For many years, even those golfers that did strength and power work during the off season stopped doing so during the season. There are various misconceptions amongst trainers, golf coaches and the golfers themselves about weight training during the season. The main worry being that if you train and the muscles get “tight” and “sore” this will adversely affect your golf swing and performance. Whilst DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is a legitimate concern, the answer is not to cease weight training completely but rather to alter the training programme in season.
The off season is typically considered the time to gain muscle mass and strength. The golfer is less concerned with practicing and playing and so can go hard in the gym without concerns of the effects of DOMS. However, if all training then ceases during the golf season, the golfer will then lose the gains they made in the off season. By the time the next off season approaches they will essentially be in the same position that they were the previous year. The aim of the training in season should be to try and maintain the strength gains made in the off season as best as possible. This can only be done by lifting weights, and relatively heavy weights at that, light weights won’t cut it.
What causes DOMS? Research has shown that the major cause of DOMS is volume and not intensity. This is one of the biggest misconceptions amongst those that train and are worried about lifting in season. It is good for golfers as it allows us to lift relatively heavy loads (not maximal) but just lower the volume (reps and sets). This enables you to maintain the strength gains from the off season without putting the muscles under too much stress and reduces the chances of getting “tight” and “sore” before you play.
As well as reducing the chances of DOMS, lower volume sessions also have another benefit. During the golf season, a golfer may do lots of travelling to courses/events and play multiple times a week, often in competitions. This is important as these increase CNS (central nervous system) involvement, can increase stress levels and can lead to mental and physical fatigue. This needs to be accounted for in the gym environment and so low volume sessions are a great way to keep golfers relatively fresh for the course. Obviously, the is golfer dependent and that’s why each client is unique. If as a golfer you are still only playing once a week during the season, your workout volume might not need to be altered that much.
Research has shown the biggest injury risk to golfers is “overuse”. There are various studies out there with contrasting figures but some studies have “overuse” accounting for nearly 80% of all golf injuries. This is very important as obviously during the golf season, the amount of practice and play that a golfer does increases dramatically and could potentially leave them more vulnerable to injury. Research has shown that a strength and conditioning programme reduces potential injury risk by better preparing the body for the demands imposed upon it. Therefore, it would make sense to keep this strength work going during the season as this is when demands are at their highest.
As golf is an asymmetrical sport by nature, lots of golf in season can lead to a few imbalances and certain areas of the body can lose mobility. Utilising a strength and conditioning programme in season can help regain some of that mobility, as well as working general movement patterns and including non-dominant side training to help balance out all those extra golf swings.
To sum up, golfers should be training in season and they should be lifting weights. There are a few changes that need to be made to programming and this is particularly applicable if you are a very busy golfer (lots of travelling, events etc). Obviously, sometimes fitness gets pushed to the back during the season as golfers want to be on the course but by fitting in the odd low volume and relatively high intensity sessions you will really see a benefit. Thanks for reading.