March 5, 2010
Our last two golf columns focused on preparing for the upcoming golf season–deciding what parts of your game need improving, and making sure your equipment is either brand-new or in good condition.
Attending to your own physical conditioning should also be a major element of the golfing pre-season.
It would be terribly frustrating to go out on the course on a beautiful spring day, try a big drive off the first tee, and immediately seize up with muscle spasms. You can reduce that risk with some fairly gentle, steady bits of self-improvement.
Stretching exercises are a must before doing anything strenuous, or before playing golf, for that matter. One useful routine involves holding a club along the top of the shoulders, and slowly rotating from side to side with the back bent as if trying to make a regular golf swing. These bent trunk twists are usually done in a series of a dozen or so,
Another good stretch calls for holding a club above the head, with both arms stretched out completely. Then slowly lean from one side to the other, without leaning forward or backward, six to eight times.
Don’t forget to stretch your legs, too. One good stretching option is to put one leg straight out to the side, and then center your body over the other leg as it bends down toward the floor. This is a common exercise for runners, and it really helps with the upper thighs.
Another great stretch for golfers, also used by runners, is called a seated twist. Sit on the floor with your right leg stretched out in front, with the left leg pulled up and placed on the outside of the other leg’s knee. Place your right arm against the outer side of the raised left knee, and support your body with the left arm on the floor behind you. Then twist your trunk to the left as much as possible, and hold that position for a fifteen count. Switch sides to complete this stretch, which is good for your back and hips.
In addition to stretching, trunk or core exercises are now highly recommended for golfers. The twisting motion of golf can put a surprising amount of stress on the midsection. These routines will help you handle the strain, especially after a cold winter’s layoff.
This year I’m trying what are called plank exercises, so named because the first part of the routines requires making your body as straight as a 2 by 10.
This is easier said than done, especially when a human “plank” is only connected to the floor by the toes and the elbows and forearms, while facing the floor.
The first plank move is not to move at all. The point is to put yourself in the plank position, and then stay in place for ten seconds, with no sagging or bending, and while keeping your head level with your slightly angled frame.
If you’ve never done this, you’ll be surprised at the resistance that builds up in a very short period.
Once you have the hang of it, you can try to hold the position for longer intervals, up to a minute.
Other plank exercises include leg or arm raises. For the leg raise, put yourself in the plank position. Then raise one leg straight up, about eight inches off the floor, for a two-to-three count, and return. Then do the same with the other leg. Try working up to a ten-repetition cycle for two or three times.
The arm raises require you to shift weight to one forearm while in plank position, and then extend the other arm straight out in front, for three seconds. Switch and repeat a few times, for a dozen repetitions or so.
Some of these tips came from Golf Fit (Andrews and McMeel; $12.95 SRP), and others came from the sports medicine section of About.com. Other physical fitness guides for golf are available on the Web or in the Cape Region bookstores.
Whether you try these suggestions or some others, your golf game will benefit from your efforts.