October 2010: GOLF TIPS FROM A PRO - Exercising and Golf Part 1: Neuromuscular Isolation Exercises
Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne
In the past 10 years, golf and exercise have become best friends. (Prior to that, a golfer did not dare go anywhere near a dumbbell or weight room.) Today, if you aren’t doing some type of exercising to enhance your golf game, you are going to be left in the dust by your competition. I am often asked, “What type of exercises should I do?”; “How should I go about setting up my exercise routine?”; “How often should I exercise?”
Any fitness trainer will tell you the most important exercise is core training. Golf is no different from any other sport in that the core plays a vital role in your stability and ultimately your ability to swing the club effectively. Without good core strength and stability, your full potential cannot be attained. That being said, the core exercises commonly prescribed to golfers are often not exactly what they should be. For example, most of us assume a posture throughout the day that is bent forward—sitting, hitting golf balls, etc. This is called flexion, and it leads to protracting (rounding out) of the shoulders, forward head posture, and tightening in the front of the hips, abs and legs. Yet, most golfers are told to do sit-ups, leg lifts, or v-ups all in an effort to strengthen the core. True, these exercises will strengthen your abdominal wall and your core, but if you’re looking to improve your golf game, it is not always the best place to start.
As you know from previous articles, your central nervous system plays a major role in your golf game. Therefore, re-establishing neurological communication between the nervous system and the muscles is of great importance. Because of this, a golfer’s conditioning program must be designed to integrate the entire body. Your nervous system is like a computer, and if you program it incorrectly, you will get incorrect results with your body and on the golf course. Performing the exercises described below will allow your body to function with optimal joint alignment. This will allow you to have a base of movement skill from which your brain will draw information as you progress into more exercises. What you are trying to accomplish with these exercises is neuromuscular isolation and strengthening the muscles that allow you to hold posture better, ultimately allowing you to swing better.
Program #1: If you have only a few minutes a day, perform one of the following exercises each day of the week.
Program #2: If you have more time, do two of the following exercises per day for four days, working up to two sets of each.
Program #3: If you have the time to implement another 30 minutes into your training routine, try doing all five exercises four days a week.
HORSE STANCE VERTICAL
Kneel on all fours, hands directly under the shoulders and knees directly under the hips with the back parallel to the ground; maintain your posture while lifting one hand and the opposite knee just high enough to slip a piece of paper under. Hold this position for 10 seconds while maintaining postural alignment, then switch hands/legs and repeat. Work up to three sets of 10 reps per side.
HORSE STANCE HORIZONTAL
Similar to the Horse Stance Vertical, the difference is you are now lifting your arm out to a 45-degree angle while lifting your opposite leg straight up and back. Hold this position for 10 seconds while maintaining postural alignment, then switch hands/legs. Once you can do three sets of the Horse Stance Vertical, you can progress to this exercise. Work up to three sets of 10 per side.
SWISS BALL NECK TRAINING
Place a ball next to a wall and walk forward until your head touches the ball. Push your head against and hold the position for 30 seconds in each position at 40 percent effort. Do this for the left & right sides, forward & back, and rotating left & right.
Lie face down. Inhale as you lift your upper body off the ground, using the muscles in your upper back while pulling your arms behind you and rotating your palms forward. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 30 seconds and lower, resting for 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
SWISS BALL HYPER EXTENSION
Brace your feet against a wall and lean over a training ball. Inhale as you raise yourself (three seconds up), using your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. Hold for three seconds at the top and exhale as you lower yourself down (three seconds down).
Not only do all of these exercises put your body in functional alignment, but they also work the back side of your body which is opposite of what you do on a daily basis. Remember, we need the body in physical and neuromuscular symmetry to play our best.
By doing these exercises for the next four weeks you will integrate your neuromuscular system. Once this is accomplished, you will be ready for the next step which is neuromuscular isolation—coming next month!