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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.

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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.

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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
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to swing like Rory (the sequel)

In response to feedback received on my recent Fitness Friday post "How to swing like Rory," I went back to Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear) for more tips on how to emulate what might be the best power swing in golf. If you watch Rory McIlroy swing in slow motion (see below), you'll note how active his lower body is at the start of the downswing. This activity, as I explained a few weeks back, is independent of the movement of his upper body—meaning that his lower body is rotating toward the target while his upper body is still rotating away from it.

mcilroy-swing.gif

Now, in fairness to all power hitters, this change-of-direction move is not exclusive to Rory. He just happens to do it better than most. Rory's swing is a model for generating power efficiently. A few weeks back Ben showed an exercise that will help you train your pelvis to rotate independently of your upper body. Some of you struggled with this move and found yourselves letting your arms bend and rotating your trunk in the same direction your were turning your hips. So this week, Ben offers a simpler exercise to help train lower-body dissociation. Click on the video below to watch.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.


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Health & Fitness

How to stay on track with your workouts

Golfers have known for years that tracking things such as scores and on-course statistics can lead to improved play. Awareness leads to strengthening weaknesses as well as avoiding mistakes. That same concept has finally taken hold in the fitness world as more and more companies are introducing devices that monitor your health-and-fitness activity. According to Forbes, one of the biggest players in this up-and-coming industry is going to be Apple.

The tech giant already has plans for a health app as part of its new operating system. You can read about it here: Apple.com/ios/ios8/health. The app (pictured below) will be included with the new iPhone 6, reports say. There also are rumors swirling that Apple will introduce a multi-function fitness watch, which makes sense since it's difficult to work out with a phone attached to your body or in your pocket.
the-loop-fitness-apps.jpg
Whether you still document your workouts with pen and paper or use an app, the idea of keeping track of your fitness makes a lot of sense—and one of the biggest reasons is motivation. I believe people who monitor their fitness and eating habits are far more likely to work out and make healthier food choices than those who don't.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Is the late season golf schedule really that grueling? Yes, and there's science to prove it

It seems you can't have the FedEx Cup Playoffs without hearing how the frenetic PGA Tour schedule takes its toll on players. And it's true, by professional golf standards, this is a busy time. Dating back to the Open Championship in July, many top players will end up playing seven times in nine weeks through the Tour Championship. That is indeed a lot of high-stakes golf, with a lot of pressure, and a lot of time away from home -- even for guys who can afford a team of full-time nannies. 

Still, is it really that grueling? Let's look at the science.

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In 2004, Harvard Medical School released a study ranking the physical exertion of various activities, with calories burned as the comparative metric. For starters, it said a 185-pound person carrying his own clubs would burn roughly 1,100 calories over a four-and-a-half-round (or 244 calories per half hour). By comparison, a person using a cart for the same time period would burn roughly 700 calories (155 calories per half hour). Now since we know professional golfers don't carry their own clubs but do walk, the number is actually closer to 1,000 calories for a typical round. 

But of course, we also know that pro golfers don't just play four rounds of 18 holes each week. They usually play a pro-am round, and at least another practice round, so that's another 2,000 calories right there. Plus, they practice and warm-up before each of those round, for an average of at least 90 minutes each day (we'll use golf in a cart as a baseline there since there's not much walking involved), so that works out to an additional 2,790 calories over the six days on site at a golf tournament.

And let's remember, golfers also exert themselves away from the golf course. On the tour, it's common for players to work out for at least an hour a day as well, three or four times a week. Harvard puts high-impact exercise at upwards of 900 calories an hour, which works out to another 3,150 calories a week.

That covers the really physical demanding stuff, but there's still plenty more to a tour player's week. Unless they're flying private and they're spared such indignities, traveling means having to stand in line (56 calories per half hour). While they're waiting at the gate, they might choose to sit and read (50 calories). And heaven forbid they brought their kids with them, because that introduces all kinds of taxing stuff like "Child-care: bathing, feeding, etc." (155 calories) or "Playing with kids: moderate effort" (178 calories). Even sleeping a square eight hours can burn 448 calories. And since we're assuming most players aren't celibate, we should probably factor in sex, which a separate study by the University of Montreal puts at 100 calories per session. 

So there you have it. A tour player's week can add up to about 16,000 calories burned over the course of seven days. And that doesn't even cover certain outlier activities. Matt Kuchar, for instance, recently admitted he hurt his back driving around looking for a Slip 'N Slide for his kids. As far as we know, Harvard doesn't have a measurement for that.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Training for better hip rotation

Muscular symmetry is paramount to staying injury free, and you should always exercise muscles on the left and right sides of the body—as well as the back and front—similarly. However, when it comes to synchronizing the downswing and creating clubhead speed, a key ingredient is generating good internal hip rotation on your dominant side (right hip for right-handed swingers). What does having good internal hip rotation mean? If you're sitting as you read this, with your butt on the edge of the chair and feet on the floor about shoulder-width apart, you should be able to touch your left knee to your right and vice versa—or at least come very close—without having to move the other leg inward.

the-loop-fitness-hip-rotation-300.jpgAlthough much of the lower body is active at the start of the downswing, rotating the right hip internally, meaning toward the target, is often cited by golf instructors as the key move if you want to hit solid shots. If you can fire that right hip toward the target as you start down, it's going to cure a host of swing flaws including poor timing and swing path. So how do you train your right hip? The folks at SuperFlex Fitness (@superflexfit), trainer Dave Herman and golf instructor Andrew Park (@theandrewpark), have developed a cool way to do it using a stretch band while you work on your swing.The concept is make you work harder to rotate the hip and really feel what it has to do through resistance.

Watch the video below to see Andrew and one of his students demonstrate it.




And if you're interested in more ways to improve your swing using flex bands, their SuperFlex Golf Swing Kit ($69.95) comes with a variety of bands and how-to instructions. You can buy it at superflexfitness.com. A single band costs $5 to $36 depending on thickness and function.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Turning fitness into a game

I was encouraged over this past weekend to see so many kids out on my local golf course. But what left a sour note was how many of them were riding in a golf cart. You can blame McDonald's, video games, poverty or poor parenting, but the undeniable fact is that children in the U.S. have gotten fatter and are less active. I realize that sounds like a sweeping generalization—and a harsh statement—but here is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say about it:

the-loop-fitness-kid-game-300.jpgIn 2012, 18 percent of kids six to 11 and 21 percent of kids 12 to 19 were obese. That's one out of every five kids you run into. Alarming doesn't quite describe the situation.

So what can be done about it? For starters, kids need to move more. If your child needs some motivation in this department, you might want to look into getting a new fitness board game called Flip2BFit. The concept is unique, simple and genius. While kids are playing this board game, they're asked to do simple exercises like crab crawls and squat thrusts in order to win. They're also given important information on nutrition. The game is the brainchild of Heather Parisi and has been endorsed by a number of parenting organizations. Cost is $35 and can be purchased at flip2bfit.com.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Think twice before you use ice


The acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) has been a prescription for treating soft-tissue injuries since the late 1970s. Golfers with sore knees, sprained ankles and elbow tendinitis know it well. But some health experts are starting to question whether the "I" should be included in the remedy. One of them is Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who coined the acronym in 1978's The Sports Medicine Book.

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"Applying ice to injured tissue causes blood vessels near the injury to constrict and shut off the blood flow that brings in the healing cells of inflammation," Mirkin recently wrote in a research paper. Because blood vessels do not open for many hours after ice is applied, decreased blood flow can cause tissue damage or permanent impairment, he wrote. Inflammation, pain and swelling are part of the body's natural process to treat soft- tissue injuries and limit use of the injured area. If there's no swelling or pain, what's stopping you from doing further damage?

Instead of ice, many experts think the real accelerator in injury recovery is compression because it increases blood flow and healing agents to the area in need. That being said, there is still a place for ice in the treatment of minor bumps, bruises and soreness. Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear) says some people aren't willing to wait for "nature to take its course" and are looking for something to keep pain and swelling to a minimum so they can continue playing golf. They can always take a longer block of time to heal properly in the offseason, Shear says. Even Mirkin says ice is OK if used sparingly for short periods right after the injury occurs. "You could apply the ice for up to 10 minutes, remove it for 20 minutes, and repeat the 10-minute application once or twice," he wrote.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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