What if I told you golf was was an explosive sport, just like sprinting? In fact, the golf swing is even more explosive than a sprint, because it is a much shorter duration. The average PGA Tour back swing is .75 seconds, with a .25 second downswing. That is a 1 second movement! How can we possibly get more explosive than that?
Consider movement of the golf swing; it happens in 1 second on 2 legs and encompasses movement in three planes of movement. Knowing this, does it make sense for us to train for 15-20 rep sets, single leg, on a Bosu, or some other mad scientist nonsense?
Balance and injury prevention serve a purpose, and when implemented correctly, high rep sets and other auxiliary movements have their place, especially when it comes to building a foundation and efficient movement patterns and connective tissues. But when we have a foundationally sound and mobile athlete, how do we get more speed? Do we make these auxiliary movements the majority of our program and continue to crank out rep after rep after rep?
Well then what do we do?
Big compound movements, and Olympic lifting variations.
That’s right, I said it. We move heavy weight, and we move heavy weight with velocity. We move heavy weight because it recruits higher threshold motor units, made up of larger, more powerful muscle fibers. As we train the higher threshold motor units, we increase our RFD (Rate of Force Development) thus allowing our nervous system to produce the most force in the shortest possible time. When we move faster, we swing faster. This is how we train more speed out of the highest caliber athlete. But you don’t need to be a collegiate or tour player to see the benefits of Olympic lifting. Most people can do at least some variation.
We are not trying to set records or cultivate Olympic lifters. We are simply trying to increase RFD in athletes using the same methods. We do not dive into max effort attempts in the beginning, or really at all. We learn the proper progressions, work technique, and mobility before the load ever becomes the focus.
Our junior athletes learn 3 dumbbell movements before they begin actual Olympic variations and lifts.
- Dumbbell Jumps – In the early stages of learning dumbbell jumps, our juniors begin with minimal load (typically 5-15 lb dumbbells depending on the athlete). This helps with power development and the ability to decelerate.
- Dumbbell Snatch – This helps with athletic sequence of motion, while building speed and power. It is a precursor to the Snatch itself. We rarely do snatches with our athletes due to the time commitment to learn technical aspects and risk/reward.
- Dumbbell Jerk – This movement helps with power development and the transfer of energy through the body. The eccentric lowering of the weight also develops upper body strength and control.
The limiting factor to producing max power with a dumbbell will always be that it is a unilateral movement. The load that a single arm can control is much lower than what a bilateral movement can control. With the load being limited in this way, the opportunity to generate maximal power output is limited because total power output is a combination of Speed + Load; by limiting load you are limiting total power output. To generate more power, we must be able to increase the load because we will likely hit peak speed first in a novice athlete. Once this becomes the case, we learn our go-to Olympic lift, the Clean.
The Clean allows us to challenge the load much more than the Snatch, while being less technical and safer. Our athletes learn the clean deadlift, the clean pull, and how to receive the bar from the hang position before doing cleans from the ground.
This high threshold power training is incorporated year round, with a heavier focus late in the offseason. We also use this method in low volumes during the season to maintain power output. In addition to the performance benefits, the extra strength and ability to decelerate a weight works wonders for injury prevention.
So, how do you feel about power training for golf now? We suggest taking the time to learn some dumbbell variations first, and seeking the help of a qualified coach to fully recognize the benefits that Olympic lifting can provide when it comes to hitting with more power.