Updated: Dec 13, 2022
Adding more speed and distance is by far the most common goal of the golfers that I work with regardless of age. In recent years the popularity of overspeed training in golf has exploded with speed systems such as SuperSpeed Golf and The Stack System being used by golfers with the hope of adding more speed and distance to their game.
Matthew Fitzpatrick is a good example of a golfer who saw significant gains in speed after going through the speed training protocols of the Stack System and these gains contributed to his win at this year's US Open. He gained 5 mph in club head after going through the training program. Many golfers hear stories such as this and think that these speed training systems will be a magic bullet of sorts to finally help unlock the speed they have they have been searching for. This post will help clear the air on this topic and help answer if overspeed training is appropriate for you.
What is overspeed training?
Overspeed training in the context of golf is a sport specific hack on the nervous system to get a golfer to swing the golf club faster. In golf this training consists of swinging clubs that are slightly lighter and heavier than your golf club. Without getting too deep into the science, overspeed training basically “tricks” your brain to unlock your ability to go as fast as you can. The body has the ability to create more speed, the brain just won't let it for some reason. When you swing one of these clubs faster than you normally do, you can unlock the speed you already have inside of you and immediately start swinging faster. In some cases it is as much as 5 mph or more in less than 10 minutes which is pretty incredible. With such immediate changes in speed it can be very tempting to pursue this quick fix for more speed. However there are a couple of important things to consider first before jumping into this training.
A word of caution
As mentioned above overspeed training helps to unlock the speed and power you already possess. Based on this information it is important to also understand how your body's current power and speed potential compare to your club head speed. With testing protocols from TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) and Proteus Motion we can actually come very close to predicting your potential club head speed based on your physical capabilities. With this information we can see if there is a balance between your estimated club head speed based on your physical capabilities and your true swing speed. I will give three different scenarios to demonstrate the importance of having this information prior to starting any speed training program.
Scenario 1: More Speed in the Tank
This is the golfer whose club head speed is slow relative to their power testing. They are not swinging the club as fast as they should be. This is the perfect match for getting the best results with overspeed training and the most drastic improvements. Here is an example from a recent golfer I worked with.
The picture on the left shows this golfer's power rating from his upper body, lower body and core. For reference the PGA range on each of these tests is 18-22 so this golfer has really good power by being an average of 19 on these tests. The estimated club head speed based on this information would be 110 mph. This golfer's actual club head speed was only 90 mph. This is a huge gap of 20 mph. They should be swinging way faster than they were. In this case we started the overspeed training immediately. You can see their progress over the course of a 6 week training program. They gained over 14 mph in club head speed! This is a huge increase, but not surprising based on their physical capabilities. Examples like this are the dream scenario for this training.
Scenario 2: Balanced Golfer
This scenario will not be as exciting as the first one. This golfer presents with a good balance between their predicted and actual club speed. Overspeed training can still be used in this scenario, however the gains will be more gradual. In addition a training program focusing on improving strength and power will also be needed alongside this to maximize the gains. I am in this category. The golfer from the first scenario above would also fall into the category by the time he got to the end of his initial Stack System training program as his finishing speed was much closer to his physical limit. My power profile and speed numbers are shown in the picture above. These numbers match up really close to the predicted and actual speed. Any gains from additional speed training will come in small increments and that has been the case for me.
Scenario 3: Playing with Fire
In this case the golfer's club head speed far exceeds their estimated speed based on their power testing. Overspeed training is highly discouraged is this scenario. If you are already outperforming your estimated speed trying to further increase this gap without improving your strength and power is likely putting you at a higher risk of injury. Swinging significantly faster than your body's physical capacity is a likely a ticking time bomb.
In addition any attempts at overspeed training in this scenario will also likely yield minimal gains. In this scenario I do not prescribe overspeed training. However, I have talked to golfers who have attempted this and often times they report minimal to no gain in speed.
The picture above is the Proteus power testing results of a golfer who was hoping to add more club head speed and wanted my thoughts on overspeed training. In this case you can see their power and speed percentile rankings are very low throughout the body (25th percentile overall). They were currently swinging at 90 mph and wanted to get to 100. Based on these results I didn't think the body had the horsepower to support this additional speed and recommended they get their strength and power up prior to beginning any speed training program.
*The one exception in this case would be junior golfers. Junior golfers who are in the middle of a growth spurt are ideal candidates to train speed and take advantage of this window of opportunity to develop speed. Developmentally they also are not in a place where they would be capable of creating much strength or power yet so this imbalance is ok in this scenario.
Are you a good candidate for overspeed training?
Based on the information above you can quickly identify which category you fit into. The physical testing can be done within 15 minutes and you can go to any launch monitor to identify your current club head speed. Once you understand this relationship between your body and your speed you can easily identify if overspeed training is appropriate for you at this time.
Your current activity level is also another important variable to consider. Speed training programs such as this are physically taxing on the body. If you are pretty sedentary and have minimal physical activity jumping straight into speed training programs like this is an injury waiting to happen. During this training you are swinging at max effort so the body needs to be prepared to handle this. Most people would have the sense to realize that they probably shouldn't go out and try to run sprints as fast as they can if they haven't done this in years as they would likely injure themselves. However, many times I see golfers jump directly into speed training when the body isn't prepared for this. A little preparation of improving the body's mobility and strength can go a long way toward maximizing your results with overspeed training and also reducing the risk of injury.
It should also be said that this training is definitely not appropriate for someone that is dealing with pain with golf. If your lower back is already hurting from golf performing max effort speed training is likely only going to make the issue worse. Not only can it irritate your symptoms, but many times when golfers are dealing with pain the body will naturally put the governor on your speed as a protective mechanism. Get this cleared up prior to prioritizing any speed program.
Are the improvements with overspeed training permanent?
While this would be nice, the answer is unfortunately no. As mentioned earlier someone could see a 5mph increase in speed in as little as 10 minutes during an initial training program. The reality is that the golfer is 'renting' this speed temporarily. They don't own it yet. Over the course of a 6 week training program these gains do typically transfer over into the actual swing.
How about after you have completed the training program? Let's say you have just completed a 6 week training program leading up to the golf season. You have increased your club head speed by 6 mph. The season is here and you are now playing more. Time is a little more limited. Do you still need to train 3x/week on one of these systems? This is a scenario many golfers encounter. Thankfully in order to maintain these gains you do not need to continue at this frequency. Most golfers can transition to a maintenance program of 1x/week or once every other week and still maintain this speed. There will naturally be times during the year when this training is not as big of a priority or your playing frequency goes way up leaving less time for this training. That is perfectly fine.
In addition any complementary training program work on your body will help prevent or reduce any regression in speed and is important to continue working out in some capacity during the golf season. Golfers who completely stop the overspeed training and also stop working out are very likely to lose any gains made in speed.
Overspeed training can be an excellent tool to help golfers increase their speed when used appropriately. Some quick testing beforehand can help identify if you are a good candidate for this and also help set realistic expectations for your results. Also it is very rare that I would recommend this form of training in isolation. It should be part of a comprehensive training program. The offseason is a great time of year to go through this testing and potentially start an overspeed training program based on your results.
Jared Bickle is a licensed physical therapist, Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist, Functional Dry Needling Certified and a TPI Level 3 Medical and Fitness Professional. Jared is the owner of JB Performance and Reconditioning in Fort Wayne, Indiana which offers specialized rehabilitation services and performance training programs for golfers. You can contact him by email at email@example.com or find him on social media on Instagram or Facebook @jaredbickledpt