Balancing In Season Workouts and golf is a challenge. In certain areas the season may be only 6 months or so. This might mean you want to cram in as much golf in as possible. On the opposite end of the spectrum, professional players and players in certain locations have golf all year round.
A common puzzle to try and solve is…
“How do I strike the right balance between making progress with workouts while also being fresh for golf practice and play?’
People approach this in a number of ways. I have outlined them below, with some commentary on each.
1) Working out in the Off Season, no workouts In Season:
This is typically done by players who have half year seasons. They might train reasonably well in the off season, but then completely omit training during the golf season. This is unnecessary and a bad idea for a number of reasons. If a season is 6 months or so long and you stop training at the beginning of the season you can be certain you will lose strength and be weaker for the second 2/3 of the season than you were the first 1/3. It does not make sense to spend time a significant amount of time and effort working out in the off season, then leave the benefits of this training slowly seep away during the season.
You might be able to maintain strength and power reasonably well for 3-4 weeks or so after stopping training, but there will be a steady decline after this. As your strength, power, and muscular conditioning deteriorates you will likely see a decrease in your club head speed and distance. There will potentially be an increase in aches & pains, and how sore and stiff you feel after rounds. I don’t think anyone reading this wants to be shorter, weaker, and recovering worse as the season goes on.
2) Over exerting in workouts, golf practice & play suffering:
If your primary goal is improved golf performance, it is important to remember that your physical training must support this goal, and not detract from it. Using physical training to enhance sports performance is very different to physically training to become as strong, powerful, or fit as possible. This can be an issue for people who LOVE working out, and feel like they are being lazy or not working hard enough if they aren’t tired and sore after every workout.
Significant golf improvement requires a lot of practice and skill acquisition. This means a lot of time, energy, and fine motor control. All things working out can exhaust. Regardless of how enthusiastic and conditioned you are there is a cut off point for when a certain amount of training will hinder your golf practice and play rather than enhance it.
Striking A Balance:
It is far easier to maintain physical qualities than it is to develop them. Beginners to strength training can get stronger and more powerful very easily. It will not be hard for them to gain in season, even with very low volumes. For intermediates, it is more of a challenge, but still pretty straightforward as long as the approach is relatively well ogranised. If you’re an advanced trainee whom has years of consistent training experience it is very very difficult to progress. Maintenance is quite easy however.
The vast majority of people can make progress with much less overall work and fatigue than they think, if they are working on the right things.
Once we understand this and accept that golf development is the priority we can start to put training programs together that fit in with your golf commitments.
Organising Your Training Week:
In most circumstances I think twice weekly training sessions work well In Season. If you absolutely love working out and want to train more, a third training session could be scheduled. You can definitely maintain all your strength and power in season with two sessions per week, and the vast majority reading this can gain.
Assuming you are a golfer whose primary golf rounds are on the weekend, something like a Monday & Thursday workout are a good choice. Doing a training session early in the week gives you a chance to recover from it, and get a second workout in that is no too close to your round.
By “training session” I am referring to the types of workouts I generally prescribe on the Fit For Golf App, which has a program labelled “In Season” designed specifically for this period on the golfing calendar.
Some cardio on the days in between workouts is a good idea for general health, and extra mobility work can also be fit in here.
As well as “workouts” the Fit For Golf App also has mobility and warm-up routines designed specifically for golfers.
Where Does “Speed Training” Fit In?
Many of you reading this are interested in club head speed and do specific speed training with Super Speed, The Stack, or with your own clubs. Twice a week for these types of training sessions would also work well. If you are doing your gym training or home workouts on a Monday and Thursday you could fit these sessions in on Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday. Whichever day you are not playing. In an ideal world, you would have a day off between strength training sessions and speed sessions. This will enable you to be close to 100% for every speed session. Another alternative is to do your speed training and workouts on the same day (maybe even the same session), and take the following day off. If combining speed training and workouts together, it is a good idea to do the speed training first, after a thorough warm-up. You do not want to be fatigued for speed training. This approach can lead to training sessions becoming quite long in duration however, so doing them on separate days may be more practical.
The easiest way to know if your training week is organised intelligently is by tracking. When you track your weights, speeds, and how you feel, you will have information that can guide decisions about future training.
Diligent tracking is absolutely essential.
Adjusting Your Workouts
Trying to practice or play when experiencing soreness or fatigue from workouts is a problem. It is important to note that post workout soreness has absolutely no relevance on the effectiveness of a workout, and that we can make progress without getting sore. Some level of fatigue likely is important for progress, but fatigue in the absence of soreness is a very short term issue. Soreness can linger for 2-3 days.
Muscle soreness generally comes from new activity or new exercises, a sudden spike in training volume, and reps close to failure.
We can avoid soreness and still make progress by limiting these factors. Some keys to focus on when training In Season:
- Avoid changing exercises too frequently
- Limit total number of sets each week
- Do less reps close to failure
- Focus on 100% maximum force on every single rep. This is how power is developed
This type of training is very different to what is commonly prescribed in “muscle gain” programs. To maximise muscle gain a lot of sets close to muscle failure are required. This has some merit in the Off Season as increasing the size of our muscle fibers through training will enable us to produce more force. This has a very positive effect on club head speed potential. Extra muscle plus the strength and power that comes with it is one of the key reasons why the PGA Tour average club head speed is 20mph & 10mph faster than the LPGA Tour & Champions Tour respectively.
Another common approach people take In Season is doing their workouts with less weight and more reps. This is not a good idea if you are interested in power and speed. When people use light weight and lift it for a lot of reps there is generally very little power output per rep. The focus is not on creating as much force as possible. Reducing the power output and strength stimulus in training like this is exactly the opposite of what we want to do. Keeping the weight challenging for 3-6 reps, focusing on moving the weight extremely quickly will be far more beneficial. If you feel like you want to do more work add sets, not reps.
Sets, Reps, Intensity
While it is difficult to gain muscle with this type of approach, we absolutely can gain speed, power, and strength. This is because a lot of these improvements are to do with how well the central nervous system can send signals to the muscles we already have, rather than gain new muscle. These central nervous system factors play a big role in our ability to produce force when we swing a golf club.
If you follow my programs a lot of the set and rep prescriptions are things like 3-4 sets of 3-8 reps, depending on the exercise and program. For this example lets assume you do most of your exercises for 3 sets of 6 reps, and on the 6th rep you usually either fail or are within one rep of failure. A simple way to tweak your in season training to ensure you at the VERY LEAST maintain progress you may have made in the off season would be to use the same weight as you do for 3 sets of 6 reps, but instead do it for 2-3 sets of 4 reps. This would reduce the number of reps close to failure, which are the ones which lead to muscle damage and fatigue, but still provide a potent strength and power stimulus.
If you are to use this type of approach it is absolutely essential that you perform each rep with as much force as possible. The intent to move the weight as quickly as possible if what recruits the fast twitch muscle fibers and makes it possible to improve power from this type of training.
How To Progress?
You can still apply progressive overload throughout the season with this style of training. I recommend using the “reps in reserve method” or “RIR” for short. You can set a rule of leaving at least 2 RIR in each set. Anytime you notice in your training that there is more than 2 RIR in a set, you can slightly increase the weight.