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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.

24 Comments

24 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.

    • Ken

      Nov 27, 2020 at 11:59 am

      I perform dumbbell power clean and press and cat stretch three days a week at 50 to 80 % of my one rep max. I do these movements while doing indoor spinning intervals for 45 mins.

      I do have move power in my golf tee shot. I tee off with a 5 or7 wood, and hit 200-250 yard range. I am 5’8″ 190 lbs and 60 years of age

  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

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)

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Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.

As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the third installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here.

Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)

No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.

Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.

No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.

In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.

Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.

Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.

They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.

Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.

How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?

(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)

Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.

(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)

If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?

It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.

Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.

They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.

 

Artwork by JaeB

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!

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Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.

 

 

 

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