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How to Write Your Own Golf Fitness Program

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This story is part of our new “GolfWRX Guides,” a how-to series created by our Featured Writers and Contributors — passionate golfers and golf professionals in search of answers to golf’s most-asked questions.

Designing your own comprehensive golf fitness program is not all that easy, as I talked about in my story “What should be in your golf fitness program?” In fact, it’s more complex than you’d think and really requires specialist knowledge and experience to put a program together that will target the right areas, in the right order, at the right intensity.

That’s where I come in! I wrote this piece to give you a clearer idea of what to do, how much to do and when to do it. From there, you can either seek professional advice or simply go ahead and make your own program. Just be aware that, like your golf game, you will almost always achieve a better result when you get professional help!

What’s the goal?

In almost every program I write there is an attempt to improve the golfer’s physical capabilities across four different athletic attributes:

  • Mobility/Flexibility
  • Posture/Movement Patterns
  • Stability
  • Strength/Power

Most golf fitness experts can all agree that these four areas are essential to improving the athleticism of a golfer’s swing. We need a certain level of all four in order to make an efficient and powerful move.

The order of those four attributes isn’t random, by the way. I have arranged them in the same sequence that I often use for the exercises that aim to develop them. Here’s an explanation of what I include in my programs and why.

Release/Self Massage

This goes first because we really want to free up the connective tissue that contributes to forming adhesions, tight spots and general shortness in our muscles. Using equipment like spiky balls or foam rollers and techniques like the one demonstrated below, we can alleviate trigger points and soreness from the muscles and generally prep the area for exercise. My colleagues and I consider this so important that it is absolutely non-negotiable at the start of every single training session for Golf Queensland and Golf Australia athletes.

Example Exercises: Spiky ball/foam roll various areas of the body that get sore and/or tight. This is a release for the glutes and hip external rotators.

SELF MASSAGE GLUTES 2

Cardio

Next up is a spot of cardio. It’s main purpose is to warm up the body and increase heart and respiratory rate. This increased blood flow will provide the muscles with nice oxygenated blood and warm tendons and ligaments ready for the exercise movements they are about to make.

Example exercises: Skipping, boxing, running, rowing: Whatever you like really!

benefits-of-jumping-rope

Dynamic Mobility

Our body is now warm from the cardio, so it’s the perfect time to work on our mobility. The reason I use dynamic mobility is to encourage the joints and muscles through a range of motion that is relevant to the movements we make in the gym, life and the golf swing (i.e not lying on your back with leg in the air). We can also use this section to work on stability of the hips, core and shoulders if we are smart with the exercise selection and application.

Example exercises: Inch worm, prone step ups, hindu push ups, legs swings, dislocates.

 fitnessstory5

Activation

This is another non-negotiable for my athletes. It’s so important to have the correct muscles “turned on” and ready to work. The three key areas for golf and for the gym are glutes, scapula/upper back and core. If these aren’t switched on and ready to go, then other muscles will have to overwork and compensate. This leads to poor technique first and injury second. These type of exercises, combined with the three categories above, make for a really good golf warm-up, too!

Example exercises: Crab walk variations, tubing/band drills, jump and stick.

1 LEG DYNAMIC ROTATION TO RIGHT 2 

Power

The body is primed and ready to go, but still fresh and with little metabolic or neural fatigue (tiredness). Time to move some load fast! This doesn’t have to mean throwing barbells around, however, as very often a lighter load like a medball or just bodyweight is more than enough. I often use a combination of jumps and throws that get the whole body moving fast as a unit.

Example exercises: Medicine ball slams and throws, squat and lateral jumps and dumbbell power snatch.

shayamal-slams

STRENGTH

Now we are getting to the guts of the session. Again, load should be relative to ability and experience and technique should be a high priority.

Essentially, this is where we are working hard and making gains. The strength work I prescribe focuses of on posterior chain (hamstrings, butt, back) with pulling and pushing movements in different directions and varieties.

Example exercises: Squats, lunges, deadlift variations (rarely using the standard barbell deadlift from floor these days), dumbbell press variations, chin-ups, rows, overhead press variations.

fitnesstory8

Core

We all know the importance of core strength for golfers and now is the best time to isolate this area and put in some extra work here. I consider “3D” core training essential, and I aim to achieve this through prescribing exercises that challenge the core from front to back, side to side and also working against rotational resistance.

Here some example exercises that work the body in “3D.”

  • Front to Back: Leg lifts, V Sits, Bridges, Back Extensions
  • Side to Side: Side bridges, Side Hip Raises
  • Rotational Resistance: Pallof press, Woodchops, Lying Turnovers

fitnesstory9

How much and how often?

So you have the right order of exercises and a selection of good ones to have a go at. Now we just need to work out how many reps you should do and how often you need to train.

Self Massage and Release

  • 2-to-3 areas of the body for 5-to-10 minutes

Cardio

  • 5-to-10 minutes

Dynamic Mobility

  • A mini circuit of 5-to-6 exercises that are done for 6-to-8 reps. Repeat twice.

Activation

  • A mini circuit of 2-to-3 exercises that are done for 10-to-12 reps. Repeat twice.

Power

  • 2 exercises (1 jump, 1 throw). 5 reps each and 3 sets.

Strength

  • 4 exercises (1 squat, 1 lunge, 1 push, 1 pull). 8-to-10 reps each. 3 sets.

Core

  • 3 exercises (one in each “dimension”). 8-to-10 reps or 30-to-60 seconds for each exercise. 3 sets.

Frequency / Intensity

Repeat this session 2 or 3 times per week depending on your level of ability and experience. Always use a load that allows you to complete the rep range with good form and technique.

How Does it Come Together?  

To see what it looks like when put into a plan, check out the two example workouts below that have been extracted from a full program planned for four weeks. The first is aimed at a complete gym novice and the second targets the lower body of a moderately experienced gym the user (more than one year).

Click on the example workouts to make them larger.

Beginner

BEGINNER LEVEL 1.xlsx copy

Intermediate

INTERMEDIATE LEVEL 3.xlsx copy

You should now have the basic tools to be able to construct a gym program for yourself. Before you start, however, it’s a very good idea to seek professional advice. Remember these are rough and generic guidelines and might not apply directly to you.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer any queries. If you would like more specific information or a program more tailored to you then contact me directly through email — [email protected] — or check out what we have to offer at www.golffitapp.com.

Disclaimer: Always gain clearance for your training from a doctor or well-qualified exercise professional before commencement of an exercise regime.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Pingback: Programming Your Fitness - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  2. James

    Nov 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Living in Wisconsin and it being winter I started a custom program through him to get fit for next golf season. I have never been a “gym guy” but I absolutely love the workouts. The workouts have detailed instructions and are easy to follow. When I’m done I can feel it. I’m really looking forward to seeing how much I improve in 6 months with my strength,mobility and core strength as I have never been a gym person.

    • Pat

      Nov 16, 2014 at 11:32 am

      It’s going to take more than 6 months to see anything significant, buddy. But hey, it’s a starting point for someone who’s never been gym rat. Glad to see more people like you taking action and actually implementing a gym program for golf. I hope Nick also included a stretching program for you. If not, you should implement one as it is critical for mobility and injury prevention. Nothing exotic or crazy hard, just basic stretches for a minute for each muscle group is fine. Yoga stances are also very good as well but would be for a more advanced individual. Anyways, good luck and I hope you see some real results on the course once winter passes through.

      • James

        Nov 16, 2014 at 3:08 pm

        Without going into details I can tell you that there is a very indepth stretching incorporated in the workout. Being a ex semi pro Cyclist who has had a coach monitoring everything I ate, did on the bike and such, I am impressed with the details involved in the program.

        • James

          Nov 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

          I have on my own been taking some yoga classes twice a week at the gym. Very tough some of the positions. I think Nick does a great job of putting the workout together for me. I am excited. I would believe for someone who doesn’t workout and has very little muscle mass from being small from cycling that I will see a significant increase in power in 6 months.

          Like you said it’s good to see people taking a active approach to improving fitness and decreasing the chances of injury.

      • James

        Nov 16, 2014 at 3:26 pm

        I have on my own been taking some yoga classes twice a week at the gym. Very tough some of the positions. I think Nick does a great job of putting the workout together for me. I am excited. I would believe for someone who doesn’t workout and has very little muscle mass from being small from cycling that I will see a significant increase in power in 6 months.
        Like you said it’s good to see people taking a active approach to improving fitness and decreasing the chances of injury.

        Read more at http://www.golfwrx.com/206601/how-to-write-your-own-golf-fitness-program/comment-page-1/#jPjcEmzfodTzIOZL.99

  3. Pat

    Nov 15, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    You forgot stretching which is a very critical part of flexibility and injury prevention. I have incorporated all the phases of training for golf mentioned in your program, plus stretching and I have gone from a 110mph swing all the way up to 133mph at one point. Used to do Japan’s long drive comps many years ago. Now I can still hit 122mph regularly. I also do more volume for strength training probably because of my bodybuilding backround. Overall a good basic article for training for golf. I understand that you don’t want to go into too many specifics because you charge people for that. I still commend you for at least getting the basic info out there for the general public out there that way they have a starting point.

    • Pat

      Nov 16, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Btw, I am a certified pt and have my ACE certification. I have also taken body biometrics, anatomy and other kinetic/exercises related classes in college. I have extensive knowledge especially when it comes to golf related exercise and bodybuilding. I have trained mini tour players, bodybuilders and highly regarded high school amateur golfers in the past. Anyone who is interested in my expertise can pm me through here. My screen name is phizzy30.

    • marcel

      Dec 3, 2014 at 12:03 am

      yeah the article touches the basics in the right way. I have improved my golf just by doing fitness program. but i kept doing the 1st one for 12 weeks and journaled progress. now I am almost 12 months with break only for 3 weeks so far… golf improved… lots of dead lifts, squats and single arm exercises.

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Kelley: Should a Tour player’s swing be the pattern we copy?

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PGA Tour players are the most gifted golfers on the planet. Their ball striking ability is remarkable to the average, even scratch, golfer. With the time to practice all day, usually perfecting their imperfections in their own swings, why are PGA Tour players’ swings always the model we seek?

Look at the progression and expectations in other sports played recreationally. If you start playing Tennis, you don’t expect to serve as fast and accurate as Rafael Nadal. When joining a gym, do we look and replicate the times and bodies of Olympians? However, in golf, players seek the worlds best trying to emulate them. Examining this idea, could this actually be detrimental?

Let’s start with the speed differential. The average PGA Tour driver club head speed is 113 mph. The average male amateur golfer driver speed is 93.4 mph. The average handicap for the male golfer sits between 14 and 15. Below is a chart from Trackman showing the distribution of clubhead speed among male golfers.

*Trackman research shows there is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and handicap.

Speed is mostly a natural talent developed at an early age. It can be enhanced with speed training, gym work and even lifestyle changes. ?With such a differential in speed?, wouldn’t players first be better served focusing on center contact with the most efficient route to do so? This can include modeling simple looking swings.

Besides the speed differential, the world’s best golfers all have unique swings that have been perfected over time. Take for example the top ten players in the world. Different swings with different match-up moves throughout the motion. They have made it work for themselves with countless practice hours. Usually time the average golfer doesn’t have.

A main example would be Rory McIlroy, often a sought out golf swing among students. Here is a quote regarding his swing swing sequence after visiting the Titleist Performance Institute Center. “At the start of McIlroy’s downswing, his left hip spins violently counterclockwise, as it does for every elite, long-hitting player. but then, and only with the driver, Mcllroy makes a funky move you could not teach. a moment before impact, his left hip suddenly changes direction and jerks back, clockwise, and then rotates again.”

With the average golfer on a time constraint?, golfers could actually look at what the greats do the older they get in their careers. The swings become more simple, using their instincts to get their body in efficient and more teachable positions. This is usually in their set-up then backswing, with less excess movement for an efficient strike. Take for example a young versus older Ben Hogan. (Picture below)

Below is another example of a young Jack Nicklaus compared to an older Nicklaus later in his career.

This is in large part due to the concept that less can be more at times. Unfortunately in golf, all to often players are told to do more with their swing, only to jeopardize center contact even seeking vanity over function.

A concept that could be beneficial is next time you want to work on your swing, focus on efficiency and minimizing the ?motion for center contact and a better face/path relationship. Then you can build. Rather then taking a bit from a Tour player’s swing, understand how your body should move to achieve your desired ball flight. Once you have a foundation, then add speed and your own DNA to the swing.

The argument could be made the opposite should be taught for aspiring junior golfers, especially the way the game as going. This article is intended to open a discussion and perhaps change the view of how the golf swing is being taught based on your skill-set and what you are trying to get out of the game. Also, what may be teachable and not teachable. You can change swings with concepts alone.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: @Kkelley_golf 

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Clement: Why laying up = more power

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You have been there before — you can’t get over the hazard on a par 5 and decide to lay up and take the club you need for the distance and the ball makes it into the hazard after you took this smooth swing that smoked the ball 15 yards farther than you expected? We uncover the mystery right here!

 

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Kelley: Simplify your swing with the hammer drill

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Regardless of your handicap, a simple hammer can teach you how to efficiently address the ball, start the swing and then put your body in a dynamic position at the top. If you can hammer a nail, there is no reason you can’t simplify your swing. This drill can also change the parts in the middle of your swing you have been struggling to change.

To start, grab a hammer with your trail hand as if you are hammering a nail into a wall in front of your body. You will notice how this instinctively gives you a slight tuck of the trail elbow and drops your trail shoulder below the lead with angle in the trail wrist.

Once gripping the hammer, move the weight of the hammer as if hammering a nail. This will give you the feel of the takeaway.

From here, the golf swing is no more then a lifting of the arms as the right arm folds and the body goes around a bit.

From this position, holding your spine angle and placing the left hand on the right hand will pull your body into a coil or “turn”. This places your body in a position to efficiently swing the golf club back down to the ball.

A great way to combine the hammer drill with a golf club is to hold a hammer on the grip of the club or tape the hammer down the middle of the shaft. Start with just your right hand on the club and make slow swings.

Once you have practiced this a few times, the hammer can be removed and this feel can be integrated to a normal golf club. To continue this feel, simply turn the clubhead in as if you are hitting the ball with the toe of the club (below picture). When turning the club like this, the center of balance goes more to the clubhead, helping replicate the actual hammer feel.

What’s great about this drill is that the actual task is driving the technique. Rather than being thoughtful of several technical positions in the golf swing, replicating the instinctive motion of the hammer will put you in the proper positions. This drill will also help you place your focus of attention on the actual club, which is often overlooked.

www.kelvinkelley.com

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