|This article looks at what you can do over the winter months to begin your off season training and provides ideas as to which muscle groups you should focus on. Do you finish your playing season and dive straight into heavy gym work? Do you hit lots of balls on the range worrying that if you don’t you will be wasting valuable time during the off season? Stop feeling guilty! Allow yourself time to step away from golf all together and into a couple of weeks of rest. The following article looks at what you can do over the winter months to begin your off season training and provides ideas as to which muscle groups you should focus on.
After your last tournament of the summer months / season you should allow yourself some free time to rest (at least 2 weeks!) and have some fun away from golf. This will allow your body and mind time to recover and be fully prepared for effective training over the winter months. Begin your training by understanding what your body needs:
• Does it need to be stronger?
• Do you need to be fitter to be able to stay focused and physically capable of lasting 18 holes without fatigue?
• Is your swing suffering from your lack of flexibility?
• Are you stuck in your golf & arm chair posture?
• Profile Yourself! What are your strengths & weaknesses?
Where should I start?!
Once you have identified the areas you need to focus on, you can set specific goals for your off season training. The rest of this article focuses on exercises that will help you improve and/ or maintain your strength over the off season. Strength training can start with a simple body resistance exercise routine, where no equipment is needed, and progress from there.
Fig. 1.0 Sarah Heath (LET) demonstrates holding The Plank for 60 seconds.
1. Plank: This exercise is a good way to start developing your core muscles. The core muscles include your abdominals, pelvic floor, deep back muscles and gluteal muscles. Although it may look like a simple position to adopt, the back must remain straight throughout the duration of the hold. This means that the golfer must engage their core muscles and use a variety of other muscles to hold for up to 60 seconds.
Fig. 2.0 As Sarah lifts her hips into The Bridge position she fires her glutes with minimal work from the hamstrings.
2. Bridge: The glutes are extremely important muscles within the golf swing and can be tested through the use of the bridge. Do not allow your hips to drop as you hold this position for up to 60 seconds. You can progress to leg lifts again ensuring that you do not let your hips drop at all. If you feel cramp in the hamstrings this is a sign that your glutes may not be firing effectively and you should come out of the bridge position to rest. Attempt the position again, this time ensuring that you squeeze your glutes as you raise your hips in line with your knees and shoulders.
Fig. 3.0 Sarah uses a bench to lower herself into the Triceps Dips.
3. Triceps Dips: The triceps are used to generate clubhead speed during the downswing. For this reason it is vital that you emphasise tricep exercises in the gym rather than “beach workouts” that tend to focus on the biceps! It is beneficial to train movements rather than individual muscle groups as this will both benefit your golf swing and also aid to prevent injury. Without access to any weights you can still work your triceps by using the exercise in the Fig. 3.0.
Fatiguing over 18 holes?
Fitness work can be as simple as jogging, cycling or cross training for 40 minutes three times a week. Avoid rowing as this can add to poor posture in the address position, which can ultimately lead to restricted rotation into the backswing.
Can’t turn as much as you used to?
Flexibility can target many areas in a short space of time. Many of the golfers I see have a range of flexibility limitations which can influence how they swing the golf club. Many have tight hip flexors which limits their pelvic mobility during the swing.
Fig. 4.0 Sarah stretching using The Hip Flexor Stretch
1. The Hip Flexor Stretch is a great way to overcome limitations around this area and allow your pelvis to set-up correctly in the address position (neutral tilt) and to move into posterior tilt (hips tuck under) during the downswing. Although this is only a very small movement it is still important in the whole performance! To increase the stretch take one arm up into the air and lean away from the hip you are stretching. (For those of you who have been keeping up to date with our articles, you would have noticed that this stretch has been featured before - this is because it’s such a great stretch for golfers!)
Fig. 5.0 Leg Drops
2. Thoracic Rotation - Leg Drops: I also see a lot of golfers who need increased rotation and ability to separate their upper and lower body which is crucial for power in the swing (kinematic sequence). This exercise will allow you to develop the mobility to create separation between the trunk and the pelvis while also stretching the thoracic region of the back. As Sarah is demonstrating in Fig. 5.0 you can use your arms to increase the rotation of you lower body while maintaining the upper body and shoulder position. Drop your legs to both sides and you will feel the abs working hard to control the movement.
Fig. 6.0 Open Book
3. Another useful exercise for your rotation and mobility is the following Open Book Exercise. This will allow you to feel a stretch not only in your back but also in the chest as you take your arm out to the side and then return to the starting position. Make sure your knees stay on the ground and the upper hip does not roll backwards with the upper body. Sarah is using 1kg medicine ball here to emphasise the stretches that she can feel.
Rounded shoulders and poking chin?
Posture work is crucial to maintain good shoulder health. Hitting lots of golf balls over the winter months can affect chest and shoulder posture. Poor upper body posture may be characterised by rounding of the shoulders, poking of the chin and winging of the scapula (shoulder blades). Poor posture can result from many of our normal daily activities such as sitting at a desk, driving a car, hitting golf balls or just generally sitting in comfortable chairs in poor postures. Your posture can be changed with a series of exercises, start with the following Ts, Ys and Ws which work the Traps and other muscles around the shoulder joints & scapula. Ts, Ys, Ws: Make the shape of the letter with your arms as you lay over the gym ball.
Fig. 7.0 Posture work Ts
1. Ts – Start with hands under your eyes and take your arms out to the sides in a controlled manner. Do not hold the position just continue to do reps. Sarah is using just 1kg weighted medicine balls which by the end of her 12 reps will start to burn the muscles on the upper back.
Fig. 7.1 Posture work Ys
2. Ys – Try without any weight to begin with as these are the hardest of the three posture drills. Start with your hands under your eyes as for the Ts and extend until you are in the superman position! Again do not hold that position. Sarah demonstrates a good finish position here where the back is has remained straight as the arms lift up.
Fig. 7.2 Posture work Ts
3. Ws – The last of the 3 posture drills, starting from under the eyes, raise the arms into a W bent arm shape and then lower in a controlled manner and repeat.
How long will it take?
Sarah Heath has been working at these exercises for over 2 years now and has experienced significant physical and performance gains in that time. However, you should not expect to see changes immediately; it takes 6-8 weeks of work to begin seeing / feeling changes that occur within the muscles and the nervous system. Over the winter period you will begin to see the adaptations to training taking shape allowing you to be fully prepared for the next season. However, the training principle of reversibility means that if you do not train for 7 days or longer the adaptations that have taken place start to reverse. Therefore if you have trained over the winter months you need to ensure your gains are kept by doing maintenance work during the competition phases. Bear in mind that results to your physique and your flexibility / strength can affect your swing and therefore it is advisable to ensure that you discuss changes with your coach.
Use the winter wisely and you can reap the rewards in the summer months with:
• Increased Strength = More yards!
• Greater Flexibility = Increased movement potential!
• Improved Posture = More turn at the top!
• Resistance to Fatigue = Stronger finishes!
Next month I will introduce the key elements involved in planning your year using the principles of periodisation. This will be extremely useful for those of you who are interested in determining when to incorporate your strength, power, technical, and tactical preparation into the training phases of the year.
For more information about the Strength & Conditioning and Biomechanics support services Ben offers please contact him by email:firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Sarah Heath visit www.sarahheath.co.uk.