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Getting Fit for the Greens

Many golfers are realizing the benefits of taking on a fitness regimen as a way of improving their game.

The best training for golfers is functional training--exercises that mimic the movement of the swing and target the key muscle groups involved.

Core stability work (exercises that strengthen your abdominals and help stabilize the spine) as well as yoga (postures that help increase strength, flexibility, balance and coordination) are excellent choices for golfers.

The key is to have a good balance of strength and flexibility.

ABDOMINALS AND BACK: Strong, flexible abdominal and back muscles are key in withstanding the stress of a swing (to avoid injury, especially to the lower back) as well as improving it (with better posture, rotation and increased power).

If your trunk lacks flexibility or is weak and underdeveloped, your pivot motion will be impaired and you will compensate for your weaknesses by changing your address posture.

SHOULDERS AND HIPS: An even balance of strength and flexibility is needed in the shoulders and hips. If a golfer who lacks flexibility in the shoulders and hips forces a full turn (a 90-degree shoulder rotation on the backswing), he or she will compensate by adjusting the posture.

Changing address posture means changing the fulcrum of the swing, which makes it difficult to return the club head with precision.

Lessig demonstrated a few of these exercises on The Early Show:

  1. V ROTATIONS--This exercise increases spine stability and rotational power, using an exercise ball as well as a medicine ball. It works all abdominals, the back, shoulders and even glutes (which help generate power on the forward swing).
  2. MEDICINE BALL THROWS--Practice these either against a wall or with a partner. This exercise mimics the swinging movement and strengthens the core, especially the obliques (the abs that rotate your trunk). It also strengthens the shoulders, chest, back and stretches the hips. If you can swing a heavy ball without losing your balance, you can swing a club at greater speeds and maintain control.
  3. MODIFIED REVERSE TRIANGLE--Doing this exercise while using a chair for support stretches the hips, hamstrings and shoulders, and strengthens the back. This is a yoga pose, great for golfers because it helps balance strength and flexibility in the body, increase balance and coordination, and helps the mental game by improving focus, concentration and fluid breathing.
  4. WARRIOR ONE (YOGA POSTURE)--This is a hip flexor stretch, useful for golfers, because those muscles can tighten from bending at the waist during the set-up and swing, or from sitting in the golf cart.
More fitness information is available on Minna Lessig's Web site, and more about improving your fitness to improve your golf game is available at http://www.HealthyGolf.org.

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