Should Golfers Train Like Other Athletes?

olympic-lifts-snatch2 Pic

Do think that he’s using any core muscles?

 

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 explosiveness
  • 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.

 

Mark

 

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4 Benefits of a Warm Up

Soccer Warm Up Pic

 

A Waste of Time?

There are many athletes that view the warm up as a waste of time.  It’s unfortunate that they view it this way.  They obviously don’t understand the true benefits of a properly designed and performed warm up.

So what are the benefits?

1. Increased Flexibility & Mobility – A good warm up can help to improve an athletes flexibility.  Of course this is important for the workout that is about to be undertaken, but it’s also important as part of long term flexibility development.  If an athlete doesn’t take part in activities that increase flexibility, they will lose it.  This includes stretching post-workout and warming up pre-workout.

2. Improved Performance – Warming up helps to increase muscle temperature, tissue flexibility, heart rate, and breathing rate.  All of these physiological responses to a warm up are meant to get your body ready for exercise.  It’s kind of like taking time to warm up your car on a cold morning.    Can you just hop in your car and drive off?  Yes.  Is it going to work as well when you do that?  No.  The same can be said for your body.

3. Decreased Injury Risk – Every time an athlete trains, practices, or competes, there is a chance of an injury.  A warm up is the first thing that an athlete can do to decrease this risk.  The primary reasons behind this are discussed in #1 and #2 above.

4. Improved Mental Focus – How focused are you without a little effort to forget the stresses that filled your day?  After dealing with customers, co-workers, emails, phone calls, traffic, family, etc, most of us are a little bit rattled and unfocused.  Even though many of our athletes may have different stresses, do you think that it’s much different for them?  Even teens have school, jobs, family issues, and social issues.  A warm up helps them to get focused.  It can help them to forget the issues they faced during the day and help them to remember why they are training.  If the workout is in the AM, the warm up can help to wake them up a little bit.  This can lead to improved performance and attitude.

While it’s important to take your athletes through a warm up, it’s also important to be able to tell them why they need to do one.  That can help them to give better effort during the warm up instead of just going through the motions.

 

Mark

 

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Crossfit – As Seen On TV

There's a right way, and there's a wrong way....

There’s a right way, and there’s a wrong way….

 

The Film Doesn’t Lie

Last night I was flipping around the TV looking to see what was on.  I only had a few minutes so I didn’t want to get too involved in anything. I came across a show about the 2012 Crossfit Games.  I’ve watched a few minutes of these shows in the past but never really paid much attention to them.  During last nights show, one of the events included female athletes doing pull-ups.  When I started to watch the pull-ups, I was left almost speechless.  Their legs were swinging with each rep.  Actually, swinging is an understatement.  Their form was horrible.  It almost reminded me of a gymnast swinging on the parallel bars.  During the same competition, the athletes had to complete a combo lift that included a front squat.  They had judges observing the squats to ensure that each squat was to parallel depth.  What amazed me was the fact that they cared so much about form on one exercise but not the other.  While many people know what Crossfit is, many others don’t.  These national shows are a chance for them to reach a lot of people and show off what they are all about.  Unfortunately, what I saw is more likely to scare people off.  It scares potential clients because it seems unsafe.  It scares Strength Coaches and Personal Trainers because we can just see injuries waiting to happen.  I know that Crossfit has a lot of fans out there.  It also has a lot of detractors.  From what I saw, I can understand why it has so many of the latter.

 

Mark

 

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Balanced Training

Scales pic

Is your training program balanced?

Let Me Count The Ways…

How many different ways are there to draw up a training program?  How many different things influence a program?  Some programs are written up based on powerlifting concepts, some are more Olympic lifting based, some are written based on other concepts, and some are combinations of all of the above.  So which one is the right one?  Well that’s easy to answer:  the one that works best for the individual athlete.

Is there one perfect program?  No.  If there was, everyone would be using it.  That’s one of the neat things when training athletes:  based on what the athlete needs, we are all allowed to use our background and beliefs to design a program.  Regardless of what influences you in your program design, you need to keep one key thing in mind when designing the program.  What’s that?  You must keep the program balanced.  What has to be balanced?  Everything does.  What does everything include?  Check the list below to find out:

Balance This:

  • Push Exercises  & Pull Exercises – This should be common sense but some programs are loaded too much in one direction.  Remember, the object of training is to make the athletes better, not create imbalances.
  • Power & Strength Exercises – While there are different types of programs, there does have to be some sort of balance.  I don’t believe that a program can be based entirely on strength  or on power.  While I don’t necessarily think that it has to be a set amount of either type of work, both areas need to be addressed.
  • Prehab/Corrective Exercises & Training Exercises – Is there a place for prehab and corrective exercises?  YES!!  Do I like to see an entire workout based on them?  No.  I believe in trying to find ways to incorporate prehab and corrective exercises into the training plan.  At the same time, as long as it isn’t going to injure the person, I want them to be able to get in some “traditional” training during the same workout.  There is a place for both and they should coexist in the plan.
  • Flexibility & Strength/Power Exercises –  We’ve all seen the stereotypical “muscle bound” guy walking down the beach.  They’re strong as an ox.  Unfortunately, they are so inflexible that they can’t even move.  This is the last thing that we want in our athletes.  It is just setting them up for an injury.  Therefore, we need to make sure that there is an adequate amount of flexibility work included in our programs.  By in our programs, I don’t mean as a “homework” assignment for the athlete.  As we all know, in reality, they probably won’t do it (or will do it halfway).  Therefore, it needs to be included in the daily plan.
  • Speed/Agility/Conditioning Work – Do athletes need to work on speed?  Yes.  Agility?  Yes.  Conditioning?  Yes.  No matter what level they are, there needs to be some work in each of these areas.  Of course, it doesn’t have to be an equal split between the three.  The program should be based on the individual athletes needs.  But no matter how much they need conditioning work, speed and agility can still be integrated in to the program.  No matter how much they need to get faster and more agile, they cannot forget about conditioning.

Where does this leave us when we plan programs for out clients?  It generally leaves us with a multitude of things that we can choose to work on.  Unfortunately, none of us have the time needed to do all of those things. That is what creates the balancing act when planning a program.  We have to find time and ways to incorporate strength, power, speed, agility, conditioning, and flexibility exercises into our programs.  We also have to create a program that is based on individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses.  That is the challenge that we are all faced with.  Of course, putting together a good program and coaching the athlete through it makes all of the challenges worthwhile when you see a great end result.  That is the reward for the challenge.

 

Mark

 

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The Evolution of a Strength & Conditioning Program

crumpled paper pic

Is it time to scrap the old program for one that is better?

Looking Backwards

As the high school football and volleyball seasons wind down in many places, I thought that this would be a good time to address program design.  After a season, most strength coaches look back and see if there is anything that they should do differently the following season.  This evaluation process often forces coaches to look at the physical preparation of their athletes and their off-season programs.  Many times a team will have a series of injuries to it’s players and often many of these will be similar injuries.  Some seasons a team is hit with a rash of ankle injuries, sometimes it’s shoulder injuries, and other seasons it’s another body part.  Regardless, it forces the staff to evaluate their program and decide if changes need to be made to help prevent more injuries.  This is a great example of how strength programs should always be evolving.  There is no perfect program.  If there was, everyone would use it.

Evaluation Leads To Evolution

What things should you look at in your program?  While every sport & situation is different, you should evaluate your program for each of the following:

  • Injury prevention exercises
  • Muscular strength exercises
  • Power exercises
  • Speed work
  • Agility work
  • Sport specific conditioning
  • Flexibility/mobility exercises
  • Adequate recovery

In your particular sport or situation, not all of these may apply.  However, in most sports you should address each of these items to ensure that your program is complete.  So sit down and take an honest look at your program for the last few months and the last year.  How does it address each of these areas?  Do you spend too much time/effort in some areas and not enough in others?  If so, make adjustments for the next year.  It will make your program better and your athletes better.

Mark

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All Of The Above

Links of Chain Pic

Which athletic skill is most important?  Speed, agility, balance, coordination, strength, power, flexibility?  It seems like a simple question, but there really isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all answer.  Why, you ask?  Because it all depends on the sport.  Actually, even within the same sport it can depend on the particular position of the player.  If I’m looking at football lineman, I probably place more value on strength and power.  What about football skill position players?  Maybe speed, agility, and some power.  A gymnast needs flexibility, balance, and coordination.  But even if we try to pick just a few key areas to focus on, doesn’t that often leave us missing a few.  Would it help a football lineman to have some flexibility (think about hip mobility and the ability to get low)?  While a lineman is never going to run a 4.4 sec forty yard dash, doesn’t it still help him to be faster than other similar players?  What about the gymnast.  If we limit our development to flexibility, coordination, and balance, aren’t we missing the strength necessary to perform certain movements?  Is it possible that all of these skills are linked together and contribute to athletic success in many different sports?

You see, each sport has different demands and necessities for it’s athletes.  Even within a sport, there can be different demands based on the position a player plays.  Even with the different demands, there is often a lot of crossover.  Just like in the examples above, many athletes do need some development in many or all of the athletic skill areas.  While a basketball player won’t ever have to run 40 yards, speed is still beneficial to have on the court.  While a volleyball player doesn’t have the same agility needs as a soccer player, it still makes them better if they develop the skill.

So, what is the most important skill?   ALL OF THEM!!!  You have to design training based on the individual athlete and the demands of the sport, but in almost all cases you should never eliminate any element of overall skill development.  You should base your drills and emphasis on the athlete’s sport and the it’s requirements.  However, remember that we are trying to develop better athletes.  Therefore, we should work to develop the total athlete and all of their skills.

 

Mark

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Thoughts On The Olympics

Ryan Lochte Training

Just like many of you, I’ve spent part of the last week watching the Olympics.  There has been a big deal made about Ryan Lochte’s training and some of the unusual things that he does to prepare.  These include tire flips, keg tosses, and using ropes.  Some other S & C coaches have given their thoughts on his workouts.  Some of these were positive and some not so much.    Some of us might not feel comfortable putting an athlete through strongman type activities.  Ryan’s S & C coach, Matt Delancey, does.  I’ve heard Matt speak on a few occasions at clinics, including one lecture on the use of strongman exercises with athletes.  I also had an opportunity to watch him at work.  Matt is a former strongman competitor so yes, sometimes strongman exercises make it into the routines he uses with his athletes.  One thing that you may not know is how much Matt emphasizes correct form.  He is much less worried with how much weight someone can lift than he is with developing and maintaining proper form.  His number one rule for strongman exercises is that as soon as the athletes form breaks down, you stop the exercise.  I believe that having a full understanding of an exercise how to perform it correctly is crucial to being a good S & C Coach.  While many of us might not feel comfortable including strongman exercises, often that is due to our background and a lack of knowledge about the exercises.  While some might not agree with using these exercises with a swimmer, his coach is very comfortable with it.  He is also very competent to teach the exercises and keep them safe.  Whether we agree with the program that Ryan does or have some issues with it, we need to keep one thing in mind:  every coach is different.  Every coach has different backgrounds and experiences, different styles, and different levels of comfort with certain exercises or methods.  That’s one of the neat things about strength and conditioning.  While there is a lot of science that we rely on, there is also room for each of us to be unique and create our own program.  Just because a program is different than one we might design, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

Here’s a sample of Ryan’s Training.

Strongman Exercises For Everyone?

One post I read a few days ago stated that Lochte’s training would have a negative effect on many clients.  The author felt that many of their clients would come in begging to include tire flips, etc in their training.  He’s probably right.  I’m sure that due to the publicity, many athletes and coaches will suddenly want to include these in their training.  Guess what?  In general, that’s probably not a good idea.  Remember, training programs should be individualized based on many factors including what the athlete is capable of.  There also needs to be consideration given to what the coach can safely teach the athlete.  This is where my greatest fear is.  I hope that coaches stick with what is right and with what they can safely teach.  Unfortunately, some won’t and they will end up needlessly injuring some athletes.

Mark

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Smart Work

I spent the past week working at a sports camp for young kids.  The camp used a large local park that was open to the public. During several of these days, I saw a local Strength & Conditioning coach working privately with a young athlete (about 13 years old).  During my breaks I tried to sneak a peak at what drills they used.  While I didn’t see anything new, what I saw did make me think about working smart vs just working hard.  What I saw each day wasn’t smart work, it was just hard. I saw lots of repetition of drills, but very little teaching and correction.   While working hard can be the focus of certain days or certain drills, it seemed to be the focus of every day for this athlete.   While I wasn’t close enough to hear what the coach was saying to the athlete, I didn’t see the coach trying to demonstrate or correct any technique. What I saw was a series of drills run over and over until the kid was exhausted. Most of the young teens that I have trained need a lot of fundamental drills and a lot of technique work so that they can develop their basic athletic skills. That is working smart. That is also smart coaching. S & C coaches get paid to develop athletes. Yes, sometimes that involves working them hard. However, when dealing with young athletes, there should be a lot of smart work. That should be what differentiates a S & C coach from the average person – the ability to teach an athlete, not just run them through some drills. A great coach is a great teacher.

Mark

Here are 2 other related posts that you might enjoy:

Coaching = Teaching

Why does junction boys syndrome still exist?

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Post Season Recovery For Athletes – How?

Basketball Hoop Pic

In my previous post on post-season recovery, I discussed why it is important for athletes to recover after their season concludes.  Now lets discuss some guidelines for how to accomplish sufficient recovery.

First off, remember that these guidelines are based on an ideal situation.  As we all know, those rarely happen in the sports world.  Since the NBA Finals are going on right now, we’ll use them as an example.  In case you’re not paying attention to the finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder are playing the Miami Heat. If that series goes the full 7 games, their season won’t finish until June 26th.  Obviously making the finals is a great achievement and no team would trade that for anything.  At the same time, teams that didn’t make the playoffs finished playing their last games on April 26th.  That’s two months before the Heat and Thunder will be done.  To fully put things in perspective, last year NBA training camps were originally scheduled to open October 3rd.  That was before the lockout ended up shortening the season.  If the dates stay similar in 2012, that means that the teams that didn’t make the playoffs will have as much as two extra months to strength train for next season.  It also means that they will have more time to recover from the rigors of the 2011-12 season.  The odd twist is that the teams that had the best seasons and played the most games will have the least amount of time to recover.  As a strength coach you have to be prepared to work around multiple issues, especially if the length of your off-season can be drastically shortened by your teams success.

So what guidelines should you follow during your recovery?

  • Heal Up – during a season, almost every player ends up with some bumps and bruises.  No matter how my we work to prevent them, it’s going to happen.  Many of these can be healed up with some rest.  For more significant injuries, make sure to continue rehabbing them.  With no time devoted to practice and games, you should be able to make some serious headway towards getting well.
  • Check For Imbalances – Checking for imbalances ties in closely with rehab.  Over the course of a season, players can develop numerous strength and flexibility imbalances.  As an example, baseball pitchers tend to develop greater external rotation in their pitching shoulder during the season.  Some people believe that this can lead to other problems if it is not addressed in the off-season.  Step one to solving these problems is to identify them right after the season.  Then the player can begin to work on them during the recovery phase.
  • Stay Active – This phase is a recovery phase, not a sit on the sofa and be lazy phase.  In many of the publications on periodization, this phase if called “active rest”.  Athletes need to stay active to some extent, even during recovery.  Staying active doesn’t mean going to the gym for a two hour lift-a-thon.  It does however mean doing something physical.  This is a great time for athletes to participate in other fitness or sports activities that they enjoy.  I read once that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to enjoy riding bikes and playing volleyball after he competed in the Mr. Olympia each year.  I believe that it can be beneficial for athletes to follow the same sort of plan.  Find one activity (or several) that you enjoy doing that will help you to exercise.  Then participate in this activity several times a week.  The idea is to keep yourself active, break a sweat, use your muscles, and get your heart and lungs going.  If you do choose to lift weights, keep things light – 3 sets of 10-12 at bout 70% of your one rep max is a good guideline.
  • Rest – Yes, you should rest your body during this recovery time.  Get plenty of sleep and relax some.  This is not the time to stay out until all hours of the night partying it up.  Enjoy time with your family and friends but just remember, the crazier you get with your lifestyle, the harder it will be to get back into peak shape later.
The big question now is, how long should the recovery phase last?  Periodization models tend to recommend 1-2 weeks.  I have always like Arnold’s recommendation.  He said that he would stay out of the gym until he really got the itch to go back.  He figured that was his body’s way of telling him that he was ready to start training again.  I believe that two weeks is a good starting point.  If you communicate with your athletes, you may find out that some of them need more time and some need less.  You can always tweak the length of time if you need to.  If you are dealing with younger athletes, it may be necessary to provide some structure for them during this time.  If you tell them to “go rest but stay active” you will have athletes doing all sorts of things based on their own interpretation.  A structured plan may be better for them.  That way you can have some control over what they are doing for recovery.
Regardless of what the circumstances are, a post season recovery period can be very beneficial to your athletes.  Make sure to include one in your planning.
Mark

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Don’t Skip The In-Season Training Program

Sometimes sports coaches amaze me.  Over and over again, I see them emphasize the off-season training program.  They push the kids to lift, run, and lift some more.  While most of these programs are “voluntary”, participation is always highly encouraged.  So what about once the season starts?  That’s a different story.  Guess what the first thing to get cut out is?  Yep, the strength program.  During the season, the priority is to spend time practicing and prepping for games.  However, why does the strength program always seem to get cut out?  Take a look at the average sports practice.  How much time is wasted due to poor planning & coaching?  A lot.  Yet instead of making practices more efficient so that a coach can fit in the in-season strength program, they just eliminate it.  So what does this do for the kids?  Nothing positive.  The two major things skipping the in-season program does are both huge negatives:

  1. Decrease in strength – During the season, an athlete is going to get worn down, banged up, and possibly lose some strength.  If they don’t lift during the season, they will definitely lose strength.  So what do you do?  Keep them lifting.  While the kid may lose some strength during the season, the stronger they stay late into the season, the better that they can play late in the season.
  2. The injury factor – It’s widely accepted that lifting weights helps to decrease the chance of injury.  Guess what?  It may also help to decrease the time missed if a player does get an injury.  Research on high school football players compared time missed by players who received similar injuries.  It was found that those who were participating in an in-season strength program missed 1/3 of the time of other players with similar injuries.  Not all injuries can be prevented, but most coaches, players, and parents should be willing to take steps to limit the time lost from injury.

I think that these two factors are good enough reasons to make the in-season program a priority.  Why don’t sport coaches feel the same?  I guess that S & C coaches just have to keep looking for opportunities to educate sports coaches.  Maybe one day things will change.

Check back next week for more on how to design a good in-season program.

 

Mark

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