Every time someone in a social setting finds out that I’ve worked with PGA golfers, the response is always the same. “I guess you guys do light weights and lots of stretching.” It drives me nuts. Here’s the truth about how much weight to lift:
1. Light weight is an oxymoron.
No one ever got better lifting light weights. A weight should be appropriate to your goal, but rarely, if ever, intentionally light. The load should be based on your strength level. How can you tell if it’s appropriate? If you’re lifting a weight 10 times, the ninth and 10th repetitions should be difficult. If you can lift a weight 20 times but choose to do only ten, then you’re wasting your time.
2. Exercise should get progressively harder.
The essence of effective strength training is a concept called “progressive resistance exercise.” This means that even if the resistance may be light to begin with, it should not stay that way. If you’ve been using the same weight for three months, the doctrine of progressive resistance says that the first two weeks were beneficial, and 10 weeks were wasted. Add weight to make your exercises more challenging and effective. How much? See point # 1 above.
3. Fix your form.
Once you have passed the first three weeks of training, you should lift a weight that is heavy but allows you to complete each movement with perfect form. An all-too-common mistake when first learning that the load should be heavy is to cheat (using bad form to will the weight up and drop it). Strive for perfect technique in all exercises and progressively increase the resistance. SportBlocks, from PowerBlock, are perfect for this. SportBlocks are a small version of the popular PowerBlock dumbbells that increase in three-pound increments.
4. Do more basic exercises.
If your trainer has you practicing your golf swing with a dumbbell in your hands, get a new trainer. Don’t wave dumbbells around and call it strength training. Learn to bodyweight squat. Learn to do a push-up. Good basic training should strongly remind you of the calisthenics you used to do in high school. This might seem too simple, but many of the basic moves are the best for building strength.
Michael Boyle is one of the world’s leading experts in the area of performance enhancement and the owner of StrengthCoach.com. He is also the author of Functional Training for Sports.