My last post discussed how far strength training for athletes has come since the days where many athletes didn’t lift weights. In that post, I briefly discussed Frank Stranahan, a successful golfer and weightlifter from the 1940’s – 50’s. That post got me thinking some so I decided to research info about strength training for golfers. I came across an article from the Annual Review of Golf Coaching (2007) that includes a piece by Harvey Newton and responses to it from several other individuals. Having spent time talking to Harvey in the past, I have great respect for his opinion and knowledge and I knew that this article would be a great place to start my research. In this piece, Newton give some facts about Stranahan. When you read this, keep in mind that Stranahan won 6 PGA events and 50 amateur tournaments.
Stranahan had experience as a competitive weightlifter, having officially lifted
235 lbs in the Press (no longer a competitive lift), 225 lbs in the Snatch, and 300 lbs
in the Clean-and-Jerk. In powerlifting, minus the Bench Press, his best was 410 lbs
in the Squat and 510 lbs in the Deadlift.
Does that sound like most modern golf training? No. What many people seem to be doing for golf specific training includes unstable surface training and lots of core training. These programs tend to avoid heavy lifting and Olympic lifts. The thinking is that golfers need to focus on developing their core muscles and that heavy lifting will cause them to become “muscle bound” and inflexible. But is this the correct approach?
To decide, we need to take a look at the benefits of Olympic lifting:
Increased core strength
Improved flexibility and stability
Of course the primary benefit of lifting heavier weights is increased strength. With all of the benefits of heavy lifting and Olympic lifts, why wouldn’t an athlete want to do them? Aren’t the goals of training programs for golfers to improve core strength, flexibility, stability, and be able to generate more power for longer drives? It seems like Olympic lifts can help accomplish all of these. I can understand if an athlete isn’t ready for this type of training, but why would you want to just automatically exclude them from a program? Much like the authors of the articles previously I mentioned, I believe that if a golf athlete is physically ready, there is a definite place for heavy lifting and explosive training in golf training. I know that this goes against the common line of thinking of many in the golf industry, but the goal of coaching is to help an athlete perform at their highest level. These types of exercises have been shown to be beneficial for golfers and they do have a role in a strength program designed for them.
Earlier this week, a sucessful golfer from the 1940’s and 50’s, Frank Stranahan, passed away. I had never heard of Mr. Stranahan, but when I read the article about him, I was amazed. What was amazing to me was that he was also a dedicated bodybuilder & fitness buff. While bodybuilding wasn’t unheard of in that era, it wasn’t as common as it is now. For a golfer, it was unheard of. In golf, just as in baseball, the thinking was that lifting weights was a no-no. Most felt that this would bulk an athlete up. This would then lead to a decrease in flexibility and performance in their sport. Now it is common for athletes in both sports to regularly lift weights during both the off-season and in-season.
I grew up in the 1970’s in Central Florida. I remember going to the local high school with my Mom and Grandmother so that they could lift weights. Yes, in the 70’s this was pretty much unheard of. Women didn’t lift weights. I was at such a young age that I didn’t realize until years later how rare this was. However, we had a unique situation in our town. Since I grew up near the headquarters of the Nautilus fitness company, some of our local coaches were influenced by them. One of the local high school coaches began to open the school weightroom in the evenings for local people to workout. This was before the days of Planet Fitness, etc. There wasn’t anywhere else to workout in our town. The Coach was able to convince my Mom and Grandmother to lift weights to stay in shape. I basically grew up believing that weightlifting was normal for everyone. Heck, I remember walking into a bar on a bench and splitting my head open once. I also remember falling off of a multi-exerciser (that I was goofing around on AFTER having been told to stay off of it lol) and getting the wind knocked out of me. I saw my whole 6 year old life flashing before my eyes. I thought I was a goner for sure lol.
You didn’t see things like this years ago
Obviously weight training wasn’t popular for most people in the past. Fast forward to today. Now I have some athletes that I can’t keep out of the weightroom. I have female athletes that I tell to get in the weightroom more if they want to get better. We look on TV and see women doing all sorts of things, some that many men can’t handle. Isn’t it amazing how far things have come?