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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How Far We’ve Come

Golf Pic

 

The Past

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.

Crossfit Woman Pic

You didn’t see things like this years ago

The Future

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?

So the question is, what does the future hold?

 

Mark

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You Can Write It On The Board, But You Still Have To Coach It

Plate Push Pic

A few days ago, a friend of mine started an online discussion about coaching.  He made a statement that criticized coaches who just write the strength workout on the board and then don’t actually “coach” it.  He was referring primarily to high school sport coaches.  In an ideal world, this wouldn’t happen.  Unfortunately, it happens much more often than most people realize.
So why does this happen? Usually it’s due to at least one of the following reasons:

  • The sport coach does not have a great strength training background.  He/She knows that their players should lift weights but they don’t understand all of the details about technique and program design.
  • The coach is overwhelmed with the duties of their sport and uses the class to plan for practices and games, make phone calls, etc
  • The ratio of players to coaches makes it difficult to truly instruct the athletes in proper training techniques

While all of these do make things difficult for the coaches, it still shouldn’t excuse them from just writing the workout on the board and trusting the kids to follow it correctly.  So what are the drawbacks for the kids involved?

  • Safety – As we all know weight rooms can be dangerous places. Poor supervision greatly increases the chances of something bad happening.
  • Not following the plan – As most of us know, teenagers all think they have a better way of doing things. In many instances, they will choose to follow their own plan rather than the ones they are given. This can create problems related to recovery among other issues
  • Effort Issues – Obviously some people are not nearly as motivated as others. Without someone watching over them and pushing them a little bit, they will never achieve what they’re fully capable of. Of course the other side of things is that some people are super highly motivated. Sometimes somebody has to hold these people back a little because they don’t understand the big picture of the training plan.
  • Fails To Prepare Them For College – Besides the fact that the athletes are missing out on proper physical conditioning that will benefit them at the college level, they are missing out on even more.  They are not being taught that strength training is important.  They also are learning that minimal effort is acceptable.  I’m sure that their college coaches will just love that.

While there are possible solutions, I won’t go on a rant about the most obvious one – putting a qualified person in charge of the S & C program – or any other ones.  I will say this, it’s a shame that it happens.  In the end, it affects the kids negatively.  Hopefully this is a trend that will change sooner rather than later.

 

Mark

P.S.  Be on the lookout for our mobile site www.sports-upgrade.mobi to debut soon.

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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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Combine Prep Isn’t Just Physical

Lacrosse Faceoff Pic

 

Combine Prep Opportunity

I recently trained a high school athlete for a lacrosse combine.  While I haven’t trained lots of lacrosse athletes previously, I was excited by the opportunity.  Besides, most of the training was focused on the combine events and not the sport itself.  We had about 2 weeks to prepare so we mainly focused on fundamental speed and agility skills .  We covered all of the basic things like arm drive, body position, accelerating, decelerating, etc.  Over the two weeks the athlete made numerous improvements in his physical skills and I felt sure that he would make a good showing at the combine.  Since he had never participated in a combine before,we also talked about everything from getting proper rest to how the combine would probably be run.  We he showed up on combine day, I wanted him to be prepared for every possibility that he might face.

The Result

A day after the combine, the athletes father called me to give me the results.  First, the father informed me that the coaches had told the athletes that they weren’t concerned with how fast they ran at the start of a game.  They wanted to see what they could do when they were tired.  Because of this, the combine participants all had to run multiple gassers before they did any combine drills.  While this was something that was certainly different from most combines, the athlete ran the gassers and still had an outstanding day.  He ended up impressing a lot of folks.  When the father told me the story and gave me the results, I was very happy with what the athlete was able to accomplish.

Mental Preparation

Just like all Strength and Conditioning Coaches, I always want my clients to do well in their sports, combines, tryouts, pro days, etc.  However, the father made one comment that made me realize how well prepared his son was for the combine.  He said that when his son showed up to the combine, he was “comfortably confident”.  To me this meant that he was confident in his physical skills, but that he also felt comfortable with everything that he was about to experience.  Those comments, plus the gassers that the kids had to run, made me realize how important it is for athletes to be prepared for all aspects of tryouts, combines, etc.  That should help them to perform better but should also help them to handle anything unusual that happens (like the gassers, rain, etc).  While I normally try to work in some mental preparation when I train athletes for these events, I really emphasized it with this athlete.  Primarily that was because he had never been to a combine before.  However, after his experience, I make sure to cover any details that I can with all of my clients.  This applies even to athletes that have been to multiple combines/tryouts.  While veteran athletes may have lots of good info, they may have picked up some bad “tips” also.  There is no telling what info that have gotten from other athletes, coaches, the internet, etc.  Because of this, sometimes it is necessary to do some “damage control” and make sure that they have good info to follow.  I probably put more emphasis on this part of the preparation than other people do.  The thing is, if I train someone, I want them to do their best.  I’m not just there to go through the coaching motions and take their money.  To me it doesn’t matter if it is a high school kid hoping to perform well at a combine, or a pro athlete prepping for a pro day or tryout.  Yes, if the pro athlete gets signed, it’s a great feather in your cap.  However, to the high school kid, his performance is just as important.

So, what’s the take home message?  Don’t forget to emphasize mental preparation with your athletes.  It can help your athlete to be better prepared.  It can also give them a huge advantage when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Mark

Sports Upgrade Training

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Teen Athletes: Extra Recovery Needed?

sleeping teen pic

Is your teen athlete getting enough recovery time?

One two separate occasions recently, I have had some sort of discussion about recovery for teen athletes.  Once was with a coach and once was in response to a comment on my blog.  Both of these got me thinking about the demands that we tend to place on teenage athletes.  I don’t think that we always account for all of these when we plan out our training programs. As coaches, we often think that the athletes are only practicing or exercising when we see them.  However, that isn’t always the case.  So what does the “average” teenager do in a normal day?

  • School
  • Homework
  • Chores at home/job
  • Social time
  • Eating, showering, and other necessary things

So what about their sporting activities?

  • Practice for sport #1
  • Practice for sport # 2 (if applicable)
  • Travel time necessary for away games/practices
  • Strength training/conditioning
  • Miscellaneous sports activities – pick up basketball, PE classes, etc

While not all of these apply to every teen, this isn’t that uncommon for some teens.  I have talked to many teens who are involved in multiple sports for a large portion of the year.  They try to squeeze in as many practices, games, and strength & conditioning sessions as they can in the course of a year.  So where does that lead?  It leads to athletes who are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  It leads to athletes who aren’t happy, who suffer academically, and who end up a physical mess due to never getting enough breaks and recovery time.

So what should we do as a coach to help?

  • Get to know your athletes – Do they play other sports?  When?  How often do they practice/play?
  • Try to coordinate – I’ve seen too many times that a coach tries to keep their athletes going year round and never give them a break.  Try to work things out with the athlete and their other sport(s).  Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work out too often.  Usually it’s because the ADULT EGOS get in the way.
  • Give athletes ample recovery time – Plan it into your season and your training.
  • Educate your athletes – I realize that athletes (and parents) won’t always listen to you.  Regardless, you should still make every effort to educate them about recovery and overtraining.
  • Don’t be afraid to make an athlete take a break – The best thing for them may be to send them home for a few days and make them take a break.  Of course, you can’t control what they do during this time off, but hopefully they actually rest.

We can’t control everything that our athletes do, especially when they are away from us.  Also realize that we haven’t even touched on nutrition, sleep, the growth state that teens are in and how they affect recovery.  As a coach, we know that all of these things work together and drastically affect how our athletes recover and perform.  However, coaches need to focus on what they can control.  Make sure that you know all of the demands placed on your athletes, plan appropriately, and attempt to educate them.  Even though many things are out of our control, hopefully taking these steps will help.

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

Sports Upgrade

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Injuries Happen

marcus lattimore pic

Marcus Lattimore, Running Back for The University of South Carolina

If you keep up with sports, there’s no doubt that you heard about the injury to Marcus Lattimore this past weekend.  While I’m not a South Carolina fan, I loved watching him run the ball.  Even though he was coming off of ACL surgery last season, he was still a  great back with an incredible future in front of him.  While I’ve never met him, a lot of people have great things to say about him as a person.  I’m one of many people who is hoping a praying for a full recovery for him.

Now comes the really unfortunate part of things.  I’m sure that Lattimore lifted, ran, conditioned, rehabbed, and did everything else that he should have done to be 100% healthy and to prevent any type of injury.  I’m sure that his ATC’s, PT’s, and S&C Coaches did everything they could to prepare him for the physical demands of playing football in the SEC.  The unfortunate thing is that no matter how good of a job we all do to prepare the athlete, not every injury is avoidable in sports.  One of the major purposes of a quality strength and conditioning program is to help prevent injuries.  Unfortunately, we can’t prevent all of them.  Lattimore is a prime example of this.  He has suffered two knee injuries in the last two seasons. Both were contact injuries and I’m not sure that either could have been termed as “preventable”.

I had a discussion with one strength coach recently about this very topic.  He was frustrated because several of his athletes had recently had season ending injuries.  He knew that the kids worked hard in the off-season and he hated to see them have significant injuries.  I pointed out to him that no matter how good the program, sometimes injuries just happen.  Unfortunately, they are a part of sports.  I know that this didn’t really cheer him up, but I felt that it was accurate.

Of course, his feelings on the issue are a great example of how Coaches, Athletic Trainers, etc feel about their athletes.  We all want the very best for every athlete that we work with.  We want them to excel on the field, in the classroom, and in life.  We also want them to stay healthy.  When they don’t, we all take a look at the situation and wonder if there was more that we could have done or if there is more that we can do to get them well quicker.  That’s the nature of a good coach and a good person.  It’s also what fuels the fire for some strength coaches to never stop searching for a better way.  Because yes, injuries do happen in sports.  However, that doesn’t mean that we should just accept that fact and stop trying to eliminate all of the injuries that we can.

Mark

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Football Might Have It Right

Football Has It Right Pic

Is football doing it better than any other sport?

Football might have it right.  What do they have right?  The sports development model.  The sport of football is probably doing it better than any other sport simply because they only have one defined season.  The American football season starts in August/September and plays out over the next several months.  There aren’t opportunities to play organized tackle football year round.  While college and some states do have “spring football”, that isn’t quite the same thing.  Spring football is generally about three weeks of organized practices.  It isn’t the same as playing a true spring season.  It’s not like soccer, softball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball, and lacrosse players that play travel ball and participate in tournaments during the 8 months that their school team isn’t in season.

So how does this help football player development?

  • It cuts down on overuse injuries – what do you think causes all of the arm and shoulder problems in baseball?  Year-round throwing maybe?
  • It forces coaches to work on other things during the off-season – lifting, speed, agility, etc.  According to most sport development models, there should be a defined “off-season” where these skills become the focus.
  • It makes the football season more special for everyone – when you play year round on multiple teams, how much does each win or loss matter?  The legendary John Wooden didn’t want his players playing in the off-season partially for this reason.

It’s too bad the so many other sports have taken other approaches to sports development.  I’m not sure that playing year-round is good for the athletes and is the best way to develop them long-term.  Unfortunately, there are a few youth football leagues that are starting to have a true spring season in addition to playing in the fall. Hopefully this concept doesn’t become the norm in football.

Mark

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Female Strength Training

Barbie Pic

The cover says it all.

One of my favorite magazine/journal covers ever comes from an old issue of Training & Conditioning.  I love the title “Barbie Doesn’t Play Sports”.  To me, it promotes a hard working, tough image.  To me, that sums up my feelings about successful female athletes.  They aren’t afraid to work hard.  They aren’t afraid to work hard on the court or the field.  They aren’t afraid to work hard year round.  However, as important as it is, sometimes it is hard to get these same females into the weightroom.  Why is this?  I think that this is largely because of it being an area that they are unfamiliar with.  Strength training is scary for a lot of females.  Many of them have been bombarded by images from female bodybuilders.  These pictures always depict some lady who is loaded up on every supplement (legal & illegal) that she can pump into her body.  Unfortunately, this is the image of strength training that gets burned into many females minds.  They quickly decide that if lifting weights makes you look like that, they don’t want any of it.  Unfortunately, females need to be in the weightroom.  Why?

  • Injury prevention – Just like male athletes, females need to develop strength to help prevent injuries and limit the severity of those that they do get.
  • Improved performance – A stronger athlete can run faster, jump higher, accelerate quicker, and decelerate more effectively.  These all lead to better sport performance.
  • Correction of weaknesses – Females who haven’t ever taken part in a solid strength training program tend to have various muscular weaknesses.  These then add to injury problems and limit their performance potential.  Strength training can quickly start the athlete down the road to correction.
  • College preparation – Any high school athlete that wants to go on to play in college needs to strength train.  Not only will it help their performance (and therefore their recruiting), it will make them stand out once they get to college.  If the first time that an athlete has ever lifted is when they show up to college, they are already behind.  In my mind, if a female shows up on day 1 and is already comfortable and proficient in the weightroom, she has set herself apart from many of the other incoming freshman athletes.

So, how do you get females into the weightroom?  Educate and market.  You may have to teach them about the benefits and get them to realize that they won’t end up looking like the female Hulk.  You are also going to have to really make a motivated effort to get them started.  Once they start to see some benefits, the marketing should take care of itself.

Mark

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