Golf Fitness: Enhancing Your Game by Tony Rodriguez
Regardless of what level you’re at, if you’re a golfer, you’re always looking to improve your game. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to play more golf, but a comprehensive fitness program can also greatly improve your game.

The most effective program includes three important components of fitness - flexibility, strength and balance. Flexibility is important in achieving a fluidity of motion when building the torque of your swing. Strength creates speed and speed creates distance. Balance is important for maintaining proper follow through of the swing. If an exercise doesn't adhere to these 3 components, I don't have my clients perform it. The foundation of my approach to fitness involves "functional" exercises which are movement-based exercises that mimic and/or enhance real life or sport-specific movements. These exercises are done using a variety of equipment, such as medicine balls, tubing, stability balls and my patent-pending "fitness stations," where almost any body movement can be duplicated by using different levels of resistance. My functional approach to fitness will help you hit longer, more accurate drives and avoid issues that are golf-specific, the dreaded golfer’s elbow torn rotator cuff and low back pain. Tight, weak low back muscles will limit an otherwise well-executed golf swing.

The primary focus of a golf fitness program should be on flexibility of the body's middle or "core," which includes the hip structure and shoulder area. This month, we'll concentrate on essential flexibility exercises; next month, we will focus specifically on strengthening exercises. Please consult a physician first if you have any medical conditions or have not exercised in a long time. You should warm-up for at least 10 minutes prior to these exercises. Hold all stretches for 8-10 seconds then release and rest for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do not hold your breath and do not bounce! If you experience any pain or discomfort, STOP! You will need a stability ball for some of these exercises:
Supine Abdominal Stretch with Ball
Instructions: Lie across a stability ball with the small of your back on top of the ball. Stretch your arms straight back behind your head and somewhat reach for the floor. Allow your abs to stretch and hold the position for 15-25 seconds.

Supine Hip Stretch with Ball
Instructions: 1. Lie on your back on the floor and place your right leg on top of the ball. Take the left leg and cross it over the right knee. 2. Slowly curl the ball towards your chest until a stretch is felt in the hip. 3. Switch legs and repeat for 15-25 reps.

Low Back Stretch (laying on floor without the ball)
Instructions: Lie on your back and bring both your knees to your chest. Grab the back of your knees and pull towards your head until you feel a stretch in your back.

Back Stretch (wall stretch without ball)
Instructions: Reach out and place your hands onto a wall. Now bend forward so that your shoulders are below your hands. Shift your hips backwards but keeping your hands on the wall. Hold this position to stretch your back and shoulders.

Lat Stretch (without ball)
Instructions: 1. Start by kneeling on the ground with your arms out in front of you. 2. Slide your arms to your right and slowly shift your hips back towards your left until a comfortable stretch is felt. 3. Slowly keep stretching both hips and arms in opposition to each other until a bigger stretch is felt. Reverse sides.

Standing Lateral Stretch with Broomstick
Instructions: 1. Hold onto the broomstick with both hands. Make sure it is directly in front of you and do not bend too far forward or back. Continuing to hold the stick with both hands, tilt to your left side as you raise your right hand higher, rising above your head. 2. Keeping your feet on the ground, bend laterally as far as you can go to the left side. Do not lean forward or back to reach further. 3. Hold for 15-25 seconds. 4. Switch sides and repeat.

Perform the above exercises 3 times/week and you will see a definite improvement in your golf game including drive distance, accuracy and mental concentration. Until next time, eat right and train smart.

Tony Rodriguez is a nationally-known personal trainer and owner of Evolve Fitness & Nutrition in East Setauket, NY. He is a "functional exercise specialist" and trains his clients at his facility and online in his unique 30-minute program called "The Real-World Workout." For more info on his 8-week golf fitness program or any other fitness program, call 631-941-0000.