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Pilates for Golfers

By Barbara Wintroub

Pilates for golfersIn the past, because golfers were not considered high-performance athletes, maintaining a base level of fitness wasn’t emphasized. However, studies show that golf-related injuries affect a surprising 60 percent of all amateur golfers (Horowitz, 1999). What’s worse, golf injuries prematurely end the careers of a shocking 50 percent of all professional golfers, often forcing them into early retirement (Metz 1999). But the new generation of golfers, led by Tiger Woods, is proving that adopting the right golf-specific fitness routine can not only improve a player’s game, it can also keep them swinging through the longest par 5’s well into old age.

Golf, like most sports, is about man versus physics. Players compete against gravity in a three-dimensional, unstable environment. In order to prevent injuries and improve swings, the exercises in a well-designed fitness program must directly enhance the golfers’ ability to keep their center of gravity (upper body) aligned over their base of support (feet and legs). Machine-based fitness programs—which function by strengthening muscles in isolation—do not contribute significantly to improved athletic function. When you swing a club, the brain recruits groups of muscles, coordinating them in unique sequences like a conductor leading an orchestra. Integrated Pilates training parallels how the body functions when playing a sport.

Golf and Pilates share the same basic principles, requiring flexibility, rotation and core and gluteal strength. For golfers looking to stay healthy on the greens, Pilates is the ideal golfing partner. While the golf-pro may help correct swings and take strokes off a player’s game, the Pilates specialist can improve a golfer’s performance, stamina and stability. These changes can help clients drive the ball farther and avoid the sand-trap of fatigue and injury.

When I work with golfers, I use the following exercises to correct imbalances and strengthen muscular function and coordination. Because golf is a very one-sided sport, it’s important to identify these imbalances early on in a training program. Often the strengths and weaknesses are readily apparent and almost exaggerated.

Pilates exercise- Bridging with Leg ExtensionBridging with Leg Extension
Strong glutes are important for a golfers balance.  They can keep golfers from swaying from side to side during a stroke’s backswing and follow-through, which move the body away from the ball and make it harder to impact the ball in a consistent way. For players who spend their days sitting in an office or driving, the glutes are often soft and spongy. This exercise can quickly identify weak glutes and highlight imbalances in strength.

Pilates exercise- Kneeling Rotations

 Kneeling Rotations
This Magic Circle exercise reveals much about the way a student moves when swinging a golf club. Many golfers cannot rotate from the mid-section so they turn, instead, by moving their shoulders and their scapula. Essentially, they hit with their arms instead of their bodies, which can cause injuries such as back pain, thoracic inlet syndrome and neck problems. With better and stronger rotation the pain dissipates and often a player’s handicap drops. In this exercise, the thorax rotates by firing the obliques and the opposing adductors. The head and sternum are lined up with the hands. As with a golf swing, the shoulders should not initiate the movement.

Pilates exercise- Mini-StarBent-Knee Push-Up
This exercise strengthens the full body, especially the deep abdominals and pelvic floor. Having a strong midsection can protect the back from compression and also enables golfers to stand tall while rotating through a powerful swing. Scapular stabilization and a strong mid-back—other areas this move targets—also allow the torso to rotate freely. By bending the elbows toward the body in this exercise the triceps are engaged, which can add strength to swinging the golf club.

Pilates exercise- Mini-star.JPGMini-Star
I use this move to work the obliques and quadratus lumborum as well as the deep abdominals, deltoids, balance and shoulder alignment. Many of my students collapse in their mid back and cannot hold this position more than 5 seconds. Doing Mini-Star on both sides builds strength bilaterally and improves postural alignment, which is so important when addressing the ball.

Have you found moves that work with your golfing clients? Share your ideas with other readers by comenting below.

Barbara Wintroub, a certified Pilates and Gyrotonic instructor as well as a marathoner and triathlete, runs the Retrofit Pilates RX in Santa Monica, California.

Posted on Monday, December 11, 2006 at 11:12PM by Registered CommenterJessica Cassity in , | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References

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