Training for golf is now the norm amongst the majority of professional and top amateur players. It is becoming more prevalent as you work your way down the golfing echelons. But not all gym sessions are created equal. There is still debate on whether golfers should or should not work out to improve their golf and whether it is good for them or bad.
The truth is a well-designed and periodised programme will:
- strengthen a golfer where weak,
- increase function where dysfunction lives,
- improve flexibility, power and speed whilst protecting against injury.
A bad programme will do the exact opposite. If you were to do a bodybuilding style training session then you will increase muscles size, not just strength or power. Size can have a negative impact on golf performance, however, hypertrophy does have a place in improving sports performance. CrossFit training has its benefits but it is ultimately designed to compete at CrossFit and isn’t the most efficient way to improve your conditioning for golf.
This is a quick guide to how you should form your programmes.
The first step to building a programme should be based on the body’s ability to function or your intrinsic biomechanics.
You can’t build speed and power if the relevant structures don’t have the capacity to accommodate it.
- limit the power,
- create a different movement pattern (very bad for consistency) or
- risk breaking down.
To give you an example; if you have worked on your rotational speed, you will put more force into the lateral flexion (side bend) in the spine and if Quadratus Lumborum is tight then your central nervous system has to react to protect the body by stopping the lateral flexion or slowing the movement otherwise it will get injured. This means that to increase your rotational speed you would have gained more by increasing the function of the QL, than you would gain by working on the muscles that rotate the spine. If you work on function then the relevant muscles then you will get even more performance gains.
Hopefully, this highlights the need to get an assessment of your intrinsic biomechanics before building your programme. When you have ascertained your dysfunctions then you need to build your session preparation (warm-up) around this. Entering the body of your work out in a better biomechanical set up will reduce the risk of injury and put you in a better position. From there you need to strengthen the muscles that are weak and balance them with both their antagonist and their counterpart on the other side of the body. This is sometimes referred to as the pre-conditioning phase. The body doesn’t need to work in perfect symmetry as it is very clever and can adapt, but you do need to have some sort of balance. This is where you will want to see a biomechanics coach or a TPI professional or other relevant specialist.
Almost all good periodised training programmes will start with a hypertrophy phase. This is quite obvious but if we want to build speed, a little more muscle will help. Golf isn’t a sport that requires you to be built like the Rock, but we need enough muscle in right areas. This phase should be created with the power/speed phase in mind and not just a generic 3 sets of 10 work out. It also needs to concentrate on the relevant muscles, like glutes and obliques exercises and fewer biceps curls.
This bit is simple but very effective for improving performance. You will from here adjust the exercises, reps, sets and weights to gear the training more towards building the new-found muscle mass to be stronger. If we were to build speed without strength we would increase the risk of injury and limit our potential speed gains.
This is the cycle that the all previous cycles have been working towards and this is where the biggest gains in your golf swing will come and you will perform at your best. This cycle should include exercises specific to your swing without mimicking it and also be more geared towards power. Avoid isolation exercises such as triceps kickbacks and use more explosive movements such as Olympic lifts or medicine ball slams.
Recover and go again
After this macrocycle (to use traditional terminology) you need rest and time to recover, maybe a week or two but no more than that before you start the process again. With each training cycle, you will make gains and should be able to start in a stronger and more conditioned place each macrocycle.
There are many different periodisation methods out there, but the majority will follow these principles.
Hypertrophy → Strength → Power
We need to make sure we work on our biomechanics before and during these cycles
Intrinsic biomechanics will reap the most reward for a golfer and conditioning the body to stay in that mechanically better position. Due to the technical nature of the swing and your body’s desire to protect itself, the strength/power/speed will be useless, maybe even a hindrance if you are biomechanically inhibited. If you work on your intrinsic biomechanics then not only will you be able to swing better, but you will unlock all the power that your body has been protecting itself from.