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Health & Fitness

A great piece of equipment for stability training

Perhaps the single-best thing you can do to improve your golf swing in the gym is improve your body's stability. Most trainers will tell you that stability is crucial to having the mobility to make a proper backswing, creating power, delivering the club on-plane and hitting the ball on the center of the face. You've probably heard the old adage that you can't fire a cannon from a canoe. In golf, any good shots that stem from an unstable, off-balance swing are almost always a happy accident.

activmotion-bar.jpgThere are many exercises you can do to improve your body's stability when you play. Strengthening the core muscles is a must. But also improving joint stability in places such as the shoulders and knees will do wonders in allowing you to swing harder, yet with full control of your body and club. Things like one-armed dumbbell bench presses, and one-legged Romanian deadlifts give you some idea of how to improve stability by working muscles starting in an unstable environment.

All the various plank exercises for your abdomen also will help improve stability when you swing.

But one product that takes the concept of stability training in a whole new direction and might be worth adding to your gym equipment is the ActivMotion Bar (activmotionbar.com). It looks like any other weighted bar, but inside its cylinder are mobile weights. As you move while holding one, the weights inside shift from one side of the bar to the other because of gravity, and that forces you to re-stabilize the body in order to maintain balance and perform the exercise functionally. This constant flux between being stable and unstable is the secret to ActivMotion's benefit for golfers. It mimics the relationship between your body and your club as you make a golf swing. Unless you preserve stability when you swing, you'll either lose your balance, or make an off-center hit—or both.

Although the company offers bars of various weights and sizes, the one that they say is best for golfers is the 4.5-pound model that fits into a golf bag ($120). If you want to see their products in action, click on the video below:



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Two great exercises for your downswing

Synchronicity in the downswing—the kinematic sequence—is extremely important if you want to hit great golf shots. Most golfers know that the lower body should lead the action in the downswing—especially important is getting the hips moving before the torso starts to unwind. Get this order correct and your chances of hitting a powerful and straight golf shot improve dramatically.

Unfortunately, knowing this is one thing, but doing it is another. Whether it's a lack of coordination, ineffective muscle function, or simply an unfamiliarity with what a proper downswing feels like, many amateurs fail to get the hips rotating in the correct sequence and independent of the torso rotation.

You can train in the gym to correct this problem, which is especially good news in the winter months when it's too cold to work on it at the golf course. Click on the video below to see me demonstrate two great lower-body rotation exercises.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Is your backswing holding you back?

Most golf instructors focus on improving a player's backswing because a lot of flaws in the downswing occur as a result of starting from a bad position at the top, says Golf Digest teaching professional David Leadbetter (@davidleadbetter). "It's an attempt to recover from a poor backswing."

To take the club back properly, you need to coil your upper body against a relatively stationary lower body while maintaining the radius of the swing arc, Leadbetter says. The former is a key to synchronicity and power, and the latter helps you hit the ball solidly without having to make split-second adjustments during the downswing to get the club back to the ball. Many golfers struggle to coil or maintain their swing width because the rotator and extensor muscles of their torso are weak, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear).

"Those muscles extend in a diagonal pattern from the left hip to the right shoulder during the backswing and in the opposite diagonal pattern during the follow-through," Shear says. "The problem is, a lot of golfers can't coil or maintain swing width because their muscles aren't used to working in those movement patterns. The majority of the time, their torsos are hunched over from sitting with poor posture, and this makes it really difficult to take the club
back properly."

If this sounds like you, Shear suggests trying this exercise demonstrated by LPGA Tour player Ryann O'Toole in the March issue of Golf Digest. It's called a reverse chop, and it trains the rotator and extensor muscles of the trunk to rotate and extend during the backswing and through-swing. This exercise should be done in both directions to maintain muscular balance and improve neuromuscular patterning.

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REVERSE CHOP

1. Anchor an elastic tube and stand parallel to it. Grab the handle with your right hand so your palm is facing away from you. Then put your left hand on top of the right.

2. With your trunk turned toward the tubing, rotate the other way while pulling the tube across your body from hip height to over your left shoulder.

3. Feel your torso muscles stretching, but don't overextend to the point where you feel stress in your lower back. Feel your weight on your front side.

After completing two sets of 10 chops, repeat the exercise in the opposite direction. You can add speed to the chop or increase resistance for a greater challenge.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photography by Dom Furore)


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Health & Fitness

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #49: Mind Over Menu

Whether you're getting breakfast at a coffee shop, ordering lunch at the club, grabbing a snack at the turn or having dinner out on the town, there are healthier ways to enjoy yourself without compromising your health or game. Golf is a difficult sport as it is, the last thing you need are the sugar shanks or a beer belly killing your performance potential.

Golf is the ultimate lifestyle activity. When coaching participants through our MTT LEAN 18 nutrition program, our goal is always to use the game to activate a positive change that impacts all aspects of a person's daily performance.  In addition to the tips in the video below, here are five "LEAN 18" eating essentials guaranteed to give you a leg up on the competition.

1. Plan Ahead
Look at the menu beforehand to make sure there are healthy options. Most establishments have their menu posted online for easy access. If you know you can't resist getting a pasta dish or having a dessert, pick your dining out day as a "cheat meal." We encourage our clients to allow themselves two cheat meals per week to help satisfy cravings without going overboard.

2. Drink Water
Stick with water as your main beverage. Unsweetened drinks such as sparkling water, iced/hot tea, and coffee can also be good options. Limit caffeine intake to two cups daily and avoid using caffeine as a replacement for sleep or food.

3. Load up on Veggies
Eating vegetables, leaves less room for refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, chips, and french fries. Go for green vegetables first, such as spinach, broccoli or asparagus. Starchy vegetables, such as red potatoes and sweet potatoes, can be healthier and more nutrient-dense alternatives to refined carbs such as bread, white rice, flour tortillas or pasta. When you hit the 19th hole, substitute the common sides for one these options and you'll be taking a huge step in the right direction.

4. Add Protein
Add protein to your meal to maximize nutrients, provide satiation, and reduce cravings. Best options are "wild" fish, "grass-fed" meats and "free-range" poultry/eggs for extra nutritional benefits. These choices won't always be available, but a lot of restaurants are moving towards providing these healthier items.

5. Get the Right Fat
Choose natural fats such as avocados, organic butter, olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, cheese, cottage cheese, or sour cream. Fat provides essential nutrients, keeps you full, and reduces appetite. Most restaurant sauces and dressings, especially "low-fat" ones, have added sugar. Enjoy sugary dips and dressings sparingly or ask for olive oil and vinegar instead. Lastly, this goes without saying, but avoid anything deep-fried.

Sample Clubhouse Orders

  • I'll have two fried eggs with applewood smoked bacon and rosemary redskin potatoes. Hold the toast and jam. Add a side of sautéed spinach and bell peppers.

  • I'll have a french dip sandwich with sautéed onions and a mushroom jus for dipping. Hold the soft roll and french fries or potato chips. Add sourdough bread and a side of fresh fruit.

  • I'll have a beef/turkey burger. Hold the cheese and burger bun. Add lettuce (for lettuce wrap), sliced avocado, tomato and onions. Add a side of freshly steamed veggies.

Eating better is all about building new habits. Try incorporating some of these healthier eating tips and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

BENEFITS
Increase Energy
Boost Performance
Lose Weight



Cate Ritter is the Director of "THE LEAN 18" Nutrition program at MTT Performance. MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow MTT on Twitter at @mttgolf
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Health & Fitness

Tiger's deactivated glutes is a thing, but ...

When Tiger Woods withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open on Thursday citing back pain, his third WD in his last nine tournaments, he made an interesting claim as to the reason for pulling out.

"It's just my glutes are shutting off," he said. "Then they don't activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back. So I tried to activate my glutes as best I could, in between, but it's just they never stayed activated."

The glute (butt) muscles are key contributors to a good golf swing, providing power and stability. More importantly they support the torso, especially when you're standing. When the glutes are weak or inactive, the soft tissue around the lower back often becomes overly active as a compensation. And that can cause pain and inflammation around the lumbar disc of the spine, experts say.

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Gluteal deactivation can happen, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson (@ralphsimpsonpt). Subtle inhibition of the muscles' function is common, but true neurological deactivation is almost always associated with "some sort of nerve problem," he says. If it's both sides of the body, then the cause would be centrally located such as central spinal stenosis. When that occurs, the condition is so severe, the person suffering from it has trouble walking, much less swinging a golf club. Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column to the point where pressure is put on nerves often causing extreme pain and muscle weakness.

"Even if a person could play golf with their gluteal muscles partially or completely deactivated, you'd usually notice huge compensations in their golf swing," says Simpson, a certified physical therapist who worked on the PGA Tour for several years. "Their hands and arms might do more of the work to compensate for a lack of core strength, or there might be a sway or slide with the body. It would look very awkward for a pro."

And perhaps the biggest issue would be a real lack of power, he added. Drives would be noticeably shorter and the ability to hack out of thick rough would be greatly diminished. 

"For most people, it's difficult to feel if their glutes are deactivated during a dynamic activity," Simpson says.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Do you have a good head on your shoulders?

When most people think about posture, they think about the position of the back, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson. But what about the position of your head? Is it stacked over your torso or protruding a bit?

Head-posture-test-bad.jpgHere's a quick test demonstrated by Simpson to check your head posture. Stand with your back to a wall and your feet about 12 inches away from it. Now lean back into the wall. You should be able to rest against it so your lower back, mid back, shoulder blades and the back of your head all touch the wall. And it should be fairly easy to stay in this position without straining. Note the difference in good head posture (bottom image) vs. forward head posture in the wall-test photos of Simpson.

According to the Mayo Clinic, forward head posture (FHP) can lead to a wide variety of health issues including muscle strains, arthritis, disc herniations, pinched nerves . . . in other words, all the typical problems Simpson sees in his golfer patients as a physical therapist. You can tack on tendinitis, respiratory issues and sleep disorders, too, he says.

Why does poor head posture lead to so many problems? Here is a simple physics analogy to help you understand what's going on. If you took a 25-pound dumbbell and held it close to your body so your forearm is vertical, it's not that difficult to manage. But hold that same dumbbell with your forearm pointing 15 degrees away from your body, and your muscles will fatigue much quicker. Considering that the average human head weighs roughly 10 to 12 pounds, it makes sense that the added stress of holding it in a forward position would eventually radiate down through the body.

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FHP is even more likely for golfers, Simpson says, since the head and trunk already are tilted forward when they address the ball. Poor head posture in the golf swing is a key factor in many rotational swing issues and can exacerbate injuries to the lower back. Here Tom Watson demonstrates a golfer standing in good address posture vs. bad address posture. Just like the photo above of FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel at address, note the positions of the head. You almost want to feel like the neck muscles are pulling it back when you stand over the ball, Simpson says.

The good news is that Simpson has a simple exercise you can do to help correct your head posture. Add it to your workout routine and you might soon find a number of your health issues start to vanish. Click on the video below to see him demonstrate.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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

Stop doing that twisting thing!

It's bad enough to perform bad movement patterns in everyday life, but it's even worse to get in the gym and train in ways that emphasize those unnatural movements, says highly regarded strength coach Mike Boyle (@bodybyboyle). In other words, you might suffer from hunched-over (kyphotic) posture as a result of prolonged sitting, aging, and a lack of functional strength in your glutes and hips. But to actually go to the gym and perform exercises such as lacing your hands behind your neck and doing sit-ups are only going to reinforce the poor posture you should be trying to eliminate.

More examples would be exercises designed to increase range of motion at the bottom of your spine. The lumbar have some ability to flex and rotate, but push them beyond that limited range and you're on your way to a visit to an orthopedist.

Recently I asked Mike if there are any "golf" exercises he sees that are the definition of an unnatural movement pattern. There is one in particular that immediately came to mind, he said. Click on the video to see what you SHOULDN'T be doing in the gym.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Get a head start on your golf season

As the weather gets warmer and golfers return to the lesson tee, instructors often face two problems:

1. Having to remind students how to swing the club properly.
2. Dealing with  students who aren't physically fit enough to swing the club properly.

inar01-winter-workout-intro-300.jpg"You can't deal with problem No. 1 until you fix problem No. 2," says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear). Ben recently worked with noted golf instructor Darrell Kestner on an article that appears in our February issue tackling this annual dilemma. In the article they address common early-season swing issues and how they can be overcome in the gym. The two often work together at the Golf & Body (@GolfBodyNYC) fitness center in Manhattan.

The good news is that if you follow their workout plan, your swing will be much sharper when the ground thaws this spring. The bad news? You can no longer use the excuse of being rusty.

Click here to read the article, "Sweat Equity: Winter Workout."


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by David Brandon Geeting) ... Read
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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