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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.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. sandtarped

    Jun 23, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    Incorporating Power Snatches/Power Clean and Jerk will increase an athletes power output, I do them and it’s paying dividends. Nice article. The only thing that people need to worry about is doing it properly. The move is not just a jump and shrug, it’s a pull to the body and the hip helps accelerate the barbell up. If people knew how to do this more they would be better athletes. Refer to track athletes who have a lot of explosive power – the majority of them do weightlifting exercises.

    YouTube search Torokhtiy 2nd Pull, thank me later.

  2. beefcakegolf

    May 7, 2019 at 10:09 am

    This is golf instruction malpractice.

  3. Bobbyg

    May 4, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    This is so wrong.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. dillaila

    May 3, 2019 at 10:59 am

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. Tiger Noods

    May 2, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    I say to that:

    Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

  12. Nick

    May 2, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    AMEN

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Opinion & Analysis

A day at the CP Women’s Open

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It’s another beautiful summer day in August. Just like any other pro-am at a professional tour event, amateurs are nervously warming up on the driving range and on the putting green next to their pros. As they make their way to the opening tees, they pose for their pictures, hear their names called, and watch their marque player stripe one down the fairway. But instead of walking up 50 yards to the “am tees,” they get to tee it up from where the pros play—because this is different: this is the LPGA Tour!

I’m just going to get right to it, if you haven’t been to an LPGA Tour event you NEED to GO! I’ve been to a lot of golf events as both a spectator and as media member, and I can say an LPGA Tour event is probably the most fun you can have watching professional golf.

The CP Women’s Open is one of the biggest non-majors in women’s golf. 96 of the top 100 players in the world are in the field, and attendance numbers for this stop on the schedule are some of the highest on tour. The 2019 edition it is being held at exclusive Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, which is about an hour north of downtown Toronto and designed by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The defending Champion is none other than 21-year-old Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson, who won in emotional fashion last year.

From a fan’s perspective, there are some notable differences at an LPGA Tour event, and as a true “golf fan,” not just men’s golf fan, there are some big parts of the experience that I believe everyone can enjoy:

  • Access: It is certainly a refreshing and laidback vibe around the golf course. It’s easy to find great vantage points around the range and practice facility to watch the players go through their routines—a popular watching spot. Smaller infrastructure doesn’t mean a smaller footprint, and there is still a lot to see, plus with few large multi-story grandstands around some of the finishing holes, getting up close to watch shots is easier for everyone.
  • Relatability: This is a big one, and something I think most golfers don’t consider when they choose to watch professional golf. Just like with the men’s game there are obviously outliers when it comes to distance on the LPGA Tour but average distances are more in line with better club players than club players are to PGA Tour Pros. The game is less about power and more about placement. Watching players hit hybrids as accurately as wedges is amazing to watch. Every player from a scratch to a higher handicap can learn a great deal from watching the throwback style of actually hitting fairways and greens vs. modern bomb and gouge.
  • Crowds: (I don’t believe this is just a “Canadian Thing”) It was refreshing to spend an entire day on the course and never hear a “mashed potatoes” or “get in the hole” yelled on the tee of a par 5. The LPGA Tour offers an extremely family-friendly atmosphere, with a lot more young kids, especially young girls out to watch their idols play. This for me is a huge takeaway. So much of professional sports is focused on the men, and with that you often see crowds reflect that. As a father to a young daughter, if she decides to play golf, I love the fact that she can watch people like her play the game at a high level.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between men’s and women’s professional sports, but as far as “the product” goes, I believe that LPGA Tour offers one of the best in professional sports, including value. With a great forecast, a great course, and essentially every top player in the field, this week’s CP Women’s Open is destined to be another great event. If you get the chance to attend this or any LPGA Tour event, I can’t encourage you enough to go!

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TG2: New podcaster Larry D on his show “Bogey Golf”

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GolfWRX Radio welcomes a new podcast, Bogey Golf with Larry D and we talk to Larry. He lets us in on his show, who he is, why he loves the game, and even what’s in his bag! Rob missed his member-guest and Knudson got a new driver.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Getting to know Payne Stewart

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Ever since that final putt fell in Pinehurst in 1999, Payne Stewart’s memory has enjoyed mythical qualities. A man of complex charm, but many of us who grew up without him recognize only his Knickerbocker pants, his flat cap, and his W.W.J.D. covered wrist wrapped around that United States Open trophy.

I had a wonderful opportunity to play a round of golf with two men that know a lot about Payne. One through friendship and the other through journalistic research.

Lamar Haynes was Payne Stewart’s close friend and teammate on the SMU golf team. He’s full of stories about Payne from the good old days. Kevin Robbins is an author who just finished a new book on Stewart’s final year of life, set to release to the public for purchase this October. He works as a professor of journalism at the University of Texas but has also enjoyed an impressive career as a reporter and golf writer for over 20 years.

We met at Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, to talk about Payne. Robbins is a solid golfer who spends time working on his game, which tells me a lot about his personality. He is one of us.  As for Haynes, the guy hasn’t lost much since those SMU golf team days. He can still swing it. Fantastic iron player. And both men are wonderful conversationalists. They offered a unique perspective on Stewart—the golfer I grew up idolizing but never really knew. There’s a good chance you don’t really know him, either. At least not the whole story.

“Most golf fans now know the story of his ’99 U.S. Open win,” Robbins said.  “What they don’t know is where he came from.”

Robbins’ book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Foreverchronicles Payne’s last year on earth with dramatic detail, covering his triumph at Pinehurst and the Ryder Cup at Brookline. And, of course, it tells the story of that tragic plane crash that took our champion from us. What the book doesn’t do is hide any of the blemishes about Payne’s life that have either been forgotten or pushed aside by brighter moments and memories.

“I thought that the other Payne Stewart books, while they have a place, they didn’t tell the whole story,” Robbins said.

The whole story, from what I read, was Payne being brash. A poor winner and sometimes a poor sport when he lost. He often said things he shouldn’t have said and then made those mistakes again and again.

“He had no filter,” remembered Haynes.  “Several close friends on tour had a hard time with him when he won his first Open. He didn’t take into account any of the consequences his words could create. He had a huge heart. Huge heart. But at times there was just no filter. But he grew a great deal over the last 2 or three years.”

It’s most certainly is a book about a change. A change in a man that was better late than never. But also a change in golf that began at the turn of the century and hasn’t really slowed down since.

“The 20 years since his death, to see the way golf has moved, what the tour looks like now,” Robins said.  “There was an evolution that was taking place in 1999 and we didn’t know how it would manifest itself. But now we do. So when you see Brooks Koepka hit a 3-wood in the US Open 370 yards, well that all really had its beginnings in 1998 and 1999. The Pro-V1 ball was being tested in 1999 and being rolled out in 2000. Fitness and equipment, sports psychology, nutrition. All of those things that a guy like Payne Stewart really didn’t have to pay attention to.”

But that change that occurred in Payne, culminating in his final year of life, is something worth learning. It’s a lesson for all of us. A guy on top of the world with still so much to fix. And he was fixing it, little by little.

“He was authentic,” Haynes said. “And he learned a lot later in life from his children. With their Bible studies. You saw a change in him. Very much. He had a peace with himself but he still would revert to his DNA. The fun-loving Payne. Raising children and being a father helped him tremendously.”

Payne was passionate about so many things in life but his children became a primary focus. According to Haynes, he would be so loud at his daughter’s volleyball games…yelling intensely at the referees…that they gave him an option: Either he wouldn’t be allowed to watch the games anymore or he needed to become a line judge and help out with the games. So, Payne Stewart became a volleyball line judge.

Lamar brought the head of an old Ram 7-iron along with him to show me. Damaged and bent from the crash, the club was with Payne on his final flight. He had it with him to show his guys at Mizuno as a model for a new set of irons. That Ram 7-iron belonged to Haynes and Payne had always adored the way it looked at address.

“Payne also used my old Mizunos the last year of his life,” Haynes said.  I had received the MS-4s 10 years earlier from Payne in 1989. They were like playing with a shaft on a knife. The sweet spot was so tiny on the MS-4. They made the MP29 and 14s look like game improvement irons. Payne used those. Then Harry Taylor at Mizuno designed him an iron, which later became the MP33. The 29 and 14s were very sharp and flat-soled. Well, Payne loved this old Ram iron set that I had.. He asked for my Ram 7-iron for Harry Taylor to model his new set. He liked the way it went through the turf. He had it with him on the plane. This is the club that started the MP33.”

It was Lamar Haynes, the man who seems to know just about everyone in the golf community, that set Robbins on this writing journey. Robbins had written one book previously: The story of the life of legendary golf coach Harvey Penick. But this book came a bit easier for Robbins, partly due to his experience, partly due to the subject matter, and partly because of Lamar.

“There’s a story here,” Robbins said. “With any book, you hope to encounter surprises along the way, big and little. And I did. I got great cooperation a long the way. Anybody I wanted to talk to, talked to me thanks to this guy Lamar Haynes.”

“Lamar said the first guy you need to talk to is Peter Jacobsen,” Robins said. “And I said ‘great can you put me in touch with him’ which became a common question to Lamar throughout the process.” Robbins chuckled.  “Literally 2 minutes later my phone rings. ‘Kevin, this is Peter Jacobsen here.'”

“Peter told me the story about the ’89 PGA championship in our first conversation. So literally in the first 10 minutes of my reporting effort, I had the first set piece of the book. I had something. Lamar made a lot happen.”

Lamar Haynes and Kevin Robbins

The book is not a biography, though it certainly has biographical elements to it. It is simply the story of Payne’s final year, with a look back at Payne’s not so simple career mixed in. The author’s real talent lives in the research and honesty. The story reads like you’re back in 1999 again, with quotes pulled from media articles or press conferences. Anecdotes are sprinkled here and there from all of Payne’s contemporaries. The storytelling is seamless and captivating.

“I was pleasantly surprised how much Colin Montgomerie remembered about the concession at the 1999 Ryder Cup,” Robbins said. “Colin can be a tough interview. He is generally mistrustful of the media. His agent gave me 15 minutes during the Pro-Am in Houston. This was in the spring of 2018. I met Colin on the 17th hole and he had started his round on 10. Just organically the conversation carried us to the fifth green. Just because he kept remembering things. He kept talking, you know. It was incredible. Tom Lehman was the same way. He said “I’ll give you 20 minutes” and it ended up being an hour and a half at Starbucks.”

The research took Robbins to Massachusetts, Florida, and Missouri—and of course, to Pinehurst. He met with Mike Hicks, Payne’s former caddie, there to discuss that final round. The two ended up out on Pinehurst No. 2, walking the last three holes and reliving the victory. It gives life to the story and fills it with detail.

“Part of what I hoped for this book is that it would be more than just a sports story,” Robbins said.  “More than just a golf story. The more I started thinking about where Payne began and where he ended, it seemed to me…and I’m not going to call it a redemption story although I bet some people do. People when they are younger, they have regrets and they make mistakes. They do things they wish they could take back but they can’t. So, what can they do? Well, they can improve. They can get better. That’s what Payne was doing with his life. He was improving himself. It was too late to change what he had done already. So what could he do with the future? He could be different.”

“It was accurate,” Haynes said.  “I had a tear when I finished it. I texted Kevin right afterward. I told him I couldn’t call him because I’m choked up so I texted him.”

So here’s two men who knew Payne Stewart, albeit in very different ways. They knew he was flawed in life but he got better. Was Payne Stewart that hero at Pinehurst, grabbing Phil Mickelson’s face and telling him the important thing is he’s going to be a father? Yes. But he was so much more than that. He was so much more than I knew before I read this book. Most importantly, Payne Stewart was always improving. A lesson for all of us, indeed.

If you want to hear more about my experience, tweet at me here @FWTXGolfer or message me on Instagram here! I look forward to hearing from you!

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