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?
Are those fancy shoes helping your jump training???
There has been a lot written over the last few years about barefoot running and training. I’ve even written a few posts myself on the topic (And The Feet Have It and 3 Tips For Barefoot Training). However, what I haven’t seen is anything about barefoot plyometrics or jumping. Recently there was a study published in the JSCR that addressed this. The study looked at the performance of male and female athletes while performing a vertical jump, depth drop, and Bosco test. While I won’t go into all of the statistics, in most instances subjects who were barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear had better jump heights and peak power results than those wearing tennis shoes. These subjects also displayed equal landing forces to those athletes wearing shoes.
My thoughts from this study?
That $100 pair of tennis shoes that you’re training in may be hindering your performance in jumping activities. These shoes are often designed with lots of padding to decrease landing forces. While this is beneficial to limit the wear and tear on the body, this same padding may limit our explosiveness when jumping.
We know that when you lift heavier weight, you get stronger. Does the same hold true if you do plyometrics or jump training barefoot? Only time will tell as more research is completed. However, it does make sense that training barefoot would have positive long term effects. The previously mentioned study showed better peak power output and jump height when barefoot or in minimalist footwear. If you get better results each time, what can happen if you train this way consistently?
I’ve previously written about the benefits of barefoot training while running, doing agility drills, warming up, etc. At the same time, I’ve always felt like certain activities might put the athlete at risk for injuries when they were barefoot. Any type of jumping activity was on my list of things not to do while barefoot. I’m now rethinking that belief. While I will probably end up settling on minimalist footwear as a safe alternative, the benefits of jumping without tennis shoes could outweigh the risks. Plus we know that there isn’t a real difference in landing forces no matter what you are wearing.
What are your thoughts on jumping without tennis shoes?
What is the most important function of a strength training program? To get stronger to perform better? To get faster? To be able to jump higher? Guess what? It’s none of these. The most important function is to help prevent injuries. I’ve mentioned this many times before in my other posts. Here’s a doctor who is delivering the same message. It’s a short read but worth your time. You can share it with others to help teach the importance of strength training for young athletes. I hope that you enjoy it.
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?
Chores at home/job
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are 2 other related posts that you might enjoy: