Top golfers today are elite athletes whose in-season programs are carefully considered based on their competitive schedules, how each individual athlete responds to different physical stressors, the physical qualities important to that athlete, and much more. The goal is to allow these athletes to perform at the highest possible level while staying healthy and energized so they can manage their busy practice schedules, play schedules, and the demands of constant travel.
But what does all this have to do with GolfWRX readers, who probably aren’t tour pros and have day jobs that keep them from playing as much golf as they’d like? Well, as it turns out, you’ve probably got more in common with a typical tour pro than you might think… in terms of lifestyle at least.
Late nights and early wake-up calls compromise good sleeping habits, and too much sitting (long-distance travel or at a desk) wreak havoc on posture. Tournament golf is just one part of their lives, along with family, kids and work commitments (most tour players have big time commitments from their sponsors, the media, and their professional tour). Starting to sound familiar?
Considering all of these competing demands on the in-season golfer, whether pro or amateur, my job as a fitness professional at this time of year is less of coach and more of a manager. My goal is to manage all the competing demands on a golfer’s time, and most importantly, improve their recovery capacity to allow them to perform optimally when they need to.
In order to achieve this, a golfer’s in-season training should have three main objectives:
- Injury prevention
- Maintaining strength/other physical qualities needed to perform (they’re usually built during the off-season)
- Managing fatigue so athletes are fresh to tee it up week after week.
When injured, an athlete cannot gain strength, power or sport-specific skill. For that reason, injury prevention should be the first priority of every coach and athlete.
The hips, low back and shoulders tend to get pretty chewed up in the golf swing, particularly during a long, competitive season. 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 losses in mobility. Additionally, this is usually coupled with 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 tends to have pretty disastrous effects on posture and leads to missing out on basic functional movement patterns like squatting and lunging, so our exercise selection in-season is going to need to account for this.
I love a good analogy, and one of my favorites is thinking of max strength like a drinking glass. If you have a bigger glass (i.e. more strength), you have the potential to be faster or more explosive. This analogy works great in the off-season, however, during the season we tweak it slightly.
Imagine you have a glass, but it has a small hole in the bottom and water is leaking out. This is representative of the strength you’ll lose over the course of a competitive season. If you did the right things in the off-season and got stronger, you have a bigger glass. So even if you have a hole and you’re losing some strength, you’ve got a bigger strength reserve that you can lose. And taking that a step further, if you continue strength training in-season, it’s like plugging a hole in your glass. You may still lose some of your gains, but you’ll do so at a much slower pace.
By strength training year round, not only do you have a bigger strength reserve to start, but you can also maintain Your strength for as long as possible.
The key to in-season strength training is not to demonstrate maximal strength, but rather to maintain strength. We may still move some decent weights, but we don’t need to be working up to true 3-5 rep maxes. Even if you only get in one decent training session per week and lift for 2-3 sets of at 70-80 percent of your of 3-rep max (or 7-8 on an RPE scale), it’s going to go a long way to mitigating any losses in strength over the course of the competitive season.
During in-season training, the primary thing I’m trying to manage is fatigue. For our purposes, fatigue basically equates to stress. And all stress is stress: physical, emotional, mental, financial, marital, etc.
Once the stress bucket is full, there’s not much you can do other than take a break and fix the problem. If the golf season sees a significant increase in the amount of golf swings you are making, walking you are doing or emotional stress (we’ve all been there!), we better factor that in.
As a performance coach, I have to make sure that my golfer is fresh and prepared to play on “X” day or “X” date. As I mentioned earlier, however, keeping the athlete strong is key to success in-season. This represents something of a double-edged sword; strength training is a stressor, and therefore an additional factor they must then recover from. For this reason, our in-season programs typically limit lifting to 1-2 lifting sessions per week. By limiting eccentric (the lowering portion of the lift) and overall training volume, we can ensure our golfers feel fresh during their rounds. Limiting soreness is also key part of allowing the golfer to feel fresh on the tee. By keeping exercise variety low, we can make the most of the repeated bout effect to prevent soreness.
Once the tournament is done, it’s a race to get the athlete recovered and feeling fresh as quickly as possible (particularly in the busy competitive season like you get on the PGA and European tours these days). Doing so allows for improved performance in both practice and competition, ensuring adequate recovery is therefore an all-important part of managing fatigue.
Ensuring proper sleep quality and quantity as well as supplying the body with an appropriate volume of nutrients is also vital to your body’s ability to deal with and recover from stress. Additionally, restorative activities such as swimming or sled pushing/ pulling, foam rolling, static stretching and breathing drills will become a focus of training in-season.
Note: The full details of the recovery strategies we utilize are beyond the scope of this article, so please click here for more information.
Putting It All Together
The entire workout to the right is to be completed 1-2 times per week dependent on training experience. The active recovery and mobility portions should be completed another 1-2 times per week depending on training experience. Lastly, the mobility portion can also be completed post-workout or even nightly.
Ultimately, if you can keep yourself or your athletes feeling as fresh and prepared as possible — and as often as possible, while maintaining the physical qualities needed to perform — you give yourself or your athletes the best possible chance for success. This is where a well-planned and properly managed in-season training program is truly invaluable.
What should your hips do in the golf swing?
If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.
Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind
Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player
As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?
As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.
I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.
Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?
Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.
The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?
We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.
I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.
The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)
- Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
- Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.
The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.
Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.
The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.
Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.
No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.
There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…
- We are relaxed
- We are having fun
- We are just doing
In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!
Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!
Please reach out to me at email@example.com to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.
Equipment improvements are even better for women! Now they are getting over 300 yards!
We had a sweet driver shaft fitting at Club Champion in January. We picked up the shaft in their store in Phoenix and that afternoon, and Savannah hit two benchmark drives at 305 and another at 317 yards! Kinda makes you a bit of a believer, huh!? We are looking forward to seeing the numbers on our GC Quad back home this week to check out the difference. Stay tuned for next week!
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