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.
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:
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.
You often hear coaches, parents, and the media talk about how “explosive” an athlete is. While some folks are born with natural explosiveness, most athletes need to spend time developing this valuable skill. Strength coaches all agree that development of explosiveness (AKA – power), is important for athletes in almost all sports.
So how do you develop power? One common method is to use the Olympic Weightlifting movements, the clean and jerk and the snatch. While each of these lifts is an excellent way to develop power, they are very technical lifts that require a large amount of instruction. In certain situations they are ideal to use, but not all. If you have athletes that or inexperienced lifters or if safety is an issue, then you may have to find other alternatives to develop power in your athletes.
So what can you do if Olympic lifts aren’t ideal to use? There are several options. This post will look at the various types of jumps that can be used. Part 2 will explore various medicine ball exercises.
These jumps are listed in order from simple to most complex. Anytime that you introduce one of the exercises, make sure to properly teach it and be a stickler about technique, especially on the landings.
Sets & Reps
Since the development of power generally involves all out effort on each rep, it is best to keep reps low for each set. I like using sets of 5. If you are only using one of these exercises for power development, you should use 3-5 sets. If you are using several types of jumps in a session, Try not to go over 10 total sets. This will allow your athletes to have plenty of energy left for the remainder of the training session.