In order to understand what progression is, first we need to have a clear outline of what it is we are progressing towards.
We need to answer questions like:
Why do I train?
How does it affect my life? My golf game?
What effect do I want it to have on my life? My golf game?
What are my goals? In training? In life?
What type of adaptations and training benefits do I seek?
Once we answer these questions, we can begin to work backwards and map out a plan of progression to reach that point.
The progressions and the adaptations that we seek in our training, need to parallel the progressions and goals we seek outside of our training.
Too often strength coaches and weight room meatheads view “progression” as simply the weight being moved.
But, if my goal is to move better, feel better, and play better golf, the weight on the bar means fairly little in the grand scheme of things… it obviously matters, but not as much as you may think.
Progression runs so much deeper than the weight you can lift.
If you golf, you are an athlete, we covered that a while ago here: Train Like an Athlete
Because of this, your training goals more than likely reside in the context of actually performing your sport, as opposed to the weight room or training setting.
As a golfer, I personally don’t really care how much I squat… I just want drives to carry further, putts to end in the cup more often, irons to hit the green more consistently, and overall lower scores to be made.
I need to make sure any progression I am undertaking in my training, is simultaneously progressing me closer to these goals that take place in the actual context of the golf course – not the weight room.
Progression is Holistic.
There are many ways we can progress our training, as I will outline below.
However, understand that not one way of progression is enough to truly build your highest performing and most resilient athlete.
Our progression needs to be all encompassing and holistic. It needs to make use of all of the strategies outlined below.
Just like our movement, the wider breadth of progression we undertake, the greater benefits we will tap into.
Methods of Training Progression
Yes, I understand I hated on the weight being lifted as a mechanism of progression earlier in this article, but it is a great way to progress your training and tap into adaptations (it’s just not the only way, as you’ll see).
By completing movements with a greater load, weight, or external stimulus you are going to be forced to tap into higher levels of strength and power. Further, this is probably the easiest way to measure training progression and actually note your physical strength gains.
For example, last week you goblet squatted 50 lbs for 5 reps. This week you squatted 55 lbs for 5 reps… BOOM, progression!
I believe this ease is why many strength coaches get obsessed with load. It is easy for an athlete to see gains and for a coach’s ego to grow.
So, to wrap up, load is absolutely a method of progression, and we should implement it into our training cycles, however, understand it is by no means the only way.
We can increase the volume of training we complete by either increasing the number of sets or increasing the number of reps per set.
By doing so, we can tap into greater muscular tension and fatigue (good fatigue). You will boost hypertrophic (muscle size) gains as well as strength, depending on the load being lifted and volume being completed.
As a golfer, we should usually seek to remain in the 5-12 rep range 80% of the time. Doing so will push us towards the adaptations of strength, power and hypertrophy, as opposed to aerobic muscular endurance, or conditioning-like adaptations.
The amount of work that we undertake when completing a movement (in the physics sense of the term) is based on two things: Force and Displacement
By challenging the range of motion you utilize for a movement, we will increase the amount of work being completed with each rep. We also will expand our mobility, or our usable ranges of motion, which is a great thing for golfers!
On the flip side, we can also progress by shortening our movement, depending on the athlete. I won’t get too into this as 90% of athletes fall into the above category (needing more mobility), however, if you are somebody who is hypermobile, by shortening your range of motion we may be able to tap into other adaptations such as tension development, core stability, and strength – which is where we should probably place our chips if you truly are hypermobile.
But like I said, for the majority of golfers out there, more range of motion is better, and can be a tool of progression
Training the nervous system can be a difficult, but important thing, and there are two ways I strive to do so:
Increase the intent at which we complete familiar movements
Challenge our motor control and coordination via new movements
Intent can be an awesome tool of progression, specifically with plyometrics, jumps, leaps, bounds, or really any “power” exercise.
What makes this method of progression tough is that it is extremely subjective, meaning, you are the only person who truly knows your level of intent with a movement.
Next time you include jumping in your workout, I want you to dig deep and truly try to jump through the ceiling. Doing so will increase your level of intent and help you tap into those nervous system adaptations as well as higher levels of power.
My favorite way of challenging and progressing intent is by using an objective measure that offers immediate feedback. For example, a clubhead speed reader that tells you immediately how fast your swing was. Another favorite of mine is a radar gun for medicine ball throws that tells you in real time how fast you threw it.
Using tools like these brings out higher levels of competition with yourself, and challenges you to uncover greater levels of intent.
In some ways similar to the mechanism noted above, by changing the tempo that we utilize for a movement, we can alter the adaptations that we blossom. I made a full YouTube video on this topic, so I won’t dive too deep…
YouTube Video: Tempo Matters https://youtu.be/pMDv1_B0I5w
The big takeaway: Change the tempo you use for movements to create variability and a wider breadth of movement abilities -> Creating progression.
6.) Movement Variability
This is an important one, if you are zoning out reading this, time to tune in!
All sports require adaptable bodies and movement systems. Even in a sport like golf, the best players in the world are the most adaptable golfers. Meaning, their movement has a breadth that allows them to produce similar results and outcomes, amongst an ever-changing, dynamic world.
As I mentioned earlier, the goal of training progression should be to actually create progression within the sport. I don’t care about how much you squat if you can’t healthily move and find a wide breadth of bodily positions.
The best way to increase our holistic movement abilities is to expose ourselves to higher levels of movement variability.
For example, next time you squat, instead of increasing the load, try to widen or narrow your stance. Try to move one foot forward 6 inches to create a staggered stance. Try to hold the weight differently.
Next time you do push ups, widen your hands. Move one hand up 6 inches. Cross your feet over one another. Bring one knee to your elbow while lowering. Put one hand on a 6 inch box while the other stays on the ground.
Next time you lunge, take a smaller step. Then try a bigger step. Hold the weight differently. Pause in the bottom position for three seconds.
Next time you are completing a lower body workout, complete a totally new exercise. This will challenge your nervous system, motor control and coordination, as well as expand your breadth of movement.
All of these subtle alterations in our movement patterns will help us create the adaptable and robust body that our golf swing demands.
I like thinking of our movement like a toolbox. Everytime we incorporate a new movement into our training we are adding a tool to our toolbox. The larger that toolbox, the more adaptable and resilient our bodies become….
Become a great mover, by building a bigger movement toolbox!
Transferring Your Training Progression
Playing better golf is the true, surface-level goal. It needs to be the destination of all of our progressions.
“True Progression” = Better at golf
“Training Progression” = Better at training
We can progress our training as much as we want, but if it isn’t transferring to higher levels of golf, we are missing a piece of the puzzle.
Therefore, be sure to always pair your training progressions with playing golf!
Progress your swing alongside progressing your physical body.
Go to the range, work with a coach, and go play 18.
Many strength coaches crave progress in the weight room (“training progression”), because it gives them a sense of success and “proof.” Even if an athlete doesn’t play well, they can say, “But look at these weight room numbers! I did my part.”
“True progression” takes place on the field of play, within the conte