Conditioning for Golf
by Karamvir Gill*
This is another featured post from one of our peers.
Karamvir has been working with GPC programs for many years now, and his remarkable expertise around topics of strength and conditioning and fitness are without equal. Karamvir is an accomplished expert who works in many sports and now runs his own fitness studio in Brampton called Edge Fitness.
A quick google search on training for golf will yield thousands of results detailing many great exercises to improve your performance on the course. Without a compass it can be quite difficult to navigate the vast amount of information available when we begin to research conditioning in golf.
So let’s start where every conversation regarding training for golf should begin:
“The goal of training is to allow an athlete to meet the energy demands of golf. They must be able to produce and deliver energy rapidly (power) and sustain energy production for a long period of time (capacity).”
Let’s take a closer look at how to develop capacity.
Increasing capacity comes down to two things: energy production potential and energy expenditure efficiency. Metaphorically, we’re looking at upgrading the size of the gas tank and improving fuel economy.
Improving the efficiency with which you use energy will largely come down to the technical and tactical components of your game. Improved technique and sequencing will improve your capacity because you won’t need as much energy to power your neuromuscular system. Your movement screen can give you insight into your movement efficiency in combination with a swing evaluation.
Everything is interconnected and this is a perfect example of how your technical skills will play a large role in your overall conditioning level. Conversely all the training in the world could potentially be wasted with poor technical efficiency.
The body has three main systems which provide the energy needed to play your best golf. They are the Alactic, Glycolytic and Aerobic systems. While it is not important to go into the details of these systems it is important to note that the right balance of developing these systems results in you playing your best golf. Now keep in mind each of these systems has a power and capacity component but we will focus on the capacity side of the equation for this post.
The two most important systems for golf performance and conditioning are the Alactic and Aerobic systems. The Alactic system is the predominant system powering the micro aspect of golf performance. The swing takes less than 2 seconds to execute and will rely on a significant energy output from the Alactic system. The Aerobic system is crucial for the macro aspect of golf performance. In other words we need the Aerobic system to walk the course with minimal impact on your mental or technical proficiency, and to be able to repeatedly power your Alactic system and promote it’s recovery for the next shot.
So let’s get to the fun stuff. How do we improve capacity?
The aerobic system has a tremendous ability to produce energy and provides majority of the energy in a long duration sport like golf. I’m going to look at each area of the aerobic system and provide one method of improving energy production in that area.
To improve oxygen supply we need to increase how much oxygenated blood your heart can pump with each beat and develop a network of vessels to carry that oxygen to your muscles. To do this we will use a method known as Cardiac Output. For the sake of this post I’ll leave the science and details out but just know that this method is vital to your golf performance.
Here are the guidelines:
- Pick a low intensity exercise such as biking, sled work, jogging or locomotion drills. The particular exercise doesn’t matter so much as long as you stay within the intensity parameters I define below.
- Maintain a heart rate range between 120-150bpm or a RPE of 5-6/10
- The duration of the session should be 20-60 minutes
- Perform this 1-3 times per week
- The goal for a junior golfer should be to accumulate 90-120 minute per week
High Intensity Continuous Training (HICT) improves oxygen utilization and the endurance capacity of your fast twitch fibres. It is very unique in that it combines high intensity and high volume. Most high intensity training is done at lower volumes due to fatigue and reduction in speed. In order to improve our capacity though we need higher volumes.
- Use a resistance bike, step ups, lunges or slideboard
- Maximum resistance should be used. If using a bike, crank the resistance up all the way. If you’re using step ups or lunges add some resistance like a weight vest or some dumbbells and perform the exercise explosively
- The tempo should be slow to allow for full relaxation between repetitions and prevent fatigue
- 1-2 sets for 10 minutes per set
- Perform this 1-2 times per week as a separate session with some assistance work
Molecules to Increase Aerobic Energy Production:
High Resistance Intervals (HRI) work to increase mitochondria and the endurance abilities of the fast twitch fibres. The key to the use of this method is high resistance and short duration. We need to recruit fast twitch fibers and then create an environment of steady oxygen supply to stimulate the production of more mitochondria (the powerhouses or energy production).
- Use uphill/sled sprints or a bike
- Each repetition should be maximal intensity and last no longer than 10 seconds
- Rest until player achieves heart rate of 120-130bpm
- Perform 10-20 repetitions per training session, 1-2 times per week
To bring this all together let’s take a look at what a typical conditioning schedule might look like for a junior golfer looking to improve capacity. Each block is representative of a 2-4 week time period.
- This sample program does not include strength work which is also important to building up your power output.
- A general guideline like this should be tailored to an individual level based on a battery of assessments.