What I did to hit a golf ball farther

What I did to hit a golf ball farther

by Mike Whitman

Two years ago I went down to Columbia, South Carolina to compete in World Long Drive. It was open qualifiers, something I knew basically nothing about and it was a completely new experience for me. It wasn’t really something I was interested in until I was getting a club fitting for some irons and a new driver. During that process the person doing the fitting suggested that I would have a shot at long drive based on my swing speed and I might want to look into it. Worst case scenario it would at least be fun, and something else to work on relative to the world of golf. So I ordered a new driver, made a few swing adjustments, and changed my program to increase my clubhead speed as much as possible.

Part of understanding how to adjust your program requires understanding of how the human body actually generates power, and in this case, generating power in a golf swing. Like every other land-dwelling sport, ground force production is critical. Improving ground force production basically boils down to how much force you can put into the ground in the shortest period of time. Then, ideally, the hips unwind, the lower body and upper body separate from each other creating immense amounts of tension in the swing, the hands stay on plane, accelerate through impact, and the clubhead explodes through the ball. Bam, big ass drives.

So how did I adjust my training to improve my GFP? First I added Olympic lifts back in my program. It had been a while since I had done them consistently so the first few weeks were all about tightening up form, and figuring out how I wanted to program them relative to my goal. Initially I added in power cleans and hang power snatches. I was more concerned with exploding vertically as hard as possible than I was about dropping under the bar and trying to improve my max. It was all about speed.

I watched this video on youtube (I searched for it for over an hour today, and can’t find it, sorry) from a strength coach working with hammer throwers. He made an interesting point, he never wants his athletes to practice dropping under the bar because he never wants to train the body to reduce its GFP in an effort to get under the bar. Intriguing to say the least. Fantastic Olympic lifters are fantastic and getting under the bar, which wasn’t my goal. So I tested it out. I used a computer system to measure peak velocity, average velocity, peak force production, and average force production to find out what weights and what type of Olympic lifts would translate best to my goal. I’ll be damned the guy was pretty spot on. Even in the Olympic lifts I produced more power moving a lighter weight a much larger distance in a shorter period of time. I don’t have the exact numbers anymore but the basic gist of it was I produced significantly more power, in every aspect, if I did no-drop cleans and no-drop snatches, than if I actually dropped under the bar. The physics make perfect sense. So, as I am wont to do, I adjusted my program changing some of my Olympic lifting to no-drop Olympic lifting.

I have brought this idea up to other people, and usually I get a quizzical look, but think about it for one second. If I am trying to train triple extension, that 3rd pull phase, I am going to have to produce a shit ton of force to clean a weight straight up to my shoulders, or throw a bar straight over my head without dropping to receive it. Also, the weight will inherently have to move faster to cover that distance and I am loading my spine with less weight. As someone who has had a few back injuries, and was hitting a ton of golf balls at the time, I didn’t need a ton of extra spinal load and certainly didn’t want to risk catching a heavy clean or a snatch wrong, aggravating my left wrist, which has some limited mobility due to an injury I sustained years ago that never really healed correctly.

So outside of adding the Olympic lifts, I took a bunch of shit out. Heavy deadlifts were gone. I needed to be able to rotate and separate my upper and lower halves as much as possible. Heavy deadlifts require you to have a lot of spinal stability and I needed mobility. Heavy barbell squats also out for basically the same reason. Keep in mind that I am using the term heavy as anything over 70% of my 1RM, which for deadlifts the most I ever pulled was 515, so nothing over 365. Even then reaching up to 365 was a rarity. I also took out any version of chest work. Chest work and golf swings don’t really go hand in hand, if your pecs get too big, or too tight, you will fuck up your swing. Horizontal pressing, out. Rows and bent over rows, out. Same thing, I needed to keep the shoulders loose and if the lats get too tight I’m going to lose mobility. Also big biceps don’t translate to long golf shots. Horizontal pulling, out. My program didn’t have much other frivolous shit in it, it was all based on compound movements, so it wasn’t like I had to take out bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg curls or other single joint movements like that.

What did I end up with? A program where I lifted 6 days a week, but I kept the lifts short and explosive so I was always fresh enough to go to the range. Here was the skeleton of what I came up with:

Day 1:
No-drop cleans
Military press
Versa Pulley shoulder circuit for mobility and shoulder health

Day 2:
Pit Shark Squats or Pit Shark Jump Squats
Calf raises and grip work

Day 3:
No-drop hang snatches
Rotational work on the Versa Pulley
Head and Neck

Day 4:
Deadlifts or RDLs
Military press
Versa Pulley shoulder circuit

Day 5:
Power cleans
Calf Raises and grip work

Day 6:
Barbell Squats or single leg RDLs depending on how my left knee felt
Rotational work on the Versa Pulley
Head and Neck

Day 7:
Just some light movement work but basically a rest day and repeat.

Each week I would adjust weights, sets, and reps but most things were programmed light, fast, and on a short rest interval, so do with that what you may. Also, everyday I did some light prehab/rehab and mobility work.

How did it work? Well in about 6 weeks I added roughly 20 to 30 yards on to my drive, I felt fast, I felt explosive and I didn’t have any nagging injuries. All in all, pretty good. How did I end up doing? I hit a ball 391 yards but that was a few yards short of getting to the finals of open qualifiers. I hit a few balls harder and farther but they didn’t stay on the grid…

So what can you take away from this? Appropriate, simple and dedicated programming works, golfers can train like athletes too, not all lifts are created equal, sometimes variations of lifts might be more effective for you or your goal than the standard lift, and being more explosive will help you hit a golf ball farther. Go out and hit ‘em hard.

We Are Too Damn Fat

We Are Too Damn Fat

by Mike Whitman

Look, at some point we as Americans have to realize we are too damn fat. Like fat fat. I mean really fucking fat. According to the CDC 20.6% of 12 – 19 year olds are obese. That is one out of five! Don’t worry it only gets better, 39.6% of adults suffer from obesity, which is basically two out of five! We are fucking fat.

Now, before we get going, I will acknowledge that just using the BMI scale is flawed. If you are 5’ 8” 200 pounds and 13% body fat you will still be considered obese by the BMI scale, when clearly you aren’t and you just carry a lot of muscle mass. The BMI system is flawed, but let’s not pretend like we have 130+ million people who just happen to be really stacked in the US and that is why our rates are so high.

Why are we so damn fat? Well there are a lot of reasons but I am going to focus on 3.

  1. We consume too much. Flat out, we eat too much food. We also eat a lot of sugar and a lot of fat, but without doing a deep dive on sugar, we eat too much food. Have you ever worked around people who basically plan their entire day around when they are going to eat next, or from the moment they get to work are already talking about the cheesesteak they want for lunch? Yeah, that is a problem. I promise you, we could eat a whole lot less. I challenge anyone to count all of the calories they consume. I mean measure your food, every serving, track it for a few weeks and see what your intake is. I promise you the moment you start doing this you will automatically eat less because people don’t even realize how much they eat. Another trick is to eat until you aren’t hungry, don’t eat until you’re full. There isn’t an award for finishing your plate the fastest unless your name is Joey Chestnut, and no one is taking that debaucherous crown.
  2. We need to learn how to cook. Seriously, it isn’t that hard. The concept of applying heat to food via heat source not called a microwave is critical to your health, and it was critical to the evolution of our species. If some dipshit in a cave could make a fire and cook a leg of some extinct animal on a stick, you can use an oven or a stove. Ya ever sit back and watch a cooking show and see how much butter and salt they use? I would happily wager (unless you are a chef) that you have never used that amount of salt, butter, and oil when you cooked your own food. Butter makes things taste delicious, I get it, trust me I do, and I LOVE a good meal as much as the next person, but when you only eat food cooked by other people you are flooding your body with levels of fat, salt, and sugar that you would never personally use. Cooking your own food will automatically cut down on calories, and overall unhealthy shit you put into your body. You can even cook vegetables, in fact you don’t even need to cook most salads, ya sorta just throw that shit in a bowl add some oil, vinegar, black pepper and call it a day.
  3. We need to move more. We are inactive, we sit too long at work, we go home and sit down to eat shitty food, then we lay down to go to bed. If your only movement is getting out of bed to walk to your car to drive to work to walk to your desk, to walk to your car to drive to lunch, to walk back to your car to drive to work to sit at your desk, to walk to your car to drive back home to sit on the couch and watch TV, to walk to your bed and go to sleep, you are incredibly sedentary and massively out of shape. Unfortunately the scenario I laid out applies to a large percentage of our population. So what can you do to combat this? If you are completely sedentary then walking may be the first best step. Then walk farther, walk up stairs or go for hikes. Outside of that, going to the gym is always a good idea because you’re probably weak, move like shit, and could use professional help. Ironically I know a place where you could go…

It isn’t hard to lose weight and get in better shape, it just takes a conscious and consistent effort. If you watch what you eat, cook your own food, and are physically active you will improve your health. It isn’t rocket science it just means you have to invest in yourself, which is probably the best investment you can make. Let’s get less fat and a lot fitter.

P.S. We did an entire podcast with Katie Sampayo where we discussed diet, nutrition, working out and her best selling book Eat to Thrive: The Anti-Diet Cookbook which can be found here.https://www.amazon.com/Eat-Thrive-Anti-Diet-Katie-Sampayo-ebook/dp/B0722SDR66
– Mike

How to Build a Program

How to Build a Program

by Mike Whitman

I use the term appropriate programming quite often, almost to the point where it may come off as some cheesy phrase or buzzword; you know the ones where you are sitting in a meeting and Billy from sales has a powerpoint filled with slides about synergistic integration, actionable analytics, and monetization strategies. But, appropriate programming is really important because without that you are just doing physical activity, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. So how do we start building a program?

First you have to be really honest with yourself and figure out what your goals are, how hard you are willing to work for them, how much time you can devote to them, and write that down because the entire plan starts there. This is where most people get off track. You know how many people in a consultation said being in shape was a 10 out of 10 important to them yet they were at least 50 pounds overweight and weren’t physically active? If something is 10 out of 10 important to you, literally nothing else in your life can rival that. Nothing. So be honest and figure out how hard you are willing to work for this goal.

Then you need to figure out what you want from a program. This would be that whole goal setting area. Ideally goals are specific, they have timelines attached to them, and they are realistically attainable. “I want to be in better shape” is vague as all hell and is a trash goal. “I want to have less than 15% body fat, weigh 190 pounds, be able to do 10 pull-ups and power clean my bodyweight” is a MUCH better place to start. All of these are measurable, we can figure out our starting point, we know our initial end goal, we can create checkpoints within our timeline, and hold ourselves accountable to a plan. Not bad.

“What if I don’t know what my goal is?” We hear this a lot more than you think, and for a lot of people they legitimately don’t have a goal other than feeling better, or being healthier. Or at least they think they don’t have a goal. This is where you have to ask the questions that get uncomfortable: when were you happiest with the way you looked? How much did you weigh then? What size were you? Who did you always want to look like when you grew up? Is there someone you want to be stronger than? What kind of role model do you want to be for your kids? Is there a neighbor named Karen, that come hell or high water, you will look better than when the pool first opens up this year because Karen is a bitch and that will give you satisfaction that even though she complained about your shrubs to the HOA so you had to remove them, you know you look good and she looks like her legs are made of cottage cheese? You have to find something and then build from there.

Hypothetically if the person above really did answer those questions we may get that they felt their best when they weighed 130 pounds which was 20 pounds ago, they wish their butt wasn’t so flat, they like the look of someone when you can actually see their hamstring muscles, they wish their low back didn’t hurt but they know their low back is weak, they want to be a fit mom so their kids are more likely to be healthy, and they really fuckin’ hate Karen.

Now the fun begins. We have goals, we have a picture of what we are working on, and assuming this was a healthy 35 year old female with some lifting experience we build the program. Probably going to be something built around the Nautilus Glute Drive, deadlifts, squats, RDLs, push-ups, shoulder press, rows, Versa Pulley, Versa Climber, working on her movement patterns, and keeping that hate for Karen. As we continue the program we adjust as we go based on how her body responds to certain lifts, exercise load, natural predisposition to strength and certain movement patterns, and tweak it until we are right where we need to be. This process never really ends but that is the fun part. Much like a group of hobbits, “We’re going on an adventure!”

Leave the Freaks Alone!

Leave the Freaks Alone!

by Mike Whitman

Jacob deGrom is a FREAK and there is a trainer out there who is just waiting to ruin him. Now if you don’t know who Jacob deGrom is, he is a 6’4” 180 pound Mets pitcher who has won the last 2 Cy Young awards in the NL and started this season off by giving up one hit, no runs, and struck out 8 batters in 5 innings. Overall, not bad. So why do I think there is a trainer or strength coach waiting to ruin him? Because strength coaches can be idiots, and they can be way too literal about their job title. I promise you someone out there is arguing they could make the best pitcher in baseball even better if he lifted more, squatted more, got his deadlift up another 50 pounds, did more pull-ups, gained more muscle, increased his maxes etc. all the while probably having a better chance of ruining his career instead of helping it.

Obviously I am not against lifting, quite the contrary, but not everyone needs to look like an NFL linebacker to play sports. deGrom generates all of his ridiculous power by separating his upper and lower half and rotating through his hips, leading to an effortless 97+ fastball for an entire season. If you start lifting him heavier, have him gain weight and more muscle mass he may lose some ability to rotate, leading to less velocity and alterations to his throwing mechanics. None of those are good. *Looking at you Noah Syndergaard*

Mobility is the key to his success, anything that hinders his mobility will have a direct negative impact on his ability to pitch. Pedro Martinez, although much more diminutive, is another person whose mechanics relied more on rotation and mobility than raw power. Hell Pedro would rotate so hard that half the time his right foot would end up pointing at first base. Other tall slender flamethrowers that come to mine would be Randy Johnson and Chris Sale. Now does every pitcher have this build, or generate their velocity this way? Absolutely not.

Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Andy Pettitte, and Justin Verlander were all big leg drive pitchers, Tom Seaver being one of the more extreme examples of this. Clemens and Pettitte both had lower halves that more resembled a Clydesdale than a normal human. Verlander is an inch taller than deGrom and over 50 pounds heavier. So there isn’t just one way to build a pitcher, which is the entire point. Taking a one program fits all approach to people, even people playing the same position in the same sport, isn’t going to work.

All programs should have some philosophies that they stick by. In this case, if I was working with deGrom, I would start the idea of the program with these 6 things:
1.Don’t do anything that hinders his mobility
2.Everything should be through a complete range of motion
3.Avoid heavy spinal loading
4.Make sure he stays explosive
5.I don’t care about his maxes
6.Have constant communication about how he feels after each and every workout

Stay tuned because I am going to do a deep dive on Bryson DeChambeau in the near future.

Physical Activity Isn’t Training

Physical Activity Isn’t Training

The American population, on average, is fat, sedentary, over medicated, in pain, and moves with the coordination of a newly born giraffe walking on ice. A really easy way to fix most of these issues really lies with the sedentary aspect of the statement above. We need to move! We need to do more physical activity, and in general physical activity is great. That being said, I am going to now trounce all over the idea of just “physical activity” in the gym. All training programs fall under physical activity, but not all physical activity counts as a training program.

Physical activity by itself is not a training program. Training programs have starting points, goals, a plan of attack to get from point A to point B, they are trackable, often have limited variables, and can be adjusted over time to improve their rate of success in regard to accomplishing the goal of the program. So what counts as physical activity that isn’t part of a training program then? Gardening, hiking, recreational kayaking, chasing butterflies while you’re blindfolded etc. They all require movement, maybe you’ll break a sweat, and they can certainly have a positive impact on your health, especially if you are a very sedentary person. None of those would qualify as part of a training program.

Don’t get me wrong, just because you do something in a gym doesn’t make it part of a training program either. If you just arbitrarily decide to walk on a treadmill for 10 or 15 minutes one time in your life, you didn’t do a conditioning program. Stumbling around the gym not knowing what to do so you grabbed some 10lb weights and did some curls in front of the mirror, is also not part of a training program. So how do we get ourselves into a training program? Well I just wrote a whole blog on that called how to build a program so I recommend reading that. Now back to bashing physical activity!

Have you ever seen one of those boot camp class workouts where some lazy ass trainer busts out a deck of cards where each suit is a different exercise, and the number on the card is how many reps you have to do? Uh-oh its a Jack of Hearts, gotta do 10 burpees now! Yeah, that is the shit I hate, that is the shit that drives me nuts. Is it physical activity, are you gonna sweat, and probably do a lot of shitty reps because you just want to get the damn workout over? Yep, it will be all of those things. You know what would probably help you succeed more? Getting on a program completely individualized to you, your injury history, your goals, with some actually decent coaching! Can you tell I sorta hate the idea of boot camps? WODs are no different, and someone trying to argue that the random programming of workouts is programming is full of shit too. That’s like the person who claims to have missed the free throw on purpose because they didn’t want to win by too many points (unless you have some money on the game where you need to hit the under while still covering the spread, but that is neither here nor there).

You want to know another reason to actually get on a training program? People who are on a training program are more likely to have success than someone just doing random shit with the idea of being active. I would also argue, anecdotally, that people on a program enjoy working out more because they know the effort they are putting into the program is getting them closer to the exact goal they want to accomplish. This is simple, “effort leads to reward” stuff, no need for a deep dive into a psychology textbook for that one, we are all just basically golden retriever puppies.

So, if you have struggled accomplishing your goals, take a look back and see if you have been on a training program or if you have been doing unguided physical activity like a blind sheep wandering the desert. It was probably the latter, so my recommendation would be to sit down with a professional and actually create a program that works for you. Working out can be a lot more rewarding when there is a reason you are doing it, and you are actually making progress. Be a good puppy, work hard, sit, stay, shake, rollover, and get that treat!