In-season training for golf seems to be a pretty confused area for most golfers with opinions and attitudes ranging from; “I just play during the season,” to fully periodised in-season programs, altering exercise selection, load,volume, etc, to just carrying on with normal training regardless.
In this article I aim to give you some actionable tips, but also explain why this first option isn’t a good idea, why the other two both have merit, and which may best apply to you, your schedule and your on course performance.
Tip 1: Still Train
Realistically, you should be looking to train twice per week. Indeed a 15 minute, one set, workout is better in the long run than a missed day of training. In-season training will allow you to:
- Maintain the strength and power you built in the off-season (especially important if you travel to play or are lucky enough to live somewhere with a long summer, and thus have a long season)
- Prevent the build up of asymmetries and muscle imbalances that could lead to injury/ will have to be dealt with later
Tip 2: Manage Fatigue
All stress is stress; physical, emotional, mental, money, spouse, whatever. Once the stress bucket is full, theres not much you can do other than take a break to fix the problem. If the golf season sees a significant increase in the amount of golf swings you are making, walking you are doing (and probably more stress!) we had better factor that in.
Keep training volume low – In my experience, lifting twice per week with a 3 to 6 rep range during the in-season is appropriate for most. The off-season is the time for 4 or 5 day programs and tons of reps. In-season is the time for maintaining strength and preventing injury.
By keeping overall volume low, you can ensure you feel fresh during your round and not slow or tired, 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps will be enough to achieve these goals.
That said, reducing volume is going to mean different things depending on the needs of the individual. For golfers that are weaker/have less training experience or are playing less frequently a reduced training volume may only need to be minimal and occur the workout before there their round (a Thursday/Friday workout before a Saturday round for example), for stronger golfers and/or those with a busier competitive schedule it may be necessary to cut training volume for the whole in-season period.
Train light and fast – There comes a point where continuing to pile the plates on to the barbell is tough on the bodies recovery ability and max lifts sap mental and physical energy that could be best used elsewhere during the season. Again this one for the stronger guys and you can get away without it more the relatively weaker you are but, dynamic effort reps and low volume will maintain the strength you have built in the off-season but allow you to feel fresh and ready to go exiting the gym. As an added bonus this type of lifting more closely mimics the high speed muscle contractions you’ll be using in the golf swing. Adding bands is a great way to achieve this, and the trap bar deadlift against a band is one of my favourites.
Tip 3: Avoid Soreness
I can tell you from personal experience that swinging a golf club when sore, particularly in the chest and shoulders, is not fun!
Cut out the eccentric portion of the lift as much as possible – eccentric muscle contractions have been shown to be correlated with higher levels of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). When working out during the season, we want to minimise eccentric work, the lowering portion of the lift, and maximise concentric work. This means no slow-tempo lifting and absolutely no negative sets.
You should complete the lowering portion of the lift as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining control, to limit the amount of time your muscles are under eccentric stress. Deadlifts (you can even drop the bar from lockout if you’re lucky enough to have a lifting platform), box squats and floor presses are great exercises that lend themselves well to this type of lifting.
Keep exercise variety low – After performing an exercise that produces soreness, the muscle will quickly adapt to reduce any damage from further exercise. As a result, not only is soreness reduced, but other side effects, such as swelling, reduced strength and reduced range of motion are also more quickly recovered from. This effect is known as the repeated bout effect, and is most specific to the muscles that have been worked. Therefore by picking the same exercise for each body part, and working the muscles in the same manner each time, we can make the most of the repeated bout effect to prevent soreness.
Tip 4: Reduce explosive rotational movements
Things like rotational med-ball throws are usually best left to the offseason. Firstly, golfers get plenty of explosive rotational work just playing their sport. Secondly, we know there is a link between high repetition of spinal rotation and back injury. So, at a time when the number of rotations we do is likely increasing, why add to that load in the gym? You are better off focusing on movements that groove good rotational mechanics and preserve anti-rotation strength to keep your spine healthy. T-spine mobilisations, split stance anti rotation scoop tosses and Pallof presses are my go to’s here.
Tip 5: Mobility/corrective exercises for common trouble areas
It’s called strength and conditioning, but the truth is we could probably scrap the conditioning part with respect to golf and replace it with ‘mobility.’ All the eccentric stress of a greater volume of golf swings leads to significant losses in mobility. For those that couple this with walking the course for 3 to 5 rounds a week and travel long distances to tournaments (even if it is in a private jet), this tends to lead to missing out on basic functional movement patterns like squatting and lunging.
The hips, low back and shoulders tend to get pretty chewed up in the golf swing, particularly during a long competitive season. Performing hip windscreen wipers and 90/90 stretches for the hips, corrective exercises like bird-dogs or glute bridges for lumbar and pelvic control and soft tissue work for the shoulders will help you preserve full range of motion and stay injury free throughout the season.
In-season training is incredibly challenging to manage correctly, as there are so many different stressors and variables in play depending on the individual. However, if you do your best to follow the tips outlined here, chances are you’ll be more successful than most!
P.S. If you want more information pertaining to your individual in-season needs then fill out the contact form below and we can arrange a Skype consultation to discuss it in more detail.