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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Know before you roll

Manual soft-tissue therapy, otherwise known as foam rolling, has been gaining in popularity as a way to increase flexibility and speed recovery from muscle soreness. But does it work and is it worth your while? The short answer is ... maybe.

Here's a longer answer:
Studies show it can increase flexibility for up to 10 minutes after the foam rolling is completed. And if performed regularly, it might be able to increase flexibility long term. As far as aiding in recovery from muscle soreness, testing has shown it has had some success in reducing "perceived" discomfort, as well as increasing pain thresholds so athletes can work out harder and get back to the gym, field, golf course, etc., faster.

These conclusions come from Chris Beardsley of Strength & Conditioning Research after compiling data from a number of studies from 2002 to 2014 on the technique known as myofascial release. Simply put, muscles are surrounded and adjoined by a soft tissue called fascia. When you feel tight or sore, fascia might be the culprit and localized massaging is believed to help loosen things up, as well as increase blood flow and its healing agents to the area. Some athletes do it before their activity in hopes they will move freer and perform better (although no study has definitively proven it acutely affects athletic performance). Other athletes do it at the conclusion of their activity as a way of reducing pain and soreness.

The reason I say "maybe" as to whether you should foam roll is because you should consult with a professional first. Getting evaluated on your physical limitations is key. With that caveat out of the way, if you're looking to increase your range of motion when you swing a golf club, or not feel as sore after you tee it up or work out, then you might want to incorporate a short foam-rolling program into your fitness routines and see if it helps.

To that end, we asked PGA Tour rookie Tony Finau (@tonyfinaugolf) to demonstrate a great foam-rolling program for golfers. Finau is a "Team Captain" for the sports-training-equipment company SKLZ (@sklz) and is launching a campaign to help golfers prepare better for their rounds.

To see him walk you through a foam-rolling routine, click on the video below.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

One thing to remember when squatting

Squat reminder: To correctly perform a basic squat, your torso should line up roughly parallel to the shin bones as you drop into your available range of motion, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson.

"If the torso is too upright, you can't produce a lot of power or have much mobility. You're also at a greater risk for injury. So remember: Poke your butt out."


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Wind (don't turn) when you take the club back

When it comes to the backswing, "turn" is a bad word, says Golf Digest Teaching Professional David Leadbetter (@davidleadbetter). It leaves golfers with the impression that all they have to do is take the club back with their bodies and arms and they've made good backswing. "I like to think of the backswing as coiling or winding instead of turning," Leadbetter says. "The idea is that you want to generate some energy and store it for the hit. You can't do that if you simply turn off the ball."

A good visual to understand what he's saying can be seen here. When he winds off the ball, the stretch band is nice and taught. When he turns off the ball, there's slack—in other words, very little energy has been generated.


From a swing-mechanics standpoint, Leadbetter says the core muscles should initiate the backswing. The chest and the big back muscles should feel as if they are twisting and torquing as they coil over the right leg. You should sense some pressure building in the right leg, too. Although the hips also will turn back, they shouldn't turn nearly as much as the upper body. It depends on your level of flexibility, but the hips should only turn about half the distance as the shoulders. The length of the backswing isn't nearly as important as having that wound feeling when you reach the top.

In between working on this winding action on the range, you can also help your cause in the gym with this easy dumbbell exercise. Click on the video to see me demonstrate it.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Two new energy bars for your golf bag

The problem with most energy or meal-replacement bars is perception—people think they're healthy alternatives to eating whole foods. In short, they're not. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE. Most are overloaded with sugars, toxic chemicals, cheap chocolate, genetically modified organisms and gluten.

For example, one extremely popular chocolate-covered energy bar contains maltodextrin, fructose, dextrose, GMO wheat and soy protein isolate. To say any food containing these ingredients is a "healthy alternative" to a whole-foods meal is laughable.

"The chocolate in these bars can also create health problems, because commercial processed chocolate is laden with harmful ingredients," says nutrition expert Lisa Sulsenti (@drlisasulsenti).

That being said, two new bars on the market are trying to actually live up to their healthy reputations.


No Cow Bar
($30 for a pack of 12, is a dairy-, soy-, and gluten-free product that has 20 grams of protein from plants and nuts and only 1 gram of sugar (from stevia). It's also low in calories (170 per bar) and packed with dietary fiber (about three-fourths of your daily requirement). The only knock on No Cow is that it's not the most appetizing. The "blueberry cobbler" did not invoke thoughts of grandma's house. But I'll gladly sacrifice gourmet taste for more nutrition.


The other newcomer is from Omnibar ($39 for a pack of 12, These bars have a higher sugar content (8 grams per bar) than No Cow, but are made of entirely natural ingredients. For example, the cranberry-rosemary bar contains ground beef, dried prunes, almonds, dried sweet potatoes, oats, flax seed, sugar, salt, cranberry concentrate, apricot concentrate, garlic powder and onion powder. That's it. It has 9 grams of protein and 3 grams of dietary fiber. As far as taste, Omnibar would probably fall under the category of "acquired." We sampled the cranberry-rosemary, chipotle-barbecue and mango curry in the office and all three fell short of tasty. The chipotle-barbecue was my favorite, and very reminiscent of beef jerky with a softer, easier-to-chew texture. I can't say I'd want to eat these bars all the time, but in a pinch on the back nine, they're a heckuva lot better choice than most meal-replacement bars, and certainly better than a hot dog.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to keep jet lag from ruining your next golf trip

NASA scientists estimate that for every time zone you cross in your travels, you need an equal number of days in your new location to recover from jet lag. Think how that affects Californians going to Ireland for a dream golf vacation. The last thing you want to do is spend half your trip in a sleep-deprived fog. Dr. Ara Suppiah, who works with PGA Tour players Henrik Stenson Justin Rose, Steve Stricker, Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan, gave us tips for minimizing jet lag's impact.

travel-advice-1.jpgBEFORE TAKEOFF
1. Book a flight that lands in the daytime, morning preferred. It's like getting a bonus day to overcome the time difference.

2. Don't change your sleeping habits before your trip to
get in sync with the new time zone. Sleep normally.

3. Two days before flying, boost your immune system with a daily dose of vitamin C (1,000 milligrams) and vitamin D (5,000 milligrams).

4. Over 40? Consider taking a baby aspirin to avoid a blood clot from prolonged sitting.

travel-advice-2.jpgON THE FLIGHT
1. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration compounds the effects of jet lag.

2. Take a prescription diazepam (Valium) or an over-the-counter diphenhydramine (Benadryl or Sominex). It will relax your muscles and help you sleep.

3. Avoid sugary food and drinks, including alcohol. Blood-sugar spikes increase inflammation and disturb sleep cycles.

4. Need to have a drink? Then eat peanuts (unsalted, if possible). Nuts slow down the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.

travel-advice-3.jpgAFTER LANDING
1. Glimpse directly toward the sun at dawn or dusk. Doing so will increase activity in the pineal gland, helping regulate melatonin (the sleep hormone).

2. Drink a liter of cold water with a squeezed lemon (skin included). This alkaline mixture helps rid
the body of acidity and germs.

3. Exercise, but avoid a big workout. Try walking barefoot on grass or sand for 30 minutes to reduce lingering in-flight stress.

4. Take one more Valium or Benadryl when you go to sleep on the first night of the trip.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Illustrations by Todd Detwiler) ... Read
Health & Fitness

In the market for new golf shoes? Read this first

Appearing in the April issue of Golf Digest and debuting on our website today, we feature 45 different pair of golf shoes that are new for 2015. Many of them fall into the categories of "casual" or "performance" because of their lighter, modern designs. In the past golfers have relied almost solely on personal fashion taste when purchasing golf shoes. But considering the evolution of shoe design, one biomechanist thinks more thought should be given to functionality.

Washington State-based biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement, cautions that the reduced stability in some of the lighter, sneaker-type styles of golf shoes could cause problems for golfers who haven't previously worn them.

"A shoe with less stability means the body of the golfer has to do the work previously outsourced to the shoe," Bowman says. "In the same way it takes time to train the body to do anything, time and exercise is needed to strengthen the legs to handle the added workload."

This is especially true of golfers who walk. For years, golf shoes were built to be incredibly stable. The muscles of the feet and legs didn't have to work as hard to control the body when walking up steep hills or swinging at high speeds. But then Freddie Couples started wearing the Ecco Street—a casual-looking, spikeless shoe (pictured below). Suddenly a golf-shoe revolution occurred as hundreds of thousands of golfers dumped their traditional saddle shoes for Eccos or similar "street" models from just about every company in the business. The new mantra was buy and wear the most comfortable pair of shoes you could find. Spikeless-shoe sales increased 136 percent in 2012.

A similar phenomena happened with running shoes, Bowman says. So called "minimalist" running shoes did $400 million in sales in 2012, as people began to believe that all the cushioning and support of traditional sneakers came at the detriment of performance and comfort.

Bowman cautions runners who want to wear minimalist shoes to first walk in them before doing their normal roadwork. Golfers should take note, she adds. "I'd recommend that a golfer train for less-rigid footwear off the course—in their everyday life—before changing to a shoe with less stability."

In other words, strengthen the leg and feet muscles. Then gradually incorporate new golf shoes into daily walking before going out and trekking six or seven miles on the uneven terrain at the local golf course.

"Going long distances in less stable shoes can potentially create an injury because the legs aren't strong enough, yet," she says. "A foot-strengthening program and step-wise approach can mitigate issues."

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.
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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Don't be a tremendous slouch

"Don't sell yourself short, Judge, you're a tremendous slouch."
—Ty Webb, "Caddyshack"

In order to hit the ball solidly, many golf instructors emphasize the importance of remaining in your address posture as you swing through the impact zone. But if you think about, trying to maintain your posture probably isn't a good idea if the posture you're in at address isn't very good to begin with.

Golf Digest teaching professional Sean Foley says when you set up to the ball, you should feel like you're still standing fairly tall (pictured below). You should bend from the hip joints and let your arms hang straight down. Unfortunately, many golfers don't address the ball this way. They're too hunched over. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that we sit too much. Unless you consciously work at it and give yourself reminders, you'll soon find yourself sitting with your shoulders rounded, your chest closed in, and your glute (butt) muscles deactivated. This all-too-familiar posture eventually manifests into the way you stand over the ball and swing the club.


You can train for proper posture if you pay more attention to reversing this slouching trend in the gym. If you focus on opening up the chest and strengthening the muscles around the shoulder girdle, you'll be sitting, walking and playing taller. Here's an easy one-two punch in the gym that will help improve your posture.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photos By Stephen Szurlej) ... Read
Health & Fitness

The biggest fitness trend of 2015

Every year for the past nine years, the American College of Sports Medicine has surveyed thousands of health professionals around the globe to determine what's hot in exercise and what's not. For example, Zumba made the top-20 list in 2012 and 2013 but has since dropped off. The experts were asked to consider 39 possible trends for 2015 including the top 25 from last year. So what do the experts think is the big thing for this year?

Body-weight training.

blog-health-trends-ranking.jpgThings like push-ups, planks and plyometrics are finally getting their due respect. It's not that people haven't been doing body-weight exercises for years, it's just that the most common perceptions people have of what constitutes a good workout have been things such as running on a treadmill, or circuit training on a row of muscle-specific machines in some big-box gym.

The simple truth is you don't need a $500-a-year gym membership to get fit, and the 3,400-plus respondents to the survey think people are finally catching on to this fact.

Here is ACSM's top-20 list for 2015.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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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 ( 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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