The Loop

Sweat Equity: Winter Workout

January 28, 2015

Each spring, with a new golf season teed up, we meet players who are full of optimism about getting back out on the course but lacking in physical ability. It's not that they've forgotten how to play golf. It's that the winter has taken its toll on their bodies. Too many frosty Saturdays lounging on the couch has reduced a once-functional swing into an awkward, flailing mess. It's like watching a zombie from "The Walking Dead" try to swing a club. Rather than letting this cycle start again, we've teamed up (Darrell as the swing guy, Ben as the fitness guy) to create an offseason workout that targets the physical issues of seasonal golfers. These six exercises will keep your swing—and body—prepped for spring. So get your sneakers on, and let's go to work.


Golfers returning from a long layoff struggle to coil properly. Instead of winding the upper body against a stable and quiet lower body, they tend to sway off the ball and lift their arms like they're chopping wood. This makes it hard to hit solid shots with consistency.



RIGHT: Lie down on your side, knees bent and resting on a rolled-up towel or mat (A). With your hands extended and palms together, slowly rotate your torso toward the ceiling as far as you can without your knees coming off the mat or separating__(B)__. Don't rotate past the point where your knees rise or pull apart. Make 8-12 rotations, then switch sides and repeat in the opposite direction.


BELOW: Anchor an elastic band, stand parallel to it with a small physio ball squeezed between your knees, and grab the band as shown (A). Rotate your body away from the anchored point, keeping your arms extended__(B)__. Resist the urge to pull the band with your arms only. Let your upper-body rotation do most of the work. Do 8-12 reps, switch sides and repeat in the other direction.



Over months of neglect, the pelvis muscles become ineffective as downswing initiators. The lower body should turn toward the target before any upper-body or club movement in that direction. If it doesn't, the result is a poor swing path and off-line shots.



RIGHT: Squeeze a rolled-up towel between your knees and then lie on your back with your arms out and legs raised and bent at a 90-degree angle (A). Keeping your shoulders on the floor, slowly lower your knees to one side without letting the towel drop__(B)__. Keep lowering them until the shoulder on the opposite side starts to rise. The moment that happens, return to the start position. Do 8-12 of these knee drops, then do another set in the opposite direction.


BELOW: Standing with your feet together, hold a medicine ball with your arms extended just off your left hip pocket. You're going to simulate the swing using this ball. Simultaneously rotate your upper body to the right as you take a small sidestep to the left with your left foot (A). From this position, throw the ball across your body with some force (B). Do 8-12 reps, then repeat in the opposite direction.



As the shoulder muscles atrophy during a layoff, the golfer's ability to rotate the forearms and close the clubface through the hitting area is limited. It also becomes difficult to maintain the width of the swing. The result is a weak, scoopy motion at impact.


RIGHT: Lie on your back, and place a tennis ball under the outside edge of your left shoulder blade (A). With your left arm pressed against your side and your hand raised to the sky (palm facing you), lower your hand to the left and try to touch the floor with your thumb (B). If you feel your back arching or your arm pulling away from your body, stop and return to the start. Do 8-12 reps, then put the ball under your right shoulder blade and stretch the opposite side.


BELOW: Hold a mini weighted ball (two to six pounds) in your left hand in front of your body (palm facing you) and put your right arm behind your back (A). Fling the ball to your left by letting your left forearm rotate counterclockwise as your body mimics its through-swing motion__(B)__. The upper part of your left arm should remain against your torso throughout the exercise. Do 8-12 reps and then switch hands and throw in the other direction.


Darrell Kestner and Ben Shear direct golf and fitness programs at Golf & Body in New York City. Kestner also is the director of golf at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y. Shear is a Golf Digest fitness advisor.