What is Overload Underload Training and why should one add it to a training program?
Overload Underload refers to using lighter and heavier objects to increase the speed of a motion or motor pattern. This concept is believed to have been around during the ancient Olympic Games. There are several ways to increase the speed in a sport. Most commonly that is through mechanical changes, physical changes, and equipment changes. This type of training, however, is in its own unique category targeting the neurological system.
To best illustrate this imagine when you set up over a driver. Your brain is preparing to tell your body/muscles to make that particular motion at a certain speed. Sometimes you may want to hit the ball farther on a hole, so you try to swing harder and may get a few miles per hour more out of your swing. It is very unlikely if not impossible to increase your club head speed significantly just by trying harder and you may find you actually slow down.
This is where Overload Underload or OverSpeed training has its benefits. By using lighter then progressively heavier objects one can train the brain to tell the body to move faster than normal effectively taking the governor off the top end speed.
Let’s take a look at some modern day examples of these concepts in other sports.
In the 1970s Olympic track and field athletes in the Soviet Union were known to use this training for discus, javelin, shot put, hammer throw and sprinting.
Currently baseball players use this training for pitching and hitting.
Shown here is LA Dodgers 3rd baseman and 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager using the SuperSpeed Slugger System under the guidance of TPI certified professional Jason Lindsay.
Swimmers will use towing devices to create artificial drag as well as a wear types of gloves to pull more water than with their bare handed strokes.
NFL quarterbacks have been known to use lighter and heavier type balls. TPI Advisory Board Member Dr Tom House is the top expert on this who has worked with a large number of NFL quarterbacks including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, Jared Goff, and Joe Flacco.
Shown here is Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan performing a weighted ball program and Jameis Winston using an Underload bat. Even though Jameis is a quarterback, utilizing swings can maintain or even increase the speed of the throwing motion without accumulating high throwing counts when volume is of concern.
Sprinters have successfully trained at inclines and declines as well as used towing devices to increase sprint speed.
Here is a video of an athlete at King Performance Systems being pulled by a harness.
Another example of modern day training is 2017 Javelin World Champion, Johannes Vetter, shown here training with weighted balls.
So how do we apply this knowledge to the golf swing?
In 2013, SuperSpeed Golf began data collection as to the proper weighting structure of clubs to get the most speed increases while maintaining mechanics and kinematics.
In 2014, SuperSpeed Golf began popularizing the term Overspeed Training to differentiate from Overload Underload Training. During testing SuperSpeed found that using objects that were too heavy or too light could actually become detrimental to the mechanics of the motion and/or slow the athlete down.
In came the word Overspeed which by definition means making the body move faster during a known movement in order to reset the normal neuromuscular reaction speed of the body. During overload training, one can be moving slower during than the actual movement which is what differentiates this type of training.
SuperSpeed found that swinging an object over about 5% heavier than a standard driver over a series of repetitions can actually train that motor pattern to move slower. Overload training can however have some benefit for increased motor unit activation and strength purposes. Performing it with proper intent and volume is important to not inhibit the end goal. An example of this are baseball players using weighted donuts on their bats. Although there could be some benefit from a pure warm-up standpoint, this traditional practice can be very detrimental to speed.
Dr. Greg Rose talking about weighted donuts:
What exactly is a motor unit and how does it differentiate from a motor program?
A motor unit is the system that connects the motor pattern in your brain to the muscles in your body. This involves neurons in your brain connected to motor neurons throughout your body, which are then connected to your muscles.
Motor programs control all the movements in our body. These are like computer programs located in our brain that control complex reactions by the muscles of our body. Motor patterns can be flexible, but do have a somewhat normal reaction speed associated. A Neuromuscular Reaction is the process of different muscles firing in order to essentially run a motor program
The key here is to use light clubs to reset that neuromuscular reaction speed. By swinging the light clubs first it effectively tricks the body and brain to believe it can move faster than normal. Then by progressively increasing the load this helps to cement that speed as the new normal.
During a SuperSpeed session the goal is to be swinging the light club 20% faster than your driver, medium club 16% faster, and heavy club 10-12% faster.
An essential piece of OverSpeed training is performing non dominant swings.
Although this may look and feel incredibly awkward at first, the benefits are worth the effort.
Dr. Greg House and Dr. Tom House created a concept called The Big Break Theory to further detail the importance of non dominant training. One of the main tenets of this states “you can only accelerate as fast you can decelerate.”
The kinematic sequence leaves clues as to the importance of the Big Break Theory. Possibly the most important to speed and power is what is called the deceleration chain occurring during the downswing. In a very short amount of time each segment from the bottom to the top peaks in rotational speed, then rapidly decelerates transferring energy to the next segment in the chain. When this sequence is out of order or inefficient, sub-optimal speed and power results will occur.
One of the best ways to train the deceleration chain are the non-dominant swings. These create muscle activation in the lead side of the body, which becomes the important stabilizing force during the downswing.
In the kinematic graphs below the left one shows a much greater ability to decelerate illustrated by the steepness of the peaks and rate at which those then move downward.
Based on our experience and that of TPI, the longest hitters in the world can generate a tremendous amount of speed on their non dominant side. Often this can be almost equal to the dominant side.
Brooks Koepka with TPI Advisory Board member Claude Harmon III
Trainer Joey Diovisalvi talking about Dustin Johnson's use of non dominant speed swings in the Wall Street Journal.
Jon Rahm and his trainer Spencer Tatum include non dominant speed training including SuperSpeed and Med Ball throws in his programming.
The modern golf game has power and speed at the top of headlines.
Throughout history the longest players have always been at the top but we’ve never seen this much emphasis on distance.
Statistics experts such as Mark Broadie, Scott Fawcett, Lou Stagner and Rich Hunt have helped us to understand the importance of distance to scoring. Mark Broadie’s Strokes Gained stats have given us a new level of measurement to quantify how distance off the tee impacts many levels of the game on the PGA Tour. The top of the world ranking and money list is littered with the longest players.
Phil Mickelson was quoted as saying “You can have great weeks and win golf tournaments without being the longest guy, but you can’t dominate the sport without speed.”
Currently over 700 Tour players around the world are using the SuperSpeed Training System on both men’s and women’s tours.
With all this information what expectation should one have when beginning an OverSpeed Training program?
On average SuperSpeed users see a 5% gain in swing speed over the first 6 week protocol. Then another 3.5-4% gain during the next 8-16 weeks. Gains vary as the training progresses often due to certain genetic factors including ones own athletic ceiling. What activities the player participated in during their youth especially those involving speed has a large impact on that athletic ceiling. An analogy from Dr Rose states that activities as a child can influence what type of fuel your body runs on. These being jet fuel, rocket fuel, gasoline or diesel. Obviously jet fuel and the rocket fuel would be the preferred choices.
More on junior training can be found in this interview with Dr. Rose. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=198694934768318
Thank you to all of the great people at TPI for bringing the comprehensive information to the world of golf. We owe a special thank you to Greg, Dave, Tom House, and Al Vermeil for paving the way. One of our favorite quotes from Al is “If you’re not going to train explosively and you’re playing an explosive sport, you’re training them to get hurt, and you’re training them for poor performance”.