I always try to keep up with the latest knowledge available to fitness professionals. This past week, I traveled across the country to upgrade my knowledge and check out the cutting edge of golf fitness.
I visited golf's premiere trade show, the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida. While I was there, I attended a TPI fitness professional certification class in order to keep my knowledge fresh.
Dr. Greg Rose, founder of TPI
When I first got my TPI certification, I was one of only 4,000 TPI-certified golf fitness pros in the world. Now there are more than 18,000 of us. It's become the standard in golf fitness. Touring golf pros travel with an entourage of experts, from swing coaches to doctors to nannies. Nowadays, 23 of the top 30 tour players travel with a TPI fitness pro. 16 of the last 18 major tournament winners have a TPI pro in their stable. The job of the TPI fitness pro is to assess the body as a continuous chain of kinetic energy.
TPI's philosophy is that every there isn't one perfect way to swing a club, but there is one correct way for each golfer, and that is determined by the golfer's body and how it moves most efficiently. To achieve an efficient swing, a golfer has to be screened by a TPI pro, who can give a detailed assessment of biomechanics, physical fitness, movement quality, current health, and history.
In Orlando, I was able to refine my assessment techniques. Because the body is an interconnected system, some of the techniques are not that obvious. For example, if you cannot perform a squat with good form, you will most likely have a swing fault called "reverse spine angle." By observing and correcting subtle links between your mobility and your golf game, I can consistently improve your score.
If you would like a COMPLEMENTARY assessment by a TPI certified fitness pro, contact me at (518) 281-3772
Once we've completed the screening, we'll use the results to create a unique plan for you, including fitness training, corrective exercise, stretches, and movement patterns.
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In other newsletters, I've talked about the five pillars of the kinetic chain: flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, and power. Now it's time to talk about Power, the last, but not least, link in that chain.
Power is key for optimal performance, and to have it you need to develop two things: speed and strength.
In order to increase power, you must first have mobility of the joints and full range of motion in the muscles. Power in the golf swing is measured as club head speed.
Power is developed in stages. Speed development begins with the lower body, progresses to the torso, and is completed with the wrist angle of the head arm. It is a combination of all these body segments working together to develop club head speed. It is necessary for each segment of the body to contain levels of strength. If you're going to increase your club speed from 95 mph to 100 mph, the distance you hit the golf ball would increase significantly. The equipment you need are medicine balls, tubing, and TRX suspension.
With a partner or next to a wall, get in golf stance and mimic golf swing with a 2-4 pound medicine ball, ten times each side. Then perform the same movement with resistance tubing ten times each side, then execute the TRX standing back pull 16 times. After that, do five body-weight-only squats with a golf rotation, and do five more, this time rotating in the opposite direction.
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It's no secret that I advocate for fitness solutions with real-world applications. I emphasize the importance of the body as a holistic system that demands maintenance and movement in a natural context. There are lots of ways to train the body within these guidelines, but today I'm going to talk about what may be the easiest (and easiest to neglect) way to ensure that your musculoskeletal system stays healthy. I'm talking about posture.
Most of the time, people don't notice their own posture. You have to call it to their attention. In today's world, this problem is even more pronounced--we have a whole host of screens and devices that both keep us hunched over, and make us distracted so that we forget to be mindful of our body's position in space.
The hunched-over, rounded-shoulder "texting position" can lead to what's called "Upper Crossed Syndrome." The term was coined by Dr. Vladimir Janda when he noticed many people showing up with certain sets of muscles in the upper-anterior part of the body--like the pecs and upper traps--were actually abnormally shortened, and their counterpart muscle groups in the back were abnormally weak. Obviously, this isn't what you want if you're trying to develop a great golf swing. Heck, it's not what you want if you want to be able to throw a ball, pick up a basket of laundry, or age gracefully either.
The best way to prevent upper crossed syndrome is to be mindful of your body. You want to stand confidently, shoulders back, chest out.
I always stress the importance of preparing for physical activity by stretching. Golf is no exception. Most people think of pectoralis muscles as something gym rats use to show off, but they are an important interface between your arms and your core. As such, they are crucial to a good golf swing.
I'm going to outline a few stretches you can use to ensure that you have your pecs' full range of motion.
This stretch works both your pectoralis minor muscle and the medial rotators in your shoulder:
- Stand in a doorway, next to a tree, or next to a golf cart, and place your arm in the same position as you would if you were about to throw a ball.
- Place your forearm and hand against your support (i.e. the doorjamb or similar) with the palm toward the support and your forearm vertical.
- Gently rotate your trunk forward around your arm as though your arm were a stationary object.
- Once you have reached a position in which you feel a stretch on the medial rotators of your shoulder (the front area), take a deep breath and press your hand into the doorjamb.
- Hold about one pound of pressure on the doorjamb for five seconds.
- Exhale and rotate the trunk around the arm, increasing the stretch.
- This should be repeated three to five times.
This image is an example.
To stretch your pectoralis major, you can use a swiss ball (commonly known as a yoga or exercise ball.)
- With the forearm on the ball, keep the shoulders parallel to the ground as you allow the arm to be stretched back by dropping the body forward.
- Upon reaching the point of a comfortable stretch, inhale and press the forearm into the ball for five seconds.
- After five seconds, exhale as you relax and move immediately into a new stretch position.
- Perform this sequence three to five times on each side.
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Most people don't consider golf a very fitness-intensive sport, and indeed it's not very intense in the cardiovascular sense, but it does require a level of control over the body that can only be achieved through athletic training and functional fitness techniques.
The five pillars of golf's kinetic chain--flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, and power—are at the heart of functional fitness training. What is functional fitness training? It's athletic training with a focus on movements that emulate the natural motion of the body during sports and day-to-day activities. Our muscles and nervous systems are so delicately coordinated that training with the mechanical, one-dimensional motion provided by machines cannot prepare your body for real motion in space. It's vital that your muscles learn to work all at once, supporting one another as they would in natural motion. Otherwise, it's possible to develop a muscle imbalance and potentially set yourself up for an injury. Imagine a bridge built with heavy-weight, highly developed steel cable, but made with small, poorly-made bolts. That's the kind of body you can get from limiting your training to gym machinery. Your kinetic chain will have weak links, and you won't know they're there until you get hurt.
That's why I focus on training for stability, mobility, and quality of movement before I even introduce strength training. Stability training is so important that I recommend doing 5-10 minutes of it before any workout.
Bodyweight training is an excellent choice for strength training because it incorporates in itself aspects of stability training. It also allows me to assess a client's imbalances, compensations, weaknesses, and symmetries. When you do bodyweight training, you're engaging the whole of your body all the time, even if you're only intending to work on a specific muscle group. This way, you develop better balance, and you also become more mindful of your body's location in space; both of these are great skills to have whether you're golfing or just leaning over to get something out of the fridge.
For cardiovascular performance, I recommend athletic training as opposed to steady-state cardio training, like you would get on a treadmill or exercise bike. Athletic training means any exercise where you move like an athlete—fast, agile, and powerful. It increases your cardiovascular fitness and your total-body balance, and it's also much more fun than traditional cardio.
After your workout, it's important to be able to return to a positive baseline state. Stretching, massage, foam rolling, and trigger-point techniques are tools that I can use to help my clients wind down and recuperate from the positive stress of exercise.
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I've talked about the five physical pillars of a good golf swing before: flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, and power. In previous weeks, I've talked about strength, balance, and flexibility, and this week I'll address endurance, and what you can do to improve yours.
A thorough pre-golf warm-up is something many people ignore, being more interested in getting out on the course as quickly as possible. A golf-specific warm-up will lubricate your joints, warm your muscles and connective tissue, activate your nervous system, and sharpen your senses. All in all, it will help improve your golf game.
You can't achieve great results using a muscle endurance warm-up routine. The golfer's body will respond better to this type of exercise with people over 40, since the aging process produces degenerative change in joints, which decreases mobility.
Walking 18 holes can be up to a five mile walk on uneven terrain. So what endurance exercise movements can you do in between rounds? All successful golfers will make the time for this. Don't invest as much time in TV, reading, or even the driving range, and spend more time on rhythmic walking: twenty minutes a day, five days a week, NOT on a treadmill or elliptical, as this doesn't mimic life or golf movements. During the rhythmic walk, change directions. Walk backwards one minute, then walk sideways thirty seconds each leg. This will ensure proper balance in the legs and core to improve performance and decrease injuries. You can also add skipping in your walk for fifteen seconds.
Remember, to be better in golf endurance, you must be committed and be consistent. If you found this information helpful, please share it with a friend; it's as easy as clicking the Facebook share button on this page!
You should always be a little suspicious of people who offer "miracle cures," but recently, doctors at the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in the UK have declared that exercise itself is worthy of the name, "Miracle Cure."
In fact, they released a report called Exercise: The Miracle Cure and the Role of the Doctor in Promoting It. Now I know that none of my clients need to have a doctor make them exercise, because they've already made the wise choice to invest in their health.
It's not always clear just how valuable an investment that is, however, so I'd like to share with you some statistics from the report.
People who exercised saw the following gains:
- 31% reduction in cardiac mortality.
- 90% improvement in self-esteem and well-being.
- 25%-53% reduction in pain symptoms among osteoarthritis patients.
- 57% lower rate of prostate cancer progression.
- At least 10mm Hg drop in blood pressure among 31% of patients.
- 50%-80% reduction in risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- 30%-50% reduction in risk of falls among older adults.
- 30% lower all-cause mortality rate.
- 45% reduction in risk of bowel cancer.
That's only the beginning of what you get from investing just a little bit of time with your fitness professional.
Many things we are exposed to in our everyday lives cause inflammation in our bodies, particularly in our joints. It's important to recognize this problem, and to take steps to alleviate it. I've put together a list of some of my favorite holistic remedies for inflammation below.
Herbs: Cayenne, ginger root, horsetail, yucca, oak bark, marshmallow root, lobelia, skullcap, comfrey root, gravel root, flax seeds, devil claw, white willow bark, wintergreen oil, peppermint oil, arnica flowers, St. John's wort, calendula, garlic, onions, echinacea, dandelion, celery, cats claw, red raspberry, wild yam-- Use liquid tinctures, veggie capsules, teas, or salve. No gelatin capsules.
Apple cider vinegar: Use only organic or Bragg's.
Enzymes: Make sure they are food-based, vegetarian digestive enzymes.
Treatments: Chiropractor, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais method, massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, physical therapy, soft tissue specialists, Rolfing.
Water: Drink only filtered or distilled. 80-150 ounces per day.
Foods: All organic whole foods, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables. Stop all dairy, reduce animal protein, no soda, no caffeine, use only olive oil, cook in only glass and stainless.
Supplements: Make sure they are food-based only. Good sources are alfalfa, spirulina, chorella, kelp, all greens like spinach, barley, and wheat grass, orange/lemon peel, rose hips, coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, MSM.
Exercise: Work with a personal trainer who specializes in functional training.
Stress: Find a way to deal with stress, because if you are under too much stress, none of the above solutions will be enough to prevent inflammation. Use meditation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga--find a way to relax and let go of stress.
Essential oil: Young Living brand is best.
Baths: Saratoga mineral bath or Epsom salt bath at home with Young Living essential oil.
Inversion Table: Not everybody has access to one, but it's a great treatment for inflammation in the joints.
My goal is to add the physical conditioning component to your bag of tricks. Functional strength exercise will increase your ball and club head speed. This will make you a powerful ball striker.
Begin with a dynamic warm up and stretch to prepare the body for quality work. Don't worry about quantity; focus on quality. Exercise done right works well. Exercise done wrong will hurt your body and harm your swing. The body needs strength in push, pull, rotate, squat, lunge. Since the majority of golfers are hunched over with rounded shoulders, I would do more pulling exercises than pushing exercises.
In the May 2015 Golf Digest Magazine, the 463-yard long ball champ Jeff Flagg advises readers to train on your feet as much as possible; you will be a better athlete.
Standing Back Pull:
Start with a standing tubing pull. Hold the tubing with your hands while pulling the tubing to your shoulder. You should feel your shoulder blades coming together. Do three sets of 12-16 reps.
Standing Chop Exercise:
Put tubing high on a pole or tree, then combine the handles so you have one handle. Stand sideways from the pole in golf stance. Chop to your off hip. Feel the power coming from your core. Do three sets of 12-16 reps on each side.
Standing Rotation Exercise:
Now stand facing the pole with the tubing moved to the middle. Keep your head still and rotate side-to-side. Some people do this movement with a golf club. Doing this with the tubing will create power and strength.
For a powerful glute, the lunge works best. Stand facing the mirror (if you have one.) Take a big step forward with your right leg, then focus on the left leg by dropping the knee to two inches from the floor five times each leg. Repeat this sequence three times.
The last exercise is the squat. Face the mirror, feet pointed forward, shoulder width apart. Sit down as far as you can go while keeping your feet flat and knees pointed forward. Do three sets of five squats.
These exercises are simple but important ways to increase your strength, making you a more powerful ball striker and improving your overall fitness.