The Golf Fit Blog

5 Rules For In-season Training

What do you usually do for training in-season?
 
It’s a question I regularly ask golfers.
 
The response usually goes something like this - "I lift weights etc in the off-season but I don’t train at all in-season as I don’t want to be sore" or "I back off the lifting, train less often with lighter weights and more reps"
 
If this sounds anything like the answer you thought of, to the above question, then you misunderstand the physical requirements for golf and how the body reacts to stress applied. 
 
Ultimately, over the course of a long season, this is costing you distance, strokes and maybe even missed rounds.
This article aims to fill you in on what you’re missing and give some easy and practical advice to improve your in-season programs. So, without further ado, let's get to the rules of in-season training.
 
  1. Maintain physical capabilities
 
When you workout you are applying stress to your body, the body then adapts to that stress, getting fitter, stronger, etc in order to provide you with the improved physical capabilities you are looking for (for those of you in the know from a physiological perspective this is my horrendously simplified/ butchered explanation of the GAS model of stress adaptation).
 
What is less well known, and less often talked about, is that the body also adapts to stress not applied.
 
In other words, the body operates a ‘use it or lose it’ principle.
 
“The body adapts to stress applied and to stress not applied”
Mike Reinold 
 
If you’ve spent the off-season developing the physical qualities you need to play better golf, does it make sense to stop doing the things that developed these qualities, right at the time you actually need to use them and suffer the consequences of this ‘use it or lose it’ principle?
 
To my mind, it just doesn’t! 
 
At very least it represents a waste of that time spent over the off-season to do so, not to mention it will probably hurt your performance too.
Yet this is what many golfers do. Either by stopping training altogether or eliminating certain exercises from their workouts that they deem too intense to do during the season.
 
This leads us to two conclusions:
 
1) In-season is NOT the time to stop your golf fitness program.
 
2) In-season is NOT the time to drop strength training from your golf fitness program.
 
  1. Manage high intensity and high volume training methods
 
However, continuing to train in-season also represents something of a balancing act between fitness and fatigue.
 
Let me explain by oversimplifying/ butchering another model - this time the two factor or fitness-fatigue model:
 
This model essentially states that fitness will increase as a result of the stress/ stimulus, but so will fatigue, and that increase in fatigue will prevent the increase in fitness being displayed, at least until it has been removed (i.e. you have recovered).
 
 
A useful analogy in understanding the competing demands placed on in-season training by this model is to view it as a two-sided coin. 
 
On one side of the coin, we have the tangible, physical capabilities that have been developed and must be maintained over the long-term to ensure performance over the course of the season. On the other side, we have the short-term need to reduce or remove as much fatigue as possible in order to display the physical capabilities required and perform maximally at the upcoming tournament, medal, etc.
In order to better understand how to balance both sides of this coin, it is useful to understand what actually causes fatigue during training, as not all training is equal in terms of the fatigue it produces.
 
Fatigue, and subsequent recovery, from strength training, is affected by a number of factors. However, as golfers, we aren’t too worried about fatigue to the nervous system or energy systems from training as these transitory and unlikely to affect golf performance anyway due to low competing demands.
Our major concern is the soreness that often comes after strength training (a.k.a DOMS) in this regard then, muscle damage is the key element in how much fatigue is caused by training.
 
The muscle damage that occurs during a workout is increased by: 
 
- High muscle forces
- Greater fatigue
- Longer time under tension
- Exercise unfamiliarity

For a golfer, high muscle forces are required to produce gains in maximum strength. But as fatigue, time under tension and exercise variation are generally associated with hypertrophy (muscle growth) training, golf athletes can reduce these factors to reduce muscle damage and improve their rate of recovery.

 

Golfers will still benefit from eccentrics and other high force training techniques in-season, for both injury prevention and performance. However, these can and should be allocated over the training week and away from performance days in order to avoid adverse effects.

For the average weekend warrior, this arrange is very easy to do - front load the week with your heavy work and place light work towards the end of the working week, allowing time and energy available to play your best at the weekend. The image below provides an example template:
If you don’t have a tournament or round on a particular weekend, this can be an opportunity to get another heavy lift in and further accelerate/ ensure the maintenance of your strength gains.
 
  1. Prepare to perform
 
Whilst eccentric strength is valuable for the quadriceps/ adductors in changing direction as well as the pecs/ lats for storing energy in the backswing, all movements and muscles used in the golf swing benefit from increasing high-velocity strength and rate of force development. 
 
Importantly, high-velocity strength is best improved using light loads and fast bar speeds. Since this type of training involves low muscle forces, little fatigue, and minimal time under tension, it produces little muscle damage.
 
Further, this type of training causes certain neurological effects that can be useful for performance.
 
This effect is known as post-activation potentiation (PAP). To explain PAP let’s do a little gardening...
 
Imagine you doing some gardening and are moving topsoil from one flower bed to another. You fill the wheelbarrow with the soil and pick it up - it feels heavy and you move fairly slowly with it across the garden to the other bed.
Now imagine you've emptied that wheelbarrow and are taking it back across the garden to re-fill it. The wheelbarrow feels light in comparison now (probably even lighter than when you got it out of the shed, even though it was empty then too) and you move much more quickly back across the garden.
The same thing happens when you lift weights, the additional external load means your nervous system must adapt and produce more force, this adaptation hangs around meaning you produce more force in the next task even though it might not be required for that task.
 
This effect has been recorded when lifting light weights fast and when max strength training, as long as the volume is kept low enough to avoid muscle damage and fatigue, can be used as a tool to create a PAP effect.
 
As such we can organise the training week around your competitive schedule in order to best aid short term performance whilst also preserving the physical qualities we need to play our best over the long term (see image above).

 

Appropriate scheduling of heavy and light/ high-velocity workouts around the competitive schedule is not the only way we can take advantage of the PAP effect, prime the body to produce force quickly and improve mobility/ stability for the upcoming round.

 

Indeed, even something as simple as a good quality dynamic warm-up can create a PAP effect for you to take onto the course, as well as promoting the mobility-stability relationships required at joints to perform the golf swing. 
As Alex Elhert, of @golfphyiologist fame, states:

 

"A brief warm-up consisting of dynamic or light resistance exercises has been shown to improve swing path, shot accuracy, clubhead and ball velocity, distance, subjective measures of shot quality, and results in impact closer to the centre of the clubface compared to practice golf swings or no warm-up”

 

  1. Do what you don't do or develop what don’t already have
 
There is a dichotomy inherent in training, in that, we need our training to be specific to our goal in order to produce the desired adaptations (this is the basis for much of what we have discussed so far in this article). However, we also need to maintain a base level of function and movement variability in order to stay injury free and able to continually train, practice and perform over the long-term.
 
As Eric Cressey says:
“Specificity works great until you’re so specific you wind up unable to do anything else or injured”
 
All the eccentric stress of a greater volume of golf swings, as well as the asymmetrical nature of the golf swing, can lead to significant changes in posture and mobility. 
 
The hips, low back and shoulders, in particular, tend to get pretty chewed up over the season, with high volumes of extension/ rotation based motion (retraction at the shoulders) high, eccentric stress and asymmetrical nature of the swing. This is usually compounded by walking the course for 3-5 rounds per week and long-distance travel to tournaments (or long periods of sitting at a desk for the average amateur with a day job).
 
This often leads to significant changes to posture and mobility (symmetrical hip rotation, t-spine rotation ROM, flexion of the spine, pelvic position and internal hip rotation/ ribcage position as a result, and protraction of the shoulder) and to missing out on basic functional movement patterns like squatting and lunging. 
 
Our exercise selection in-season is going to need to account for this by re-introducing full ROM functional movement patterns (squatting, hinging lunging, etc), reducing the number of rotational movements and eccentric loading or them and by biasing movements such as shoulder protraction and bilateral t-spine and hip rotation. 
 
Additionally, we should endeavour to train different positions and shapes, so as to maintain movement variability, load tissues that aren’t loaded in the sport and prevent injury.
 
  1. Recover well

 

The ideas and recommendations covered above, when put together form the major tenet of how we periodise fitness program for our players in-season. Periodisation is simply the planned variation of the volume and intensity of training to prevent overtraining, allow recovery and promote optimal performance at the desired time (balance the fitness-fatigue model described in rule 1).
 
There is an old training adage that there is no such thing as over-training, only under-recovery, and whilst this can be misused as an excuse for overzealous training strategies/ sessions, there is some merit to it.
 
The greater your recovery capacity, the quicker the fatigue line on the fitness-fatigue graph (see rule 1) will recede and therefore the quicker performance is returned to an optimal level. This means a greater volume and frequency of those training methods, that create fatigue, but also maintain and develop long-term physical capabilities can be done in-season. Thus our in-season programs will be more effective towards their aim of preserving/ improving physical capabilities. 
 
I believe recovery to be a pyramid structure of 3 elements:
 
1) Sleep
2) Nutrition and hydration
3) Systemic or localised recovery strategies 
 

 

Sleep and nutrition/ hydration are both large and complex topics, that are well beyond the scope of the few words I can spare in this article but the basics are fairly commonsensical - I’m willing to bet you know you should be sleeping more, eating more veggies and drinking more water.

 

Systemic or localised recovery strategies are anything that creates a parasympathetic nervous response (rest and recover, rather than flight or fight) and/ or improves blood flow to the region in question. Breathing drills, full body stretching routines, general foam rolling, cold therapy, ice baths, contrast showers, etc, are all useful techniques to do this in my experience. 

 

In closing then, don’t stop your golf fitness program!

 

Keep strength training, just reduce the volume and exercise variety and plan the heavy days around your competitive schedule so as to give yourself recovery time. 

 

Be prepared to pull back on rotational movement exercises and instead load other movements not overused or neglected out on the course. 

 

To help prevent injury adopt a balanced approach, training all fundamental movement patterns.

 

To promote optimal performance on demand don’t overtrain, and put as much emphasis on proper recovery and proper preparation (warm-up!) as you do to your training. 

 

But most fundamentally, don’t give up on the development just because it’s time to play!
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The neuroscience of achieving your goals: Why your new year's resolutions have failed

If you’re like most people, at the start of the year you sat down and set a few goals. Also, if you’re like most people, as we enter ear the close of the first quarter you’ve already given up!

Indeed research shows that as many as 80% of new year’s resolutions have been abandoned by February, let alone March!

That might not surprise you all that much but if you take a second to consider who many goals and dream this has left unachieved, the implications are pretty shocking! 

This lack of goal achievement isn't because you (and everyone else!) lack willpower it’s because you don’t have the habits in place to support the goal.

If I could inject you with some sort of super serum that would instantly give you the golf swing of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson’s short game and the putting of Jordan Spieth chances are you’d take it!

And chances are you’d be a pretty good golfer too - for a little while!

However, even if I could do that for you, you wouldn’t be able to maintain the standards of those guys for very long. This is because you don’t have in place the habits those guys have.

This example might be a little flippant as you can argue there are many lifestyle reasons you can't adopt their habits (although I'd argue that you'd be surprised about your lifestyle similarities - this guys still have huge pulls on their time through families, spouses, travel, required attendance at sponsors events, etc) but it illuminates my point. That point, that I really want to hammer home to you, is that your habits are the reason you haven’t already achieved those goals, and you’ll never achieve those goals until you have habits in place that support the goal.

The fact of the matter is there is no magic pill!

I know this is a little depressing, but there is some good news.

The first piece of good news is that it isn’t really your fault - you have the best intentions but your own brain is sabotaging you!

The second is that with a few changes to your goal setting process you can turn the tables in favour of you hitting those goals.

The #1 Mistake

The mistake I see almost everyone makes is trying to change too much too soon. People set a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) for the new year and then assume that if they just have enough willpower they will be able to drive themselves to hit it.

However, what most people don’t realise is ‘willpower’ is a deeply limited resource and by trying to achieve your goals in this manner you are putting yourself in direct competition with your own brain!

Let me explain:

Your brain is a slave to its unconscious habits and the rewards they offer.

There are 3 parts to a habit:

#1) Cue (what triggers the action): It can be a feeling: I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m bored, I’m sad. Or it can be a time of day: it’s Monday at 9 am, work is done, etc.

#2) Routine (the action itself): This can either be a negative action you want to cut back: I drink soda, I eat cake, I snack, I drink alcohol, I smoke cigarettes, I watch TV – or a positive one: I go the gym, I go for a run, I do push-ups, I read a book.

#3) Reward (the positive result because of the action): I’m now awake. I am temporarily happy. My hands/mind are occupied. I can forget the bad day I had. I feel energized. I feel good about myself.

Over time, this loop - cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward - becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decisions so unless you fight the habit or replace it - it will unfold automatically.

When we set that BHAG for the new year we are essentially asking your brain to give up the rewards of the doughnut (either metaphorically or literally!) for the idea of a bigger reward later on down the road. The only problem with this is, it means denying your brain that dopamine reward it craves. this ultimately leads your brain to feel disappointed more often than not, and as willpower is a finite resource you will eventually crack.

In other words, trying to hit a goal the way most people do is putting your conscious brain (what we logically know we should do) in a fist fight up against it’s bigger, older brain - the subconscious brain.

The good news is with some better strategies we can actually turn the biology of our brains to our advantage and turn you into a goal achieving machine!

Set the right goal

 

“If you tell me I have 6 hours to cut down a tree I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe” 

Abraham Lincoln

If you really want to achieve your goals you need a plan of action - you need to establish where you are, where you want to be (point A and B, if you will) and how you going to get there.

The problem is most don’t have a clear idea of one or the other. Most pro’s I work with know where they want to be but don’t know where they are, whilst most amateurs know acutely where they are (they know what their handicap is and that they can’t drive a ball like Rory) but don’t know where they want to get too/ what it actually takes to get there.

So our first challenge is to accurately plot these two points accurately.

If you’re looking to improve your golf, this means assessing where you are at with each of the 4 key components of golf performance - technical, tactical, mental and physical.

We can use stats and measurements to do this.

A great place to start to do this is to keep stats on your 5 most recent golf games and then compare these to performance norms for where you want to be.

The next thing to do is to establish how to get from your new point A (your own stats) to point B (the normative data)

For example, as the book ‘lowest score wins’ (incidentally this is a great place to look for normative data!) points out, whilst GIR may be the biggest predictor of score, drive distance is the biggest predictor of GIR. In other words, golf really is a power game and increased distance has much greater effects than just impressing your playing partners and being able to take a longer break between shots.

To continue our example, if as a result of your analysis you now know you need to improve clubhead speed to drive the ball further we next need to determine how best to increase that drive distance. This could be technical, equipment or physical and again for each of these in the physical realm we can use assessments, such as the TPI screen or vertical jump testing, to determine where you are and then compare that to baseline data from people who are where you want to be (tour pro, single-digit h’cap player, etc). In the technical and tactical realms, Shots2Hole, have done a great job in establishing the key differences in areas such as distance, GIR, putts etc between various handicaps and levels of ability.

Honestly assess yourself and your game - or better yet have someone else do it for you, you’ll get an expert and unbiased eyes that will simply see things you won’t!

Once you have the start and finish points you can now fill in the gaps.

Find some key indicators from that data that you think, if that improves I know I’ll be heading in the right direction - “I need to be able to do X, by X date in order to be on course to hit my goal” sort of thing - and measure it. Measure it a lot. Measure it as much as you can as part of your training, practice schedule, etc.

Chunking the goal in this manner (and committing to regularly assess those KPI’s) will help keep you on track - essentially you’ve created some signposts on your map from point A to point B. Additionally, if we put enough signposts, close enough together, hitting them can act as a reward (this is why measuring is so important - it confirms the reward).

This is essentially replacing the old unhelpful rewards (and therefore routines) you had embedded and replacing them with the dopamine hit of hitting a goal - that begins to flip the switch from our brain being our worst enemy to actually helping us to achieve our goals!

Introducing the microstep

The microstep represents chunking down your goal to the nth degree. Think of one simple thing you can do every day that will move you towards that goal, that’s your microstep.

It’s important not get too ambitious here, as BJ Fogg behaviour change researcher at Stanford University says, “don’t start with the hardest behaviours first, you start with the ones you want to do and you can do and you persist.”

If your aim is to start working out your micro-step might be to do 5 minutes of deliberate movement/ exercise a day or if your aim is to improve you're putting the micro-step might be to practice 10 putting strokes along your office skirting board

This drill is my current micro-step to improve my putting

The hormone most associated with rewards in the brain is dopamine. When dopamine spikes it causes you to have those nice fussy feelings you get when you scoff a bar of chocolate, help an old lady across the road, complete a tough workout or hole a long putt.

However, that isn’t the whole story. Research has shown that the dopamine spike doesn’t happen after you’ve scoffed that chocolate bar - once the habit is formed it actually happens before - in anticipation! This then drives you to eat that chocolate bar and leads to your brain feeling disappointed if you don’t - further solidifying that habit.

This explains why cravings are such a b*$%h but it also shows why micro-steps are so powerful.

In other words, completing the micro-step creates a sense of satisfaction, develops momentum and over time this becomes a new reward.

Essentially we’re hijacking the brain to create a new habit loop - but this time one that works in our favour. At the trigger, the brain starts to spike dopamine in anticipation of the reward which in turn means we come to crave doing the action and the whole process becomes ingrained.

Creating this new positive habit loop is the key - once we have a positive habit in place we are on a one-way track to achieving our goals and can set bigger routines or add to our routines as needed to achieve the goal.

Note: Research suggests it can actually take anywhere from 10 - 128 days for a new habit to stick depending on the individual and the habit, but 66 days has been shown to be the average time takes for people to develop a new habit.

Focusing on establishing the micro-step as a habit should, therefore, be our main concern - lose the idea that focusing on achieving the final goal (outcome) will drive you towards achieving it - for the reasons outlined above it won’t!.

“The biggest difference between the best athletes and the average is the ability to focus on the process on the not the result”
Ryan Flaherty, director of training at Nike

When people set a goal they set a vague notion of something big they want to achieve in a distant future. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what they actually need to do!

The research and neurobiology of your brain are clear - set a small, specific, goal, you can easily track/ measure and let success build. Changing everything all at once, with only a far off reward in place if successful is a recipe for failure.

If you’re interested in changing your fitness habits for good - and actually sticking to your new year's resolution - joining our online coaching program is a sure-fire recipe for success.

Even better, enrol before the end of this month and not only will you get an online movement screen and a bespoke fitness program, you’ll also get our goal setting workbook, which will walk you through setting goals that will work, as well as a series of videos that will offer you habit-based nutrition and lifestyle changes that will help support your training and golf performance. All for just £29 a month.

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5 Exercises to Golf Forever: Setting The Stage For 2019 & Beyond

If you’re struggling to put the club in the positions you want due to a lack of mobility or often find yourself limiting practice/ playing time due to niggling injuries you put down to 'playing too much golf’, this time of year is your best opportunity to fix it.

The golf swing is an asymmetrical, high velocity, high load movement - indeed the eccentric load required to decelerate the club is particularly high - the equivalent of an NFL linebacker tackling you at some joints! Golf is also a high skill game requiring many repetitions, in practice and play, to get and stay good.

As a golfer, then, you’ve likely spent much of the past 6-8 months engaging in this movement for 1000’s upon 1000’s of reps. All that one sided motion and exposure to load leads to imbalances in the muscles of the body, reductions in range of motion and even injury.

There is even a scientific formula to explain this concept:

The I stands for insult to tissues, but for our purposes we can get away with substituting this for injury. N is number of repetitions, F is force, A is amplitude or range of motion and R is relaxation or rest between repetitions.

Simply stated, the higher the NxF value and the lower the AxR value, the higher the risk of injury. Minimising the NxF value and maximising the AxR value will reduce the risk of repetitive motion injury.⠀

This can be accomplished in a number of ways:⠀⠀

  1. Reduce the number of repetitions performed.
  2. Increase maximal strength, thereby reducing the force of the golf swing relative to our maximal force output and lowering the F value relatively speaking.
  3. Increase range of motion at relevant joints, thereby lowering the amplitude of the swing relative to the available range of motion and reducing the A value relatively speaking.
  4. Increase the rest time between repetitions - this can’t really be practically applied in golf play or practice however so we’re hamstrung here and need to focus on the other factors we can control.

In-season, we do our best to manage the variables in this equation. However, the fact that the force behind the negative changes we are trying to change (i.e. the golf swing) is still being performed, and is in actual fact the priority (meaning we can’t control many of the variables), makes improving or making real change to mobility or tissue resilience difficult.

Myth: The idea that you need to just play the play is wrong. You need a sensible plan for technical, physical and mental skill development that takes into account long-term athlete development and keeps you resilient/ healthy. After all nothing will put a stop to progress or skill development quicker than not being able to play because you’re injured.

Even if you are a competitive golfer with the opportunity to go to sunnier climes for winter practice/ play or lucky enough to live somewhere you can play year round it is wise to take a short break from playing or at least radically reduce your volume of swings at some point during the year.

As one of my online coaching clients stated to me recently, "I didn’t realise how much toll the golf swing takes on your body over time, taking a few months off over the off-season has me feeling better than I ever have".

If you read my previous article you’ll know that my golfers are in an anatomical adaptation phase right now. You’ll also know that in my opinion all exercise should be viewed on a continuum from Health to Performance.

The weather or lack of competitive schedule is putting pay to performance most likely anyway, so now is the time to take a step back and focus on health, particularly for those that play the game for a living.  

As such, during this training phase we are capitalising on the reduction in the volume of practice/ play that typically happens at the start of the off-season to also affect those other variables in the equation and increase the insult your tissues can bear before you encounter a problem.

Put simply, we are increasing the bodies resilience to injuries/ pain, as a result of the golf swing.

Our aims in this phase are therefore to:

  1. Allow the body time to recover
  2. Take advantage of reduced swing volume to deal with any injuries present
  3. Improve range of motion/ mobility at joints and in patterns relative to the golf swing
  4. Re-establish strength and control in general movement patterns (particular focus at this time is paid to eccentric strength)

It is important to note these goals are in order of priority - injury prevention and mobility is more important than strength development at this time in order to both allow some recovery from the season just gone and as preparation for the more intense training to come.

Now you have a grasp of what you should be working on in the gym at this time and why, let’s get to the fun stuff and take a look at how.

The bit to skip to anyway if you don’t care about the why and just want to know what to do...

The ability to hip hinge, good core strength, good glute function, adequate t-spine mobility, adequate hip and shoulder mobility, will go along way to making sure you’re moving well in the golf swing and therefore not placing undue stress on the joints.

Additionally, in this training phase we are looking at exercises that promote health and function over fitness. Indeed the first few weeks to month of our off-season program will typically feature a reduced volume of training or may even just include some low level mobility and movement work rather than resistance training in order to allow recovery (this will be very individual based on the goals of the athlete, training history, age, recovery abilities, time available until the start of next season, etc).

Here are my 5 key exercises to get the job done. These form the backbone of my programs at this stage of the year for most.

Exercise #1 - Hip hinge

When people think hip hinge they typically think deadlift. And in turn they think of heavy loads, strength development and that old back problem they developed from they’re sh**ty form (as Dan John, once said deadlifts don’t hurt your back, what your doing hurts your back)

However, whilst all deadlifts are hip hinges, not all hip hinges are deadlifts and by taking a step back and re-patterning the movement so you execute it well, you’ll be able to handle heavier loads more safely and thus train more effectively when it comes time to really focus on strength and power development. Not only that - and possibly more importantly considering the title of this article - you’ll bulletproof your lower back from injury, improve your golf posture and your ability to dissociate the hips from the upper body.

One of my favourite drills to teach or re-teach the hip hinge is the sternum hip hinge - I’ll often program this in warm-ups whilst loading up eccentric hip bridge variations in the main workouts to develop some tissue resilience.

Exercise #2 - Quadruped rib grab rotation

The ability to rotate the thorax/ thoracic spine has been linked to reducing back pain and good health across all populations and a lack of thoracic motion in a rotational sporting movement like the golf swing often leads to compensatory movement at the lower back. Indeed, research shows that a golfer who’s shoulder turn in the backswing exceeds their ability to rotate their thoracic spine i.e. they are compensating/ gaining more range of motion by rotating the lower back are more likely to suffer back pain.

Work by Dr. Greg Rose at TPI has shown that the general population should have about 60 degrees of rotation in the exercise shown below, whilst golfers and rotational athletes should strive for nearer 90. Give it and go and see how you stack up. If you’re short of the 90 degree mark - and especially if your short of that 60 degree mark - include the drill in your warm-ups and daily movement work.

Exercise #3 - Dead-bug pos. KB screwdriver

The shoulders go through a large range of motion with each and every golf swing we make and as such a strong and stable shoulder is a must if we are to stay healthy.

Further we can’t underestimate the effect of our more sedentary lifestyles on shoulder health - recently a study cited the shoulder has overtaken the lower back as the most common area for a person to experience pain or injury.

Most shoulder pain is the result of the humeral head (ball of the shoulder joint) travelling anteriorly and superiorly (forward and upward) in the shoulder socket, and pinching on nervous etc as it runs into to other structures, and a scapular that is either positioned in posterior (downward) tilt or doesn’t protract, anteriorly (upwardly) tilt and upwardly rotate to bias/ allow this . Shoulder health, in short then, is all about keeping the ball in the socket.

Kettlebell screwdriver drills are a great way to activate the serratus anterior and lower trap muscles that are so often underactive, and therefore improve scapular position/ function, as well as teaching the athlete to create stability and centration of that ball in the socket. The addition of the dead-bug position up the activation of the core musculature and creates even more stability.

Exercise #4 - Push-up

The push-up is a much underrated exercise giving many of the same benefits to shoulder health as mentioned for the screwdriver above - it’s a great serratus activation exercise is you really push through your hands and reach the upper back to the ceiling at the top of the movement. Done properly, focusing on squeezing everything from head to toe to create tension and pulling the belt buckle o the belly button, it also challenges core strength and the ability to maintain proper pelvis position.

If you think push-ups are too easy progess by elevating the feet, then add a plate for added resistance and a bosu ball for an unstable surface to press from and even more shoulder stability.

Exercise #5 - Goblet split-squat

Thanks to Newton’s third law power in the golf swing comes from the ground up. Lower body strength is therefore vital for a powerful golf swing. When talking about longevity in golf, this is made doubly important by the fact that strength and power decline as we age, in process called sarcopenia.

In short, if you want to play your best golf for as long as you can you need to be actively doing something to maintain strength

The split-squat position also reduces load on the lumbar vertebrae, potentially useful for lower back health and also challenges hip mobility, pelvic control and core strength.

The exercises presented here form the backbone of most of my programs for golfers at this time of year and I have tried to select exercises for this list that can be combined to form a pretty reasonable work out for most - just do a warm-up including some foam rolling, mobility work, etc and add a pull or row variation and you’re doing pretty well.

However, obviously this is no substitute for having your individual needs assessed/ identified and a program written specifically for those needs.

If you want to know more about your particular needs and how specialised mobility work, exercise progressions and regressions, etc can be added to the bones of this workout, you can join our online coaching program to undergo an assessment process and get an individualised program from just £29/ month.

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The Biggest Reason Most Off-Season Golf Fitness Programs Fail

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Simply put, the biggest reason most off-season golf fitness programs fail is that they lack the systematic application of stress.

When speaking about how to get better over the off-season coach Oli Morton (@ChangeTheGame54) had this to say:

"This time of year provides a great opportunity to reflect on past performance and recognise the habits and practices, both beneficial and detrimental, you've formed that influence performance"

This is great advice that doesn't just apply to technical or tactical parameters, but your entire lifestyle and whether or not that supports improved golf performance.

This time of year is also one where golfers typically look to fitness work as a method of game improvement as they typically can't get on the course or compete as much, this is of course great news! However, the majority of these golfers fail to apply this message to their workouts and consequently don't seriously analyse if their workouts are actually contributing to their performance or not.

Unfortunately the vast majority of golfers apply a pretty random approach to their workouts. Knowing they should hit the gym, they do so, but fail to ask the pertinant question - 'is this activity actually going to improve my golf?'

The result is typcially a random and unfocused workout that either doesn't develop the physical qualities needed on the course or doesn't apply the neccessary stresses to cause adaptation. This results in the golfer spinning their wheels, frustrated at both the lack of progress in the gym and the lack of carryover to the course.

In short, randomness simply isn't the habit of elite performers.

For example, when you run a business, you set a goal for annual profit and devise a systematic plan to make that a reality. You work out how that annual goal breaks down monthly and create a set of tasks that build upon the last to hit those monthly signposts.

This is the exact same approach you need to take in reaching your golf performance goals.  

Elite performers understand that the consistant, structured and systemtatic application of stress is what improves performance and plan ways to make that happen.

Armed with the knowledge of some basic scientific principles, and a well-structured workout regime, you too can adopt this strategy and be standing on the first tee of your first competition hurting less, hitting it longer and with that feeling of confidence that only comes from knowing you’ve done everything to prepare the right way over the off-season.

The theory of general adaptation syndrome (GAS) states that the body will elicit specific adaptations to imposed demands.

Not enough stress and you won’t force any change, whilst a random, unstructured or reckless application of stress may lead to undesirable changes or changes irrelevant to performance of goal task and may even lead to issues such as fatigue as a result of overtraining that substantially limit performance in the goal task. More importantly, apply the wrong stressor and you're results won't carryover to improving the goal activity.

“Any workout can make you tired but only a good workout will make you better”

The fact that performance enhancement can only be obtained through appropriate and highly concentrated stress (training loads), carries with it 3 important considerations:

1) You must ensure a high level of stress to improve one specific physical quality, only a minimal number of those qualities can be developed at any one time, without compromising performance enhancement or overtraining.

2) Due to the fact that golf requires the development of multiple physical abilities (speed, strength, power, mobility, etc) training needs to be organised in a way that ensures that an athlete can develop and retain numerous training parameters.

3) Stress must be systematically increased in order to continue to drive adaptation (a.k.a. progressive overload)

Only a minimal number of physical abilities can be developed at any one time

If multiple training targets are worked during the training phase, no one stressor is signaling clearly for adaptation, this means the athete has no choice but to elicit conflicting responses (i.e. the body doesn't know which one to adapt to). This neurological/ adaptive confusion limits performance gains and/or can result in overtraining.

Even in crossfit, that bastion of developing all fitness qualities in an effort to be prepared for the ‘unknown and unknowable’, the best in the world don’t train randomly, rather in concentrated blocks that allow them to develop all the required fitness qualities one at a time to a very high level.

As GolfFit trainer, Alex Woods, says your training should be divided into developing and maintaining – spend a few months focused on developing one or two physical qualities related to improved performance, and maintain the rest. Then switch your focus, develop something else and maintain those you just developed.

Another way I like to conceptualise these training phases is of being similar to the Chinese principle of yin and yang.

The anatomical adaptation phase (detailed below) broadly equates to doing the work we need to do to stay healthy on the course and the strength and speed/power phases (also detailed below) is the work we need to do to perform better.

Health then is our yin and performance our yang – i.e. when we are working on health we still do a little performance work to maintain these qualities and when we are working on performance we still do a little work to maintain the health qualities. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water just because you might be chasing a different physical quality but at the same time your focus does need to shift.

Consecutive development of training parameters

Performance, in golf, requires the use of several physical abilities to excel.

Knowing that each block must entail high levels of stress and the result of those high levels being that only one parameter can be effectively trained at a time, it is clear that developing these physical qualities concurrently (i.e. all at the same time) is difficult for most.

Training blocks, should therefore, be laid out in a specific order to ensure these abilities must be developed consecutively, with each building upon the last, and ordered in such a way that we are able to maintain other qualities and reach peak performance at the appropriate time.

For example, strength is the most basic physical quality and more strength means more endurance, more speed, more power, all other things being equal. For that reason it usually makes sense to build a foundation of strength before moving to a quality more specific to performance as building strength first will help drive gains in the other quality whilst training the other quality followed by strength won’t aid strength development to the same extent. Similarly training should always move from developing general to the specific qualities needed for the sport in order to peak performance at the appropriate time (in this case the start of the season).

Finally, you must consider that all fitness qualities have different residual training effects. Put simply, a residual training effect is the length of time the adaptation is maintained by the body’s neural or physiological system after you stop training that quality. By understanding the residual effects of different training modalities we can organise training blocks appropriately to ensure the peaking of all performance qualities at the appropriate time to maximize performance.

“When learning how to cook, an inexperienced chef understands primarily the types of and quantity of the ingredients in a dish. A master chef, on the other hand, understands the way and sequence of their addition to the dish to maximize taste.” - Dr. Verkhoshansky

Simply put, when planned appropriately, each phase will build opon the last. As Golf Fit trainer Craig Tumblety points out "the quality of the work done in the previous phase will therefore dictate the progress in the next phase"

In short, the sequencing of the training blocks is extremely important - you can't randomly choose a block if you hope to achieve peak performance.

Stress must be systematically increased

One of the key principles behind workout design and increasing fitness is the principle of progressive overload.

Simplistically, if you goblet squat 20kg for 3 sets of 10 on Monday then your body has adapted to that stimulus. In order to continue to drive adaptation then you need to impose more stress. This can be done in a number of ways depending on your goal.

Simply squatting the same weight, at the same tempo, for the same number of sets and reps, though, will not cause adaptation.

Even if it is within a solid program that looks to develop different qualities over different training blocks, if you don’t endeavor to increase the work done towards the development of that parameter within the block you won’t progress optimally.

Putting it all together

In order to effectively manage stress then we must chunk our training into blocks or phases working on specific physical qualities, we must ensure an increase in training stress throughout that training block and order those blocks in such a way that the physical qualities developed build upon each other and allow us to peak for a specific time.

The way I do this is to use something called a block periodization meso-cycle and either an undulating or linear micro-cycle. I know, dry right!

Let’s try to make it more entertaining with a sexy infographic:

If Instagram has taught me anything it’s that infographics are sexy!?

If you read from left to right you can see what qualities we are trying to develop in each phase as we move through off-season training. As you move from top to bottom you start to gain an appreciation of how these blocks are arranged to build to maintain and build upon the qualities developed in the previous phase.

Anatomical Adaptation Phase:

The aim of this phase is ‘re-set’ the losses in mobility, variability and movement quality that often occur as a result of the golf swings high eccentric load and asymmetrical nature.

In other words, the athlete has likely spent the past 6-8 months as a highly specific ‘golfer’ - moving a light implement at high velocity – rather than a general human. This high degree of specificity has been shown to increase the likelihood of injury (just take a look at the injury rates in athletes that specialized in a single sport at a young age – a.k.a. early specialization – for proof of this) and as such is pertinent for both injury prevention and to set the stage for later more intense work to spend some time with a focus on regeneration and building the human.

In this phase, we deal with any injuries or losses in mobility that our assessments reveal, focus on mobility and soft-tissue work and probably reduce the volume/ intensity of strength work, at least for a few weeks. We re-introduce or re-focus on the basic human movement patterns in such a way as to re-gain stability, movement variability and control in the sagittal plane in particular.

Strength Phase:

This is where we start to build the athlete.

We are getting strong and owning the sagittal plane - if you are thinking big basic movements such as squats and deadlifts done with increased volume and intensity you'd get a gold star. More advanced athletes may also utilise intensification methods such as cluster sets, contrast training, bands and chains, etc to bring the training stress up to the required level for them to generate adaptation.

As I have said above strength is the basic physical quality and also has the longest residual training effect (in other words your body doesn’t give it up easily) and as such it sets the stage for the next phase – as Mike Boyle puts it “Strength is the road to speed and power”

How long you spend here will depend on you as an individual, your training experience and where you are on the force-velocity curve. For example, if you are a beginner trainee with a strength deficit, you need more force in order to increase velocity and will be spending longer in the strength phase in order to develop that ability to produce force. Conversely if you are a more advanced trainee (with good recovery ability, no major injury history and without a lifetime of competitive sport under your belt) or someone with a good strength level and in need of speed you may well spend less time in this phase and move to more sport-specific training phases quicker.

Note: To ascertain an athlete’s position on the force-velocity curve, and therefore the optimal time in training phases, we will typically test strength and power with something like an IMTP test, a squat max test or a jump test battery (TPI strength and power tests, EXOS jump tests or the FCS for example) at the start of the off-season.

Speed & Power Phase:

This phase of training is where things start to become more sports specific. In other words, we’ve built the human; we’ve built the athlete, now it’s time to build the golfing machine!

With that in mind then we start to work with light weights but high force – moving as fast as possible, we also look to develop control in the frontal (side-to-side) and transverse (rotational) planes.

Again, how much time we spend here and how specific training actually becomes will depend on the training level, recovery ability, injury and playing history of the golfer to name a few factors.

For example, a beginner to training would have much change in their program here compared to the last phase – lifts would still be full range of motion, basic jumps and throws that were introduced at low volume in previous phases will be progressed slightly and depending on progress in owning the sagittal plane we may move to some frontal and transverse plane development in their warm-up/ movement workouts. A more advanced athlete by contrast will almost certainly be working in the frontal and transverse in their speed and power work as well as their movement based work. They will also be training high force – high speed exercises such as Olympic lift derivatives, as well as more progressions of those low force – high speed jumps and throws. They may also train reduced with ranges of motion, bands/ chains, and contrast sets to improve the power output, rate of force development and movement patterns that are more specific to the golf swing.

It is also worth noting here, the fathers of training for sports performance and sports-specific training, Dr. Tudor Bompa and Dr. Verkhoshansky, recommended 3 years of general training be completed by way of base building before the athlete can consider moving on to sports-specific work.

Another important consideration is that we want to get it done before they start to ramp up their practice volumes too much in anticipation of the season start – after all at that point they are going to start getting a lot of low load, high force work and rotational work and we probably don’t want to add to that increased workload by still doing that stuff in the gym.

Conclusion

Proper periodization allows for the application of high levels of stress within a framework that gives optimal recovery time between workouts. This ensures purposeful and continuous adaptation as well as allowing peak performance to be reached at an appropriate time.

As Golf Fit trainer Craig Tumblety notes "The phased approach above is much the same as how training for golf should be arranged year round but the off-season usually affords better opportunities to get the most out of each phase", thus it is vital we make the most of this period.

Not utilising an effective periodisation strategy in your off-season workout program, then, is a recipe for frustration and a missed opportunity to reduce the aches and pains associated with playing golf and play your best golf next season.

Want more?

If you're interested in a fully periodised program, individualized to your goals and needs, that guarantees results feel free to take a look at our online coaching options here or look at booking an in-person assessment at one of our centres.

Alternatively, please follow me on instagram, where I will shorlty be announcing an exciting new project that will provide you with even more off-season training infomation (including example programs) and accountability to help you with devloping those consistent habits that are the bedrock of perfromance.

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Oli To The Rescue + Craig's Admission

Oli uses his master coaching skills and cutting edge technology to help Craig identify his own technical inefficiencies.

 

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