The Off Season is a great time to work on developing your golf game. There are many things we can do away from the course that will massively improve our golf potential. Even if you live somewhere where there is technically no off season, it might be a good idea to structure your year into different chunks, emphasising specific areas of development. Especially if you have been playing year round for a number of years with no improvement.
What Should I Work On?
1) Technical Development
Full Swing, short game, and putting can all be improved from home or at a practice facility over the winter.
Ideally you tracked your Strokes Gained stats last season with something like GolfMetrics, ShotScope, or Arcoss. This will allow you to know exactly where you stand in each category of the game, relative to your goals.
If you have an instructor that you see in person, that is absolutely fantastic.
If not, I highly recommend getting in touch with Jayson Nickol, Ryan Mouque, or Steve Furlonger on the Skillest App.
These expert coaches can provide a video evaluation and help you develop a complete plan to improve your game (at very reasonable rates). To avail of this, you will need to be able to take videos of your swing using your phone, and a tripod to ensure the correct camera angles.
(At the end of this article there is a list of all apps or products I refer to)
2) Rehabbing Nagging Injuries
Having an injury that limits you from practicing, playing, or working out as much as you would like really puts a limit on your improvement. It’s time to stop masking the symptoms of these injuries with rest, ice, massage, painkillers, etc. You must get to the root cause, and start progressively rehabbing the area. This might require seeing a physiotherapist (Europe) or Physical Therapist (USA) in person, but might also just mean improving the overall condition of your musculoskeletal system.
The good news about this is that the exact same training that will help improve mobility, strength, and power, which we want to work on for golf performance, will also likely help rehab some of your nagging injuries.
There is no such thing as rehab exercises and training exercises. They are the same thing, all that changes is the intensity level that is appropriate for your current condition.
I appreciate some injuries are more severe and nuacned, but many people are struggling with issues simply because they have not rehabbed progressively enough.
3) Improve Body Composition
This is the ratio of fat mass to muscle mass you have. Whilst not directly related to golf performance (there have been obese PGA Tour winners), it is directly related to health, and I would like you all to have as many healthy years as possible.
The good news here, which will be a recurring theme, is that the same training I mentioned above, will also be the exact same training that will help you improve your body composition.
The two most important things for improving body composition are your calorie balance (calories in vs calories out), and resistance training.
If you want to shed fat, you need to consume less calories than you use. Nutrition is the biggest player here. It’s MUCH easier to make a dent in calorie balance with nutrition adjustments than it is adding more and more exercise. (We still want to be exercising a lot anyway though, because it is great for health & performance independent of fat loss). If you are confused about nutrition check out the podcast I did with Alan Aragon. He makes things very simple to understand, and is one of the world’s leading experts.
If you want to have strong and healthy muscles, especially as you age, you must do challenging resistance training (you can start easy, and gradually increase difficulty level). Resistance training is especially important for seniors, as this is when the loss of muscle mass and strength accelerates. The good news is that we can HUGELY offset and in many cases even reverse this (for a while), when appropriate training and nutrition is implemented.
Most people really ease off their physical training as they get older. This means they are faced with the negative consequences of biological aging, plus a less potent stimulus from exercise. This is also the main reason metabolism decreases. Less muscle mass and less activity, which are directly linked. If you maintain your muscle mass and activity level, metabolism is unaffected, but very few do that.
Key Point: Challenging exercise is essential as we age. We can’t slack off. If we do, we are guaranteed a big drop off in our physical function.
4) Gain Club Head Speed
A lot of people reading this can gain 10mph of club head speed with their driver. I know this because hundreds (maybe thousands) of Fit For Golf App users have done so. This is true across a wide range of ages, from teens all the way up to golfers in their 70’s.
1mph of club head speed is worth about 2.5 yards, with all else being equal. 10mph is worth about 25 yards. Some of this speed will also transfer into all the other clubs in the bag, so becoming 1 to 1.5 clubs longer throughout the bag is very common.
25 yards off the tee + 1 club longer through the bag is about a 3-4 club difference into standard par 4 holes. Some par 5’s that were previously not reachable may now be reachable, and 1 club shorter on all par 3’s also sounds nice.
Those who are most out of condition, or who have not trained for strength and speed in the past have the most room for improvement. If you are already experienced in training for strength and speed, your potential for gains will be lower. Very few people don’t have room for significant improvement however.
Improving mobility & strength levels will be a key part of your speed gaining regimen. Again, the good news is that this is the exact same training that will help you rehab nagging injuries, improve body composition, and just combat “Father Time” in general. Mobility and strength enhancement is universally good.
Direct speed training will also be a key part of your speed gaining process. This is simply assigning a certain amount of time to swinging as fast as possible, 2-3 days per week, for about 20-40 swings. This can be done with your own driver, or speed training tools like The Stack System. The most important piece of equipment for speed training is an accurate and consistent radar that allows you see how fast each swing was, and measure your progress over time. I highly recommend the PRGR Radar which is sold on the SuperSpeed website. It is very accurate for club head and ball speed, and can be used to measure speed when swinging speed training tools with no ball involved or while hitting a ball.
I wrote a more extensive article on speed training in a previous blog post.
I have attached a link to that article, and a free driver speed training tracking sheet at the end of this article.
(When you download the sheet, you must make a copy of it before you can edit it. On a desktop, click file, make a copy. On a phone or tablet, click the three horizontal dots on the top right of the page, share & export, make a copy. You can fill in your speeds as you go, and the sheet will automatically keep track of your average and max speed for each session).
5) Aerobic Training & General Health
This will have the least direct impact on golf performance, but will have a huge effect on your general fitness and health. For better health, we need to spend a lot more time moving and a lot less time sitting still.
Very simple and basic aerobic training is a very worthwhile addition to your training routine. Brisk walking, stationary or regular biking, elliptical, rower, etc. Anything that raises your heart rate and keeps it elevated for a sustained period of time. It doesn’t need to be high intensity. Getting slightly out of breath is great.
If you watch a few hours of TV on the weekends, adding in some stationary bike whilst doing so is a great way to sneak in some aerobic exercise time.
This All Sounds Great, How Do I Fit It All In?
Everyone has different time availability and desire to exercise / practice.
It is absolutely essential you sit down with a pen and paper and go through your week. See where you can slot in workout & practice time. Once you have decided when you can fit things in, the next thing to do is create a schedule.
Routine is absolutely key to consistency, and consistency is key to progress in the long term. Ideally your planned week can be repeated as closely as possible every week. Knowing exactly what you are doing and when you are doing it each week will help you work towards getting on auto pilot with your training. Of course things will come up that force you to change your schedule, but having your template will really help keep you on track.
The goal is to stack productive days on top of each other, over and over again. When you miss, which you will, get back on track as quickly as you can.
What does a training week look like?
Resistance training has the biggest return on investment for golf performance, injury prevention / rehab, and body composition, so this is what I would prioritize. I am a fan of 3 (minimum of 2) resistance training sessions per week.
In each of these sessions there will be some mobility and bodyweight exercises as a warm-up, some light and fast exercises for improving our ability to produce force quickly, and then some strength exercises for the major muscle groups in the legs, trunk, and upper body. A short and quick session can be done in 10-15 minutes, while what I would describe as a “full session” might take 45-60 minutes.
Literally all of the programs on the Fit For Golf App follow this template, so I won’t go into too much detail here. For those really low on time, I just released a 5 minute per day resistance training program that can be easily done from home.
These sessions absolutely do not need to be “golf specific”.
Use challenging weights and make sure you are attacking the major muscle groups. It doesn’t really matter if you use free weights, machines, compound, or isolation exercises. It is absolutely essential however that you put a lot of stress on the muscles. 2 to 4 sets of each exercise using a weight that allows 5 to 10 reps per set is great.
When you start resistance training, you don’t need to train hard at the beginning. You will get stronger from sessions that are quite easy. Going easy at the beginning will also stop you from getting too sore, and reduce the chances of straining something. View your first few weeks of resistance as getting ready to train hard in the future. You are just getting used to the various exercises you are going to use, selecting appropriate starting weights, and gradually conditioning your body.
Speed training responds very well to 2-3 x weekly sessions.
How to time strength and speed training depends on a couple of factors.
Strength training generally leads to more fatigue than speed training. It is far from ideal to perform speed training while still sore or fatigued from strength training. It is common for golfers to notice that speed is affected for over 24 hours after strength training, so I advise trying to avoid doing speed training in this window unless absolutely necessary.
48 hours between them tends to work much better.
On the other hand, speed training does not affect strength training anywhere close to as much. So how can we do both strength and speed training 3 x week while meeting these recovery times?
The key things to keep in mind about speed training are that we want to do it when fresh, and we want to get it in 2-3 times per week. Even if gaining speed isn’t a priority I think it is a good idea to keep some speed training in your week solely for maintenance. If you’re over 30, and not working on speed, you are probably getting gradually slower. That is something we definitely want to avoid.
This leaves us with a few options for sensible scheduling.
1) Speed Training & Strength Training on the same day.
If you workout at home and have the time, doing speed training and strength training in the same session or on the same day can work extremely well.
A practical way to do this would be to insert your speed training as the “light and fast” / power part of your FFG workout. This is the section after the warm up before the heavier strength exercises.
You would do your warm-up, then your speed training, then your strength training. For time purposes, it would also be perfectly acceptable to reduce the number of sets per exercise or number of exercises in each strength session.
Similar to this would be doing two separate sessions on the same day. I appreciate two training sessions in one day is not something that a lot of people will be able to fit in. In this scenario you would do speed training first in the day, then strength training afterwards (this is what the PGA Tour players I work with do). This could be shortly afterwards or later in the day. Both of these activities require a decent warm-up, which is why doing them in the same session can be desirable. You just warm-up once, and get your speed and strength training in.
Getting them both in on the same day means that you can then take the next day off from fatiguing training, and return to them 48 hours later.
The days in between are perfect for aerobic training, swing practice, and extra mobility work if desired.
Day 1: Speed Training
Day 2: Strength Training
Day 3: Rest from intense training. Practice, mobility, easy cardio are all fine to do
Day 4: Repeat cycle
This scenario also provides 48 hours between a strength training session and the next speed session. Don’t worry about not training as frequently as option 1. I think the differences between speed training and strength training each twice per week versus three times per week would be quite small. It would also mean less work to recover from, so might be a good start for many people.
What about alternating between days of speed training and strength training? You can absolutely try this, and as long as you see improvements in your speeds and feel OK, then it’s working. In my experience this works well for beginners, but as we get more advanced and the gains get harder, we really need the extra recovery before speed sessions.
Aerobic Training aka “Cardio”
All exercise that raises our heart rate for a sustained period of time is very good for our general health. To get health benefits, we do not need to get our heart rate particularly high. A level that gets us moderately out of breath and that would make having a conversation difficult is enough.
If your primary training goal is increasing club head speed it is really important that you don’t train hard enough on the day(s) in between / before your speed training sessions that you pick up muscle damage and fatigue. It is entirely possible to put in lots of “hard work” and not see progress in your goal endeavour if your training week isn’t organised appropriately. This is especially true the more advanced we get in our training. At the beginning it is pretty easy to improve at everything at the same time. As we get closer to our potential and the gains slow down, we must get much more specialised in order to keep seeing progress.
If you’re going to perform cardio sessions twice per week, I think a good idea is to do one longer steady state session, and one shorter interval style session. (Get clearance from your doctor).
A longer steady state session could be 30-60 minutes of whatever modality you enjoy. A shorter more intense interval session might be something like 15 to 20 seconds of very high effort activity, followed by 40 to 45 seconds of easy activity, for 15-20 mins.
While not exactly aerobic training, I am a huge fan of sprinting once per week. I wrote a thread about it on Twitter, and the link is at the bottom of this article.
The more walking / active time and less time you have sedentary the better. We can’t really get enough easy activity in our daily lives.Improved health and fitness is not just about “working out more, it’s about being active more and sedentary less.
Mobility is important for enabling the range of motion we desire in the golf swing.
I use the same dynamic mobility / warm-up routine before every workout or practice session (Mobility Routine #1 from the Fit For Golf app). This ensures I am working on mobility daily as part of my normal training & golf practice.
If you do the same, there should not be a huge need to work on mobility on its own. If mobility is something you really struggle with, adding in a few minutes of targeted work outside of your warm-ups can be helpful. This can be done whenever you have time. It doesn’t lead to fatigue like strength, speed, or cardio training, so when we do it is not as important.
There are a lot of misconceptions about mobility, and especially “stretching”. By stretching, I mean static stretching, holding a certain position for an extended period of time.
Stretching is not the magic injury reduction pill that many people seem to think it is. Strength training is far more effective for reducing likelihood of injury, and also improves mobility. Stretching after workouts will not reduce muscle soreness, getting used to the workouts will. Stretching is also not warming up. To effectively warm up, we must move, elevate our heart rate, get our blood pumping, and prepare the muscles for the activity they are about to do.
It is also worth noting that speed training and strength training both tend to be extremely good for our mobility. During speed training the intent to swing faster often leads to us making a longer backswing, at high speed, which will be an extremely effective dynamic stretch of the muscles we want to target. Strength training through a full range of motion is also very beneficial for mobility.
To summarise, mobility is very important. It will be well targeted with well designed warm-ups for any workout or practice, speed training, and strength training through a full range of motion. For those of you who feel it’s a major limitation, you can add extra sessions of mobility. I recommend Mobility Routine #1 and #2 from the app.
If you are going to work on mobility I much prefer moving through ranges of motion, rather than holding static positions for extended periods of time.
When Should I Practice?
This completely depends on your goals. Practice is similar to speed training in that we want to do it when fresh, if possible. Trying to practise when tired from strength training or speed training isn’t ideal. Organising speed training and practice together can work nicely as you are already swinging and it negates the need to do an extra session.
If you are going to do this I suggest warming up, doing your practice, then doing your speed training. Obviously speed training with driver and ball can fall under the category of both practice and speed training.
If speed is your main priority and you find that practicing first is causing some fatigue and blunting your speed a little bit you can experiment with reversing the order.
Is My Plan Working?
Diligent tracking is an essential part of the training process and answers the critical question “is my plan working”?
To assess if your plan is working you need some objective, and maybe subjective measures you can track.
Speed: Start a spreadsheet or notebook for your training sessions that allow you to track your session average and max. If using The Stack, this of course is measured in the app for you. Free driver speed training sheet at the end of this article.
Strength: Track the weight you lift and how many reps you complete per set. The main reason people’s strength progress starts to stagnate is because they use the same weight for the same number of reps all the time. You can make strength progress by increasing in reps with the same weight, or by keeping the reps the same and increasing weight.
Fat Loss: Measure your waist circumference, keep note of your belt loops, in conjunction with the scale.
General health & fitness: Resting heart rate. Heart rate at a certain intensity level going down.
Injuries: Do I have better function and less pain?
Golf: That is for you and your coach to decide.
Playing The Long Game:
Beware of doing too much too soon. When enthusiasm is high, like at the start of the off season or New Year resolutions, people often go overboard on their activity level. This can lead to niggling injuries popping up (as well as just being unsustainable).
It is impossible to provide an exact formula for what is the right amount to start with for each person, as that will depend on a lot of factors. The main thing is that you start your off season training with a weekly structure that seems very manageable.
The keys are that you can see incremental progress in whatever metrics you have decided to check, and that you feel OK. Be very weary of any aches or pains popping up, and if they do, modify your activity so that you don’t further aggravate them.
While it can be very tempting to push through injuries when you are hungry for progress, that often comes back to bite you long term.
I am not saying you should stop training if you have an ache or pain, but definitely don’t be afraid to modify exercises or change plans on the fly so you are not causing bigger problems. (Really important for tendons).
For those who have not trained before or haven’t in a long time, The 101 or Fundamentals Program on the Fit For Golf App was designed for you.
If you have injury concerns about starting speed training a 4 week build up period to prepare is a good idea. Three times per week, after warming up, do 20 to 30 swings, only building up to a speed you feel comfortable with. You will likely notice that you get much more comfortable ramping up the speed after a few sessions. If you feel good at the end of the 4 weeks you are probably ready to start going 100%.
I hope you enjoyed this article and it helps you make some progress this off season. If you have any questions, please let me know. The best place to do so is on Twitter, @fit_for_golf.
List of things mentioned in the article:
GolfMetrics App for Strokes Gained stats
Skillest App for video lessons (Jayson Nickol, Ryan Mouque, Steve Furlonger)
Tripod – Link
Alan Aragon Nutrition Podcast – Link
The Fit For Golf App – Link
The Stack System – 10% off with code FFG23 – Link
PRGR Radar – 10% off with code fitforgolf22 – Link
Resistance bands for home training – Link
Adjustable Dumbbells for home training – Link
Speed Training Tracking Sheet – Link (after opening, you must make a copy)
Thread on Sprinting – Link