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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to avoid knee injuries

Many well-intentioned people enter the gym each day with the goal of increasing overall strength and muscle function in order to protect their joints. The knees are typically at the top of the list—especially for golfers because of the stress placed on them over decades of absorbing punishment from swinging.

the-loop-fitness-squats.jpgI reached out to Mike Boyle (@bodybyboyle), a well-known strength-and-conditioning expert who works with a number of elite athletes including the Boston Red Sox, to get his thoughts on the do's and don'ts of knee care in the gym. If you know Mike or have heard him lecture, then you know he has carefully vetted hundreds of exercises for both safety and effectiveness, and isn't afraid to offer a counter opinion to what many believe to be good for the body.

One of his messages about the knees is to avoid "overloading" their tasks. Golfers knees already are susceptible to injury based on factors such as being overweight, a lack of dynamic exercise, and wear and tear caused by the swing. So why stress them even more in the gym by piling on a lot of extraneous weight or hyperextending/hyperflexing them. 

Click on the video below for Mike's great advice on what you should and should NOT be doing to your knees when you workout. Some of his tips might surprise you.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

How to condense your workout

Recently Mark Verstegen, an elite-level trainer and founder of Exos (@teamexos), assembled a pretty cool seven-minute workout program on behalf of the New York Times. You can see it here: The Advanced 7-Minute Workout. What I really like best about it is that it is well-rounded, keeps you moving and answers the age-old question of how busy people can find time to exercise daily.

It reminded me of my 20-in-20 workouts in terms of efficiency, but it also brought to mind that there are many exercises that can be combined in order to condense a workout without feeling like you short-changed yourself. For example, while doing push-ups, alternate lifting one leg off the ground. This helps strengthen your thigh and butt muscles while training the chest, shoulders and triceps.

A good idea is to combine upper-body and lower-body exercise. Click on the video below for a great example.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to hit it flush with your driver

Even at golf's highest level, rarely is a player a great driver and a great iron player. It's either one or the other, because the body is required to do something different to flush a shot with each club, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@Ben_Shear).

Last Friday, Shear offered help for golfers who hit their driver fairly well but struggle with iron shots.If you recall, Shear says the problem is a lack of lateral movement in the swing. Bad drivers have another problem.

"They don't rotate very well," he says. "They tend to get out in front of the ball. The more golfers resist a lateral shift, hang back with their trunk, and just rotate toward the ball, the more they're going to be able to use their driver to sweep the ball off the tee -- a key for distance."

There's a way to train in the gym to resist the lunge, he says. Click on the video below to see two elastic-tubing exercises that will help you crush your driver.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

4 things to remember when buying prescription shades for golf


The benefits of wearing sunglasses when you play golf are numerous including protection from ultraviolet rays, less muscle tension because you don't have to squint, and enhanced shielding from allergens. But if you are thinking of buying prescription sunglasses, remember these four things:

1. Golfers should not wear bifocals. Most bifocals correct for hyperopia (farsightedness) on the bottom half of the lenses. So at address, the ball appears blurry unless you drop your chin to look through the top half of the lenses. And dropping your chin can lead to a variety of swing flaws. Progressive lenses aren't any better. You could reverse the position of the lenses on the bifocals, or carry two pairs of glasses (each with a different prescription), but neither option is ideal. Opt for a single-prescription pair that corrects the greater of your two vision impairments.

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2. Brown lenses offer the best contrast against green backgrounds and polarized lenses do a great job of blocking glare from the sun, water or sand. However, the best lenses for golfers typically come in lighter, amber tints that enhance the color green making it easier to read putts, etc. Polarized glasses can distort a golfer's perspective on the greens.


3. The lenses should have an anti-reflective coasting to reduce the distraction of light reflecting off the back of the lenses. The sports styles that wrap slightly around the edges of your face are ideal.


4. Prescription lenses don't always fit every frame, so make sure the frame style you choose can accommodate your corrective needs.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


(Photo by Getty Images) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to pure your irons

Even at golf's highest level, rarely is a player a great driver and a great iron player. It's either one or the other, because the body is required to do something different to flush a shot with each club, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@Ben_Shear).

If you tend to hit your driver better than your iron shots, you need a better blend of rotational and lateral movement in your swing, and you can help train for that in the gym, Shear says. "The more that golfers slide toward the target earlier in the swing, the more they're going to be able to swing down and compress an iron shot." Justin Rose (pictured here) is a prime example of a good iron player. This shot, taken from his 2013 U.S. Open victory, really shows how he keeps his upper body stacked over the ball as he swings down into it. This is known in golfspeak as "covering the ball." His weight has shifted toward the target and he's poised to hit the ball first and then the turf.

fitness-friday-rose-swing-518.jpgIncorporate some elastic-tube exercises into your workout routine, Shear says, and you'll train your body how to move to hit better iron shots like Rose. Click on the video below to see these exercises.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

A gym fix for those fat and thin shots


One of golf's most common swing flaws is failing to maintain the posture created at address. Many amateurs rise out of their stance as they swing the club down from the top, and this causes them to make poor contact with the ball. Fat and thin shots are a typical result.

Golf instructors will often try to fix this issue with various drills that help keep students from changing their posture when they swing down and through the impact zone. An example would be to hold a golf shaft just over a student's head and have the student make swings trying not to bump the shaft. Another would be to the student maintain the knee flex created at address.

Both are effective, and often a golfer with this stand-up problem will immediately start hitting solid shots after using these drills. The teacher and student shake hands and go on their merry ways. Problem solved, right?

Not always.

It's easy to correct this problem for a swing or two, or even half a round. But without strong, flexible hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thighs), the problem will come back; especially after fatigue sets in. Your hamstrings help support the body while you swing. Wherever you are right now, get into your address posture and then feel the back of your legs. If you can't feel your hamstring muscles working to hold that posture, you're probably going to struggle to hit the ball solidly.

So how can you fix those fats and thins in the gym? See me demonstrate a stretch and a strengthening exercise provided by well-known trainer Mark Verstegen (@teamexos) below.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: One simple exercise to fix a backswing like this

True story: A basketball coach who is a friend of mine was trying to explain to a bunch of his kids how to take a jump shot. He told them to jump straight up as if they were standing in a phone booth without a roof. One kid raised his hand and said, "Coach, what's a phone booth?" I'll spare you the dated-technology reference when explaining the backswing, but in order to take the club back optimally, you need to avoid swaying or sliding and ending up in the start of a reverse pivot as golf instructor Dave Phillips is demonstrating here (photo). His weight is literally shifting in the wrong direction.

"The upper body winds against a stable lower body," says golf-and-fitness coach Karen Palacios-Jansen (@kpjgolf). "If there is any swaying or sliding with the hips during the backswing, the golfer will lose that coil they need to hit the ball powerfully and they'll have to make split-second adjustments in the downswing just to make decent contact with the ball."

If you want to picture what Karen is talking about, imagine you're standing in a cardboard refrigerator box and trying to rotate your upper body without touching the walls. If your body sways or slides, you'll fail.

fitness-friday-reverse-pivot-lg.jpgOne reason golfers sway or slide during the backswing is ineffective stabilizer muscles. Your butt and hip muscles are supposed to keep your lower body relatively still as you wind up during the backswing. Another reason is lacking the ability to disassociate movements of the upper and lower bodies from each other. You should be able to rotate your trunk with minimal rotation of your hips. 

The good news is if you're struggling with either issue and can't seem to get the club back down to the ball without a lot of excess body movement, Karen suggests you trying doing lunges while rotating your upper body. This exercise helps correct both issues. Click on the video to watch Karen demonstrate it.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by Joey Terrill) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Two easy core exercises you can do at home

Many people think of the core as solely the abdomen muscles. But there are literally dozens of muscles that help stabilize the body and allow it to move powerfully and athletically. It's better to think of the core as a belt of muscles that wraps around the body from the hips to the chest. To play golf effectively and safely, you need to train more than just your abs.

Two exercises that work other parts of your core come from former PGA Tour trainer Ralph Simpson (@mostpt). The beauty of these moves is that you can do them in front of the TV or just about anywhere with a comfortable floor. All you need is about five to 10 minutes.

fitness-friday-side-planks-518.jpg

1. Side planks (three reps, each side, hold for 15 to 60 seconds): These strengthen the obliques, abdomen and hips. They also help prevent lower-back pain and increase your ability to rotate your trunk powerfully when you swing. To avoid injury, make sure your propped arm is stacked directly under your shoulder.


fitness-friday-bird-dogs-518.jpg
2. Bird dogs (four reps, each side, hold for 15 to 60 seconds): These strengthen the muscles that support your vertebrae including the erector spinae and the smaller muscles that allow your back to bend and rotate. They also help stabilize the lower back reducing the stress placed on it when you swing a club.

WORLD GOLF FITNESS SUMMIT
The Titleist Performance Institute (@mytpi) is playing host to the fifth World Golf Fitness Summit starting on Sunday in Carlsbad, Calif. The three-day event features lectures from dozens of experts in golf and fitness. Among those speaking this year include former NFL head coach Dick Vermeil, major league baseball pitching coach Tom House, PGA Tour veteran Brad Faxon, strength coach and fitness expert Dr. Charlie Weingroff, and one of my favorite fitness experts, Mike Boyle (@bodybyboyle). Look for a summary of the event next Wednesday and more detailed information over the next few months.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

An easy stretch to ease foot pain

Plantar fasciitis, the inflammation of the connective tissue along the bottom of the foot from heel to toes, is a painful condition that many golfers experience. There are a number of reasons it can occur including a lack of ankle mobility, improper footwear, fallen arches, etc. You'll know you have this condition if you feel a sharp, stabbing pain near the heel of your foot and this seems to be at its worst when you take your first few steps after long periods of minimal activity such as sitting or sleeping.

The inflammation will eventually subside, but it could take months and reoccur if precautionary steps aren't taken—especially for golfers who like to walk a lot. One stretch that helps eliminate pain was designed by Dr. Benedict DiGiovanni at the University of Rochester. If you want to try it, follow these steps:the-loop-foot-massage.jpg

1. Sit with the ankle of the afflicted foot resting on the knee of the other foot.

2. Stretch the arch of the foot by pulling the toes toward the shin bone.

3. Hold for a count of 10 and repeat several times (two or three times daily)

4. To make sure you're stretching the tissue, take your thumb and press against the middle of the foot near the heal as shown. Note: This might be slightly painful.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Illustration: Brown Bird Design) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to stop lunging at the ball

Power generation in the golf swing comes from a combination of sequential body movements while using ground force as leverage. Unfortunately, many high-handicap players rely on their instincts a little too much when it comes to trying to hit the ball harder and farther. They know that when you want to attack something aggressively, you should move toward it. But in the golf swing, this lateral slide toward the target can promote a downswing that is too steep and make it difficult to square the face. Most golf instructors will tell you it's OK if the lead hip (left hip for right-handers) "bumps" toward the target as you start down from the top, but what's not OK is if the entire body lunges toward the target.

Not only should you try to override your instinct to lunge, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear), you should also train your hip adductors. The culprit for this sway/slide is often weak hip adductor muscles. This group of muscles that runs along the inside of each of your thighs is greatly responsible for internal hip rotation. And without the ability to rotate your hips toward each other, you won't have the strength to stop your body from moving in the direction the club is moving.
 
It's easy to correct these issues, Shear says, and he uses a two-pronged attack of softening the muscle tissue to make it more mobile and then strengthening the muscle group to make the region more stable. Click on the video below to see a demonstration of how you can train your hip adductors so you can swing with more stability.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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