By Sean Cochran
Golf fitness training in the off-season can greatly benefit golfers of any age in the improvement of their skills on the course. All to often the golfer will neglect the physical components relative to the execution of a biomechamically efficient golf swing. Rather than develop the physical requirements of the golf swing, the golfer will spend an insurmountable amount of time practicing and money on golf lessons with minimal improvement.
The common thread in such instances is physical limitations in the areas of mobility, flexibility, stability, strength, and power limiting the ability of the golfer to execute a biomechanically efficient golf swing. The golfer must remember it is the kinetic chain of the body executing every phase of the golf swing, and in order for the athletic movements of the golf swing to be performed efficiently, certain physical parameters must be evident within the kinetic chain.
If the golfer is lacking in the physical parameters required of the golf swing, compensations in the execution of the swing results. These compensations lead to swing faults such as a loss of club head speed, poor ball striking, inconsistencies, and poor play. To prevent such a situation from occurring and provide the golfer with a physical foundation to execute the golf swing, the introduction of golf fitness exercises can be of great assistance.
Golf fitness exercises as with any sports-specific training program have the goals of developing the physical components within the kinetic chain required of the athlete’s chosen sport. The end result of the implementation of such training modalities is a transfer of training effect into the execution of the golf swing. A transfer of training effect is the ability of a training program to have a direct benefit on the performance of the athlete during competition (Juan Carlos Santana, Institute of Performance, Boca Raton, FL).
Once the golfer understands the physical components connected to the execution of the golf swing as well as how a sports-specific training program can assist in the development of these physical components. The next step is the introduction of a sports-specific training program for golf. The ideal time for the introduction of such a program is during the off-season.
The off-season consists of the time of year in which competitive golf is not being played, and the amount of practice time associated with the sport is minimal. The traditional off-season for golf is the winter months where weather is not conducive to rounds of golf and the professional tour is on a hiatus. This provides an ideal off-season for any golfer from the recreational to professional level to implement a sports-specific conditioning program for golf. The ideal time frame for an off-season golf specific training program is 8-12 weeks. This is the minimal time frame required to introduce golf-specific training modalities into ones conditioning program to create adaptation in the kinetic chain. In addition, a time frame of 8-12 weeks allows for progressions to occur within the specific modalities of the clients off-season golf specific conditioning program.
Outside of the ideal time frames associated with an off-season golf specific conditioning programs are the goals of such a program. The general goal of the off-season program as stated previously is the development of the physical parameters within the kinetic chain required in the execution of the golf swing.
In order to achieve the goal of developing the physical components within the kinetic chain for the golf swing, a basic understanding of the biomechanics of the swing is needed. A brief review on golf swing biomechanics indicates the following: the golf swing is typically separated into phases which are; address, takeaway, backswing, transition, downswing, impact, and follow through. The goal during each of these phases is to keep what is termed the kinematic sequence in tact.
The kinematic sequence is a model determining the efficiency in the human body at which speed is generated and transferred to the golf ball during the swing. Researches behind the development of the kinematic sequence include Dr. Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute, biomechanist Phil Cheetham of Advanced Motion Measurement, and Dr. Rob Neal of Golf BioDyanmics. The kinematic sequence allows a viewer to look at how efficiently and effectively a golfer generates speed, transfers speed through the body, and where in the golf swing a golfer may be lacking the physical or biomechanical requirements to execute the swing with the greatest amount of efficiency possible.
Understanding the kinematic sequence is imperative to the development of a biomechanically sound golf swing. The information provided by the kinematic sequence allows us to begin to dissect where the golfer physically is breaking down within the kinetic chain during the execution of the golf swing. This will be a cornerstone in the development of a golfer’s off-season conditioning program.
Once an understanding of the kinematic sequence is in place, attention can be turned to the physical side of this equation in the form what physical requirements are needed by the golfer to execute a biomechanically efficient golf swing where the kinematic sequence remains in tact.
The ideal model to reference for determining the physical requirements of the golf swing is the mobility/stability pattern of human movement. This principle was first noted by physical therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle, and popularized in the sport of golf by Dr. Greg Rose. This principle states efficient movement within the kinetic chain of the human body occurs in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable segments. If this pattern of mobile joints and stable segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns will occur, and compensations in these movement patterns will be the result. A joint-by-joint view of the mobility/stability pattern of human movements is as follows: foot – stable, ankle – mobile, knee – stable, hip – mobile, pelvis/sacral/lumbar spine – stable, thoracic spine – mobile, scapular-thoracic – stable, gleno-humeral/shoulder – mobile, elbow – stable, wrist- mobile, cervical spine – stable.
As you can see the human body operates “feet to fingertips” in an alternating pattern of a mobile joint followed by a stable joint throughout the kinetic chain. Relative to the golf swing the mobility/stability pattern of human movement allows for the creation and transfer of energy through the kinetic chain from “feet to fingertips” into the golf club. If the mobility/stability pattern is dysfunctional relative to the golf swing, the development of speed will be limited, transfers of this speed to the golf ball will be compromised, and compensations in the golf swing will occur.
At this point, we understand the goal of an off-season golf conditioning program as well as the guidelines dictating the development of such a program. The next step is the implementation of a golf-specific conditioning program during an 8-12 week off-season time frame. The first step in this process is a physical assessment. An assessment through a series of physical screens will determine any dysfunctions within the kinetic chain relative to the mobility/stability pattern of human movement. If any dysfunctions are found during these physical screens, a series of corrective exercises will be incorporated within the golfer’s off-season conditioning program for correction of these dysfunctions.
Once an assessment is complete, the next stage in the development of an off-season golf fitness program is a need analysis. A needs analysis is the process of determining what requirements the golf fitness program must fulfill. Such an analysis not only includes goals, but in addition, what pieces of equipment are available, time constraints on training, and the information from the physical screens. Once the needs analysis is complete, the development of the actual off-season program can commence.
An off-season strength and conditioning program is typically separated into the following training segments:
1. Mobility/flexibility training
2. Neuromuscular efficiency development
3. Strength/stability training
4. Power training
All or only a couple of the training segments listed above may be incorporated into a single training. Corrective and performance enhancement training modalities are incorporated within each of these categories. The actual exercises within each category are dependent upon a number of individual variables such as kinetic chain dysfunctions requiring attention within the golfer, goals of the golfer, and training experience.
The final steps in the development of the off-season golf specific training program is the introduction of the exercises into the program. Guidelines to adhere in this section are the introduction of exercises that are geared towards the individual needs of the golfer in a systematic and progressive approach. A useful methodology to utilize in the selection, introduction, and progression of exercises into an off-season golf fitness program is a periodization schedule.
A periodization schedule is the cycling of loads, volumes, intensity, and exercise within a given time frame. The time frame may be divided into days, weeks, months, or even years. The cycling allows for a systematic approach to achieving improvement in the mobility, flexibility, balance, strength, stability, and power as well as prevents overtraining.
Each time frame has a specific arrangement of load, volume, intensity, and exercises within the give time frame. The cycles of a peridiozation program are broken down into macrocycles and microcycles.
A macrocycle is the complete training time, which for golfers is usually one year. A mesocycle is a specific time frame within the macrocycle (for example, the off-season). The subdivisions of mesocycles for the golfer are as follows:
Phase 1: corrective, strength, stability, and endurance training
Phase 2: strength and stability training
Phase 3: Power training
Phase 4: Sports-specific training
Phase 5: competition/maintenance training
The off-season of a periodization schedule will typically find phases 1,2, and 3, phases 4, and 5 are found in the pre-season and competitive playing year.
Knowing the off-season consists of phases 1,2, and 3. The training for the golfer or golf fitness trainer can be focus upon the modalities incorporated within these segments, in addition to the development of these components within the kinetic chain.
To summarize, the off-season is the ideal time in which the golfer can take advantage of developing a physical foundation for the golf swing. In order for this to occur, the golfer must have a basic understanding of the connection between the physical body and execution of the golf swing. Once this basic component is understood, the development of an off-season golf fitness program can commence. The first step in this process is an understanding of golf swing biomechanics and the kinematic sequence. The second step is a basic understanding of mobility/stability pattern of human movement. After this final component is acknowledged, commencement of an individualized off-season program can begin.
A physical screen begins the development of the program to determine if any dysfunctions exist within the kinetic chain. Once complete with the physical screen a needs analysis is initiated to recruit the individual requirements and goals of the program. Finally, the development of the off-season golf fitness program commences with the utilization of a periodization schedule.