Developing a Plan to Optimize Performance in the Gym

The goal for any athlete is to find a way to become faster, stronger and more efficient in their area of practice. For most, it takes a life-time to achieve. At IJGA, students go through a full academic year of periodization both on the course and in the gym.

Unlike most team and individual sports, junior golfers mostly play year-around and do not have an off-season to fully ramp up their performance in the gym. Therefore, it takes focus and dedication to achieve this optimal performance through carefully planned periodization. At IJGA our students follow three phases broken up into specific “trimesters” of performance training.

PHASE 1: Optimize Movement

First, an athlete should go through a proper mobility and movement analysis such as a TPI Mobility screen. This will give a sense on how the individual moves biomechanically and addresses any limitations one might have in their movements that correlate to their golf swing mechanics. The goal of Phase 1 is to optimize movement through corrective exercises, developmental postural positions, unilateral movements of the upper and lower body and build up work capacity.

Typically, this phase will last 2-8 weeks and work in the 8-10 rep range for 3 sets. You will not see many rotational exercises during this period, aside from stretching, as the golfer is producing that movement every time they practice. Overuse of rotational movements is the cause of most lower back injuries in golfers. Instead, an athlete will work on pushing, pulling, pressing, isometrics and anti-rotational exercises while working on cardiovascular training to improve posture, muscular imbalance/symmetry and work capacity. Some examples these exercises would be TRX rows, dumbbell bench press, kettlebell shoulder press, planks, band presses and steady state jogging.

PHASE 2: Maximize Strength

As the athlete finishes phase 1 and has completed its goals, it is now time to work on exercises to maximize strength – phase 2. At IJGA, our students are tested on the three main functional moves: font squat, bench press and deadlift. These moves have been proven to improve total body functionality because they are loadable and move through multiple ranges of motion and planes of movement to enhance posture and strength in the golf swing.

From the test results, programed strength training workouts are planned for each athlete, based on certain percentages for 4-5 sets of 5 reps of their tested lift. This ensures that the student has a set strength plan with no guess work and goes through a progressive overload (adding weight each week) that lasts 6-8 weeks. As well as working through the functional strength moves, the students will add bilateral work for the exercises involving the push, pull, press and adding more interval/tempo based cardio training. Also, rotational moves are slowly added back in by doing rotational core exercises, med ball slams/throws and rotational mobility.

PHASE 3: Power and Acceleration

The final phase is where the athlete is focusing on power (liner and rotational) and acceleration. This phase typically lasts 4-6 weeks in the 3-5 sets of 3 reps. Our athletes are also tested on power exercises (how far they can throw a weighted ball in a seated chest press, sit-up and throw, dominant side shot put and non-dominant side shot put) as well as agility drills (15 ft. shuttle run, T-Drill, and 40-yard dash).

During this period, the student will still utilize their strength exercises, but work in de-loaded percentages and work on powerful and sequenced movements in conjunction with sprints, agility (cones, speed ladder and hurdles) and utilize fast paced power movements (box jumps, jump ropes, med ball reverse overhead throw, battle ropes). Added into this phase is an emphasis on rotational power using med balls, baseball bat swings and TRX Rip trainers.

Towards the end of this phase, week 4-5, the volume and intensity will decrease and the athlete will be re-tested in mobility, strength, power, speed, agilit, and cardio. After testing is complete, the athlete will transition back into phase 1, and start the training periodization over again.

In conclusion, the junior golfer should have a program that fits their schedule, follows a specific time frame and has specific goals during each period; optimize movement, strength, power and acceleration. The best thing to do is to keep it simple, listen to your body, rest when you need to rest, and stay focused on the process as it will all coordinate to improve performance for the body itself and the golf swing.

Shawn Mehring, IJGA Director of Performance Training

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