The pre-season for many golfers is the time in which thoughts about getting ready for the first round of the year begins. This typically occurs when the weather begins to turn for the better, courses closed for the winter announce an opening day, and when the professional tours both in the States and abroad have been in full swing for a couple of months.
This time frame in the world of strength and conditioning is termed the pre-season, and the pre-season in the big picture of an entire golf season for the professional or amateur player is extremely important. Before we get into the specifics of what is required and entailed within a pre-season golf fitness program, let us first delineate the basic principles of golf fitness training.
It is a known commodity in this day and age the physical body is an extremely important component in the execution of the golf swing. Through analysis of the golf swing performed by the Titleist Performance Institute, American Sports Medicine Institute, Advanced Motion Measurement, and additional researchers, a model of a biomechanically efficient golf swing has been created. It is through analysis of this model researchers have determined a need exists for specified physical parameters to be developed within the human body for execution of the golf swing.
If the kinetic chain (skeletal, neural, muscular systems) is lacking in any one of these physical requirements, execution of a biomechanically efficient golf swing may not occur. The result will be the development of compensations within the golf swing in attempt to overcome these physical deficiencies. These compensations are often revealed in the poor ball striking, a loss of ball speed, an inability to score, and in some cases physical injury.
To prevent such situations from occurring, increase the possibility of developing a biomechanically efficient golf swing, and reduce the likelihood of injury, implementation of golf fitness program is strongly suggested. Such a program will look at developing the physical requirements of the body in order to execute the golf swing.
The basis of such a program is centered upon the principle of sports specificity. This principle simply states in order to improve the physical components of the body relative to the athletes chosen sport it is necessary to train to the positions, movement, and physical requirements of the sport. In turn this will allow for a transfer of training effect to occur between the conditioning program and competitive play. (Juan Carlos Santana, Institute of Performance, Boca Raton, FL)
Sports specificity training for golf centers upon the Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement. The mobility/stability pattern of human movement first noted by physical therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle, and popularized in the sport of golf by Dr. Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute.
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. The table below provides a joint-by-joint view of this pattern within the human body.
Mobility/Stability Pattern of Human Movement: Foot Stable, Ankle Mobile, Knee Stable, Hip Mobile, Lumbo/Pelivc/Sacral Stable, Thoracic Spine Mobile, Scapular Stable, Shoulder Mobile, Elbow Stable, Wrist Mobile, Cervical Spine Stable.
As you can see from the above table, the human body feet to fingertips operates in an alternating pattern of a mobile joint followed by a stable joint throughout the entire 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, transfer of this speed to the golf ball will be compromised, and compensations in the golf swing will occur.
The goal of any strength and conditioning program for golf is to develop and enhance the mobility/stability pattern of human movement. The outcome, as stated previously, will be the development of the kinetic chain cross-specifically to the physical requirements of the golf swing. This process is achieved through the implementation of a comprehensive golf fitness program. Such a program will incorporate flexibility, mobility, balance, stability, strength, and power training modalities.
It is a combination exercises from all of the aforementioned modalities that will develop the mobility/stability pattern of human movement for the golf swing. The exclusion of any one type of training category may limit the ability to develop the physical parameters required of the golf swing.
Once we understand how the body operates relative to the golf swing, and the physical requirements needed, we can begin to develop training programs accordingly. One such program within a comprehensive year round golf fitness program is the pre-season golf fitness program.
The pre-season is not the time of year to neglect or eliminate golf fitness training, but rather it is a segment within an entire training year where modifications are required. The first step when adjustments or the introduction of golf fitness training modalities are being introduced is assessment.
An assessment is the process by which deficiencies within the mobility/stability pattern of human movement can be recognized. A series of physical screens is the common tool utilized in the assessment to determine dysfunction within the kinetic chain affecting the golf swing. Once the physical screen is complete, dysfunctions within the kinetic chain discovered, corrective exercises are chosen to address dysfunction, performance training exercises selected, and a record of gains from the off-season golf fitness program are noted, we can shift gears into a pre-season golf fitness program.
The pre-season, as stated previously, is a segment of time within a complete training year. The discussion of a pre-season golf fitness program brings into the play the principle of periodization. Periodization is cycling of training loads, volumes, intensities, and exercises within a given time period.
The time frames within a periodization program may be split into days, weeks, months, or even years. Each time frame has a specific arrangement of loads, volumes, training intensities, and exercises associated with it. This cycling allows for a systematic approach to achieving improvement in your overall flexibility, mobility, balance, stability, strength, and power relative to the golf swing as well as prevents overtraining. These cycles are broken down into macrocycles and microcycles.
A macrocycle is the complete training time, which is usually one year for golfers (Olympic athletes typically utilize a 4 year macrocycle). A microcycle is a specific time frame with the macrocycle (for example, one golf season). The typical microcycles for the golfer are in-season, pre-season, and off-season. Each of which are defined by the amount of competitive play and practice during the given time frame.
The in-season portion of a microcycle is defined as the time the golfer is playing competitive golf on a regular basis. The number one goal of the periodization program during the in-season phase is injury prevention.
The off-season is defined as the time of year where competitive play is minimal. This is the time of year where the golfer will focus on developing increased levels of flexibility, mobility, stability, strength, and power for the upcoming season. In addition, the off-season is an ideal time to address any dysfunctions within the kinetic chain.
The pres-season portion of a periodization schedule is typically a time frame of 4-6 weeks prior to the commencement of competitive play. This time frame marks an increased amount of practice by the golfer, thus requiring a reduction in the training volumes within their golf fitness program. The greatest difference between all three microcycle segments is the amount of work (volume) performed. Off-season golf fitness programs are high volume, pre-season are moderate volume, and in-season program are low volume workouts.
Even though the volumes will decrease as you enter the pre-season portion of your program, it again is not a time to negate all golf fitness training from your golf swing improvement program. The pre-season is only a time of year when modifications are made to the amount of corrective and performance training exercises implemented into your golf fitness program.
As stated previously, the pre-season is marked by a 4 to 6 week time frame prior to the commencement of competitive play. It is a mark set by the golfer at which practice time will increase at the range and on the course. Even for golfers who reside in warm weather climates, it is still suggested to introduce a periodizaton program into their golf swing improvement program where an off-season, pre-season, and in-season microcycle is apparent. This allows for comprehensive improvement in all categories relative to the golf swing year over year.
Increased practice and playing within the pre-season requires adjusts in the volumes within ones golf fitness training program. If the training volumes are not altered, the golfer runs the risk of overtraining. This will negatively affect practice, playing, and possibly lead to an overuse injury. Keeping this point in mind and taking a look the training segments of a golf fitness program, we can develop a plan of modifying our off-season program for the pre-season.
A golf fitness training program is typically separated into the following training segments: Mobility/flexibility training, Neuromuscular efficiency training, Strength/stability training, Power training.
Corrective and performance training modalities in the aforementioned segments are part of any golf fitness program. When the golfer enters the pre-season portion of their periodization program, exercises within each of the above categories will still be an integral part of the training program, the only difference will be the amount of exercises, the training intensity, and frequency of workouts.
That begin said, the transition from an off-season to pre-season training program becomes an easy switch. Typically, an off-season program will build the training volumes up to a range of 24-34 sets per workout. Frequency of the off-season workouts will range from 3-4 days per week. In addition, the off-season will introduce power training into the program after a strength base is built, typically after 6 weeks of off-season training, and thus continuing for 2-4 weeks.
The training volume in the pre-season will be lowered to a maximum of 18-20 sets per workout and 2 of these sets incorporating power exercises. The frequency of training will be reduced to 2-3 training sessions per week, and duration limited to 45-60 minutes. These basic guidelines will assist in shifting your golf fitness program from the off-season to the pre-season, assure you are continuing to progress with your training, reduce the possibility of over training, and allow for refinement of your swing to occur on the golf course.
To summarize, the pre-season is a 4-6 week time frame prior to commencement of competitive play. During the pre-season focus is placed upon practice and refinement of the golf swing. A golf fitness program continues to be a part of the pre-season program, the major difference between the off-season and pre-season conditioning program is simply the training volumes.
Introduction of the pre-season program begins with an assessment where physical screens are utilized to determine any dysfunctions within the kinetic chain and record gains from the off-season conditioning program. Once complete the implementation of both corrective and performance training modalities are introduced into the pre-season conditioning program.
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