How 43 Year Old Berry Henson Increased His Max Ball Speed By 15 MPH
Thu Jun 15, 2023 by TPI
If you’re looking for a fun story at the US Open, look no further than the first tee shot off of the 10th on Thursday morning. Berry Henson - a self-described journeyman who has played on virtually every professional tour in the world - is a tremendous example of grit and growth-mindset.
We had the opportunity to work with Berry and his longtime strength coach Anthony Spain a few weeks before US Open qualifying and wanted to highlight some of the improvements they had made over the last several years, most notably how they were able to improve his maximum ball speed by over 15 mph.
1. Addressed Limitations, Specifically Hip IR and Lower Body Stability
Like most professional golfers, Berry is a terrific athlete. He’s an avid basketball player and has trained consistently throughout his career. That said, in his initial TPI screen he failed the Lower Quarter Test and his hamstring cramped during the Single Leg Bridge Test. This suggested that he lacked internal rotation mobility (for Berry it was the hips, specifically) and was recruiting his hamstrings to achieve hip extension, not the much more powerful glutes.
Both of these are relatively simple fixes, assuming there aren’t any structural limitations. Exercises like Long Sitting Wind Shield Wipers and Stork Turns are two of our favorites for improving hip mobility. In addition to deadlift variations and warm up exercises to “activate” the glutes, Anthony programmed a number of unilateral lower body exercises. This allowed him to apply relatively heavy loads that built strength and stability, but were less taxing on the body overall (especially important for golfers without a consistent off-season).
2. Built a Bigger Engine
There are a number of strategies to help a golfer increase their distance potential. In addition to optimizing their equipment or mechanics, one of the most effective ways to raise a golfer’s ceiling for speed is to build a better athlete. This is what Anthony and Berry set out to do.
When he first started working with Anthony, Berry’s vertical jump in the TPI Power Test was hovering around 21”. Though that’s a very respectable number for a TOUR player (especially a golfer in their late-30’s measured on a Vertec), it’s not indicative of a player with 190 mph ball speed potential. Now that the foundation had been built, Anthony and Berry went about building a bigger engine.
“Once we established movement quality, we really hammered power and speed. A significant part of his training probably didn’t look much different from an Olympic sprinter or NFL player. We did multiple six-week cycles of all power and speed. Our focus was moving everything as fast as possible whether performing short sprints, plyometrics or med ball variations. The ultimate goal was to do it at max Intent and be as explosive as possible.” - Anthony Spain
At 43 years old, Berry's vertical jump lives in the 26 - 28" range on a Vertec (probably 90th percentile on the PGA TOUR).
3. Improved GRF (not just how much, but when)
Between the backswing and downswing, Berry’s pelvis moved almost 5” towards the target line (measured on our AMM3D). We call this swing characteristic early extension. Early extension is not uncommon among players with a history of limited hip internal rotation. When rotation is challenged through the hips, players tend to move their pelvis towards the target line to generate power.
Swing mechanics are often built around physical limitations. Even when limitations are improved - in this case, hip IR - the player still needs to learn a pattern to take advantage of those. Though early extension is a common compensation for working around a physical limitation, it isn’t the most effective move for most to maximize power and consistency.
When we had Berry out at TPI, we found a few movement tendencies that correlated with his swing mechanics. He was more comfortable rotating his pelvis by using his right leg and not his left (he tore his left ACL) and, like many golfers, he applied ground reaction forces far too late, especially under his lead side.
Not only is ground reaction force on the lead side critical for speed, but also maintaining dynamic posture and avoiding early extension. The momentum of swinging a club and rotating pulls us towards the target line, pushing against the ground with our lead foot helps resist it.
One of our favorite drills for improving this incorporates a rotary stool (a more in depth explanation here in a video we did with Chasing Scratch).
At 177 mph maximum ball speed, Berry’s driver was not a weakness, but it wasn’t a weapon either. His hard work is changing that. During a speed training session this week at the US Open, Berry hit 192 mph ball speed, a new PR.
As we’ve said probably a million times, increasing a golfer’s maximum ball speed is beneficial in many ways, even if it isn't what they'd play with in a tournament. Whether adopting a faster, more comfortable cruising speed, needing extra distance for a forced carry, a more lofted club on second shots or muscling a ball out of heavy rough, clubhead speed is a massive, massive competitive advantage.
We couldn't be happier for Berry and Anthony. Proof that there really is no substitute for a great plan and a lot of work.