Today success in athletics is all too often related to developing an increase in the core strength of the body and “bulking up the muscles”. This is somewhat similar to the use of ice to relieve pain. Whereas ice acts as a counter-irritant and numbs the sensory nerve endings, it does considerable damage to the cell structure, particularly if left in place for a prolonged period of time. Ice is useful to prevent swelling during the first 24-48 hours post-injury. It does this by inducing vasoconstriction, reducing arterial perfusion of the area and decreasing the extent of extravascular fluid collection (edema).
But to get back to “bulking up” as it is commonly referred to in the sports industry. In golf particularly, becoming stronger does not necessarily equate with getting better. Rory McIlroy, a year ago, was a far superior golfer to the current Rory. Aside from personal factors, a change of clubs, the attention brought by fame and the media focus – these items are of minimal relevance.
What is most significant with regard to Mr. McIlroy is his bulk and in my opinion this has gotten in the way. Muscles that were fluid and highly flexible now have developed a higher coefficient of density and the fluidity has disappeared. The brain previously unencumbered, allowed Rory to trust his swing and with his innate talent, permitted him on most days to shoot whatever score he wanted. Now mentally and physically burdened by the alleged three hours each day that he spends in the gym lifting weights, etc. it would appear that these activities serve only to impede the natural flow of matters, both cerebral and muscular.
Unquestionably, he is stronger and can hit the ball further but this is not necessarily the ultimate objective in golf. His scores this year are a clear indication of what is happening. First of all, Rory should learn to ignore the many comments by the press, other golfers, etc. and learn to relax and engage in gentle stretching exercise programs permitting a natural swing flow to develop the relevant musculature and his mind. For this type of golfer, the hours in the gym clearly do not provide a benefit, and serve only as an impedement.
George Knudson, a golfer who achieved great success at all levels, particularly for a Canadian, always believed in working on his swing, training the muscles, gentle stretching and calming the mind. In neurological circles, this is almost spiritual and can be referred to as, “neuromodulation”. This brought maximum success, commensurate with his ability and training regimen. Allowing his own intelligence to dictate his career, activities to keep the muscles flexible, particularly as he advanced in age, he combined teaching with a planned programme to return to the Seniors’ Tour. Unfortunately, health issues ended his career far too early, as he would certainly have achieved a high level of success on the Seniors’ Tour.
Weights and repetitive motions in the gym performed thousands if not millions of times, are not necessarily helpful on the road to success. As Don Cherry would say, “To all you kids out there, stop bulking and keep stretching”. Mobility, fluidity, the maintenance of good cardio-respiratory function and keeping the mind both relaxed and focused at the same time, are essential to success in all areas, particularly in sports.
I have always been a firm believer in the dictum – “never lift anything you don’t have to”. I think if this course is adhered to, rather than the opposite extreme, an easier road to a higher level of success can be achieved. Training the muscles by practicing your particular sport is useful and unquestionably some people need it more than others. By practicing and playing your sport frequently or even daily, both power and flexibility will be maintained and the mind will be uncluttered by non-relevant activities that impede both natural physical and mental development.
The 2013 Open Championship currently proves my theories conclusively. At the halfway mark, a 49-year-old Spaniard is in the lead and it is clearly evident that he does not spend much if any time lifting weights, unless it is a glass of wine. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, a devotee of the gym, is an exception that reflects his fierce desire to keep on winning. He has overcome many physical problems and has developed a methodology, which works for him, but probably not for anyone else.
The road to success will be governed by a clear focused mind, the heart and will to win and practicing your sport on a regular basis in order to strengthen the muscles that are important to that particular endeavour and leave the mind free. Logic, as in all things, should prevail, along with specific goals and pursuing a solid path to achieve that end. Keep the mind uncluttered and train the muscles to excel at the activity you have chosen. Don’t beat it to death by excessive and counterproductive activities. At all times stay happy, relaxed and focused.