You may have realized by now that the golf swing is directly related to the body, and uses every major muscle and joint in it. It is the body working in close sync with the mechanics of the swing that generates, directs and delivers power to the golf ball. As we had discussed in the last column (“Boot-camp for the greens”, 3 April), limitations in flexibility, stability (balance), strength and power can cause compensations in the golf swing, making you an ineffective player, and opening you up to the risk of injury. In this column, we will discuss the first two components of golf fitness, flexibility and stability, and explain some of the best ways to develop these. To give you an idea of what the body goes through during a game, a table below lists the phases of the golf swing and the physical requirements of each phase (see “Swing with ease”).
The golfer will often be restricted in his movement due to muscle, ligament or tendon “tightness”. This prevents the golfer from executing a biomechanically correct golf swing, altering the intended path of the club, and hitting the ball in the wrong spot. The first pillar of golf fitness is flexibility, and before embarking on any other aspect of fitness, a golfer should work on this. Here are two of the best flexibility exercises for the golfer.
The hip flexor stretch
Hip flexor stretch: Keep the torso upright. Photographs by Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Tight and short hip flexors will make it impossible to drive your hips forward in the downswing. Flexible hip muscles ensure that the hip drive is complete.
This stretch improves flexibility in the hips and quadriceps. Kneel on the ground with the right knee on the floor and the left foot on the floor, with the left knee bent at 90 degrees. Push the right hip forward and rise approximately 3-4 inches from the ground. At the same time, raise your right hand in the air and tilt your body by about 15-20 degrees to the left. Keep the torso upright and look ahead. Hold for 10 seconds and switch sides. Do 10 repetitions on each side.
The piriformis stretch with physio ball
This stretch helps to increase flexibility in the hips and glutes. Lie on your back on the ground, feet on top of the physio ball and knees bent at 90 degrees. Place the outside of your right ankle on the upper thigh of your left leg. Grasp the right ankle with your left hand and place the right hand on the inside of your right knee. Simultaneously pull with the left hand and press with the right hand till a stretch is felt in the right hip and glute. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg. Keep the ball in place throughout the length of the stretch.
Piriformis stretch: Increase flexibility in the hips and glutes.
Second in the golf fitness hierarchy is stability or balance. The American physical therapist, strength coach and author Gray Cook, in his 2003 book Athletic Body In Balance, defines balance as the ability to maintain proper alignment and centre of gravity during biomechanical movement. Throughout the golf swing, it is important to maintain a proper spine angle. In order to achieve this, it is imperative that the entire body is used as a single unit and the extremities (hands and legs) are controlled.
Here are the two best stability exercises for golfers.
Superman in plank position
Superman plank: The entire body should be braced and stiff.
Assume a standard push-up position with the hips almost in line with the shoulders. Do not let the hips sag or lift up in the air. Now, simultaneously elevate the left arm and the right leg. Raise the leg from the hip and keep the arm straight, and keep your entire body braced and stiff. Hold for as long as possible. In the beginning you will struggle to hold even for a few seconds but you can build it up to almost a minute. Return to the opening stance and repeat with the other hand and leg.
This exercise builds core strength in the trunk and hip muscles.
Supine lateral roll on physio ball
This exercise develops stability in the glutes, hips and hamstrings and really ignites the deep transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle). Lie on your back on a physio ball so that the head and the shoulders are comfortably placed on top of the ball. Your legs should be at 90 degrees to the floor, feet placed firmly on the ground, and hips kept in line with the shoulders. Extend your arms out with the palms facing upwards. Begin to roll laterally on your right side holding the alignment of the body exactly as it was before moving, except that you can move your feet in a small shuffle. Continue to roll till the right shoulder is off the ball and the ball is directly under the left shoulder. Hold this position for 1 second and then repeat the roll on the opposite side. Alternate rolling back and forth for 15-20 repetitions. Maintain the elevation of your hips throughout the entire movement.
Supine lateral roll: It targets the deepest abdominal muscles.
Ranadeep Moitra is a certified coach from the National Strength and Conditioning Association of America, and has worked with the Indian cricket team, the Bengal cricket team, and the East Bengal Football Club. He currently coaches the Indian golf team.
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