Get a Grip – The Farmer’s Walk

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A golfer’s grip on the golf club needs to be strong and stable in order to handle the force produced by their legs and torso. If your grip and forearms are not strong enough to handle this power, then you can lose accuracy and control. There must be a fine balance between a relaxed grip and “death grip.” There are a few articles out there about using dumbbells to strengthen forearms. You can purchase fancy grippers to increase your grip strength. You may even go as far as carrying a racquetball or something to squeeze as you drive in your car. No matter what you choose help increase the strength of your grip, you will still need to make sure that you prescribe a number of sets and reps. You will need to plan your rest as well.

While it may be good to address grip by itself as an exercise, it may be more effective to take a step back and see if there is something that you already do that will help increase your grip strength. Just holding a weight in your hand, will automatically engage the muscles in your hand. Even though you are picking up the weight to do a different exercise (dumbbell bench press, rows, bicep curls, etc.), you still need to be able to HOLD the weight. In fact, it will be your grip that will give out before your larger muscles begin to fatigue.

So a simple way to increase your grip strength naturally is to be aware of the amount of tension you are creating to hold the weight. If you are using OTHER muscle groups to keep the weight in your hand, then you are not strengthening your grip any more. One of my favorite exercises to increase my grip strength, shoulder stability, core stability, as well as drive my heart rate up is the Farmer’s Walk.

How to perform the exercise

  1. Simply pick up a heavy weight (dumbbell, kettlebell, heavy suitcases, bucket of rocks, water, dirt, etc.).
  2. Choose weight that you realistically can only hold for about 20 seconds, before you have to put it down.
  3. Walk around with good posture, until you need to put the weight down.

Perform this exercise for 2 to 5 sets, and work your way up to 1 minute. When you can walk around with good form for longer than a minute, it is time to increase the weight.

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For all Questions related to Aerobic Training Programs, golf fitness, nutrition, and your mental game email me at [email protected]

Record other data besides your golf scores.

Record other data besides your golf scores.

Recently, I came across a great article in Golf Magazine regarding the USGA and Chevron partnership to collect and analyze data aimed at improving the “health of the game.” As part of the Eagles for Education initiative, the USGA is using interns to distribute GPS Logger to golfers to help track their position and movement every 5 seconds along the golf course. The information is downloaded and sent out to the USGA Research and Test Center which is located in Far Hills, NJ. The information will help golf courses plan their course layout by identifying issues with start times, course set-ups, and bottlenecks along the course. For golfers, they will be able to understand how their pace-of-play can be affected by walking versus riding and/or playing from different sets of tees.

It seems any golfer can benefit from tracking their own data. Whether you have a GPS unit on not, tracking your movement is irrelevant. Keeping notes on your round: weather, humidity, how you feel, what you ate, club selection, shot selection, and fatigue level – both physically and emotionally – will allow you to look back and identify what you did well, and what you did not do well. Many golfers seem to go right to the “mental game” and believe that a bad round was due to “second guessing themselves.” That could be true, but if you don’t write it down, then you can spend a lot of time just guessing.

At FitGolf, we can help you plan out your round from start to finish: self-screen, warm up, pre-round and shot routine, nutrition, in game adjustments, post –round cool down.  We are trained to ask you the right questions to figure out what happened, but it will help us more if you keep this data and bring it with you during your session. Many athletes in other sports track their own data – MLB pitchers keep track of which pitches to use with certain batters, quarterbacks chart plays to see how well they execute, and endurance athletes work off training paces to peak at the right time. Golf incorporates all aspects of training, so there is a lot of things that can affect your game. Reviewing the data will allow you to go back through your round, and see where things may have gone wrong. If you know what you did wrong, you will be able to focusing on correcting this for the next time.

It also allows you to see the things you did well! Knowing what you do well will allow you to rely on your strengths when things get tough. And since you record every round, you’ll have more reason to celebrate when you are successful!

For all Questions related to Aerobic Training Programs, golf fitness, nutrition, and your mental game email me at [email protected]

Following his Open Championship win at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Rory McILroy posted the following picture on Facebook:

Back to work today @GSK_HPL #betterneverstops #GSKHPL

  The picture that Rory McILroy posts on Facebook was taken at the GSK Human Performance Lab Sports Science Center located in Brentford, South England. Many fans on Facebook were curious and posted comments on his page such as,

Looks like a hard day in Gym and Fitness camp.”

“Should I do this to improve my golf?”

“Too bad the average person can’t afford such treatment.”

“Are these secrets to better golf?”

“Why are you dressed like Buzz Lightyear?”

Funny and negative comments aside, the main question asked, “Should I be doing this to improve my golf?”

The answer is “YES!”

It is true that some of the physiological testing that McILroy goes through in the picture (VO2 Max) may be a little over the top for the average golfer, however, when you want to be the best at your sport, then you will go through the extra effort to get the information  you need about your fitness level. The GSK Human Performance lab is continually developing tests to measure an elite athlete’s strength , endurance, nutrition, recovery, as well as cognitive thinking.

Getting control of your “mental game”, means getting control of your “physical game.” Again, you may ask, “Should I be doing this to improve my golf?” The answer again is, “Yes!” However, you do not have to fly to Brentford to be tested. In fact, fitness assessments can be performed by most certified personal trainers or strength and conditioning coaches.

At FitGolf Performance Centers, we have our own Golf Performance Evaluation where we can put you through a physical screen to identify any muscle imbalances you may have. We also use KVEST Technology which helps us identify any possible PHYSICAL issues in your swing. Knowing your health history, as well as any previous injuries is important, because they can affect your golf game. Even something that happened years ago! It is important to know what kind of sports you played when you were younger, because the training you went through may also affect your golf game. Finally, your current lifestyle and job may also affect your golf game.

No matter how hard you try on the golf course, how many lessons you take, or how many mental golf books you read, you still may have issues with your game that have nothing to do with those things. Going through a fitness assessment will allow you to understand what your current “training age” is and where your baseline fitness level is at. Once you know where you are at, then you can beginning working on the areas that need improvement. You also are able to understand what you do well!

Many times golfers continue to practice the things they already do well, because it builds their confidence. Knowing what you do physically well, will allow you to spend more time on the skills that need development. Working with a Golf Fitness Professional will allow you to have an initial assessment, and develop  a PLAN to address your weaknesses. Having a structured plan will free up more time because you will be focusing on the things you need to improve. More time, means more time to play and do more important things!

Stretching for the Upcoming Golf Season – Part 2

When we left off in the Previous Post, we looked at areas to stretch in the golf season. Today we will look at other areas to focus on this winter.

Additional areas to address in our path of increased flexibility is the calves. You would be surprised at the number of individuals that deal with tight calves on a daily basis. A lack of flexibility in the soft tissues can lead to several movement issues (deep squat, deadlift, walking, maintaining posture in the golf swing) and typically leads to a stiffening of the ankle due to the lack of motion. The soft tissues are easier to address than the joint stiffness, so this can be an easy fix if noticed early. To stretch the calves is simple, stand on a step (one at the bottom of the stairs is best), and drop one of your heels off while the other stays on the step. Hold until satisfied. Some variations of this stretch to target different muscles include a straight or bent knee on the leg being stretched. Simply attack the position that is most tight.

Moving up the leg, the large muscles found on the back of your hip bones are important in several athletic movements (deadlift, sprinting, climbing stairs) and are responsible for rotation in the golf swing. To stretch glutes and piriformis, lie on your back with your knees bent. Cross on leg over the other then grab the back of the leg still on the floor and pull it towards your chest. An added touch is to roll to the opposite side of the hip being stretch to increase the intensisty. Hold until satisfied then repeat on the other side.

The Importance of Recovery in Fitness

It is not uncommon for individuals to suffer from what is commonly known as overtraining now that most of us are back in our New Year training routines, not to mention the weather. And with everything going on, it can be overwhelming for some this time of year. Overtraining is typically caused by a collection of physical, behavioral, and/or emotional conditions that occur when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their capacity to recover.

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Know when you have gone too far.

The symptoms of overtraining can show many types such as persistent muscles soreness, fatigue, risk to injury, illness and sometimes depression in worst cases. Typically, the combination of physical stress along with psychological stresses will determine the level that one is experiencing. The best way to avoid experiencing overtraining is to plan recovery periods within your training program. Add one week of recovery every 6 to 8 weeks of your program. During this recovery period, simply replace the time spent doing cardiovascular and/or weight training with flexibility and stability work. This can include stretching, palates, yoga, or some basic body weight training.

Many people find this recovery period to be difficult to do due to the lack to intensity. By allowing proper time to rest, you will do your body a favor by allowing it to recovery from the combined stresses of workouts and life. In doing this, you will achieve higher gains and be able to train for longer periods of time. Not to mention to be able address those body imbalances that can reduce risk of injury. So with this in mind, know that it is okay to take some time away from the weights, and downshift for a week.

Ryan McLean is a Golf Fitness Coach at FitGolf Performance Centers of Philadelphia, PA. To reach him with questions, email [email protected] or call 610-940-3835.

Getting Stronger in the Offseason with Golf Fitness

Colder weather is upon us which means we can do a number of things. You could plan trips to warmer weather just to play golf. You can sit around and cuddle under a blanket by a fire. Or, you can spend your open schedule getting stronger, faster, better for next year. Which ever option you decide, it had better be the last option if you look to improve on your progress gained this year. But how, you ask? Read on for a few tips.

Learn how to control those muscles

Planning your workouts should become priority to track progress along the way. This step is often overlooked because many see it as another thing to do in an already busy day. It is quite easy if you really think about it. Get yourself a small bound book and spend one hour planning the next 4 – 6 weeks of workouts. Once this is done, all you have to do is execute, you have made all of the decisions for each workout ahead of time. This cuts down on the ‘should I do cardio or weights first’ question. Just refer to the plan you set up.

Second thing to help get motivated in the off season is to get a training buddy. Find someone with similar training goals that will hold you accountable for everything that you do. Its hard to skip a day or show up late when someone is waiting there to work with you. The same idea can be applied when training with a trainer. If you have a standing appointment, you will less likely cancel on the way home just because you didn’t feel like working that day. 

Finally, to really get a global picture of the physical issues to be address, it is a good idea to complete a Functional Movement Screen. This screen tells you where you can spend a majority of your time getting stronger where it really matters. This can be done by searching websites such as Titleist Performance Institute and Functional Movement Systems to find a professional near you. Having this information will really be beneficial in getting stronger in the weakest areas of your body. Leading to less risk of injury, better movements and the ability to build more gains.

This entry was written by Ryan McLean, Golf Fitness Coach of FitGolf Performance Centers located outside of Philadelphia, PA. To reach him with questions, email [email protected] 

Creating Dynamic Hip Movement with Golf Fitness – Part 1

An issue with amateur level golfers is the ability to transfer weight efficiently from one side to the other during the golf swing. This is a difficult move to execute without the proper physical abilities that allow for this dynamic move to happen. With an inability to get to the lead side, speed and power are difficult to generate leading to poor contact through impact.

A few factors are needed for proper weight transfer in the golf swing. First, the necessary amount hip rotation is a must to have room to move within both hips. As you transfer weight from one side of the body to the other, internal rotation of the ‘loaded’ hip occurs while external rotation of the ‘stabilizing’ hip happens allowing for hip turn. Secondly, one must possess dynamic strength to control the hip as it rotates under the load of gravity. This is no easy feat without proper training or natural ability. In some cases, knowledge of proper movement must be learned to be able to retrain the body to respond with the right muscles.

To find out if you have the proper range of motion at home, lie on your back with a pillow between the knees. Keeping the knees in contact with the pillow and your knees at 90 degrees, separate the feet as wide as possible. Does one side go further that the other? Take note of the differences and refer to this stretch to start getting more range of motion.

Next time we will discuss how to improve the control of those newly stretched muscles in their newly found range of motion. It has been a while since they have traveled to the end of the road, so it is time to show them the way. As always, be patient with progress as you are learning this stuff for the first time in a long time. If you are unsure of the position of a stretch or the health of a joint, contact your local Golf Fitness Professional to learn more.

Contact me directly at [email protected] with any questions in regards to the body in the golf swing. 

Side Plank To An Easier Golf Swing

Golf is a sport that’s easy to fall in love with, but every regular golfer knows it can be a real pain, literally. There are numerous golf injuries that can result from a faulty swing, bad biomechanics, overuse, and poor physical conditioning. Statistically proven, the most common amateur golf injury is sustained in the low back region. Although injuries are commonly seen in the joints and discs of the spine, the most common back injury in golf are strains of the muscles and soft tissue surrounding the spine.Low Back Pain

There are many different predictors of low back pain. Some predictors include poor joint mobility, shortened muscle lengths, abnormal body composition, and poor pelvic and core stability. Not having the ability to stabilize the body’s core and low back can be very detrimental to spine health and the golf swing. It leads to faulty biomechanics which in turn will lead to faulty swing mechanics. Many amateur golfers mask poor spine stability and weaknesses by deviating away from proper swing technique to achieve the feeling of a full swing.  Doing this time and time again, round after round, can be detrimental to the spine and can make golf a debilitating sport to play.

One fitness predictor of low back pain is poor endurance in the side plank position. The side plank is a great exercise to challenge your core and the stabilizers of the lumbar spine. To perform the side plank, start by lying on your left side with your feet on top of each other and your left elbow directly under your left shoulder. From here, make sure that your top ear, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle are aligned and form a straight line. Once that is determined, slowly lift your hips off the ground until your spine is completely straight and your body is aligned and symmetrical. Keep your top shoulder back by pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold for as long as you can. You know you’re done the set once you can no longer hold your hips up to where you first started, or you begin to rotate the shoulders and torso forward or back.Side Plank

This exercise is about quality, not quantity! Make sure you can hold for an equal amount of time on both sides. Golfers that suffer from low back pain tend to have a large disparity in endurance time from left side to right (generally a right handed golfer can hold the left side longer). Only do as much on one side as you can do on the other. Record your times and challenge yourself each time you do this exercise by pushing to get a couple of additional seconds. Just remember, quality is the name of this game! Don’t sacrifice form for a couple of extra seconds.

So give the side plank a try to evaluate your core and low back stability. Improvement in this position can relieve pre-existing low back pain, prevent faulty biomechanics that will lead to new pain, and improve the golf swing as a whole.

If you have any questions about the side plank exercise or low back pain in golf please contact me, Jason Rivkin, by email at [email protected] or by phone at 610-940-3835.

Jason Rivkin, ATC, CGFI-FP1

Creating a Fitness Plan

Working out is difficult enough. The workout planning should not be just as hard.

Dan John wrote an interesting theory about the amount of free will one possesses as it relates to energies. Through day to day life, we make many decisions. Everything from what time should I need to wake up, what should I wear today, to do I eat the healthy salad for lunch or the delicious greasy cheeseburger. All of these decisions require a bit of free will. After a long day of tapping into the free will reserves, some of the decisions that follow become questionable.

One way we can we maximize free will is to plan for those routine decisions. Plan for what you are going to wear by lying out the outfit the night before, prepare meals for the entire week, and create a workout plan to follow. Do the hard work while you have the free will left to give. Spend an hour and plan out the next 4-6 weeks of training. Set a schedule, pick the exercise order, and execute the plan. I have laid out a simple schedule of training that I currently use as it fits in with my work schedule. See the notes below to see how those training workouts are laid out.

Workout Schedule

Monday: Weight/Cardio Training

Tuesday: Rest/Recovery

Wednesday: Weight/Cardio Training

Thursday: Rest and Recovery

Friday: Rehab/Movement Training

Saturday: Heavy Weight Training

Sunday: Rest/Recovery

 

Workout Notes

For the training days, circuit training is a good place to begin. Pick one exercise for each category below:

Push – Bench press, push up, etc.

Pull – Row, Standing T’s, etc.

Lateral – Side steps, side plank, etc.

Skill – Sport specific movement (ex. Fast club swings for golf)

Core – Any abdominal will do, get creative.

Perform each exercise in order, rest for 1 minute, and repeat a number of cycles or complete for an amount of time. Again, keep it simple. I like a simple plan not only for the sake of mental effort, but to be able to look back and see what exercises gave you the outcomes that you were looking for. If you are not reaching your goals in your workouts after 4-6 weeks, its time for a change. 

Keep it simple. Make it repeatable. Change things up every 4-6 weeks. Follow this format to creating more free will for other decisions in your day.

Spine Health in the Golf Swing – Part 1

A healthy spine helps contribute to the golf swing in a number of ways. Multiple segments create a chain along the length of the spine allow for both stability and mobility. The lower lumbar and upper cervical spine by definition should be stable while the spinal segments of the thoracic spine should create a mobile middle. When this relationship is reversed or altered, the chain in compromised and the movement pattern becomes dysfunctional. Let us first look at the lower lumbar spine in our quest for complete spine health.

In order to create this healthy a relationship in the lumbar spine, we must address what its primary function. Do to the large weight bearing properties of the lumbar spine, it is wise to add assistance of the surrounding muscles to help in this heavy job. This ultimately comes down to pelvic control creating a sturdy base for the spine segments to sit upon. A few drills can be done to both test and strengthen the pelvis.

Begin with a move called the Pelvic Tilt Test derived from the TPI movement assessment. Kneeling on a pad or pillow, tilt the pelvis under the body as far as you can then tilt the other direction by arching the back. This move should be done with only the lower abdominals and glutes. There should be no upper body movement during the exercise. If movement occurs in the upper body, there is the potential for upper body stability issues. The end goal of this drill is to perform it in golf posture. (These will be address in a future post.)

Starting Position

Start Position for the Pelvic Tilt

The other way to check pelvic control is by a bridge with leg extension. Lying on your back with your knees bent, push your hips to the ceiling. Once the hips are elevated, kick one leg out holding that position for 10 seconds. Repeat the same on the opposite side. This again tests glute and abdominal control along with the endurance of these structures when put under stress. These two positions can be trained and tested in the same fashion to see how you are progressing. Functional exercise progressions are sometimes needed to make these movements more efficient. See here.

That's a nice bridge.

That’s a nice bridge!

Try them out to see where you stand. Be sure to check back to see how we test and train the next segment: the thoracic spine.

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