Fitness can be divided into many components, usually something along the lines of; flexibility, mobility, strength, power, speed, endurance, balance, co-ordination etc. The first step for any sport specific strength and conditioning program is deciding which of these apply most readily to the sport in question and the athlete in question. Golf, for example, lies towards the speed end of the speed-strength continuum, so therefore exercises developing speed, power and speed-strength should be utilised. Additionally, an athlete seeking fat loss for either performance or health reasons may utilise more aerobic and anaerobic endurance modalities.
The importance of strength.
Even in a sport like golf where loads are very low and speed and accuracy are the factors largely determining performance, strength is still king. Think about it, who is more likely to be able to move a light load more explosively, the guy who can squat 405 or the guy who can squat 225? I’d pick the guy who can squat 405 every time! The guy with the lighter 1rm will just not be able to exert the same force, particularly over multiple efforts. Even if explosiveness and speed are the goals program the main focus should still be on strength, this is even more true for athletes who can not comfortably squat 1.5 times their bodyweight. Learn how to do the basic exercises such as squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chin up and rows and get strong at them. The rule of 3 to 5 works well here…pick 3 to 5 exercises a session, do 3 to 5 reps, for 3 to 5 sets, with 3 to 5 minutes rest in between.
Speed strength, reactive strength and rate of force development.
Its all about moving sub maximal loads as fast as possible. Squats, deadlifts and bench presses done with around 50-70% of your one rep max, or using bands and chains for accommodating resistance. Olympic style lifts such as high pulls, power cleans and power snatches are also great choices. Exercises such as band resisted kettlebell swings, can even be used. Reactive strength also includes an elastic or deceleration element prior to an explosive motion. Plyometric push-ups from blocks, box jumps, depth jumps and med ball throws where the ball is feed into you first are great options here. Rate of force development can be improved by exercises such as box squats for speed, jumps from a seated position, or med ball work. Speed sets are usually performed for multiple sets of doubles or triples while jumps, olympic lifts and plyometrics are done for under 5 reps a set, med ball work can be done for more reps, up to around 20.
This is where a bit of programming knowledge in determining whats best for the particular athlete comes in. A novice, for example, will need to learn the lifts and the extra practice afforded by speed sets of bench, squat and deadlift may be useful. An athlete who’s absolute strength is low may need to focus on exercises closer to that end of the continuum, should opt for high pulls or power cleans or speed work on the basic barbell lifts. If a golfers depth jump was around the same mark as their regular vertical jump then more reactive strength work is probably necessary as the more elastic element to a depth jump should afford a higher jump to be achieved.
The warm up is vital.
The warm up is a bit of boring stuff to get through before you get to the fun of lifting heavy things, I know. But I still don’t care…you HAVE to do it! The warm does more than gets your body ready for the session ahead. It gets you mentally ready for whats to come and if you do it right, it helps keep for you physically ready for workouts and the course over the long term. The warm up should be used to get in flexibility and mobility work in the form of foam rolling and a few simple, targeted mobility drills. By targeted I mean addressing any mobility or postural defects seen. Hint: think lack of mobility in the hips and t-spine and tight hip flexors if you’re spending all day sitting at a desk, and golfers will often demonstrate a lean of the spine with the left shoulder higher than the right due to the address position a right handed golfer takes. This is also a good time to address any prehab or rehab work you may need to do, isolated rotator cuff work would fit in well here. Do any necessary muscle activation work, if you’re a golfer or sit at a desk this will mean glutes!
I am a believer that for most healthy people the muscular endurance and aerobic endurance required can be gained by regularly playing golf. A bit more time spent on the course, should also help you hone your skills and lower your scores. I also don’t believe body composition changes and fat loss should be sought for performance reasons in golf. However if a player wants to lose some weight for health reasons thats a whole other story. I do believe that endurance training is hard, and can bring great mental benefits to competitive athletes in terms of confidence and the ability to push past their perceived limits. This is where endurance training, particularly anaerobic endurance through crossfit met con style workouts, hill sprints, intervals, strongman style training, etc has great merit. Injured athletes may also find endurance levels will return quicker to the required level with a structured high rep muscular endurance program.
Balance and co-ordination.
A well rounded strength program, featuring a variety of basic, compound exercises, jumps and med ball work, will do great things for your balance and co-ordination in itself. Additionally, the balance and co-ordination required for golf can be developed on the practice tee (theres a reason the pros juggle balls on their clubs beyond showing off and its fun, it improves co-ordination). If you feel you or your athlete needs to work on this in the gym, I would recommend having balls feed to them for them to catch from varying angles so they must react differently to each one, if this is to easy progress to catching one handed, or whilst standing on one leg, having them throw the ball onto a target once caught, or even whilst trying to complete another task like speed ladders, or all of the above. Also note, skipping is one of the best things you can do to improve co-ordination.
If you like this or have any comments don’t forget to let us know, as we would love to hear from you. Also make sure you check back tomorrow for a sample program that lays it all out for you just to follow.