Olympic lifting for golf: What do the experts say?

The olympic lifts and their use in developing power for rotational sports has been a somewhat controversial issue in Strength and Conditioning circles. With some coaches claiming they offer the best carryover to all sports and are absolutely essential, whilst others state the risk-reward is simply not worth it or the movement isn’t specific to rotational sports and thus shouldn’t be done.

 

With that in mind I thought I’d get the opinions of some of the brightest and best in golf fitness, see what they say, and what conclusions (if any!) can be drawn on the issue.

 

Nick_Randall_Golf_Fit_App_Stronger_Golf
 Nick Randall

 

“I use parts of olympic lifts, the bits that are easiest to coach and have the least amount of load on the wrist; push press, split jerk, clean pull. Essentially I don’t use any section of the lift that involves a ‘catch’, this is because elite level golfers are prone to wrist injuries and I don’t want to increase the chance of that happening! Also, a lot of time and energy needs to be applied to learning how to clean and snatch properly. I would rather spend that time and energy working on areas that will have a more immediate carry over to performance. 

 

Sometimes I think we forget that performance in elite level golf (where I do the majority of my work) is getting the ball in the whole in less shots over the course of a 72 hole tournament, week after week. It’s tempting to focus too much on the glamour stuff of power and distance, and go chasing that with flashy looking olympic lifts. We have limited time with these athletes who operate in a playing schedule that is a nightmare to periodise around – is coaching these complex movements really the best use of our time with them?”

 

Nick is PGA tour golf fitness coach and owner of Golf Fit Pro. He has online programs, his golf fitness app and equipment available at  www.golffitpro.net and is gives a great snapshot of life on the PGA tour via his Facebook page.
 

Lance_Gill_Stronger_Golf
 Lance Gill

 

“In all honesty my golfers for 20 years haven’t been at that level (or under 5%) of them have been. However I do CONDONE that method of lifting. I have spent a majority of my career specializing in movement refinement which leads down a path towards higher level mechanical lifting such as Olympic. In the grand tradition of not stepping outside my box of expertise, I will make sure my athletes are properly taken care of when they are ready for this type of lifting, via a specialist. I can’t be all things to all people. Knowing this has really helped my athletes more than me hoarding them for the sake of not losing them. 

 

However to prior to utilising the olympic lifts with clients, we work to make sure they posses adequate: 

 

1) hip hinge mechanics / multi segmental flexion
2) multi segmental extension mechanics 
3) pelvic tilt mechanics 
4) cervical stability mechanics
5) shoulder flexion mechanics 
6) grip strength 
7) ankle dorsiflexion mechanics 
Those are vital” 
 
Lance is a golf performance coach and human movement expert. He is President of LG Performance, Co-Director of the Titleist Performance Institute Fitness Advisory Board, and lead Instructor for TPI Level 1 and Level 2 Fitness Seminars. He can be reached at his website www.lgperformance.com or via his Facebook and Twitter pages

Golf_Fit_Ltd_Stronger_Golf

 Craig Tumblety
 
“I do use OL in my programmes, in fact we have a specific lifting based class I run for elite youth players (ages 16-25), most of whom have come through our junior academy. It’s not hard too see why the Olympic lifts are such useful tools for an athlete to call on in training. They involve some of the most vital movement patterns needed to swing the club efficiently and require the same explosive triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips we see in almost any power sport, including golf. The eccentric phase the lifts can also give us that deceleration control that we lack in some other power exercises.

Obviously the lifts have their limitations and the reality is that we can’t expect every golfer we train to reach the stage of performing an acceptable overhead squat, never mind catching a loaded bar in that position.

However I will use some variation or component of the Olympic lifts with nearly all of my athletes. There is plenty of scope for taking these two lifts and stretching out the possibilities. If I have a golfer who is competent in their deadlift, but perhaps struggles with their squat, then I might introduce Clean pulls and Snatch pulls when their program calls for power training. Also we will often introduce variations involving dumbbells, kettlebells, med balls or any other kind of weight so that we can challenge players in other planes of motion and with the asymmetries they face in golf.

We don’t believe that mastering the full lifts needs to become the be all and end all for golfers, but there is the opportunity for almost all players to take something from this power sport and apply it to their own. That being said, those that can learn the full lifts will have some powerful exercises in their tool kit!

Craig is Head of Performance at Golf Fit Ltd, a UK based private gym chain providing strength & Conditioning, physiotherapy, nutritional support, biomechanical analysis and rehab support to golfers. For more information on their gyms and programs take a look at their website www.GolfFit.co.uk you can also  get some great content from them on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Mike_Joyce_City_Golf_Stronger_Golf
 Mike Joyce

 

“Yes to Olympic lifting for golfers!

 

At City Golf, we take our golfers through a fully comprehensive body and movement screen, followed by a series of performance tests. Based on how well (or not) they test, the player then enters into a training programme to work on addressing any physical limitations (mobility and/or stability), before increasing strength, then finally speed training. When the player is cleared physically for the more explosive types of training, they are moved onto Olympic lifts. There is a huge similarity between the demands of Olympic lifting and that of the modern, explosive golf swing. Specifically:

 

– The speed of the movement
– The skill of kinematic sequencing
– Ground force awareness
– The demands on the “golf” muscles, i.e. posterior chain
– Postural awareness
– Pelvic control
– Scapular control

 

 Lateral and rotational power work will run along side Olympic lifting, on separate days however. I typically keep the Olympic sessions fairly short and don’t include any other planes of movement. Twice a week of Oly then twice a week of lateral and rotational work is sufficient for our client base to bring on results. I usually run the Oly strength phase for 6-8 weeks, then add on 2-4 weeks of reduced load speed work, before deloading all the way back to body weight for a “rest” for 2-3 weeks.

 

When coaching a player who is new to Oly lifts, I will progress from lowest to highest exercise skill requirement. When one area is mastered we will add in the next move. My progression is as follows:

 

1) RDLs
2) Deadlifts
3) Clean to shrug
4) Power Cleans
5) Front Squat
6) Cleans
7) Clean and press
8) Hanging Snatch
9) Snatch

 

Our clientele are generally amateurs, spending 12 hours in front of a desk, and have the movement issues that accompany that, as such it is rare that I take a player into stage 8. 

 

Finally, our players often report back that Olympic lifting is the most fun and mentally stimulating of all types of training.”

 

Mike is a TPI Certified golf conditioning specialist and PT at City Golf. One of London’s best golf performance centres, City Golf gym provides one to one training programmes integrating the principles of core stability and total body conditioning to golfers in the London area. More information about City Golf can be found at citygolfclubs.com.Mike is also happy to answer any questions you may about his training approach via his email, Mike@citygolfclubs.com.

 

Physio_Dan_England_Golf_Stronger_Golf
 Dan Coughlan

 

“In England Golf’s S&C program we encourage everybody to work towards incorporating olympic lifts as part of a long term athlete development program. However, the olympic lifts are a highly complex, high power output movement, needing a great deal of active mobility, as such actually training the full olympic lifts may not be feasible for many but it should at least be a goal to work towards. As part of this long term athlete development strategy we introduce olympic lifting at young age, incorporating learning drills with broomsticks as part of warm-ups for our junior golfers. This builds the patterns used in the olympic lifts so when it comes to training strength and power later in their development we can utilise the olympic lifts, additionally these drills work great to develop mobility and stability.

 

We like the snatch especially, due to shoulder mobility requirements in the overhead squat component and as the hip motion/ velocities carryover to the golf swing well. The catch position of the clean can cause wrist issues, we stay away from the clean for golfers with a history of wrist injury. 

 

For advanced/ competitive athletes periodisation becomes necessary, as such the off-season starts with corrective exercise and recovery, before progressing to work capacity and strength, then incorporating the olympic lifts in a power phase. In-season we like our athletes to complete one ‘hard’ session a week, this will usually include olympic lifts as it’s a great way to maintain strength, power and mobility in a time efficient manner.”

 

Dan is Sports Science and Medicine Lead for England Golf and a member of the European Tour Medical Advisory Board. You can find out more about him at his website www.danielcoughlan.com and follow him on Twitter.

 

Assist_Perform_Chris_Costa_Stronger_Golf
 Chris Costa

 

 “I see value to olympic lifts, but too much risk with regard to injury. Especially when the same results can be achieved with alternative methods and isolation of the movements, the risk reward ratio just doesn’t stack up to me.

 

Additionally the olympic lifts don’t truly mimic sporting moment, in that they exclude the lateral and rotational movement planes universal to almost all sports.

 

At assist perform we use high and low pulls, box jumps, med ball work, multi planar exercises and plyometrics to produce a similar training effect. The exercises don’t have the steep learning curve you see with olympic lifts so we can utilise them and get a training effect right away, additionally the neuro-muscular fatigue isn’t as great so athletes recover faster, train with more frequency, and develop greater power endurance”

 

Chris is the TPI certified owner/coach at assist perform, the premier golf and ice hockey performance centre in Philadelphia. Find out more about Assist performance gym and programming at the website www.assistperformance.com and follow them on Twitter.

 

CONCLUSIONS AND MY OPINION

Ok so there are definitely areas of disagreement here, but there are also areas of commonality, and if all these guys are agreeing on something I think it’s probably worth considering!

The major commonly I see is that all see value to olympic lifts when done safely and correctly. The problem comes when people are not coaching correctly or haven’t developed the foundations of movement quality and strength to use the olympic lifts appropriately. Determining if olympic lifting is appropriate for you and  if you have the perquisites in place yet is where a good coach will be invaluable to you.

Secondly, all incorporate some resistance based sagittal plane power exercises (olympic lifts, high pulls, push presses, etc are included here) alongside reduced load speed work, and lateral and rotational power work (bodyweight exercises such as jumps or med ball work for example). This points to the importance of taking a rounded approach to power development for golf.A third commonality among many was a concern for the difficulty and risk involved in the olympic lifts. All those involved in using the olympic lifts had stringent checks and progressions in place before incorporating the olympic lifts.

Personally I love the idea of training these moments at very lightweight with juniors to develop the movement patterns. However for those of involved in training adult, and potentially more dysfunctional, athletes I think it is important follow a well planned progression, and bear in mind that it may not be appropriate to ever progress to the point of full olympic lifts with some individuals. I am in agreement with the idea that the catch of olympic lifts, particularly the clean, can be hazardous for individuals with wrist issues and should thus be avoided with these individuals. I also believe that teaching this person with no experience the olympic lifts may have such a steep and long learning curve that it is better to look for other options that can still provide the training effect we are after, but from day 1. To give you an idea my power training will rarely incorporate the full olympic lifts, typically I utilise weight squat jumps, clean grip low and high pulls, single arm dumbbell snatches, clean grip snatches and power snatches, alongside more speed based med-ball, jump and hop work.

Incidentally having good progression systems in place applies to all power work not just the olympic lifts, for an idea of how we at Stronger Golf progress med-ball power work take a look at this article I wrote for TPI.

One thought on “Olympic lifting for golf: What do the experts say?

  1. Pingback: The top 5 posts of 2015 | Stronger Golf

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