Ensuring Longevity in your Golf Performance

By on 4th March 2016
Padraig Harrington Image

An Insight into Padraig Harrington’s Training

Having had the privilege of working with some of the best athletes in the world and, in particular, with 3 time major winner Padraig Harrington, I was asked recently what is it that I consider to be a key element in ensuring longevity in sport performance. While answering this could take a long time, a short succinct answer, while challenging, is perhaps the best one. Nearly 20 years ago, Paddy Harrington, Padraig’s father, said to me that if a coach or indeed an S&C coach ‘’knows what not to do’’ with an athlete or a team then he, or she, is half way towards fulfilling the athlete’s potential. These words have not left me for they summarise a number of key principles of training that guide us practitioners in our work to seek to have our athletes perform at their potential for as long as possible. Starting with ensuring that the athlete has a reduced injury risk at all times requires an understanding of not only the demands of training, practice, and competition, but also crucially, an understanding of the athlete, his or her ecosystem, and the ever changing nature of the athlete.

When I started to work with Padraig 20 years ago, the most important first step was to get to know the athlete and his needs, limitations, strengths, excesses and accumulated effects of training, practice, and competition. 20 years later and it is no different. We end each year with a review and this requires having a close working relationship with Shane (his physio), Dave (his swing coach), and Ronan (his caddy).

Principles guide – the athlete and methods change

While there are several important principles of training that will guide all athletic development, the key principles we use include:

  • Graduality
  • Variety
  • Recovery

These are underpinned by the constant need to assess how well Padraig is adapting (the principle of Monitoring) at any given stage of the year. To do this we use a variety of means to get this objective and most important subjective information. From regular blood testing to mood and energy status monitoring (using a simple and individualized POMS protocol) to mobility and stability assessments and force-velocity profiling we have seen his strength, power, and speed fluctuate over the years. Today Padraig is as strong as he was 20 years ago and his mobility is well maintained. This winter was an exciting one when we introduced (the principle of variety in action), in a gradual manner (principle of graduality), both swing and resistance overload training methods which were new to him and which have so far been very effective in enhancing and maintaining key components of his general fitness and his specific golf swing metrics.

So to summarise, over the past 2 decades Padraig’s conditioning has changed, his goals have changed, and so has he, physically. But the constant feature of his programme is still guided by the principles of training and the overarching words of his father ‘know what not to do’.

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Dr Liam Hennessy

Academic Director at Setanta College
Dr. Liam Hennessy is fitness coach to three time Major winner Padraig Harrington and a member of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Advisory Board. Liam is a former international athlete and world renowned S&C coach, working in top level European soccer, international rugby, and the Olympic Games. Liam is currently the Academic Director with highly regarded global sports institute - Setanta College

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About Dr Liam Hennessy

Dr. Liam Hennessy is fitness coach to three time Major winner Padraig Harrington and a member of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Advisory Board. Liam is a former international athlete and world renowned S&C coach, working in top level European soccer, international rugby, and the Olympic Games. Liam is currently the Academic Director with highly regarded global sports institute - Setanta College

2 Comments

  1. Paul Pook

    4th March 2016 at 11:51 am

    Excellent article showing that it’s not ‘luck’ or magic that facilitates longevity but tried and tested principles and attention to detail. Longevity fascinates me as it is often left to chance. Take Jason Leonard, former England and Lions prop. Played at the highest level, until late thirties, like Ireland’s John Hayes, in arguably the most demanding playing position in sport. What was their secret? Professional approach, functional strength and mental toughness in spades

    • golfperform

      9th March 2016 at 11:58 am

      Great comment Paul. Didn’t you have a chapter on ‘Player Durability’ in your Rugby Conditioning book? You wrote about diet, conditioning, and mental attitude (and avoiding serious injury) as key components to longevity. How do you see the transfer of your thoughts on rugby longevity/durability to golf?

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