Drip, Drip, Drip: There Goes Your Strength During the Golf Season
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There have been some articles published recently about in/off season training and periodisation. In our opinion, their recommendations to avoid certain exercises or use a block periodisation method to target different athletic attributes are somewhat flawed.
We would like to propose a different way to look at managing your training loads during the golf season without giving up the proven, effective exercises that got you strong in the first place!
Before we come to the recommendations, it’s worth doing a little background research and actually looking a little closer at what periodisation is and how the principles are effectively applied.
What Is Periodisation?
Periodisation at it’s most basic level is not a lot more than a long-term plan for progress in your training. Or to put it better “periodisation is planned long-term variation of the volume and intensity of training to prevent overtraining and promote optimal performance at the desired time.” Note that there was no reference to exercise selection here.
Probably the most common method of periodisation amongst athletes is block periodisation. Block periodisation is utilised to allow the athlete to focus on developing one single athletic attribute above all else in each block before switching to another for the next block. The blocks will be ordered so that each one builds upon the attribute developed in the last. Speed and power being developed after a strength block for example, mobility and stability before adding strength.
In summary: By using periodisation we are seeking to manage fatigue from training in such a way that performance throughout the season is unaffected by our physical conditioning.
How Do We Apply It?
Now that we have a handle on what periodisation actually is, let’s take a look at who we are applying this method to. Below are some of the questions we must ask ourselves before putting together a periodised program for a golfer:
Question: What athletic attributes are needed for golf performance?
Answer: Strength, power, mobility, stability, basic cardiovascular fitness (for walking the course), balance, co-ordination
Q: What is the golfer trying to achieve from training?
Developing the characteristics above in order to improve our bodies’ functionality in swinging the golf club so we can hit the ball further off the tee, our irons closer to the hole and stay injury free in the process!
Q: How often are they competing?
For the vast majority of golfers this is likely to be a once a week, maybe with the addition of a mid-week comp for those with a little more time!
Q: How often are they involved in skills practice?
For the average amateur golfer (with a job, family, etc) this is likely to be something in the range of 1-2 hours, 1-2 times a week.
Q: What level of athlete are they? Do they have much/any experience training in a gym? Do they have a pretty solid athletic background? Are they in good physical condition right now and training on a regular basis?
The average amateur golfer, based on our combined experience, probably answers in the negative to most of those questions.
Q: Is training of the athletic characteristic going to negatively impact either skills training or performance?
We need to look at this from a few different angles.
Energy Systems Recovery — Strength training and golf require very different energy systems and therefore different recovery mechanisms are used. Residual fatigue from one activity is unlikely to affect the other and so strength training and golf could be performed on successive days with no negative effects.
Soreness — DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) can leave you feeling quite tender after a strength training session and this could potentially impact your full swing performance.
Limited flexibility from strength training — Strength training will not restrict your range of motion in key areas for golf unless you neglect your flexibility work. Sitting on your backside is much more likely to make you tight in all the wrong places!
Answer in summation… Yes, potentially if training isn’t managed effectively.
Who Are We Working With?
So after considering the answers to the key questions we have a decent idea of who we are working with. We have a golf athlete with a relatively low training age and experience, who competes once per week and practices 1-2 times per week, but needs to develop a whole host of athletic attributes in order to improve his/her performance.
Is it really wise to stop doing all the really effective exercises, drop all the weight off and use high repetitions for whole duration of the golf season and slowly but surely leak out all the gains made doing proper training in the winter time?
Or can we be a bit smarter and continue to get stronger, faster and more stable and solid all year round without affecting our performance on course?
By following the advice below, the average golfer can arrive at the course on comp day fresh, loose, limber, and in better shape than the week before!
- Structure your in-season training to have more whole body routines. Thus getting decent workload on each area of the body and reducing soreness on particular areas of the body.
- Reduce the overall volume (reps). Maintaining strength during the in-season is really important and doing less sets and/or reps will allow you to do so, whilst minimising DOMS and CNS fatigue.
- Stretch and trigger after each training session, pay special attention to thoracic and hip rotation and gaining length in hip flexors and pecs
- Hydrate and eat effectively. You should be doing this all the time, but especially before and after workouts as it will aid recovery
- Keep doing the big movements. They are really effective!
Don’t let people convince you to give up really effective exercises for fear of becoming tight, sore or overtrained. Be smart with your training, seek out good advice and follow a program that will help you develop as a golf athlete all year round and improve your performance on course.
Here’s an what an example in-season workout might look like in terms of exercise selection, sets, reps, tempo and rest. Click here for the programs that include this kind of workout
Please consider this is all relative, our recommendations are based on the AVERAGE golfer. Different levels of athlete competing at different levels of competition could and should adapt these recommendations to suit them.
If you would like to access training programs that can help you stay strong during the golf season, then check out the following products and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:
Co-Authored by Nick Buchan, UK Strength and Conditioning Coach
M. Siff (2003) Supertraining, Supertraining Institute
M. Rippetoe & L. Kilgore (2008) Practical Programming for Strength, the Aasguaard Company
M. Robertson (2013) Bulletproof Athlete, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training