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Opinion & Analysis

Why Olympic lifting is great for golf fitness and performance

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Longer drives. Faster clubhead speed…Golf is a power sport!

Fitness in golf is, and has been, the hot topic in terms of performance and the future of the game. Understanding how to train, when to train and how that relates to your golf game can be a difficult task.

Olympic lifting, in some form, should be a part of that training. Olympic lifting consists of two lifts: the clean and jerk and the snatch. These two movements can be broken down in many different forms of lifting which can have huge benefits for your golf performance.

The best players in the world train a lot harder than people think, and these lifts, in some form, will be in their fitness programs.

The clean and jerk sees the barbell lifted from the ground to the shoulder and then to overhead (two movements) whereas the snatch is straight from the ground to the overhead position.

The lifts will increase performance and health in a number of ways:

  • Increased power output due to the global movement patterns that strengthen the neuromuscular link and ability to function.
  • Increased ground force reactions and the ability to use the ground for movement.
  • High levels of core stability and spinal health improvements through strength, positioning and movement quality.
  • Increased strength and muscle mass without unnecessary bulk due to range of motion and multi-joint activation.
  • Great benefits for coordination, balance and agility through new learning pathways and challenges.
  • A more efficient overall physical system that is primed to create speed, power and force.

It becomes really interesting to then transition this performance increase over to the golf swing to give you the gains you want.

Improved physical sequencing leading to a more efficient, powerful golf swing

You will have heard the term ‘Kinematic sequence’ numerous times relative to the golf swing and this is the engine of your swing. The key being to create force in a sequential way starting from the ground through the legs, to the hips, torso and finally through the arms, hands and into the club. Creating optimal force. The Olympic lifts work in the same way, creating force by pushing away from the ground with the legs, extending at the hip to create full force, using the arms and then the hands to bring the bar into position. Learn the patterns, create more speed period.

Great neuromuscular connectivity and activation

The ability to recruit and ‘fire’ muscles in the correct sequence and with full force is something that differs from person to person and will also reflect your lifestyle. If you want to get everything out of your swing and your game, you need to be able to recruit the musculature in the most efficient way possible. This means more of the muscle will be working to create force and therefore your output can be considerably higher.

Core stability and spinal posture

Yet again, the golf swing and the lifts match up here as during both movements posture and spine angle must be maintained throughout. It’s one of the biggest physical faults in the golf swing to see a lack of glute activation (think Tiger) and therefore a loss of posture and a player ‘coming out’ of the shot resulting in any number of misses. During the Olympic lifts, you will learn how to maintain spine angle and core activation whilst all of the other muscles work to create force.

Overall movement capacity, balance and coordination

The Olympic lifts need to be learned, and this is a good thing! Actively learning new movement patterns will help your everyday movement, balance and coordination and that can only be good for golf. Ever made a swing change and performed movements that were not even close to what you were aiming for (I have)? Well by learning such a complex movement pattern and benefitting the other aspects of fitness we often don’t think about (balance, coordination etc) you can see movements become more controlled, efficient and easier to implement over time.

Creation of higher levels of fast twitch muscle fibers (more speed!)

Your body has an incredible ability to adapt to what you ask it to so; sit at a desk all day and your body will adapt with poor posture and a lack of muscle mass etc. However if you add Olympic lifting to your training you are actively training muscle fiber activation as well as strength, speed and power etc. Everyone is genetically different here but no matter where you’re at currently you will see an increase in performance on and off the course.

Stronger you, stronger golf

Yes physically you will get stronger and that can only be a good thing, but you can be mentally stronger too. Learning a new skill, working through some levels of discomfort and creating a desire to be a stronger, healthier individual can all be gained through Olympic lifting and the correct use of it in your training.

There is some serious performance to be gained here and the cool thing is, due to the high energy demand and difficulty of the movements, you don’t need to spend hours in the gym doing sets and reps to achieve it. You can add 20-30 minutes of Olympic lifting work into your training 2/3 times a week and you will see your numbers go up! You can also specifically program your training, once developed, to give you the highest speed outputs at the most important times of the year. If you have heard the best players in the world talk about peaking physically, this is what they mean! The ability to understand your performance and body well enough to literally tailor your performance output for specific events and times of the year.

The key to implementing this into your training is to genuinely learn the lifts first and perform them well, any overloading with poor technique is not what any good coach or athlete wants to see. From there look to build a good level of baseline strength through low reps and continued learning which can then leave you working on the optimal power output moving forwards. Low to mid rep ranges with short rests in between matched with other movements is a phenomenal way to train.

Increased strength, efficient power, faster clubhead speeds and a whole lot of physical improvement – what’s not to like?!

We include Olympic lifting in our day-to-day programming and personalized programming at GOLFWOD and also offer online coaching for all of your movements!

With players all around following our training plans, we aim to create a global community of the fastest, most powerful golfers trying to take their games to the next level.

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Michael is both a PGA Professional and Head of Performance at The York Golf Academy in England and a highly qualified strength and fitness specialist as owner and head coach of CrossFit YO4. This background has seen years of working with highly experienced individuals as well as the most cutting edge approaches in golf. Through those years of learning Michael has combined his golf and fitness experience to work with players all around the world to create a golf swing, fitness program and lifestyle that not only gives people a new, high level of performance but also the most balanced, healthy lifestyle possible. To learn more about Michael & what he does visit www.golf-wod.com to check out everything that he does and to experience the online GOLFWOD Community.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. beefcakegolf

    May 7, 2019 at 10:09 am

    This is golf instruction malpractice.

  2. Bobbyg

    May 4, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    This is so wrong.

  3. N

    May 3, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    I’ll never be able to putt with my colon shat out the back of me between my giant elephant thighs

  4. Dr. Common Sense

    May 3, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Olympic lifting is one of the worst ways to train for golf right next to yoga. Decompression of the spine, doesn’t respect contralateral recpriocation, doesn’t respect tensgrity or anterior oblique sling. I could go on and on but have to go get ready for my functional patterns session. Great article for encouraging inexperienced golfer to get injured in the gym.

    • Michael

      May 7, 2019 at 2:24 am

      Throwing out the ‘injury’ word is quite simply the easiest way out of any conversation. Is olympic lifting right for every individual, probably not, is it right for someone who is well coached and is looking to create a higher level of performance, I think so. The easiest way to get injured, in my view, is to not do anything all week aside from sit down, drive and work is to rock up on the first tee, have 3 practice swings and have at it (or go check any conventional gym with people doing who knows what kinda movements). I have seen countless people, golfers and otherwise, see tremendous improvements in all areas of fitness, including movement quality, balance etc, from including some form of olympic lifting in their training. The rigidity of only working, and only considering, one way of training people shows a lack of willingness to learn and to appreciate how people function mentally and physically. I’d absolutely recommend everyone go get into a functional patterns session, but I would never limit my perspective to one minimalist approach that will leave individuals restricted in terms of growth.

  5. Large chris

    May 3, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    I don’t believe there is a single successful tour pro who does anything remotely close to proper Olympic lifting, based on their published instagrams, twitter feeds etc.

    Olympic lifting is an extremely technical sport requiring enormous dedication and supplementation with way too much potential for injury to be a sensible part of golf specific training.

    • Rascal

      May 3, 2019 at 12:56 pm

      Yes, let’s stick to chopping wood.

      • Michael

        May 7, 2019 at 2:33 am

        My other comment was meant for Large chris… if you’re chopping wood and feeling good, have at it!

    • Michael

      May 7, 2019 at 2:28 am

      I think you’ll find this to be incorrect with minimal research, there are a huge number of tour pro’s incorporating oly lifting in some variety. As I mentioned above, the likelihood of injury approach is a very simple thing to say from the outside. I do agree you have to be committed to it, thats where either good coaching or good programming becomes important – there are various forms of lifting that can be used without the technicality. I also think its a great way to get away from golf mentally. just my thoughts, appreciate it.

  6. dillaila

    May 3, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Ask the guy in the picture how he feels in about 10-15 yrs

  7. Ray

    May 3, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Yes – for explosive strength and distance. But only good for healthy young people. Very dangerous for older golfers or older, beat to hell, athletes. I power lifted for yrs with some olympic lifts. It took a great toll on my spine and hips. Now, I’m too stiff and with arthritis and degenerative spondylosis of the spine to ever=n think of these movements or going heavy. Now its a full time job to stay limber and out of pain. I’m still a gym rat, but can’t push it like this. If I could reverse time, I would avoid these lifts.
    Better to be born bigger and athletic with natural strength and speed. No need to kill yourself..

    NOT SUSTAINABLE…..

    • Michael

      May 7, 2019 at 2:32 am

      Hey appreciate your input. I think we are blurring the lines a little here though as powerlifting, however seriously, is different to supplementing your golf fitness training with some olympic lifts and supplementary lifts. Using the correct lifts at correct weights can indeed increase performance and its the specific usage and volume of these lifts that can, and will, aid short and long term performance. stay loose my friend.

  8. T

    May 3, 2019 at 10:44 am

    KJ Choi is about the only guy who was able to convert from heavy lifting to golf.
    But look at him now – thin and strong, not like a power lifter any more.

    • Michael

      May 7, 2019 at 2:36 am

      yeah this is a good point! and similar to above, don’t confuse serious powerlifting with supplementing olympic lifting into a golfers fitness program. olympic lifters are generally the most mobile, and often very lean, individuals around. Using the correct volume and load you are unlikely to add any unnecessary bulk whatsoever. Powerlifting is working into max squats, deadlifts etc. Again extremely useful in the correct situation, but not to be confused between the 2!

  9. Bobby C

    May 3, 2019 at 6:04 am

    Moderation. Crossfit/Oly lifts led to injuries that kept me out of golf over the years. Squat clean (tweaked wrist on the front rack), snatch (tweaked neck and fingers went numb), DB single arm snatch (herniated disk, L/4-5 far lateral), excessive pull ups (chronic elbow tendinitis). I’m CF Cert 1, went to Oly seminars and taught. Good for explosive adaptation but moderate # of reps and weight. I still do Oly lifts but am very careful.

    • Wil

      May 3, 2019 at 10:44 am

      Poor form.

      • Bobby C

        May 3, 2019 at 10:03 pm

        Perfect form actually. Age. Went for that extra rep or lb. My point is moderation. Oly lifts are the best measure of strength, coordination, power etc, not a 1:1 correlation to golf.

    • Michael

      May 7, 2019 at 2:40 am

      Hey Bobby, appreciate this and its a big factor in terms of what I am trying to do. the correct implementation of the right lifts at the right times, appropriate volume and good technical awareness are very important in terms of how this can be used successfully. Seems like you have a tough ride though!

  10. Tiger Noods

    May 2, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    I say to that:

    Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

  11. Nick

    May 2, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    AMEN

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Opinion & Analysis

5 most common golf injuries (and how to deal with them)

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You might not think about golf as a physically intensive game, but that doesn’t change the fact it is still a sport. And as with every sport, there’s a possibility you’ll sustain an injury while playing golf. Here’s a list of the five most common injuries you might sustain when playing the game, along with tips on how to deal with them in the best way possible so you heal quickly.

Sunburn

While not directly an injury, it’s paramount to talk about sunburns when talking about golf. A typical golf game is played outside in the open field, and it lasts for around four hours. This makes it extremely likely you’ll get sunburnt, especially if your skin is susceptible to it.

That’s why you should be quite careful when you play golf

Apply sunscreen every hour – since you’re moving around quite a lot on a golf course, sunscreen won’t last as long as it normally does.

Wear a golf hat – aside from making you look like a professional, the hat will provide additional protection for your face.

If you’re extra sensitive to the sun, you should check the weather and plan games when the weather is overcast.

Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint. This group are the main muscles responsible for swing movements in your arms. It’s no surprise then that in golf, where the main activity consists of swinging your arms, there’s a real chance this muscle group might sustain an injury.

To avoid injuries to this group, it’s imperative you practice the correct form of swinging the club. Before playing, you should also consider some stretching.

If you get an injury, however, you can recover faster by following RICE:

Rest: resting is extremely important for recovery. After an injury, the muscles are extremely vulnerable to further injury, and that’s why you should immediately stop playing and try to get some rest.

Ice: applying ice to the injured area during the first day or two can help. It reduces inflammation and relaxes the muscles.

Compress: bandage the rotator cuff group muscle and compress the muscles. This speeds up the muscle healing process.

Elevate: elevate the muscles above your heart to help achieve better circulation of blood and minimize fluids from gathering.

Wrist Injuries

Wrist tendons can sustain injuries when playing golf. Especially if you enjoy playing with a heavy club, it can put some strain on the wrist and cause wrist tendonitis, which is characterized by inflammation and irritation.

You should start by putting your wrist in a splint or a cast – it is necessary to immobilize your wrist to facilitate healing.

Anti-inflammatory medicine can relieve some of the pain and swelling you’ll have to deal with during the healing process. While it might not help your wrist heal much quicker, it’ll increase your comfort.

A professional hand therapist knows about the complexities of the wrist and the hand and can help you heal quicker by inspecting and treating your hands.

Back Pain

A golf game is long, sometimes taking up to 6 hours. This long a period of standing upright, walking, swinging clubs, etc. can put stress on your back, especially in people who aren’t used to a lot of physical activities:

If you feel like you’re not up for it, you should take a break mid-game and then continue after a decent rest. A golf game doesn’t have any particular time constraints, so it should be simple to agree to a short break.

If you don’t, consider renting a golf cart, it makes movement much easier. If that’s not possible, you can always buy a pushcart, which you can easily store all the equipment in. Take a look at golf push cart reviews to know which of them best suits your needs.

Better posture – a good posture distributes physical strain throughout your body and not only on your back, which means a good posture will prevent back pain and help you deal with it better during a game.

Golfer’s Elbow

Medically known as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow occurs due to strain on the tendons connecting the elbow and forearm. It can also occur if you overuse and over-exhaust the muscles in your forearm that allow you to grip and rotate your arm:

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the way to go to alleviate the most severe symptoms of the injury at the beginning.

Lift the club properly, and if you think there’s a mismatch between your wrist and the weight of the club, you should get a lighter one.

Learn when you’ve reached your limit. Don’t overexert yourself – when you know your elbow is starting to cause you problems, take a short break!

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Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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