Gimme Three Strokes:~Back9 Will Pump You Up

Fitness in golf has long been seen as a contradiction. While golf may not require you to lift heavy objects, run up and down a field or jump to block a shot (which, admittedly, would be freaking amazing), strength training and keeping fit is vital to improving your game.  It can also help you lower your handicap.

Beware the offseason, fellow golf enthusiasts! All that time spent sitting on your couch eating pizza, drinking beer and watching “Mork and Mindy” reruns isn’t going to translate to a lower golf handicap next season. In fact, you should probably take a long look in the mirror because nobody watches “Mork and Mindy” anymore. Get a grip.

According to Men’s Health, you can improve your power, flexibility and mechanics on the golf course by following an exercise program focused on those areas. Here are a few tips you can use the next time you are at the gym. (Note: Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt and sue my ass for telling you to break a sweat.)

Boost your power by strengthening your core – Listen up, Tin Cup. While you may think driving distance can be found in a flashy driver or multi-layer golf ball, most long-hitters attribute their distance to strong core and stomach muscles. The stronger your core, the faster you can rotate through the golf ball.

One exercise sure to get you feeling the burn in the midsection is to do crunches. Lie on the floor with knees bent and a medicine ball or towel between your knees. Clasp your hands behind your head and raise your ankles of the floor. While exhaling, lift your shoulder blades off the floor and squeeze your abdominal muscles to raise your knees toward your chest.

Congratulations, you just completed a crunch! Now do about nine more to get maximum benefit from this exercise. Once you are comfortable with the exercise, try doing multiple sets of ten repetitions.

Improve your swing mechanics with a simple twist – According to golf performance coach Katherine Roberts, the “triad of peak performance is body, mechanics, and equipment.” Golf lessons can help engrain a new mechanically-sound swing, but exercise will help strengthen your body to repeat those mechanics every round.

The Golf Twist exercise is the perfect way to strengthen the muscles needed to rotate your body along the proper swing plane. Hold a lightweight medicine ball, dumbbell or small pet with both hands at chest level. Take your usual address position as if you were about to make a golf swing. Spread your legs apart slightly more than normal to account for the added weight. Keep your head still as you slowly swing your arms to the top while focusing on moving your lead shoulder under your chin. Return to your address position and repeat the swing in the opposite direction.

Repeat this exercise multiple times for best results. But be sure to do it indoors because you will look like a crazy person. Just fair warning.

Get flexible for more power and consistency – In addition to a strong core and proper mechanics, flexibility can greatly improve your golf swing and lead to longer shots over time.

A simple lunge and twist exercise will help you add a few yards to your game. Lunge or kneel forward with your left leg. You may want to hold a golf club in your left hand for balance since we all know you’re clumsy. Next, raise your right arm overhead and lean to the left, stretching your torso and hips on your left side. Hold this position for three seconds and slowly return to starting position. Repeat the exercise four times to complete the set.

According to Roberts, this exercise will increase range of motion in the shoulder, lats and hips while also strengthening core rotation and flexibility. It’s like a one-stop shop for stretching and pain!

Additional exercises are available to download at the Men’s Health website, and a simple internet search will yield more tips or exercise suggestions. Even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life, practicing the above movements will provide you a solid fitness foundation to build on over time. Let’s face it; during the winter, you’re not going to be playing much golf anyway so way not get your body in shape before that first round of the year?

Don’t worry about the pizza and bad television re-runs. Those will be waiting for you when you get home from the gym. So go out and work on those love handles!

Nah-nu, nah-nu.