By Ron Kaspriske
Alan Pittman, Golf Digest's managing editor, was just lamenting that when he bought his home this summer, he really didn't notice how many big trees he had in his backyard. In Connecticut in October, big trees mean lots of falling leaves. But if you're a golfer, raking up leaves is a great activity to improve your golf swing, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson
. Actually, many "yardwork" activities, if performed the way Simpson advises, can help you hit a golf ball more solidly and efficiently.
Let's start with raking. "Your technique matters, but if you rake the right way, you will strengthen several muscles that are important in the golf swing including the adductors (inside of your thighs), your abs, lats, obliques, quads and glutes."
The correct technique is to take a short step toward the leaves and keep that lead leg bent. Don't extend your arms fully, only about halfway. Then pull the rake in front of your body with your arms as you rotate your trunk toward the trailing leg. "Don't just pull with your arms," Simpson says. "You should feel like your torso is pivoting around the back leg at the same time."
The key is to switch leg positions and also the direction your torso and arms are pulling. Change up every 5 to 10 reps to maintain a healthy balance between left-side and right-side muscles.
Don't have to rake? No worries. If you're in an area of the country where you're still cutting grass, a manual weed whacker is an awesome golf-swing training aid.
Simpson says to take your golf stance and swing down into the weeds like you were swinging a club. You want to pivot around the leg in the direction the whacker is moving.
"This even looks golfish," Simpson says. "Make sure you maintain your address posture as you swing down and really give the weeds a healthy whack by rotating your body in the direction you're cutting."
An electric whacker can help your golf swing, too, if you maintain a quasi-address posture as you cut the grass. Swing the head back and through the weeds by rotating your torso and letting the whacker lag behind this movement.
A final outside chore that can help your golf swing is anything involving the ladder, Simpson says. Whether you need to remove leaves from your gutters, install storm windows, or do some exterior cleaning above arm height, a ladder is an awesome fitness aid. That's why the VersaClimber is one of the best gym machines ever invented. Climbing helps strengthen your thighs, butt, back, shoulders, and arms. It's one of the most complete exercises for golfers in terms of working the muscles required to make an effective golf swing.
"You don't even really need to go all the way up a ladder," Simpson says. "So if safety is an issue, all you have to do is go up the first few rungs and then head back down and repeat. Do this for a minute or two and you'll be gassed. Just make sure you switch up which legs initiates the climb for better muscle balance. Always train both sides equally."
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest.
(Photo by Getty Images)