Strength and conditioning for golf: 6 mistakes to avoid

1. Not hitting the gym.

Research, along with increasing anecdotal evidence from tour pros, has unequivocally proved the importance of various fitness qualities including muscular endurance, strength, mobility and power output. Improving your strength and conditioning level, can keep you injury free, practicing longer, hitting longer drives, improve ball striking, and even improve your short game accuracy.

2. Hitting the gym too much.

Work in the weight room is subject to the law of diminishing returns. The stronger you get the harder it is to continue to get stronger, and the more time must therefore be invested in improving. I Believe there is a point, for everybody, in which improvement in strength levels or any other fitness quality you want to develop will slow to such an extent that effective time management will be better served by addressing technical or skill deficiencies in your golf game or developing another fitness quality. In other words, if you are already strong increasing your strength level further will require a large time investment, the extra time may be better spent improving your golf swing while simply maintaining strength levels. This idea is the basis of all athletic periodisation programs.

3. Golf swings with weighted clubs or swings on unstable surfaces.

The problem here is competing motor demands. The motor cortex and spinal cord possess the ability to alter structure and function in response to different motor training. Research has shown that the corticospinal system is not only plastic but that the nature of this plasticity is dictated by the specifics of the motor experience. Skill training induces synaptogenesis, synaptic potentiation, and reorganisation of movement representations within motor cortex. What does this mean to you? Once a movement pattern is learned the motor demands for that movement are still plastic and can be altered. Movements such as swings with weighted or unweighted clubs or on an unstable surface that mimic the movement pattern of a golf swing can alter the motor pattern stored for the actual golf swing and can therefore have a detrimental effect on both your swing mechanics and your chances of accurately repeating those swing mechanics.

4. Not training for strength.

Strength training is basis for all athletic performance. Period. Want to increase lean body mass and lose body fat, and reduce injury risk? Train for strength.  Want to increase mobility and flexibility through a full range of motion? Train for strength. Want to increase your power output, vertical jump or swing speed? Yep you guessed it…Train for strength.

5. Not training in the transverse and frontal planes.

Strength and conditioning programs are often guilty of being carried out too much in the sagital plane, involving movement of the body up and down (squats, deadlifts, military presses, vertical jumps etc). Is this appropriate considering the golf swing is a multi planar movement, with a large rotational element? Additionally performing lateral movements in the frontal plane, such as skater jumps and side lunges, allow you to generate and transfer greater energy along the kinetic chain and ultimately into the golf ball.

6. Not training using unilateral movements.

Unilateral movements are simply exercises performed with 1arm or leg, as opposed to the bilateral alternative performed with a barbell and the load spread evenly between both arms or legs. Think single leg romanian deadlifts opposed to conventional deadlifts, lunges and step ups as opposed to squats, and dumbbell variations for upper body movements. These movements ensure proportional muscular development, overcoming the muscular and skeletal imbalances often seen in golfers due to the nature of the swing. Additionally, as we are creating energy during the downswing we must be able to absorb this energy and ultimately apply it to the ball. This makes single leg training important, as there is a need to emphasise qualities like eccentric strength in the lead leg.

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