How would you describe the ideal athlete?
Would she be tall? Muscular? Strong?
Would he have a 6 pack?
Would she be able to jump high and run fast?
What sport does he/she play?
These questions are nearly impossible to answer.
The ideal athlete is extremely context dependent.
Phil Mickelson just won the PGA Championship awhile back. What would happen if you put him at cornerback lined up across from Davante Adams?
Yuka Saso just won the US Women’s Open a few weeks ago. What would happen if she tried to guard Breanna Stewart on the basketball court?
Even if we just look at the sport of golf and ask, what do the best golfers’ athletic profiles look like?
Dustin Johnson is very different from Colin Morikawa.
Rickie is different from Rory.
Compare Phil and Tiger from 15 years ago… Very different athletic builds.
But yet, these are all very successful golfers.
The reason I make all of these distinctions is because I want you to understand that athletes live and play in many different contexts HOWEVER, the physical training that they ALL pursue is going to look more similar than different and that is because it all boils down to the fact that they are ALL athletes.
What is an Athlete?
An athlete is somebody who uses their physical abilities to solve the problems that their sport presents.
Becoming an ELITE athlete requires you to do this at a level higher than nearly everybody else on this planet.
If you golf, if you keep score, if you AT ALL care about what your scorecard says at the end of the round, or where your next tee shot goes, or avoiding the water on 7… YOU ARE AN ATHLETE.
Boom, glad that’s settled.
How Can YOU Train Like an Athlete?
Quick Overview of the Rest of the Article:
There are three central themes that we need to discuss when attempting to train like an athlete…
Athlete Mentality – How should you be viewing your physical training in order to produce results like an athlete? Long story short, training needs to be come a priority.
Athlete Physical Development – 5 Things Your Training NEEDS to have in order to build the athlete within you.
Athlete Holistic Development – Never forget about the surrounding lifestyle and health habits that you maintain. Would the best athletes in the world fail to prioritize nutrition, sleep, or hydration… of course not… and neither can you!
While all athletes attack their sports with slightly different emotions and mental states, nearly all successful ones make their training and preparation a PRIORITY.
The harder I work, the luckier I get – Gary Player
Athletes understand the role that physical development, practice, and strength training has on their success in the sport, and they make sure to prioritize it.
And while, I understand most of you aren’t playing golf this weekend for $1.5 mil, nor does your livelihood depend on your athletic abilities, if you golf, you are an athlete (we went over this).
Nearly ALL golfers (pros and amateurs alike) share a relentless spirit and hunger to improve their games. It’s what makes the game so great! If you share this drive, ask yourself, are you doing everything in your power to improve your game?
Are you maintaining an athlete’s mentality when it comes to prioritizing your training needs?
If you are reading this, I am guessing you already train pretty regularly and share in my spirit of training and physical development, so I won’t beat on the point.
But, to summarize, if you truly consider yourself a golfer, an athlete or even simply an individual who seeks improvement, training needs be a critical piece of our preparation!
Athlete Physical Development
So, what should our training look like if we are seeking to move and feel like an athlete. Let’s break it down into 5 parts:
Train fast (and I mean FAST, like, explosively fast).
Train mobile and stabile
Train to boost coordination.
Train to expand your MOVEMENT CAPACITY.
Not only should we train fast because the golf swing is fast, but doing so prepares our body’s for what life throws at it.
I believe many injuries in our world occur due to a lack of preparation.
A muscle isn’t prepared to contract or elongate at a certain velocity, so it strains.
A joint isn’t prepared for a certain dynamic load, so a different joint compensates.
Our nervous system isn’t upregulated to perform a high intensity action, so we’re inefficient and ineffective.
By training fast we can help build this preparation. We will tap into high threshold motor units as well as increase their firing rates. We will build neuromuscular effeciency and increase our muscle fiber shortening speed. We will become more powerful and faster – and our clubhead speed will increase as a result!
By training FAST, we not only can enhance our athletic potential to perform an action, but we can also physically and neurologically expose ourselves to intensities that we will see elsewhere – building injury resilience!
Here are 3 ways to train fast!
In order to create resilient and robust muscles, capable of withstanding forces that the golf swing (and life) presents, we need to train to be strong!
Strength is quite literally defined as, the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.
Think about it this way:
If we define strength, as I did above, then which of the following materials is strongest… paper, rope, or steel?
Obviously the steel as it can withstand the most amount of forces and pressures…
Strength training helps us adapt tissues to be more steel-like.
The stronger our muscles, the harder it is to break them. Get stronger to help eliminate injuries.
* Obviously there is way more to injuries than strength, but you get the point, in general, stronger = more resilient.
Training for strength requires placing an external load on our movement, which will elicit higher levels of motor unit recruitment, and create strength adaptations.
Here are some of my current favorite strength exercises:
Train Mobile and Stabile
The best athletes don’t necessarily have the largest range of motion (@ Jon Rahm). Nor do they have the most stability.
However, all athletes have created a balance in their movement between mobility and stability.
They can move joints through a relatively large range of motion (relative to the amount necessary for their swing), and they can do so with simultaneous strength and stability.
The best way to train for higher levels of mobility and stability are to complete movements and exercises through a large range of motion in a controlled and tension driven manner. If you can find ways to strengthen and control larger ranges of motion, we will successfully expand not only our mobility, but our stability in these new ranges of motion.
Instead of doing yoga or static stretching for hours on end, I encourage you to simply challenge the ranges of motion you are utilizing while completing strength exercises and other training movements. Pair this with some daily dynamic mobilization drills and we are on the right track!
Train to Boost Coordination
Our training movements and exercises should challenge our body to connect as a holistic and interdependent system (not always, but for sure multiple times throughout the course of a training session).