If golfers lift weights will this limit their range of motion? Will it increase their chance of injury? These are valid questions and ones that I’ve heard a million times. The answer is…possibly. However, replace these questions with riding in a car, riding a bike or almost anything else and the answer will be…possibly. Can golfers benefit from lifting weights? Will they hit the ball farther? Will it increase their stamina? Can they improve their range of motion by lifting weights? The answer is the same….possibly. Why is the answer the same for the cons and the pros? If the answer is the same for the cons as it is for the pros then why bother?
The benefits of weightlifting are well documented: increases in muscle mass and bone density, improvements in cardiovascular health, improved cognitive ability and the list goes on and on. Football players, soccer players, wrestlers, rugby and baseball players all lift weights because doing so helps them to become more powerful for their sport. The benefits absolutely reach golfers as well. There is a direct translation to becoming stronger and hitting the ball farther.
We have different types of muscle fibers in our body, slow (type I) and fast twitch muscle fibers (type IIa and type IIb). When we lift weights we can accentuate these fibers. In order to hit a ball farther we need our fast twitch fibers to fire on all cylinders. I’m not going to go into the differences between type IIa & IIb in this post. Perhaps I will in another post or maybe you & I can sit down and discuss this under a blue sky. For now, let’s just say we need our type II muscles to fire. We can train these fibers to fire through strength training and explosive training. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, golfers need to strength train too. When I say strength train, I mean deadlifts, squats (front & back squats) and bench press (sorry Jason Glass) all for 3-5 reps. By doing this we train our fast twitch, type II, muscles. The explosive training: box jumps, depth jumps, 180deg jumps, 360deg jumps, single leg hops, etc., all train these type II fibers to fire quickly. Watch the long drive championships and you will see these guys and gals exploding through the ball. Their bodies literally come off the ground. They rotate their arms over 1200deg/sec, which is 50% faster than PGA professionals. This doesn’t happen just because. They train their bodies to do so. Can this type of training increase injury potential? Possibly. How can the chances be drastically reduced? Assessment.
Assessments are simply ways to measure/quantify where a golfers is physically. Measuring ankle ROM, shoulder ROM, T-spine mobility, hamstring, upper and lower body separation, glutes, etc. allows the trainer to better program the training. This information is vital. It isn’t necessarily going to predict performance but it sure can identify potential problem areas.
Once the limitations are identified the plan of attack can now be designed. You can now start the process of building the stronger golfer. You don’t just simply walk into a gym and start picking up heavy things all in the name of getting stronger. Ask any powerlifter, you have to make a commitment to this type of training. Build your body for the long haul. “Hold on”, you say…”will this heavy lifting make me tight or tighter?”
Proper programming includes programming mobility training as well. It does you no good to get stronger but not be able to move. Your assessment will let us know how much mobility training you need. If you have less than 90deg of external rotation in your shoulders then we know you definitely need to have shoulder mobility work. We also know what not to program into your resistance training (overhead pressing) for a while, or at least until that issue is resolved. However, program in overhead pressing with shoulder mobility issues and you are asking for problems. Gray Cook once said (and by once I mean 1000 times) you can’t put fitness on top of dysfunction. You can’t coach someone to squat better when they have a dorsiflexion issue. Mobility is key. In fact the order of things is mobility and then stability (this will be a topic in the near future for this blog).
You can lift heavy and still maintain or even improve mobility, provided you are properly screened/assessed and your programming is done with careful thought and is in some way related to your screen/assessment. The top golfers in the world subscribe to strength training and their games are flourishing. Will you be an elite golfer by strength training? Will you hit the ball 20yds further? Possibly.