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Health & Fitness

Before you get that MRI...

When doctors suspect a patient might have a serious injury to joints such as the knees or shoulders—things like muscle, tendon or ligament tears—they often use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm it. Although MRIs are considered extremely effective, a recent study published in BMI Health Services Research found that one out of every five done to detect tears of the medial meniscus in the knee registered a false positive. In other words, if they went solely by the MRI, doctors could prescribe rehabilitation procedures, including surgery, for tears that didn't exist.

Making MRI's even less attractive, and I know this from personal experience, is that many insurance companies are now refusing to cover their costs. That could mean a four-figure expense from your own pocket if you need one.

the-loop-mri-scanner-lg.jpgSince golfers are prime candidates for joint injuries, it's interesting to note that new technology exists to detect tears and soft-tissue damage that is more accurate and cheaper than an MRI. The procedure takes an estimated 10 minutes and you're not stuffed into a claustrophobic's nightmare—an MRI tunnel—to learn whether you need surgery or not.

It's called VisionScope Imaging, and the procedure is covered by many insurance carriers including Medicare. First, a doctor shoots novocaine into the injured area. Then a needle with a camera is inserted to inspect the damage. In the demonstration on the company's website, a soccer player's knee was inspected in just a minute to render a diagnosis of surgery. The testing is currently being offered by doctors in the Northeast, Chicago and Atlanta but a company spokeswoman says it will eventually be available nationwide.

For more information, visit visionscope-tech.com.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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

Fitness Friday: 42 ways to get fit

Being "fit" can mean a lot of things, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear), who trains many of the game's top players, including Luke Donald, Russell Henley and Webb Simpson. It can be anything from having your best blood-pressure reading in a decade to being able to slip into a decommissioned pair of jeans again. When he says "get fit," what he really means is get fitter. Below are 42 ways to do it (one a day for the next six weeks). Embrace as many of these as you can, and it won't be long before you look better, feel better and, yes, play better golf.

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1.
Drink more water. A lot more. That's still not enough.
2. Walk. Walk more rounds. Walk to work. Walk to the store. Walk around the block. Walk the dog. Stand up from reading this right now and walk.
3. Write down how much you sleep each day. Your goal is 60 hours a week.
4. Strengthen the most important muscles in the golf swing: your glutes (buttocks).
5. Constantly check your posture. In fact, stop right now and sit up straight. But don't arch your back when you do.
6. Take the stairs; two at a time if you can.
7. Buy a $10 foam roller, and knead the muscles of your body three times a week while you watch TV--especially your hips.
8. Eat low-glycemic fruit such as pears, grapefruits, cherries, peaches and apples.
9. Quit smoking. You can do it.
10. While sitting upright, rotate your upper body each way without letting your lower body move. Repeat for one minute.
11. When you're done with that, flex your ankles in and out, and back and forth. Make circles, too.
12. Cut your starchy-food intake by half. Start with white bread.
13. While waiting on the tee or in the fairway, extend your club in front of you, and move it up and down and side to side using only your wrists and forearms.
14. Breathe using your belly, not just your chest.
15. Make your lunch. You're much more likely to eat healthier when you control the ingredients--and you'll save money!
16. At least twice a week do a low-intensity physical activity that you enjoy. Who doesn't love a leisurely bike ride?
17. Eat more vegetables. Potato chips and carrot cake are not vegetables.
18. Tap into your inner Elvis. Get in your address posture, keep your upper body still and twist your pelvis back and forth. Do this for 30 seconds.
19. Put your back to a wall, and slide down it until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
20. Whenever you do a push exercise, immediately follow it with a pull exercise. No break.
21. Brace yourself against a planted golf club, and rotate one knee in toward the other. Switch it up and go the other way.
22. Strengthen your hamstrings. Pull your kid in a wagon.
23. Consume a lot more omega-3 fatty acid. You can get it from flaxseed oil, fish oil, mackerel, salmon and walnuts.
24. Stabilize the muscles of your core by raking leaves, paddling a canoe or sweeping floors.
25. Then strengthen them. Planks are great.
26. Make sure most of your protein comes from the best sources: eggs, beans, nuts, fish and poultry.
27. We like chocolate, too. Switch from milk to dark. The darker the better.
28. Do sprint/walk intervals. Shoot for 30 seconds of running followed by 30 of walking. Try the intervals six times or more.
29. Instead of downing pills, find food sources that supply those vitamins and minerals.
30. Get more good fats into your meals such as avocados, nuts, olive oil and egg yolks.
31. If you're going to drink alcohol, limit sugar every way you can. Example: Drink vodka and soda instead of vodka and tonic, or drink sauvignon blanc instead of Riesling.
32. Don't forget to do exercises that move the body laterally and/or rotationally.
33. Drop down and do push-ups whenever you can. Go slow, and strive for perfect form.
34. Let your body hang from a flexed-arm position. Can you do it for a minute? Then skip that and do pull-ups regularly.
35. Jump rope. It's great for your conditioning, coordination and golf posture.
36. Jump in general. Two legs, one leg, sideways. It will improve lower-body strength and tap into your inherent coordination. Yep, it's still in there.
37. Eliminate soda and fruit juice, especially ones with artificial sweeteners.
38. Buy a medicine ball. Find a sturdy wall. Throw the ball into the wall. Catch and repeat.
39. At the 19th hole, reach for nuts instead of pretzels.
40. Go out when the sun's out. Small doses of vitamin D will help keep your bones healthy and muscles functioning.
41. Don't skip breakfast. Ever.
42. Once in a while, ignore Nos. 1-41 and indulge.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Illustration by Brian Stauffer)

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Health & Fitness

Does swinging a weighted club help you warm up?

Many golfers go through the pre-round ritual of grabbing two or three clubs out of their bag at the same time and swinging them together in order to "get loose" for the first tee. Others take their driver, turn it upside down, and make blindingly fast swings whooshing the shaft through the hitting area in order to warm up. Do either of these activities help?

Turns out they both do, but it depends on what type of golfer is swinging.

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If you're the typical amateur golfer who lacks the hip and mid-back rotation commonly seen on the PGA Tour, you're better off warming up with a heavy club, or swinging two or three clubs, to increase your range of motion when it comes time to swing for real. But elite players, ones who swing the club faster and more competently, will benefit more from warming up with lighter clubs. This information comes courtesy of Dr. Mike Voight (@voightm), a professor and clinical physical therapist who supervised a study on warming up with his students at Belmont University. He also is on the Titleist Performance Institute's (@mytpi) advisory board.

Voight's study focused on college and professional level players, but he says it's clear from their findings that warming up in this manner will improve golf-ball velocity on the course for any golfer.

"The typical golfer with limited range of motion, heavy club swinging works best, though any swinging will help increase ball speed," Voight says. "But if you already have good rotation in your mid-back—thoracic rotation—then we found it best to warm up with a light club. Or, better yet, progress from a heavy club to a light club."

It's also a good idea to switch from right-handed to left-handed swings, or vice versa, in order to maintain good muscular balance.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Cure a slice and pick up 20 yards off the tee

Slicing happens for a myriad of reasons, but it's only caused by one thing: If your clubface is open in relation to the path your club is traveling on at impact, the ball will curve away from the target. For right-handers, it's a left-to-right curve.

Rather than outline all the issues that can cause a slice, let's skip to the good part and find out how you can straight out a banana ball. Golf-and-fitness instructor Karen Palacios-Jansen (@kpjgolf) says improving forearm rotation is going to help not only in squaring the clubface for straighter shots, it also is one of golf's speed accumulators. That means your ball will go straighter and farther.

"Forearm rotation produces a tremendous amount of clubhead speed through the hitting area," she says.

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Golf Digest teaching professional David Leadbetter demonstrates the good and bad of forearm rotation.

Slicers tend to hold off this forearm rotation for two reason:

1. They have tight, overdeveloped muscles in the chest and upper back and those muscles tend to dominate the downswing preventing the whip-like action that can be produced from good forearm rotation.

2. Their swing path is typically from outside the target line to the inside through impact. If the forearms rotate, the ball would start left of the target and likely hook even farther left. So they aim left and restrict forearm rotation, so the ball will weakly slice back to the right, but somewhere in play.

Palacios-Jansen says if the swing path approaches the ball from inside the target line, and the forearms are rotating counterclockwise, slicers will start hitting straight shots or even drawing the ball, as well as generate a noticeably greater amount of power in their shots.

You can strengthen the forearms with a number of dumbbell rotation exercises--just remember to tuck your elbows into your sides to prevent the upper arm from assisting in the exercise. But before you do that, it's important to learn how the forearms should rotate and Palacios-Jansen as a simple way of patterning this movement. Click on the video below to see her demonstrate.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


(Photos by Dom Furore ) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Long-term cellphone use linked to brain cancer

While I'm a big believer that cellphones should not be banned from golf courses, I've never been one to stop in the middle of a round and take a call that might hold up play. But if you're a frequent golf-course phone user, a new study might give you pause.

A report released late last fall stated that the risk for glioma—the most common form of brain cancer—tripled among those using cellphones for more than 25 years. The risk of cancer also increased in young adults if they used a wireless phone before the age of 20.

The study was conducted over several years by doctors at the University Hospital in Sweden. They tested a wide range of cellphone users from ages 18-80. The amount of use was first assessed by a questionnaire (Click to read the abstract).

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The doctors said while cellphone technology has changed a lot since it was first introduced a few decades ago—and perhaps the risk of cancer isn't as great today—it's still a legitimate concern because of the type of electromagnetic radiation emitted when a call is made or received. Some of that radiation can be absorbed by nearby body tissue. The concern is so valid, the National Cancer Institute even devotes a page of its website to the topic.

The doctors who conducted the Swedish study recommend using the texting and hand-free/speaker functions whenever possible. I recommend texting on the course, especially if you plan on picking up a call in the middle of my backswing.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by Cy Cyr )

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: New research says this is the core exercise for you

Hopefully by now you've given up sit-ups and crunches as your go-to core exercises. Biomechanics experts have proven that they put too much unnecessary stress on the lower part of your spine. And if you're finding that standard face-down planks are boring or aren't challenging enough, try the side plank, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson (@RalphSimpsonPT). Simpson was a trainer on the PGA Tour for several years and has his own practice in Whitefish, Mont.

fitness-friday-side-plank-260.jpgNew research published in Sports Health indicates that the side plank or bridge will trigger some of the highest muscle activity in the oblique and deep abdominal muscles when compared to other planking exercises. Why are planks important? They train the core muscles to stabilize the body when you swing, which is crucial to staying in balance and making solid-and-powerful contact with the ball.

When you do these type of planks, make sure the forearm you're resting on is directly under your shoulder, Simpson says. Also keep your legs and spine as straight as possible. "Try to hold the position for as long as you can. Then switch sides and repeat for the same duration."

If you want to combine this side plank with a challenging front plank, try this physio-ball version taught by Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear). Click on the video below to see trainer Ryan Anderson demonstrate.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Something new? Try unplugging the treadmill

As I've said many times, if you want to keep your New Year's fitness resolution and still be committed to working out beyond March, you've got to find ways to eliminate the word "routine" from your workout routine. In other words, mix it up. If you go to the gym four times a week, jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes, and then go home, you've got the recipe for boredom. That will eventually lead to you giving up on your fitness goals.

fitness-unplugged-treadmill.jpgSince the treadmill is where many gym-goers gravitate, you're probably wondering how you can enhance a typical running session. A few years back, on Golf Digest's Fitness Friday, I demonstrated that unplugging the treadmill and doing intervals pushing the belt manually was a great way to enhance your exercise program. Here's a demonstration of what sprinting on an unplugged treadmill looks like from my Fitness Friday a few years ago. Click on the video below to watch.

Having gone back to this in my own workout sessions, I can assure you it's much more of a challenge than just running at a steady state on a motor-driven belt or doing intervals. Even better, it can help you gain power in your golf game. In order to push the belt with your own power, you have to assume a bent-over, driving position with your body. Picture a football player moving one of those blocking sleds or what you'd look like if your friend asked you to help push his stalled car down the block. That's the driving position you need to be in to move the belt and this leads to greater lower-body strength as well as some upper-body conditioning.

For your tread session, I suggest you start easy. Do five 30-60 second reps where you either walk or slowly jog on the belt using your own muscles for power. Then rest for 30 seconds in between each run/walk interval. Just a hunch, but I bet by the end of this session you'll be gasping for air.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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Health & Fitness

Phil Mickelson is (still) taking his off-season training really seriously

When a five-time major winner has one of the worst seasons of his career, you know he wants to come back strong. Literally.

You may have already heard how Phil Mickelson has been putting in work at the gym this off-season. Absent from competition since the Ryder Cup, he has made his goals clear: to lose 20 pounds and to increase his balls speed by 10 mph.

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“He’s putting a large amount of due diligence and focus into this routine,” says Sean Cochran, Mickelson’s strength and conditioning coach. “He’s about halfway to his goals.”

Cochran, founder of Sean Cochran Sports Performance, has an extensive background in conditioning Major League Baseball players. He and Lefty met during his time working with the San Diego Padres, when Phil moved back to San Diego from Scottsdale. An orthopedic surgeon who knew Cochran had referred Mickelson to see him. At that point, Cochran says, “I sat down with [Phil] and his wife. After an interview and a couple weeks of training, I decided to make the shift from baseball to golf.” The rest is history. 

So what does Cochran see as the main factors behind Mickelson’s progress? One part is nutrition. “Phil’s basically following a paleo diet, which is gluten-free, no sugars and no processed foods,” says Cochran. Sounds harsh, but Lefty’s coach believes any golfer would be more athletic and perform better if they followed these guidelines. “I think it’s how we were designed to eat. You have to wonder how a Twinkie can have a five year shelf life. That can’t be good for your performance.”

Related: 17 super foods perfect for golf

The other part? Phil’s fitness regimen. Cochran broke down the exercise component into six basic categories that make up Mickelson’s 75-minute routine, which they do together four days a week. This type of “training density” allows the two to get more work done in a shorter amount of time:

-- Myofascial release (foam rolling): 5 minutes
-- Static stretching: 5-10 minutes
-- Dynamic warmup (bodyweight movements like lunges, pushups, etc.): 5-10 minutes
-- Power sequence: 10-15 minutes
-- Core sequence: 10-15 minutes
-- Total body strength sequence: 10-15 minutes

Ever thought you’d hear “training density” when it comes to Phil Mickelson? Neither did we. But what exactly goes down with each of these phases? It’s simpler than it looks. After the three warmup phases, the power sequence focuses on strength and speed. This can include (but is not limited to) plyometrics, throwing med balls at walls really hard (sounds fun, especially if you’re mad) and burpees (sounds really not fun).

The core sequence has endless moves, but follows a general guideline. Cochran says, “performance coaches don’t train muscle groups, we train movements. Phil (and every golfer) is a rotary athlete, and needs to train the core in three ways. One, stabilization with extremity movements. Two, anti-rotational capacities, where golfers need to not rotate (similar to coiling during your backswing). Three, the need to rotate at high speeds (downswing rotation).” 

So much for your basic sit-ups.

Total body sequences really get the job done quickly because they allow half the body to rest while the other half is activated. An example would be combining dumbbell squats and shoulder presses. You work both your upper and lower halves in a full-body movement, just not at the same time.

Related: Organizing your workout

How does Lefty feel about all this exercise? “Everyone has moves they like more than others, but Phil is a very smart guy. As long as he knows why he’s doing a move, he’ll do it, even if it’s not his favorite,” says his coach.

Like many athletes in off-season training, Mickelson is following a “periodization” schedule, which basically prevents athletes from hitting a performance plateau. Doing the same thing over and over can get boring, but Cochran says “there are plenty of workout moves we can do in each section to mix it up.” When he and Mickelson see the progress they’re looking for, they also change it up by increasing weight, reps or speed of a certain movement. 

As far as Phil’s biggest improvements so far, Cochran says it’s in both his swing and ball speed generation. “Power equals strength plus speed. In Phil’s off-season, we look to develop the parameters of him as an athlete. The basic components for monitoring his progress are the speed numbers he produces, and he’s gone up in both.” 

With this kind of routine, we expect big things from you this year, Phil. 

No pressure.

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Health & Fitness

Jack Nicklaus is colorblind. Here's what that looks like

Jack Nicklaus has been color blind his entire life. The effects were so severe that he couldn't even distinguish between the different colored numbers on leader boards while he was competing. According to a story from Sports Illustrated:

At the 18th green, I looked at the leaderboard, and I saw several 1s and 2s. I'm color-blind, so I said to my caddie, Willie Peterson, 'How many of those numbers are red?' He said, 'Just you, boss.'"

Jack is what's known as Red-Green color blind, which means he can't distinguish between the two colors. When he sees them -- especially together, they kind of blend together into a kind of brown. 

Having a hard time imagining what that would be like? Well, Buzzfeed put together a good video that describes what it's like:


If you're worried that you might be Red-Green color blind, you can test yourself online right here. You should, for example, be able to see relatively easily what's contained within the circle below...

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Does high-altitude-simulation training work?

On paper it seemed like a fair fight: Rory versus Rickie. McIlroy came into this past September's Ryder Cup as the No. 1 golfer in the world, and Fowler was enjoying the best year of his career, having finished no worse than T-5 in all four majors. But by the sixth hole of their singles match, it was over. McIlroy was 5 up and showed no signs of fatigue from having played 70 holes of pressure-packed golf during the previous two days.

fitness-friday-rory-oxygen-mask.jpgWhy did Rory look and play so invigorated? One doctor believes it's because of the way he trains in the gym. McIlroy often runs on a treadmill wearing a high-altitude-simulation training mask (pictured). Known as hypoxia or altitude training, it restricts the flow of air while McIlroy is running sprints and doing other cardiovascular exercise. The goal is to improve endurance by training the body to require less oxygen for muscles to function optimally for longer periods in a sea-level atmosphere. Working with trainer Steve McGregor, McIlroy alternates between 90-second sprints and walking to vary his heart rate, says Dr. Ara Suppiah, a sports-medicine expert whose patients include PGA Tour stars Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Steve Stricker, Henrik Stenson and Hunter Mahan.

"It's a legal performance-enhancer," Suppiah says. "It increases endurance because the oxygen-extracting capacity in the muscles goes up. You don't produce lactic acid as much in those muscles, and when you do, that burning feeling dissipates much quicker."

There has yet to be a definitive scientific answer on whether this type of training works. In 2010, the National Center for Biotechnolgy Information published a report that stated "hypoxia as a supplement to training is not consistently found to be advantageous for performance at sea level." However, many elite athletes are now donning masks or working out in oxygen-deprivation rooms in the hopes of gaining an edge.

"You should not try hypoxia training if you have pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, poor circulation, diabetes, etc.," Suppiah says. "Everyone should be vetted by a doc first."

Regardless of whether you wear the mask, the type of interval training McIlroy does on the treadmill is great for golfers because it improves function of the fast-twitch muscle fibers needed to swing a golf club powerfully.

"Golf is a sport where you need explosive power for a second or two every few minutes, and then you rest," Suppiah says. "This type of training mimics those needs."

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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