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Yoga, Pilates and Golf

Take the strain out of golf by expanding your repertoire of sports conditioning exercises.

By Catherine Fiscella, MS, PT, and Jill Johnson, MS, PT

Yoga, Pilates & Golf

Tight chest muscles. Reduced flexibility in the torso. Strained shoulders and a sore back. Unfortunately, that’s the description of many amateur and weekend golfers. Golfers habitually bend and twist, bend and twist–all the while straining their backs and shoulders, forming muscle imbalances and inviting injury. What if we could change how our clients feel on the golf course? What if we could help them utilize the force of trunk rotation instead of the brute force of aching muscles to drive a golf ball? Incorporating yoga and Pilates movements into a golfer’s exercise regimen is a sure-fire way to increase freedom of movement, build core strength, enhance performance and reduce risk of injury. As fitness professionals we are not in a position to be “swing doctors,” but we can facilitate increases in range of motion and torso strength

May 2004 IDEA Health & Fitness Source

to enable a golfer to perform a superior swing. Understanding how the principles of yoga and Pilates can assist in the alignment, strength, mental focus and flexibility of golf enthusiasts can improve your skills when working with this population.

inability to stand in place with eyes closed (poor neuromuscular control), for example, indicates the Chair Pose.

Golf Muscle Basics
A golfer’s healthy posture begins with full-body strength, flexibility and the maintenance of muscle balance. Players need strength in the upper- and lower-body musculature and the postural and rotational muscles. They also need to be mindful of muscular symmetry (Archambault 2000). Asymmetry is pervasive among golfers; the shoulder, biceps, forearm and upper back tend to develop more on a golfer’s dominant side. The stronger muscles are tighter, while the weaker muscles are more flexible (Baptiste & Mendola 1999). Many golfers desire a better bilateral balance in their musculature, as do most one-sided athletes (for example, baseball pitchers and tennis players). An efficient golf swing requires full range of motion of the spine and ribs; shoulder external rotators, adductors and abductors; forearm pronators and supinators; and wrist extensors and radial deviators. Flexibility increases the range through which golfers can swing and reduces the frequency of tears and strains in ligaments and tendons (Garrett 1996). While flexibility enables motion to occur, sufficient strength of the posterior shoulder muscles is essential for club control during the swing phase. The abdominals, erector spinae and latissimus dorsi are used in concert to stabilize the trunk and dissipate forces. Professional golfers use their hips for power, as the hip musculature is very active during the golf swing. Hip rotators are extremely important during the downswing, when the abductors and adductors act in a stabilizing role to maintain balance throughout the movement. In the absence of strong hip rotator musculature, the low back and arms must make up the work, potentially causing back strain (Archambault 2000). A balanced, flexible and strong body is the foundation a serious golfer needs to take his game to the next level.

Observe posture.


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