First off, I’d love to start off with a quick follow up to the previous fitness column. There were a ton of great comments on the front page and in the forums about both the philosophy and methodology of the exercise routine I described. With that in mind, it seems important to emphasize a critical point that might have been lost in the shuffle—fitness routines are very personal. Much like a golf swing, for optimum success it’s both important to:
- Find one that works for you
- Find a professional that can help you along the way
With that being said, this second fitness column will be broken into a couple parts. The first will focus on establishing a routine of simple stretches that can be done anywhere (without any equipment, etc). The second will focus on golf-swing specific strength aids.
Disclaimer: Just like weight training and cardio, it’s critical that you stretch correctly–if you have any doubts, please consult with a professional.
Here are some general rules for stretching:
- Stretching is not a warm-up, and is vastly more effective if you’ve done some light cardio before hand.
- Stretch in a balanced fashion. If you stretch your right hamstring, make sure you stretch your left as well.
- Don’t bounce. This can tear muscles and create scar tissue, leaving you less flexible than when you started.
- Pain is bad. Tension is good, but it you’re pushing it to pain, you’ve gone to far and run the risk of doing real damage.
- Keep stretching. Much like weight training and cardio, stretching works better if you do it 3-to-4 times a week, rather than “when you’re feeling stiff” (I suck at this one).
Here’s an example of a golf-specific routine I do. When applicable, I’ve included images and paraphrased descriptions from the Mayo Clinic for illustration. I recommend doing each stretch for 30 seconds, or 2 reps of 15-20 seconds (which I prefer). Do some research and find out what will be best for you.
Lie on the floor near a corner wall or door frame. Rest your leg against the wall, keeping your knee slightly bent. Gently stretch the knee out, until you feel the back of your leg stretch. Repeat with the other leg.
Kneel on your knee, placing your other leg in front of you. Place your hand on your waist so that you avoid leaning forward (keep your back straight). Slowly lean forward, putting more weight on your front leg. Repeat with other leg.
While standing, hold onto a wall or a sturdy piece of furniture for support. Pull your heel up and back until you feel a stretch in the front of your leg. Repeat with other leg.
Stand at arms length from a wall or a sturdy piece of furniture. Place one leg in front of the other as shown. Slowly lean forward while keeping your back heel on the ground, holding your back straight and hips forward. Repeat with the other leg.
Bring your arm across your body. Hold it with your other arm (either above or below the elbow) as shown. Repeat with the other arm.
Mayo doesn’t have an image for this stretch, but it is achieved by standing perpendicular from a wall. With a straight back, place your hand flat on the wall, and gently turn your body away from the wall, feeling the stretch in you pec muscle. Repeat with the other side.
The back is a place where I spend a great deal of time, as I had an L5/S1 micro-discectomy when I was 22. If you have a healthy back, you probably don’t need to spend as much time as I do on the lower back.
LOWER BACK–KNEE TO CHEST:
Lie on a firm surface with your heels on the floor and gently pull one knee towards your chest, keeping the opposite leg in a relaxed and comfortable position. Switch legs and repeat, then do the same stretch with both legs.
LOWER BACK–SEATED ROTATIONAL STRETCH:
Sit in an armless chair. Cross one leg over the other, and brace your elbow against your knee (see picture). Twist and stretch to the side, then switch to the other side.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your gluteal and abdominal muscles and raise your hips to form a straight line between your knees and your shoulders. Hold for three breaths and repeat. (try to work your way up to 30 reps).
Stand in a relaxed position with your arms extended in front of you. Pull your shoulder blades back with a slight bend in the elbow—your arms should spread a bit wider as you do this.
Sorry, no pic again, but this one has really helped my posture at address. It’s very simple—just roll up a towel, and set it between your shoulder blades as you lay flat on the ground. Make sure your outside should blades are touching. This one you can do in two sets of 60.
Of course, these are just a few of the thousands of stretches a golfer could do. What I love about these is that I can do them all at home or in a hotel while watching TV. And remember, they’re significantly more effective after a short warm-up.
GOLF STRENGTH AIDS:
Again, there are hundreds of these on the market, and I’m sure that almost any of them could lead a faithful golfer to some noticeable success, I’m just going to talk about a couple. In addition, I would not use these in the place of actual strength training, just as a supplement.
I already explained how sometime around 1990 I invented the hybrid (I kid, I kid), so I might as well take credit for inventing the weighted club as well. My dad used to experiment with clubmaking back in the wood-wood era, and decided to make a head out of some ridiculously heavy wood (might have been mahogany). He then filled up the shaft about halfway with buck-shot. Next thing you know, we had a very heavy (and very loud) weighted club.
These days you can choose from several weighted clubs, the most popular being the Momentus. I bought one of these a while back, and can definitely feel how it makes you stronger. I always had some concerns over what it did for my golf swing, as it tended to mess with my tempo and slow down my transition a bit, though.
I believe an improvement has been made on the idea of the weighted club, and that’s the Powerchute. It’s a similar technology to the parachutes “real” athletes started using in the late ’80s for resistance training. The Powerchute quickly attaches to any driver, and only provides resistance on the down swing, therefore allowing your swing to remain “normal” (or at least as normal as a swing can feel when it’s attached to a parachute). I’ve been swinging the Powerchute in the mornings during my indoor range sessions, and really feel like it’s been helping a great deal with both my strength and my control.
NEXT COLUMN: Breaking the monotony of an indoor range session.