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

fitness-friday-reverse-pivot-lg.jpgTrue 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.

One 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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Health & Fitness

Here's the rub on when to get a massage

The sport of golf almost single-handedly keeps licensed massage therapists in business. Strained backs, sore necks, tired feet are all common battle scars that a good massage can help. But what kind of massage is the best for golfers and when should you get one? Physical therapist Jeff Banaszak says the best time for a massage is within four to six hours after a round. But if you're playing 36 holes or more in a day, never get the massage in between rounds.

fitness-massage-300.jpg"The mechanical manipulation of tissues can have a negative effecting on timing and neuromuscular function," says Banaszak (@back9fitness). In other words, you might struggle to make your normal golf swing shortly after getting a massage.

The best type of massage is deep tissue. Lighter massages such as "Swedish," typically aren't as effective in helping soft tissues of the body to recover from overuse. However, if you do get a deep-tissue massage and are considering another massage within a day or so of the first session, Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson (@mostpt) says opt for a lighter massage to allow the soft tissues to recover.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Illustration by Aad Goudappel) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #32: Back 9 Snacks

Leaving the house with a healthy meal under your belt doesn't mean your work is done. A day on the course requires that you keep your body fueled and your mind sharp for the long haul.

Too often golfers think of snacks as something they throw in their bag or grab at the turn. Unfortunately, many snack choices are processed foods high in sugar and/or refined carbs, such as pretzels, crackers, cookies, granola bars, etc. In addition, they're usually low in quality protein and natural fats. Consuming such nutritionally inadequate foods is a sure way to find yourself riding the bogey train on the back nine!

The key is making a commitment to consuming more nutritionally balanced, whole foods. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Plan ahead and enjoy delicious treats that provide consistent energy and maximum focus. Start by replacing refined carbs (those pretzels) with simple whole foods (walnuts). Stop focusing on calories and start focusing on nutrients. Always read labels and, although it might seem obvious, avoid foods containing words you can't pronounce.

Enjoy snacks with natural fats, like avocado, nuts, nut butters, seeds, etc. Sustainable energy is NOT about eating low-fat items, but rather finding low-sugar alternatives. If you like something that has a bit of a sweetness, try including some fresh fruit. Always balance carbs with protein and fat when possible. Fat lowers the glycemic load of any type of carbohydrate, meaning the sugar from that food enters the blood at a much slower rate. The lower the food's glycemic load, the better. Fat also provides high satiation, keeping you full long after you eat so you can focus on the shot at hand instead of your growling stomach.

Commit to planning ahead in the snack department and you can count this nutrition challenge as complete!

BENEFITS
Increased Energy
Improved Mental Focus
Shoot Lower Scores



Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf
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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Is your workout bad for your back?

Perhaps the biggest misconception in terms of training for a better golf game is that your back— particularly the lower back—needs to be more mobile. Trying to increase the range of motion in your lower back with a variety of torso-twisting exercises is a recipe for future pain and injury, says Mike Boyle (@bodybyboyle), one of the world's top strength-and-conditioning experts. Among Mike's many credentials is that he consults for the Boston Red Sox.

"Anything from trying to rotate in one direction to crack your back or stretches where the lower body is put into a stressed state can eventually lead to serious back problems," Boyle says. 

fitness-back-exercises-clamshell.jpgHis advice is to instead focus your mobility work on the hips—both internally and externally. There are a number of exercises you can do. My favorites involve using mini bands or stretch bands to provide resistance. But if you don't have any gym equipment, try the Reverse Clam Shell (pictured):

1. Lie on your side, legs together.
2. First separate your legs at the knees.
3. After a set, separate your legs at the hips and repeat.


Click on the video below to get Mike's thoughts on what exercises to avoid and what to do to play better.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


(Illustration By Jason Lee)

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Health & Fitness

The best of the worst choices on the beverage cart

Let's be honest. There are times when a bottle of water simply won't cut it. You want something unhealthy from the beverage cart. But not all bad beverages are all that bad. If you're undecided, here is the tale of the tape on three choices you can make and still sleep at night.

healthy-sports-drinks.jpgArnold Palmer Lite: The classic half iced tea, half lemonade drink used to be a sugar bomb. It still has 19.5 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving, but that's not so bad when you consider cola typically has 40 grams. Arnie's drink is low in sodium and black tea has been linked to health benefits because it contains antioxidants. And 75 calories isn't awful for a sugary drink. It also contains 25 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin C.


Gatorade G2/Powerade Zero:
The reduction in calories (Gatorade has 30 per 12 ounces/Powerade has 0) when compared to the original products is why they make the list. We'll overlook the inclusion of several chemicals and sucralose, a sugar substitute that many think might pose a health risk. Sports drinks claim to help you hydrate fast, but water is still the heavyweight champion in that department. Neither is a significant source of nutrition, but Powerade does claim that its drink has been fortified with B vitamins.


Light beers from Budweiser/Coors/Miller:
Yep, alcohol makes the list! The most calories in any of these three beers is Bud Light at 110. Not bad. And 6.6 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving is pretty good, too. I won't get into all the claims of health benefits from beer, but downing a pint or two has been linked to everything from stronger bones to better heart function. Believe what you want, and pass another over this way.

NEVER ORDER: Cranberry juice. Surprised? Without mentioning any specific brands, a 12-ounce bottle of cranberry juice has roughly 42 grams of sugar! That's more than a can of regular cola. What's even more alarming is the fact that cranberries contain healthy dietary fiber. How much of that is in the juice? Nada.

Related: The 10 Worst Things To Eat Or Drink

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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

Fitness Friday: Firm up your backside

If you don't have strong glutes (that's the butt, in case you didn't know), you're not only cheating yourself of a power source in the golf swing, you're inviting back pain, said Golf Digest fitness advisor Randy Myers (@randymyers_). "If your glutes go into atrophy, the back has to do the work to support the upper body when you swing the club, and it's simply not equipped to do that properly. That's when you get back pain," Myers says. When you're sitting, your glutes also are the muscles that are supposed keep your torso upright.

How valuable are strong glutes in the golf swing? In terms of power generation, they contract as you swing down and through allowing the upper body to whip the club through the hitting area. They also allow you to maintain your address posture, which is key to solid contact. The good news is you can strengthen them fairly easily with these three exercises from Myers.

fitness-friday-glute-exercises.jpg1. GLUTE BRIDGE
Lie on your back, arms extended out, knees bent and feet on the floor. Make sure your feet and knees are aligned. While squeezing your glutes together and pulling in your core, thrust your hips into the air, hold for a couple of breaths and return to the floor. Do 10 to 15 reps. Try to thrust your hips higher with each rep.



2. PHYSIO BALL BRIDGE
Lie on your back with your legs in line, heels on the ball and arms crossed over your chest. Keep your legs extended, and thrust up with your hips (your hamstrings will be active, too). Hold for the length of two breaths, and return to the floor. Do 10 to 15 reps. If this is too difficult, brace the ball against a wall.


3. PHYSIO HEEL LIFT
Get in a push-up position with the ball under your pelvis and your feet spread wider than your hips. As you tighten your core, raise your legs up and together so the heels touch. Don’t raise your legs any higher than the point where your back starts to arch. Hold for two breaths, and return to the start. Do 10 to 15 reps.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Your fitness questions answered

If you have a golf-and-fitness related question, tweet it to me @ronkaspriske. Here are some recent questions answered.

@golfguitarist: I struggle with early extension on the downswing. Are weak glutes and hamstrings the culprit?

maar04_fitness_twitter2.jpgA: Early extension, which means a loss of the golf posture you created at address, is often thought to be caused by a lack of strength in the glutes, hips and hamstrings. But believe it or not, many amateurs early extend, because it's a power generator. You instinctively thrust your body mass at the ball to try and hit it harder. Exercises such as Romanian deadlifts and squats can help correct the problem if there is a physical issue, but you might achieve better results if you focus on your trunk rotation when you swing. If you're right-handed, make practice swings where your left shoulder dips lower than the right during the backswing and then the right shoulder dips lower than the left during the downswing. It's nearly impossible to do either if your pelvis incorrectly moves toward the ball at the same time.

@quinlan61: Is there anywhere I can find a 15-minute home workout featuring dumbbells and kettlebells?


A: There are several kettlebell workouts that can be found with a simple Google search, but before you start clicking, I would consider alternatives. Many trainers will tell you kettlebells are bad for golfers, because exercises such as the Turkish get-up put too much stress on the wrists. The golf swing already puts the wrists under a great deal of stress so why compound the problem? Kettlebell swings, another staple exercise, also are dangerous. Not only do you risk smashing into your legs with a heavy weight, you also put your lower back under unnecessary stress. About the only kettlebell exercise that I like for golfers is the bottoms-up press. If you want a quick workout for golf, try my 20-in-20 or the advance 20-in-20. Check out the first version here. This workout does include dumbbells.

fitness-twitter-questions2-260.jpg@lacrackson: Any suggestions for stretches and core drills?

A:
That's a pretty broad question! Not sure exactly what you're looking for, but let's start with the notion that if you're looking to improve your range of motion, you need to strengthen muscles first. Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear) is one of many fitness experts who believe that you need to first be stable in order to tap into your natural range of motion.

Without stability, your brain won't let you be mobile. It's a safety mechanism we all have. It's good that you are focused on the core, but keep in mind it's a group of muscles on the front, back and sides of the body. Most people think of the core as just the abdomen muscles. Here are four good core exercises provided by Mark Verstegen and Greg Rose.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Illustration by John Ueland) ... Read
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