The weather as I write this doesn't quite bear this out - got to love rainy old England - but it is the peak of the golf season. For most this means more evenings and weekends on the course, accompanied by a sharp increase in the number of swings being made and miles being walked a week.
In order to balance the extra workload on the body we need to adjust our training. We need to allow time to fit everything in and a focus on honing sports skills, whilst still keeping the body physically prepared to play and preventing the imbalances/ overuse injuries that the increase in volume of golf swings can lead too.
Mistake #1: Stopping training
All to often golfers stop training all together in-season, citing a lack of time and wanting to focus on honing their skills on the course - a make hay whilst the sun shines theory. This is fine when it comes to work load management but it's far from an effective strategy as:
You'll lose the strength and power you built in the off-season (especially if you travel to play or are lucky enough to live somewhere with a long summer, and thus have a long season)
The asymmetrical nature and eccentric stress of the golf swing can lead to a significant losses in mobility in certain movements patterns. For those that couple this with walking the course for 3 to 5 rounds a week and travel long distances to tournaments (even if it is in a private jet), this tends to lead to missing out on basic functional movement patterns like squatting and lunging. A good strength program can go a long way to redressing these issues.
Overuse issues are a huge issue in golf, as much as 80% of injuries in amateur golfers are overuse in nature according to one study. Studies have also shown that appropriate strength training can reduce overuse injuries by a whopping 50%!
Mistake #2: Lifting light weights
Our two major aims with in-season training are to prevent injury and maintain strength.
Notice I said maintaining strength
Lifting light weights for lots of reps doesn't tone your muscles nor does it maintain strength - in fact it doesn't really give you any kind of training effect at all unless you are in rehab and are thus substantially weaker than normal in a particular muscle group. In order to maintain strength you must train at a relatively high percentage of your maximal strength.
However, the flip side of this is we don't need to lift at 100% nor do we need to do the same 15-40 rep sessions, 3 or 4 times a week, we did in the off-season to build that strength. In-season we merely need to hit a heavy, not maximal, set once or twice a week. In other words rather than reduce load in-season a better approach is to keep intensity high and deload volume.
This brings me nicely too mistake number 3....
Mistake #3: Not managing fatigue appropriately
All stress is stress; physical, emotional, mental, money, spouse, whatever. Once the stress bucket is full, theres not much you can do other than take a break to fix the problem. If the golf season sees a significant increase in the amount of golf swings you are making, walking you are doing (and probably more mental stress!) we had better factor that in.
As discussed above it is not necessary to utilise high volume in-season to maintain strength. Additionally, by keeping overall volume low you can ensure you feel fresh during your round and not slow or tired.
That said, reducing volume is going to mean different things depending on the needs of the individual. For golfers that are weaker/have less training experience or are playing less frequently a reduced training volume may only need to be minimal and occur the workout before there their round (a Thursday/Friday workout before a Saturday round for example), for stronger golfers and/or those with a busier competitive schedule it may be necessary to cut training volume for the whole in-season period.
Tweaking exercise selection to reduce exercise variety and remove the eccentric portion of the lift can also help to reduce fatigue and delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS) in particular.
Eccentric muscle contractions have been shown to be correlated with higher levels of DOMS. When working out during the season then, we want to minimise the eccentric (the lowering portion of the lift) and maximise the concentric work. This means no slow-tempo lifting and no negative sets. You should complete the lowering portion of the lift as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining control, to limit the amount of time your muscles are under eccentric stress. Deadlifts (you can even drop the bar from lockout if you’re lucky enough to have a lifting platform), box squats and floor presses are great exercises that lend themselves well to this type of lifting.
Similarly, after performing an exercise that produces soreness, the muscle will quickly adapt to reduce any damage from further exercise. As a result, not only is soreness reduced, but other side effects, such as inflammation and reduced range of motion, are more quickly recovered from. This effect is known as the repeated bout effect and is most specific to the muscles that have been worked. Therefore by picking the same exercise for each body part, and working the muscles in the same manner each time, we can make the most of the repeated bout effect to prevent soreness.
Mistake #4: Not reducing the number of explosive rotational movements you do in the gym
Things like rotational med-ball throws are usually best left to the offseason. Firstly, golfers get plenty of explosive rotational work just playing their sport. Secondly, we know there is a link between high repetition of spinal rotation and back injury (see the huge amount of overuse injuries in golfers I mentioned earlier). So, at a time when the number of rotations the golfer is doing is likely increasing dramatically, it doesn't make sense to add to that load in the gym?
You are better off focusing on movements that groove good rotational mechanics and preserve anti-rotation strength to keep your spine healthy.
Two of my favourites are an adductor stretch with t-spine rotation and single-leg Pallof press. I like these two in particular as they kill a lot of birds with one stone and therefore allow time efficient training, a key with busy in-season golfers.
Are you making any of these mistakes? If so, please feel free to take a look at our online coaching program and have us design a individualised program to take the guess work out of in-season training.