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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
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Jump and turn for power

the-loop-fitness-box-jumps-lg.jpgYou know that really athletic kid in the gym who you see repeatedly jumping onto a high platform from a standing position? He's doing something called a box jump, and it's part of a family of exercises called plyometrics. Jumping is a great way to train for more power when you play, but it's how you leap that is really going to make a difference.

"Box jumps are great, but the traditional jump only works in one plane—the sagittal plane (forward and back)—and it probably isn't going to help golfers who already struggle to maintain their posture when they swing down into the ball," says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear). "Instead, they need to learn how to rotate at the same time they are pushing off the ground with their legs. In other words, moving in the sagittal and transverse (rotational) planes at nearly the same time."

The traditional box jump also can be problematic for most golfers because there is the intimidation factor of worrying whether you can leap onto a platform. Most people are hesitant to try box jumps out of fear of getting hurt. So instead of focusing on how high you can get off the ground, Shear says he's got a plyometric routine that is safer (no platform needed) and more effective in helping golfers use both their bodies and the ground to generate power.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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

Stuff: Compression socks for golfers

You might think of compression as a way of treating injuries such as cuts, bruises and inflammation. But it's also a valuable preventative against injuries and fatigue. When used correctly, oxygen-rich blood flows to the area being compressed at a faster rate than normal allowing muscles to work better, harder and healthier.

fitness-health-compression-socks-lg.jpgCompression can help golfers in a number of ways but one of the most obvious, when you consider the amount of walking we do, is with the feet. Think of all the abuse your feet and ankles take over a four-hour round—uneven lies, stress from the torquing action of the golf swing, etc. Compression can help alleviate unnecessary stress and also reduce fatigue, which is crucial at the end of a round. Even when you're not walking, compression socks can increase blood circulation by as much as 30 percent, says a report published in the The Journal of Strength and Conditioning.

One company, CEP, recently introduced an all-weather, merino-wool compression sock line. They come in ankle-high and knee-high sizes (as well as a calf sleeve). In addition to the compression benefits, the company claims the socks keep your feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer by regulating temperature and moisture. Depending on the sock length, prices run from $22.50 to $60 (cepcompression.com). If you frequently come home from the golf course with sore feet, they might be worth trying for your next round.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Get wide and stay wide

fitness-friday-josh-zander-large.jpgThe width of your swing at impact is probably the single-biggest determinant of whether you'll hit the ball solidly on the clubface. If it's nearly identical to the width of the swing arc you started with at address, there's a good chance you'll powder the ball. Many golf instructors will tell you that failing to maintain the width of your swing comes from poor mechanics, such as the instinctive notion to try and help the ball in the air with a bending of the arms through impact.

Actually, in many cases, it's the result of poor shoulder mobility. This ball-and-socket joint, and the muscles that surround it, play a huge role in swinging the club correctly. Poor flexibility forces many golfers to let their arms collapse at the top of the backswing or let the left elbow jut toward the target during the through-swing. How do you know if you have good mobility? Dr. Greg Rose and Dave Phillips of the Titleist Performance Institute (@mytpi) demonstrate a test you can do to check both your shoulder mobility and your scapular stability (we'll save that discussion for another week). Check out their 90-90 test here.

If you find that your shoulders are holding you back, click on the video below for two exercises, and a pre-round warm-up move that can help.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


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Health & Fitness

5 pictures of Lee Westwood before and after he lost 23 pounds

Lee Westwood has an interesting way of preparing for the Ryder Cup. He decided to hit the gym, hard. So hard that he shed 23 pounds from his physique in six weeks. 

"I've been doing double gym sessions," he said at the Wales Open, "so I've been doing a cardio session in the morning and weight session in the morning and watching my diet."

That's not wholly unprecedented for Westwood -- he did something similar before the 2008 Ryder Cup -- but to celebrate his new figure, we thought we'd celebrate with some before and after pictures. The befores are on the left; the afters are on the right.

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Health & Fitness

Stuff: Fitness for your fingers

finger-fitness-260.jpgEvery once in a while, a "why didn't I think of that?" product comes along. Repeatedly opening and closing your hand while wearing the Hand X Band ($10, handxband.com) helps strengthen the muscles that control the fingers. For golfers, this can lead to more success out of the rough and less stress on the arm tendons.

As a bonus, strengthening these muscles can help reduce the chance of carpal tunnel syndrome. It's a great, inexpensive product that you can use practically any time during the day—even when you're waiting for the group to clear in front of you.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

... Read
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Smash the ball with stronger forearms

Power generation in a good golf swing comes from a number of muscle groups: the legs, core, back muscles, etc. But unless you have adequate forearm strength, you won't be able to transmit the force created by those muscles into the club and ball, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Randy Myers (@randymyers_).

fitness-friday-strong-forearms-260.jpg"You'll also struggle to set the club correctly during the backswing or release it through impact," he says.

One warning sign that you lack sufficient forearm strength is how tightly you grip the club. Eighteen of the 35 muscles that control hand movements originate in the forearms. In many instances, a tight grip means those muscles are overmatched.

You should also be able to pronate and supinate your forearms, Myers says. Try this test: Extend your forearms while keeping the upper arms and elbows resting against the sides of your torso. With your hands clenched and thumbs up, try to rotate your forearms so the palm of each hand is facing straight up. Then rotate them until the palms are facing down. If you struggle accomplishing either or feel like you often hold the club too tightly, these exercises below can help you improve your forearms strength and mobility.

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1. EXTENSION/FLEXION STRETCH
Pull the fingers of a hand toward you (fingers up, palm facing away). Then turn the fingers down, palm facing you, and pull inward. Hold each stretch for several seconds, then repeat with the opposite hand.






2. ROTATIONAL INCLINE CURLS

Sit on an incline bench and hold two dumbbells at your sides. Lift the weights to your chest with your palms facing inward. Rotate the palms away from you, and return to the start (two sets, eight to 12 reps).








3. DUMBBELL ROTATIONS

Holding dumbbells upright, rotate them to the left 90 degrees, then back to upright. (Two sets, eight to 12 reps, then repeat the exercise in the opposite direction.)

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


(Illustrations by Bryan Christie (top); exercises, Brown Bird Design) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Stuff: Zap away your workout soreness

A key indicator of good health is how fast your body recovers from physical stress. If it's a cut on your arm, how fast does the wound heal? If your heart rate skyrockets during a run, how fast does it take to slow down to a normal rhythm?

In fitness circles, decreasing muscle fatigue and speeding up recovery time from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) are signs that you're becoming more physically fit. Obviously, routine strength-and-mobility training will help. But there's also a product on the market that claims to do both using electric currents.

Marc Pro is a portable device that works by having you attach electrodes to various parts of your body and then stimulating those muscles with electric current from a portable, hand-held device (pictured below). The manufacturers say it decreases feelings of muscle fatigue and also increases blood flow, which accelerates the healing process from soreness. Two scientific studies back those claims. One was published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology in 2011 and the other in 2013.

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The good news for golfers is the device could be a godsend in dealing with chronic lower-back and leg soreness. In late spring, Michelle Wie tweeted a photo of her using it on her leg. The bad news is that Marc Pro isn't cheap. The current model is $650 (marcpro.com) and the company announced plans for an upgraded model to be available soon.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

... Read
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: TRX for golfers

Admit it. Every time you go to the gym you walk past that suspension-trainer, gaze curiously at the apparatus, and then keep walking. While it's certainly understandable that training devices such as TRX or Redcord can appear intimidating, they're actually some of the best pieces of gym equipment you can use. They're far better than most of the machines you'll find in a big-box commercial gym—especially for golfers.

fitness-friday-trx-for-golfers.jpgFor starters, suspension training focuses on improving stability, particularly in the core muscles, which is key to being able to make a good swing and play golf injury free. They also do a wonderful job of improving mobility, particularly in the key areas of the body needed for golf (hips, mid-back, shoulders, ankles, etc.). I also like them because they focus on using your body weight as resistance, making it nearly impossible to train beyond physical limitations and get hurt. Finally, they're really good because they're portable.

On a personal note, I still get a little freaked out when I place a foot in the harness and work on single-leg exercises. But I'm freaked out in a good way, as the level of instability it creates automatically makes me use muscles that rarely get trained properly doing standard exercises.

My friend Trevor Anderson (@TA2claps), fitness director for the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, put together a pretty simple dynamic warm-up for golfers using a TRX Trainer. You can view it here (PDF file). But I also reached out to Scott Gump at TRX (@trxtraining) for a bonus exercise that is great for golfers. You can view it by clicking on the video below, but read his instructions first.

TRX Golf Rotation
Setup: Adjust the TRX Suspension Trainer to mid-length and stand facing the anchor point. Grip the handles with your arms extended in front of you and bend your knees slightly

Movement: Press down on both handles and rotate your shoulders, reaching up and back with both arms.

Return: Lower both arms back to center, lift chest and keep tension on the TRX.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

... Read
Health & Fitness

Your fitness questions answered

fitness-twitter-questions-260.jpgIf you have a golf-and-fitness related question, tweet it to me @ronkaspriske. Here are some recent questions answered.


@gradontripp: I started doing push-ups in the morning, along with my normal stretching. Should I do 'em daily or every other day?

A: The great thing about body-weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, planks, etc., is that they are very hard to overdo. Do them as often as you want, but pay attention to your form. When it starts to deteriorate, move on to the next exercise. Quick tip about push-ups. When you get into the "up" position, squeeze your core muscles. Keep them engaged as you perform the exercise. This will help stabilize your body when you play golf, allowing you to make a faster and more consistent swing.


@marionshoward: What's your take on scorpion planks?

A: I'll start by saying that the one issue I have with traditional planks is that the shoulder muscles often fatigue before the core muscles do, so it's difficult to improve the strength and stability of the abdominals beyond a certain plateau. That's why I like planks that incorporate some degree of instability, which make the core muscles work harder and fatigue quicker. As far as the scorpion plank, I've seen various exercises labeled a "scorpion plank," so I'm not sure which one you are curious about. I do like the version where you get into the up position of a push-up and then lift a leg off the ground and rotate the pelvis and bent leg toward the opposite elbow. It helps improve your lower body's ability to rotate independently of the trunk, which is a key move in sequencing the downswing correctly.


maar04_fitness_twitter.jpg@orleansbobnic: What can I do to prevent losing my posture (standing up) during the downswing? Any exercises to help prevent this?

A: The problem likely stems from an imbalance in strength between the muscles on the front side and backside of your body, particularly from the waist down. For example, your quadriceps—the big muscles on the front side of your thighs—are probably much stronger and more flexible than your hamstrings, which are on the back side of your thighs.

The hamstrings and gluteus muscles play a key role in being able to rotate the body while maintaining the bent-knee posture you began with at address. There are other factors, but this is by far the most-common issue. Back in 2011 @markverstegen addressed the topic of maintaining posture in the bunker and the exercises he recommended would help you as well. Read: "Get In The Gym, Make More Sandies"


@nomadirish: What's the best exercise for a slow, smooth takeaway?

A: You need stronger, more pliable oblique muscles. They're the ones on the sides of your trunk—above the love handles—and they allow you to rotate the vertebrae of the mid-back (thoracic spine). Ideally you want to rotate the upper body with the hips and legs staying relatively still. Side planks are great to strengthen the obliques. And when you're ready to work on coiling better in the backswing, take the advice of my friend Karen Palacios Jansen (@kpjgolf) here: http://www.golfdigest.com/blogs/the-loop/2013/07/fitness-friday-improve-coil.html.


@orcasan: Golfers elbow? Causes, treatment, preventative exercises?

A: How much time do you have? We could be here awhile. Simply put, elbow tendinitis is typically the result two things:

1. Gripping the club too hard, which puts stress on the tendons when you stop your swing.

2. Swinging down into the ball on too steep an angle. Violent impact with the turf sends a shock wave up your arms and that results, over time, in inflammation of the tendons.

The best treatment is rest. That means no golf for a couple of weeks. If that's not going to happen, inflammation can also be reduced through the use of wraps and also sleeping with the arm in a bent position. I don't recommend cortisone shots to reduce inflammation, but that's a personal choice. I'd rather the inflammation subside naturally. Many doctors say cortisone is extremely effective and outweighs any side effects. As far as exercises, the forearm muscles and shoulder muscles are designed to help protect the elbows from stress. Try the ultimate exercise for golfer's elbow.

@hendu2011: What is a good 30-to-60 minute routine for mid-level athletes?

A: I am constantly changing what I do for my workouts, but they always incorporate the following: Push exercises, pull exercises, core exercises, lower-body exercises and exercises that train the body to move forward and backward, side to side and rotationally. I suggest you start with my basic 20-in-20 routine and go from there.

@cormac88: What's the best thing to eat while playing a round of golf?

A: You need sustainable energy and you'll get that from something that has protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. During a round, I'd go with an apple or banana and your favorite nut. Avoid simple-carb foods otherwise you risk a sugar crash somewhere on the back nine.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Illustration by John Ueland) ... Read
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