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Periodisation
By: Ben Langdown (MSc., BSc. Hons.) (profile)
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This article discusses "Periodisation": breaking your golf season down into manageable phases, which will ensure you are working on the right areas of your game at the correct time of the year.

During a full season of playing, it can be difficult to find time to exercise.  Rather than trying to achieve great physical changes, most tour professionals focus on the maintenance of both physical and technical aspects of their game.  This is because tour players plan their training schedule over the entire year ensuring that their physical training meets the demands of their playing schedule.  In other words, tour players don’t do the same exercise program all year round but focus on specific aspects of performance at different times of the year.  This planning or organisation of a training schedule is called periodisation.

Bompa (1999) states that periodisation is one of the most important concepts when training and planning your season: 

“The term originates from period which is a portion or division of time into smaller, easy to manage segments, called phases of training.”
(Bompa 1999, p.194)

Breaking your golf season down into manageable phases will ensure you are working on the right areas of your game at the correct time of the year.  Training phases for golfers will be different to those followed by athletes from other sports partly because the busy tournament schedule for professional golfers requires them to peak many times during a season.  Even if you are not a professional golfer, there will be specific events or competitions where you will want to play at your best.  Planning your training schedule will help you peak for those events and make sure your training is comprehensive, safe and effective. 

Your training year should consist of the following 5 phases:

  • General Preparation (off season training)
  • Specific Preparation (gearing up to the competition phase)
  • Pre-Competition (preparation for the course and tournament)
  • Competition (competing in the tournament in peak condition)
  • Transition (relaxation – active rest – fun activities)

Note, some of these phases can and will be repeated a number of times during a season. 

General Preparation:
According to Knight (2001) the General and Specific Preparation phases can also be termed Accumulation and Intensification.  These phases should be used to develop or rebuild technical aspects of the game and are therefore good periods to make fundamental changes to your swing and put new physical and psychological programmes in place.  The general preparation phase is usually in your off-season time and is your chance to work hard to prepare for the next season (refer to my previous article from December last year on how to start this phase).

Specific Preparation:
Once the general preparation has commenced and is progressing, it is important to use the Specific Preparation period to increase the intensity of your practise and training.  This will also help you focus your practice on key areas of your game that you have identified need improving. 

Pre-Competition:
The pre-competitive phase should be used to prepare for the tournament.  This includes allowing yourself time to acclimatise to foreign surrounds, temperatures, humidity levels and time zones.  

Competition:
Competition phases are those phases where you would like to be at your best.  But getting your body to peak at this time can be a challenge!  It takes a great deal of planning to ensure your maximum performance is achieved at the right times.  Finishing your intense training too late could leave you fatigued for the event.  On the other hand, finishing too early will mean you haven’t reached your peak!  

Peaking can be difficult to plan for as the nature of golf tournaments means that technical, tactical, physiological and psychological aspects of performance need to be maintained over long periods.  The time frame for maintaining this peak is dependant upon many variables and is therefore extremely individualised.  However, Bompa (1999) states that the longer and more effective the preparation phases, the more likely the athlete (in this case, the golfer) is able to prolong the athletic shape and peaking.  Researchers have suggested various lengths of time for peaking durations, ranging from 7 days up to a few weeks.  Therefore it is unrealistic to expect to perform and feel your best for every tournament without any transition (rest and recovery of up to 2 weeks). 

Transition:
The post-tournament period should always incorporate some rest time with a reduction of up to 60% of your training & practise.  This should, if possible, include time away from golf, even if this is just one day before the new tournament week begins.  In my last LET article (see December 2008), I stated that rest can be as beneficial as training.  It is all too common to see a golfer who has played poorly go to the range and “ball-bash” until they feel happy with their swing.  But overtraining can easily set-in leaving you feeling de-motivated, fatigued and lacking inspiration and enthusiasm for the game.  Finding fun away from golf allows you to “switch off” and come back refreshed and ready to perform.

This model (Figure 1.0) shows an example of a periodised plan. 

 

The Annual Plan

Phases of Training

Preparatory

Competitive

Transition

Sub-phases

GP

SP

PC

C

T

Macro-cycles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micro-cycles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key:
GP: General Preparation
SP: Specific Preparation
PC: Pre-Competition
C: Competition
T: Transition

Figure 1.  An example of a periodised plan (adapted from Bompa 1999, p195).

The annual plan will consist of the following cycles:

  • Annual Plan (1 year): You should set goals for the whole season and then for each of the sub-cycles.
  • Macro-cycles (1-6 weeks): These are the phases throughout the year and can last anywhere between a number of weeks and several months depending on the competition schedule and the sport.  For golf, it is important to remember that once the pre-season phase has commenced, the phases can be used more than once and that once the competitive phase starts there is no reason why a transition phase cannot be utilised for recovery time.

The length of these phases depends on time for training or practise adaptation to occur and the competition calendar.  During the season it may be hard to fit long macro-cycles into the busy competition schedule.  The Ladies European Tour is a classic example of where players will use short macro-cycles to allow themselves time to recuperate and then prepare for the next tournament.  Those that plan wisely will allow themselves breaks in the competition phases (transition) so they do not overload and suffer from fatigue.  It is better to play well in a few tournaments than to play poorly because of fatigue in many tournaments! 

  • Micro-cycle (1 week): A plan for each week will help you focus your time and achieve your goals.  Each week can be set out to either:
    • Improve skills & development of technique.
    • Shock the body’s systems by incorporating a sudden increase in training demand beyond those previously experienced.
    • Regenerate through non-specific training methods such as massages, therapy or rest.  This type of micro-cycle helps to remove both physical and mental fatigue.
    • Peak or unload through the manipulation of training volumes and intensity to facilitate best performance.  These micro-cycles should see a visible decrease in training, allowing peak physical and mental states to be achieved.
    • Tapering (Max 2 to 4 weeks) allows specific competition preparation and involves an incremental reduction in training volume.  Tapering minimises fatigue and allows specific physiological adaptations to occur that will improve performance. 
  • Training Unit (1 day): This is where the work happens!  Each day should have a plan that will ultimately allow you to peak for the right tournaments and play your best golf!

Start by setting yourself goals!
When building a plan first decide what goals you wish to achieve over the following time periods:

  1. Season (e.g. to increase driving average by 10 yards by the end of the season)
  2. Block of 6-8 weeks (e.g. increase lower body stability and upper body strength by 5% over the period)
  3. Week (e.g. complete 4 training sessions specific to my body’s golfing needs by Sunday)
  4. Training sessions for each day (e.g. complete all sets of exercises focusing on core and upper body strength at 10% increased intensity compared to last session)

In conclusion, consider the following points before setting out your periodised plan:

  • It is important to consider all aspects of performance and training to put together a comprehensive plan.
  • It is essential that your goals for the season are set before a plan is drawn up.
  • There are different phases of the annual cycle that need specific attention to create an effective path for you to follow once you have prioritised your tournament schedule.
  • Construct your plan for the season together with your coach and other members of your support team.
  • Review your plan as the season progresses

What works best for one player may not be the case for another – periodisation is a very individual process that requires careful planning and monitoring by your support team.  For more advice see the following references:

Bompa, T.O. (1999). Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training, 4th Ed. Human Kinetics: Illinois.
Bompa, T.O. (2005). Periodization Training for Sports, 2nd Ed. Human Kinetics: Illinois.
Knight, P.W. (2001). Periodisation for Golf inThomas, P.R. (Eds). Optimising Performance in Golf. Australian Academic Press.
For more information about the Strength & Conditioning and Biomechanics support services Ben offers please contact him by email: langers40@tiscali.co.uk.

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