically for golf will not only improve your performance, it will also reduce your risk of injury. If you’re serious about your golf, it should be a given.