Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Case Study: Two Golfers, One Bar

by Nicholas Racculia, PhD, SSC | May 31, 2018

jimmy at the bottom of a squat

Saint Vincent College currently offers a four credit course, (lecture and lab), The Science of Human Strength, during the spring semester. This past semester was the second time the course ran and it filled up quickly.  It is a multidisciplinary science course that introduces the practical acquisition and application of human strength. Students will demonstrate basic understanding of the musculoskeletal system, basic muscle physiology and cell fuel metabolism, and an understanding of the physics of human force production. Subject matter experts in the fields of anatomy, physiology and physics present in their respective fields. Several Starting Strength Coaches presented throughout the semester: Karl Schudt (“Strength as a Virtue in Antiquity“), John Musser (“Strength and Health“) and Matt Reynolds (“Programming Beyond the Novice LP“).

Students learn the theory and benefits of strength accumulation and spend about half of the time devoted to working through a genuine linear progression.  Most of the students in this year’s course were novices.  Each student agreed to follow a linear progression.  Compliance exceeded the 80% rule discussed in the article WNDTP.  This case study, and those that follow, examine some of the individual results for students in the course.  In this particular case study, we document the effects of strength on golfing.

The Trainees

Jimmy: “I am a 21 year old Business Finance major at Saint Vincent College.  I was born in Pittsburgh and began golfing at age six.  I became a competitive golfer at age 15.  I played three years of varsity golf in high school, qualifying for WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Championship two years in a row.  This is my 3rd year on Saint Vincent College’s golf team.  This year I was in the 2018 All-Conference Team which is reserved for the top ten players in the President’s Athletic Conference (which encompasses Western Pennsylvania, Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky).”

Brendan: “I have been swinging a golf club since I was 5 years old. I started competing in tournaments at the age of 12, though I did not take it seriously until I was 14 years old.  I had several top 10 and top 5 finishes in junior tournaments around the East Coast and I was the 2015 WPIAL AA Bronze medalist.  Currently, I am the 2nd and 3rd man this past year on the varsity golf team at Saint Vincent College, where I major in Business Marketing.”

Strength Acquired

Students participated in a basic barbell linear progression.  During the Monday and Wednesday platform time, it was under the guidance of one Starting Strength Coach and two SSC Interns.  Their Friday session was self-guided (and maybe occasionally, accidentally forgotten).  After the first week of class, all students were performing the basic four strength lifts.  Chin-ups and power cleans were added later in the semester.  The program followed a reasonably close approximation of a genuine linear progression with a few structural set-backs like Spring Break (both Brendan and Jimmy traveled to Prague for 10 days) and Easter Break (both students were deep in prayer, penance, and meditation).

brendan unrack barbell squat

At the beginning of the semester, Jimmy squatted 115 lb, pressed 95 lb, pulled 145 lb and bench pressed 140 lb for sets of 5 across.  Brendan squatted 125 lb, pressed 75 lb, pulled 155 lb and bench pressed 135 lb for sets of 5 across.  On April 22nd, at the charity lifting event, Squats for Tots, Brendan and Jimmy both squatted 285 lbs for their third attempts.  Jimmy pressed 145 lb and pulled 365 lb while Brendan pressed 120 lb and pulled 315 lbs.   On the last day of class, May 2nd, Jimmy squatted 255 lb and benched 205 lb for sets of 5 across.  Brendan squatted 270 lb for sets of five across. While not the perfect linear progression, they represent a real and significant improvement in force production.

The Results

Jimmy: “I have experienced a noticeable gain in driving distance.  Previously I was averaging 275 yards.  By the end of the semester, it improved to 290 yards.  Additionally, I gained about 5 yards for every other club in the bag.  One of the more interesting personal discoveries for me is that as I got stronger, I noticed a clear improvement in overall control; there was a noticeable tightening of my shot dispersion.

There has been an overall improvement in balance as I increased the weight on the bar.  I also do not seem to get fatigued as quickly as I had before.  This year I took 3rd place in the 2018 Spring Conference Championship.  I attribute much of that victory to simply being stronger.”

Brendan: “All of my rounds this spring season were in the 70s (except one); giving me an overall average of 80.  This is a 2.5 stroke improvement from my 82.5 average in the fall 2017.  The only major difference between the two semesters is that I got stronger.  In addition, I have noticed a 20 to 25 yard gain of distance off the tee which I attribute solely to increased trunk rigidity and improved force transfer. This improvement has allowed me to be closer to the hole and makes scoring opportunities easier to come by. I have definitely noticed that my swing speed has increased. In the fall, I could only hit a 9 iron 145 yards at absolute most; now, I can regularly hit that same 9 iron 155 yards (and sometimes longer than that).

“As noted, my swing speed increased noticeably since getting stronger.  At first, this threw off my timing a bit.  After hitting balls in the simulator for about week, I was able to fix that problem easily. Now I expect these changes so I anticipate them. Once I got the feel down, everything else came easily.” 

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