Golf Specific

Lessons the Shirt Taught Me

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Things got real weird on Friday night training with Ryan. What was scheduled to be a regular heavy bench session turned into my first time putting on a bench shirt. I have helped Ryan with his powerlifting gear many times before, but I've never really experienced first-hand how it feels to be in a squat suit or a bench shirt. Lesson #1: It's Not Comfortable

I learned very quickly that it doesn't feel too awesome being in the shirt. Getting it on was a pain, but I knew that was coming. I was used to being the guy on the other side of the shirt trying to force the shirt onto another human being, so I expected some discomfort. Luckily however, it was Ryan's old single-ply shirt and his enormous gunzzz stretched out the sleeves pretty nicely, making it a relatively smooth process to put it on. By the time we got the shirt on and got the sleeves and seams exactly where we wanted them I already wanted to take it off. It's super tight and forces you into a weird mummy-like position with your arms dangling out in front of you. You can't really do much about this situation until the shirt comes off.

I found myself rushing the rest periods between sets because I was more focused on getting the final set over with so I could take the evil thing off.

Lesson #2 I Couldn't Keep My Arch

The arched back seen in bench pressing is often demonized as being a flaw in technique or disadvantageous when trying to target the pecs. Whatever. I use an arch when benching because it helps to keep me tight on the bench, allows for better leg drive and provides better leverage overall to perform the lift. When benching "raw", I feel pretty confident about my arch, and I can keep it tight during the entirety of the lift. When benching in the shirt, however, I found myself losing my arch midway through the descending portion of the lift. This leads me to lesson #3...

Lesson #3 My Upper Back Is WEAK!

The shirt exposed my deep dark secret that my upper back is not up to par. When bench pressing in gear, the bar will not come down to your chest without a fight. You literally have to PULL the bar down while forcing yourself to maintain a proper arch. This takes some serious upper and mid back strength that I just didn't have. I could feel my arch collapsing and my once tightly packed shoulders becoming... not so tightly packed. Even when benching raw I always remember the cues to "row the bar down with the lats" and "keep the upper back tight," and I felt that I understood. The shirt let me know that what I originally thought was "tight enough" was an epic fail waiting to happen.

Although the shirt made me feel like a total n00b I walked away from the session with a lot to think about and a lot learned about my bench technique. I probably got some pretty good "overload" stimulation from the heavier weights that the shirt enabled me to use as well. Until next time, I'll just keep hammering away at heavy rows and pull-ups.

For your entertainment, here are a couple videos from the Friday night bench party.

What to Know About Competing in Powerlifting

“…Would be interested in hearing more about what it takes to enter a powerlifting competition: requirements, mentality, gear/no-gear, training, scoring/judging, what it takes to win, etc.”

This was a comment left on my meet write-up blog post from last week.  As soon as I saw it I thought what better way to talk about this than through a post for everyone!

Scoring and Judging/What it Takes to Win

Powerlifting consists of three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift (they are performed in this order).  At a meet you get three attempts at each of these lifts.  At the end of the competition your highest successful attempt from each of the three lifts will be added up for your “total”.  Your total is what determines your placing within your division/weight class.  In my opinion your placing should not be a focus for you especially if this is your first meet.  Your goal should be to show up and to perform because most people won’t even do that.

The scoring is based on a lighting system.  Each of the three judges has a light and if they deem the lift to be successful you will be rewarded with a shiny white light.  If they feel the lift to be unsuccessful they will ruin your life with a red light.  Have no fear because all you need is two white lights for the lift to count!

I’m not going to go into great detail about what the judges are looking for.  To learn more about this here is the link to the IPF rule book…. http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com/fileadmin/data/Technical_Rules/IPF_rulebook_01_2011.pdf

Gear or No Gear

This is the only place where I feel things get tricky.  People get WAAAYYYYY too bent out of shape about this to the point of ridiculousness.  You have three ways to compete in powerlifting; Raw, Single-ply, and Multi-ply.  This is entirely up to YOU and your GOALS and don’t let anyone sway you one way or the other.  As far as I’m concerned it really doesn’t matter what you choose because at the end of the day we all have the same goal… to get stronger.  Nevertheless you will come across the close-minded people who will tell you gear is “cheating” (not sure how it’s cheating because geared lifters compete only against other geared lifters) or “not true strength”.  These elitists’ get under my skin because they have probably never been in gear and have no idea what it’s like to train in it, so therefor, in my mind they have NO room to give an opinion on the subject.  More importantly why do they care what YOU do?  The people who care about what others do have their own personal issues to figure out.  I have competed raw and single-ply and I love both.  They both offer their own challenges and are both fun to train for.  It’s weird and ridiculous to me that people get so up and arms about the whole thing, it’s like 5 year olds fighting about whose toy is better.  If you want to lift raw, lift raw.  If you want to throw on a bunch of gear then do that.

My only caveat to this is that unless you have two solid years of strength training under you than you shouldn’t wear gear.  It takes A LOT of strength to even handle single-ply equipment so unless you're going two years strong, just start out with a few raw competitions.

Training

This is the easy part.  Just get better at squatting, benching and deadlifting.  The best way to do that is to perform the lifts several times a week.  It can’t get much simpler than that.  If you want a good set in stone program just do Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and I promise you’ll get stronger.  Don’t want to do that? Then use the Westside Barbell template.  People want to treat this like its rocket science.  They paralyze themselves with fear about what programs best fits their body, there strength level, etc.  If these are the questions you’re asking yourself then all you really need to do is get in the weight room and press something, squat something, and pick something up off the ground and work on doing it correctly and everything will fall into place.

Mentality

This encompasses a great deal of things which is why when talking about it I like to refer to Mike Robertson’s T-Nation articletitled, “7 Reasons Everyone Should do a Powerlifting Meet” (http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/7_reasons_everyone_should_do_a_powerlifting_meet ).  This is an awesome article and spells out everything in a very simple way.  In order to do a powerlifting meet you have to be able to do one thing… to truly say that you care nothing about what other people think of you.  Most of the time when people tell me why they don’t want to do a meet it’s because they are scared of other people.  They tell me they don’t want to embarrass themselves or they say there not as strong as everybody else.  No one cares that you’re not as strong as them and no one’s waiting to laugh at you for failing a lift or bombing out of a meet.  It is perfectly understandable to be afraid of putting yourself out there for people to see you fail.  However, it is unacceptable to allow that fear to control your actions.  It is your ability to face and overcome your fears that will define you as a person.  So what if you fail?  Failure is a marker of two things; that you actually tried and that you learned.

I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve been training; I implore you to go sign up for a meet.  It doesn’t matter what federation or where it is just sign up for it.  Find one that is 10-14 weeks away and go train for it.  Can’t squat, bench, or deadlift correctly?  Go turn in an entry form and your hard-earned money and I BET you will learn how to do all of those things pretty quick.  Don’t wait around saying “well, I’ll just wait a little bit until I get stronger” or “I’ll wait a little bit until I feel a little more comfortable”.  If your training for something you’re going to get stronger than if you aren’t, FACT!  Chances are if your excuse is that you’re waiting to feel a little more comfortable then you probably rarely step out of your comfort zone when it comes to other aspects of your life as well.  If you choose to test your limits then go to http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/and find a meet.

That first meet changed more than just how I approach lifting – because the lessons you learn from training and competition can be carried over to nearly every aspect of your life. -Mike Robertson

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2012 USAPL Richmond Open: Opening Attempts

The 2012 USAPL Richmond Open is a couple days away and I’ve officially switched into competition mode.  This has been a very up and down training cycle.  I’m attributing this to trying to get used to my gear and my own impatience.  This is my first geared competition (single-ply) and I spent FAR too much time trying to get a lot of weight out of my gear.  I rushed into trying to get a lot of support out of my gear which in hindsight was the worst thing I could have done, why?  People spend years trying to figure out and use their equipment correctly; I tried to figure it all out in about 11 weeks.  This took all of my energy and focus off the NUMBER ONE thing…. Getting stronger!  Instead of spending those 11 weeks trying to get the most weight out of my equipment I should have just been trying to get stronger.  After all this time I’ve gotten VERY little help out of my equipment and didn’t get much stronger at all.  It was extremely impatient and immature of me to do that and trust me when I say I have learned from my mistakes.  I know now that learning the gear will come I just need to focus on getting strong.  With all that said I’ve sat down and examined everything that has gone on and what I hope to accomplish out of the meet and it’s quite simple…. Perform to the best of my abilities and get at least an 1100 pound total. I put all of this behind me a couple days ago and am now completely focused on the positive.  I can tell everyone one thing, no one will compete as hard as me and no one will leave it all on the platform like I will.

Opening Attempts...

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It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  

-Theodore Roosevelt

Weight Training & Golf

Okay, I have to fess-up: I'm sick. At this point, coming up with something new and creative is pretty much beyond me. I feel accomplished to have simply gotten off the couch this morning and made it into work. Below is an article I wrote about 4 years ago. Enjoy! Recently, I was speaking with a colleague about the elusive "magic bullet" golfers are always trying to find. This behavior pattern is similar to the overweight person who refuses to buckle down and do actual work to lose the extra inches and pounds. They would rather spend money on ineffective supplements and As-Seen-on-TV merchandise that promises a quick fix to 5 years of poor eating and exercise habits. Somehow it never quite works out the way the box says it will.

Golfers tend to have a similar disorder driven by products on the Golf Channel that point them towards virtually everything except the only proven method to improving golf specific performance: integrated weight lifting and flexibility training. There’s nothing new or sexy about the following notes, but if you are dedicated to seeing your accuracy and distance improve, then give these tips a try: 1.  A thorough dynamic warm-up will dramatically improve static and dynamic flexibility. Spend about 15-25 minutes to get a sufficient warm-up prior to weight training. Standard dynamic movements for the SAPT golfer include: prisoner squats, over speed good mornings, knee hugs, Frankenstein kicks, walking lunge with twist, lying reach-backs, hip bridge, bent knee twist, active “t” stretch, plus many, many more.

2.    Prehab everyday to keep the pain away. Prehabilitation exercises are special movements designed to help prevent injury in specific high-risk muscles or joints. Terminal knee extensions, rotator cuff movements, and grip strength/mobility movements are great places to start.

3.    Golf, like most power sports, relies heavily on the strength of the posterior chain. Your posterior is comprised of all the muscles on your backside, so get these areas as strong as possible. You will see improvement in drive length and golf posture.

4.    Instead of traditional supersets, take an integrated approach to flexibility training by coupling a strength exercise with a dynamic flexibility exercise. For example, couple a squat with a movement geared towards improving T-spine mobility (like lying reachbacks). This approach increases workout efficiency, allows for rest between sets, and places a greater priority on active flexibility training.

5.    Stance is best trained through traditional strength movements: squat variations, good mornings, rows, hang clean, etc. Powerful hip rotation is driven by a strong posterior.

6.    Backswing, downswing, and follow-through are best trained through a series of special exercises and flexibility movements. If you are a right-handed player, part of the goal here is to help achieve greater stance specific strength in left arm abduction and right arm adduction (if you swing left-handed the goal is left arm adduction and right arm abduction strength).

7.    Be smart and train all aspects of muscular contraction: concentric, isometric, and eccentric. Examine all parts of the swing and stance to determine what types of strength are needed throughout. For example, a great deal of isometric strength is needed in the adductors and lower back to maintain proper golf posture.

Make It Effective Understand that there is a right and wrong way to do everything and everyone will have a different starting point. Because serious golfers have a heightened ability to perceive changes in their body, they are extremely sensitive to any new demands imposed on their bodies. Be conservative in your approach to starting a strength training program – remember we’re after long-term consistency. To improve new program effectiveness, several factors need to be taken into consideration: •    Training age

•    Chronological age (this is important as golf is one of the few sports where it is possible for a 57 year old to consistently beat a 20 year old)

• Stance

• Backswing

• Downswing

• Follow-through

•    Flexibility through all stages of swing and standard flexibility

Look at each of these variables independently to identify strengths and weaknesses. Then take a step back and look at the whole picture to determine training priority. For example, if you have a difficult time maintaining a flexed and stable posture during the downswing, then there may be a problem with calf flexibility – notes like this will help inform exercise priority.

A carefully planned and consistent program that includes weight training and flexibility will provide huge returns and lower scores.

4-Weeks to a Stronger Total Body

That’s a short amount of time to make some big gains, I’ll admit. But for much of the population adding a grip strength specialization routine to their regular training program can result in significant gains on all of their lifts. Why is improving grip strength so effective? Basically, grip strength tends to be the “weak link” for recreational lifters and athletes alike and, thus, a lot of extra neural activity is wasted in the direction of controlling the grip musculature that can be more effectively directed towards the large muscle groups (think about the deadlift… what fatigues first? Your legs, your back, or your grip? The last thing you should notice fatiguing is your grip). So, spend a handful of weeks crushing your grip and you should quickly notice the following benefits:

1. For most men, another 3-5 reps squeezed out on pulling movements like body weight pull-ups and for most women, another 1-2 reps. 2. The perception of easier deadlifting and – gasp – even squatting! You heard it hear first, folks, a stronger grip will give you a bigger squat, too! 3. A slight bench press PR… it might show up in the form of a repetition PR or a max PR, I’m not sure. But you’ll get a PR, I promise. Want to test this one out? Set up a bench press with just the bar, for the first 5 repetitions lightly grasp the bar and notice how it feels. Then reset and this time squeeze the bar as if your life depends on it. What do you notice now? Something you already though was easy is now way easier and those nagging issues with shoulders and wrists often clear up like magic.

You’ll even get injury prevention benefits for the elbow and shoulder directly from increased and focused grip training. Plus, if you want to include the numerous injury prevention benefits that will come from increasing load and proficiency on the lifts I noted above, you only have to ask yourself… “How fast can I get some heavy fat bar holds going on?!?” At SAPT, grip training is a regular portion of our programs and can be found in forms both direct and indirect. Here are a few examples of some of our favorite direct grip exercises:

• Farmer’s Walk variations with a towel hold. • Kettlebell or plate pinch (squeeze as if you’re trying to ring water from the iron). • Sledge Leveraging. • Sledge Finger Walks (not for the faint of heart). • Barbell Holds – one of my personal favorites for the rowing team at Mason – just load up a barbell and hold with perfect posture for time.

Consider spicing up your routine and your fast tracking your strength gains by adding in some direct grip work – and for goodness sake, if you know what “straps” are, throw them away!

7 Ways to Help Your Golf Swing

Recently, I was speaking with a colleague about the elusive "magic bullet" golfers are always trying to find. This behavior pattern is similar to the overweight person who refuses to buckle down and do actual work to lose the extra inches and pounds. They would rather spend money on ineffective supplements and As-Seen-on-TV merchandise that promises a quick fix to 5 years of poor eating and exercise habits. Somehow it never quite works out the way the box says it will. Golfers tend to have a similar disorder driven by products on the Golf Channel that point them towards virtually everything except the only proven method to improving golf specific performance: integrated weight lifting and flexibility training. There’s nothing new or sexy about the following notes, but if you are dedicated to seeing your accuracy and distance improve, then give these tips a try:

  1. A thorough dynamic warm-up will dramatically improve static and dynamic flexibility. Spend about 15-25 minutes to get a sufficient warm-up prior to weight training. Standard dynamic movements for the SAPT golfer include: prisoner squats, over speed good mornings, knee hugs, Frankenstein kicks, walking lunge with twist, lying reach-backs, hip bridge, bent knee twist, active “t” stretch, plus many, many more.
  2. Prehab everyday to keep the pain away. Prehabilitation exercises are special movements designed to help prevent injury in specific high-risk muscles or joints. Terminal knee extensions, rotator cuff movements, and grip strength/mobility movements are great places to start.
  3. Golf, like most power sports, relies heavily on the strength of the posterior chain. Your posterior is comprised of all the muscles on your backside, so get these areas as strong as possible. You will see improvement in drive length and golf posture.
  4. Instead of traditional supersets, take an integrated approach to flexibility training by coupling a strength exercise with a dynamic flexibility exercise. For example, couple a squat with a movement geared towards improving T-spine mobility (like lying reachbacks). This approach increases workout efficiency, allows for rest between sets, and places a greater priority on active flexibility training.
  5. Stance is best trained through traditional strength movements: squat variations, good mornings, rows, hang clean, etc. Powerful hip rotation is driven by a strong posterior.
  6. Backswing, downswing, and follow-through are best trained through a series of special exercises and flexibility movements. If you are a right-handed player, part of the goal here is to help achieve greater stance specific strength in left arm abduction and right arm adduction (if you swing left-handed the goal is left arm adduction and right arm abduction strength).
  7. Be smart and train all aspects of muscular contraction: concentric, isometric, and eccentric. Examine all parts of the swing and stance to determine what types of strength are needed throughout. For example, a great deal of isometric strength is needed in the adductors and lower back to maintain proper golf posture.

Make It Effective

Understand that there is a right and wrong way to do everything and everyone will have a different starting point. Because serious golfers have a heightened ability to perceive changes in their body, they are extremely sensitive to any new demands imposed on their bodies. Be conservative in your approach to starting a strength training program – remember we’re after long-term consistency. To improve new program effectiveness, several factors need to be taken into consideration:

  • Training age
  • Chronological age (this is important as golf is one of the few sports where it is possible for a 57 year old to consistently beat a 20 year old)
  • Stance
  • Backswing
  • Downswing
  • Follow-through
  • Flexibility through all stages of swing and standard flexibility

Look at each of these variables independently to identify strengths and weaknesses. Then take a step back and look at the whole picture to determine training priority. For example, if you have a difficult time maintaining a flexed and stable posture during the downswing, then there may be a problem with calf flexibility – notes like this will help inform exercise priority.

A carefully planned and consistent program that includes weight training and flexibility will provide huge returns and lower scores.