With the Masters Golf Championship being played this week in Augusta, Georgia, I happened to hear an interview on Freakonomics Radio with Greg Norman one of the all-time great golfers.
I should note that I know almost nothing about golf. I do not even know where you are supposed to run after you hit the ball. However, I do know that Greg Norman was a superstar in the era before Tiger Woods.
As I listened to the interview, several ideas came to mind about the way that highlighted the ways that golfers and lifters practice, and the things they must do to realize their full potential.
- Being a good athlete in one sport helps in another
Before he was a great golfer, Greg Norman was in his own words very good at surfing. For an Australian to admit to being very good at surfing, he must have been nearly off the top of the charts.
Surfing requires balance, coordination, rapid evaluation of the situation, mental toughness, physical fitness, and a host of other abilities that come from both talent and perfect practice.
Norman said that he believed that being a good surfer translated directly to becoming a top golfer.
IMHO becoming the best you can be at powerlifting can be significantly enhanced by what you learned competing in other sports. Knowing what it takes to succeed at other sports CAN translate directly into figuring out what it takes to succeed in powerlifting.
Now, there are some sports that are basically incompatible if you try to participate in them at the same time. One of the more obvious is running distance and trying to compete in heavy lifting. (I speak from experience).
- Everyone needs to perfect their technique: Lifters get very few opportunities.
When athletes in some sports such as golf practice, they literally can take hundreds of swings, run hundreds of miles, or endlessly practice the critical details of the sport.
Lifters on the other had get very few reps when trying to perfect their technique. Greg Norman used to hit 1000 shots a day in practice. When lifting a heavy weight, you are fortunate to get more than 15 high quality reps in any given workout.
Pushing the limits of your neuromuscular capacity means every single rep you perform is critical to building good technique.
IMHO the closest sport to powerlifting in terms of the necessity of cramming a huge amount of critical practice into a few attempts is platform diving. You only get to go up the ten-meter tower a few times in each practice session, so the diver better maximize their opportunity for developing mastery on every rep.
Moral of the story: assume that you have very little chance to master your lifting skills, so use every single rep to maximum advantage.
- Select assistance training that can give you the biggest return on your time and effort.
Lifters generally do not seem to reflect on the types of assistance training that could enhance their athleticism in ways that translate to better lifting.
IMHO there are some untapped sources of training that could benefit almost any lifter. Some of these will seem completely off the wall. However, if practiced regularly and seriously I believe that the work would pay off in lifting bigger iron.
Gymnastics is one area where a few lifters have dabbled. However, learning how to maximize muscle tension is a long road and one that is difficult to travel if you take up the quest at age 50+.
Ballet training is now becoming more widely available through such places as Bare. Learning body control, balance and explosive movement could be a game changing experience.
Some types of martial arts training should also be considered. I would stress the non-contact training needed to do difficult movements. Im not suggesting a group of us go for a 70+ age group in cage fighting. Rather, mastering the ability to focus your energy into lightning fast powerful movements could have big payoffs in lifting.
In summary, each sport presents a unique set of challenges. Mastery of any sport takes a huge amount of work. However all of us aspire to be the best we can be at our chosen activity. Sometimes we can learn a lot from sports quite different from our own.
As for golf. I have vowed to play regularly. I committed to play once a decade but have had trouble keeping that promise. Maybe it is not for me.