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Balanced Body COREterly

Spring 2019
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Pilates and Athletes

Pilates & Golf: 3 Exercises for Before and After Your Game

By Jordan Fuller

The days of a stereotypical golfer with a cigar in one hand, a drink in the other and a paunch hanging over his belt are long gone. Proper fitness is recognized as essential to a good golf game. But golf has unique requirements: yes, you have to be strong, but weightlifting isn’t everything. You also need flexibility, a solid core, and speed, all of which can come from Pilates workouts.

Swinging the club works certain muscles but ignores others. To avoid imbalanced training, it’s important to focus on exercises that provide full-body strength and flexibility, as well as core stability. Pilates is ideal for golf: in addition to strength and flexibility, they also help you stretch out prior to a round and recover after one.

All-time great golfers like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Annika Sorenstam use Pilates as an essential building block to their total body fitness. The PGA Tour is embracing Pilates more and more every year, even featuring an on-site Pilates class at the 2018 Tour Championship (won by none other than Tiger Woods).

These three exercises will help you play better golf. Do them before and after each round of golf, as well as on your off days. You’ll not only feel better and hopefully your scores will drop!


Photo demonstrating exercise

Exercise 1: Single-leg stretch

The single-leg stretch works your core and leg muscles and helps increase blood flow throughout your body. Starting from table-top position, nod your chin to your chest and raise your neck and shoulders off the mat. Grasp your right knee and extend your left leg to a 45-degree angle. Point your toe, then pull your toe to feel the stretch in your calf.

Inhale as you draw your bent knee towards your chest and feel your hip crease stretch. Exhale as you switch legs. Repeat 8-10 times on each side. You’ll feel this in your hamstrings, calves, hips, and abdominals.


Exercise 2: Teaser

The Teaser will work your entire core and stretch your legs while loosening your shoulder flexion muscles. Start lying on your back with your arms at your side and legs flat. Inhale as you raise your arms, keeping them straight, to your ears. Exhale as your raise your legs off the ground and bring your chest up to meet them. This step can be very difficult if you haven’t developed your core strength yet, but with practice you’ll be able to get your chest up off the ground to form a “V” with your legs. Inhale as you return your legs to the ground, and exhale as you rotate your arms back to the starting position.

Shoulder stretches are important and often overlooked in golf preparation. If your shoulders are tight, they restrict your arm movement, costing you both distance and accuracy.

Photo demonstrating exercise

Exercise 3. Swimming

Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you. Raise your chin up off the ground (but keep looking down), then float your arms and legs off the floor. Raise your right hand and left leg together, then lower them and alternate to the other side. Keep your core and trunk stable and breathe.

Swimming opens up shoulder and hip flexors while hitting your abs and quads as well. Your triceps and biceps will get more blood flow and your arms will swing the golf club more freely. It also trains the back of the body and “cross pattern” muscles. Our golf swings are largely flexion and rotation, while this exercise focuses on unilateral extension.

Focus on your breathing, inhaling for one rep on each side and exhaling for the next rep. This breath training also helps your golf swing, as I strongly recommend you practice a controlled exhale prior to each swing or putt.

Performing these exercises while controlling your core stability and practicing mindful breathing will help put you in a good mindset to attack the golf course and improve your strength and flexibility in the process.