7 Anti-rotation Exercises to Maximize Clubhead Speed

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By Dr Ben Langdown and Jennifer Fleischer
@BenLangdown @HolisticFitSF

Anti-rotation. As a golfer you may be thinking, why would I want to resist rotation when my sport demands so much of it? It sounds counterproductive, right? Whether you're looking to increase your clubhead speed, reduce the risk of injury around the lower back or just increase your strength and tone through the core muscles, training for anti-rotation is key.

Why? Because anti-rotation training helps golfers create a more efficient transfer of force from the ground up through the body and out to the clubhead. Recent research has demonstrated, once again, that the ground is our friend in golf. Amongst other significant results, Wells et al., (2018) reported that the greater the peak force a golfer can press into the ground during an isometric mid-thigh pull (a test they used to measure this force), the greater the clubhead velocity is likely to be. This data is significant when considering the transfer of force up through the body in the golf swing.  If you are generating high ground reaction forces then you certainly don’t want any leaking out of the system unnecessarily just because you didn’t do the right training in the gym, or didn’t even see the benefit of training in the first place! 

Many of you will have heard the terms kinetic chain and kinematic sequence before. For those of you who are new to these terms, they refer to the sequential transfer of force and movements respectively from the ground upwards, through the pelvis, trunk, arms and ultimately ending up with as much speed as possible in the clubhead as it travels through impact with the golf ball. 

Ground reaction forces drive the following sequence: 

‘Pelvic Rotation – Trunk Rotation – Arm Action – Impact between clubhead and golf ball’ (Figure 1). 

It’s as simple as cracking a whip! Speed one section up, slow it down rapidly to transfer the energy to the next section until the end of the sequence results in maximal angular velocity.

  Figure 1  A Model of an Ideal Kinematic Sequence for a Golf Swing, Highlighting 4 Body Segments: Hips, Shoulders (Trunk), Wrists and Clubhead (Langdown et al., 2012).

Figure 1 A Model of an Ideal Kinematic Sequence for a Golf Swing, Highlighting 4 Body Segments: Hips, Shoulders (Trunk), Wrists and Clubhead (Langdown et al., 2012).

However, what’s possibly more important than generating the ground reaction forces is to block the leaks higher up the chain – so, in between the pelvis reaching its top speed and the trunk then taking over, we need the ability to transfer this force through the rapid deceleration of the pelvis. Then, just as we want the arms to take over the trunk needs to rapidly decelerate and so on until we crack the whip – the clubhead impacting with the ball. 

So, although it may seem counterintuitive to train to resist rotation, doing just this (i.e. anti-rotation training) allows golfers to increase the strength of the muscles that generate this rotation and deceleration in their swing. 

Note: we are not saying rotation based exercises are to be forgotten – but you should look to incorporate both rotation and anti-rotation into your golf strength and conditioning programme. Rotation exercises should be focussed on the thoracic region of the spine and the hips – not through the lumbar region as this is designed for stability – not rotational mobility. 

What better place to start to train anti-rotation than with some Pallof Press exercises. The following can all be performed with a cable machine or resistance band: 

Note: for all of the exercise suggestions you should ensure you have 2-3 minutes rest between sets – or use supersets where you switch to another exercise focusing on the opposing muscles in between.

Exercise 1: Kneeling Pallof Press

Sets and reps suggestion: Try adding 2 sets x 12 reps each side to begin with into your programme. 

Coaching points: Select a resistance that challenges you but allows you to maintain form and anti-rotation. Keep the trunk and pelvis square throughout the movement. Do the exercise slowly while bracing through the core. Push the hands out along a straight path before returning them slowly toward the body. 

Half kneeling or split-stance positions are great ways to increase the challenge and keep your training progressive: 

Exercise 2: Split Stance Pallof Press

Sets and reps suggestion: Again, 2 x 12 each side to begin. 

Coaching points: Again, select a weight that challenges you but allows you to keep your body upright and trunk and pelvis aligned square to the cable. Push the hands out along a straight path before returning them slowly toward the body. 

Further progressions with these can be achieved through the raising of the hands overhead while continuing to keep the rest of the body aligned. 

Exercise 3: Standing Pallof Press with Overhead Cable Raise

Sets and reps suggestion: 2 x 12 each side.

Coaching points: Maintain a square body position throughout and ensure you don’t extend through the back as you raise the arms overhead. Keep the hands directly in line with the body throughout without the cable pulling them back towards the stack. 


The following exercises are floor based using variations of the plank to allow progression and overload to the anti-rotation focus of any programme.

Exercise 4: Plank Plate Slide

Sets and reps suggestion: Try adding 4 x 5 slides to each side to begin.

Coaching points: Adding the slide to the plank allows you to test your ability to maintain the body’s position while performing a movement with the arms. It essentially becomes a single arm plank position. Brace through the core and keep a neutral pelvis and spine throughout. 

Exercise 5: Renegade Rows with DBs

Sets and reps suggestion: Try adding 4 x 5 rows to each side to begin. 

Coaching points: Select a weight that will challenge you but also allow good form to be maintained throughout. This exercise is about maintaining the body’s position while performing the row. 

Exercise 6: Plank Up Downs

Sets and reps suggestion: Try adding 2-4 sets of 30 seconds for this exercise. 

Coaching points: As you move up and down through the reps try to keep your trunk and pelvis as still as possible – widening the feet can allow more stability at the pelvis. 

Exercise 7: Plank Single-Arm Cable Row

Sets and reps suggestion: Try adding 4 x 5 rows to each side to begin. 

Coaching points: Select a weight that is challenging but allows you to keep your pelvis and trunk aligned throughout. 

In our next article we will show you more dynamic movement based exercises to add into your programme for stability and strength in the legs, glutes and trunk and shoulders – the key areas of transferring force through the kinetic chain!


8 Exercises to Improve your Scapula Stability and Shoulder Mobility for Golf

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Upper back.jpg

By Dr Ben Langdown and Jennifer Fleischer
@BenLangdown  @HolisticFitSF

Poor posture can have detrimental effects on the golf swing. In our previous blogs, we outlined the ways in which prolonged sitting (e.g. at a desk) can lead to poor posture – specifically upper and lower crossed syndromes.

One of the most common misconceptions about good posture is that it means standing as upright as possible with your shoulder blades (scapula) pinched back and forced together. Not only uncomfortable, that position can also be unhealthy for the function of your shoulder joint.

 

Q. Why is a healthy shoulder joint important for your golf performance?

A. Research shows that the shoulder generates around 20% of total clubhead speed!

(Hume et al., 2005)

In this blog, we will explore what good upper body posture means for your golf and provide you with exercises to help increase your upper back strength and shoulder mobility.

Q. Why is upper back strength important?

A. Because beach workouts just won’t cut it for golf!

By beach workouts we mean training bicep curls and chest press in every session! When your upper back is strong, it becomes much easier and more natural to hold yourself in good posture. When you can transfer and maintain that good posture in your golf swing it becomes much easier to produce increased clubhead speed from the forces generated from the ground up.

Training the back and shoulders for both mobility (shoulders and thoracic spine) and stability (scapula and lumbar spine) allows you to:

  • Adequately rotate in your backswing and downswing;

  • Create an explosive stretch-shortening cycle (a.k.a. The X-Factor Stretch);

  • Generate increased clubhead speed;

  • Use effective shoulder and arm movements through impact to help control the clubhead (along with the forearms and hands).

We know that a certain amount of external shoulder rotation (turning the upper arm outwards) is needed during the golf swing in both the trail and lead sides. The anatomy and physiology of the body dictates that in order for this external shoulder rotation – and indeed other shoulder movements – to be optimised, the scapula needs to be stabilised by muscles including serratus anterior, rhomboids, levator scapula, and trapezii (Pain & Voight, 2013).

“The scapular muscles must dynamically position the glenoid* so that efficient glenohumeral movement can occur.”

(Pain & Voight, 2013, p.618)

*Note: The glenoid is the scapula cavity which along with the humerus (upper arm bone) creates the glenohumeral joint

This dynamic positioning is especially true in the golf swing where an appropriate scapula position is required to optimise the transfer and generation of force during the swing (Mackenzie et al., 2015). This is because the scapula is a key component of control in the kinetic chain (i.e., generating force from the ground upwards, through the pelvis, torso, arms and ultimately the clubhead. Many of you will know this as the kinematic sequence) (Sciascia et al., 2016; see Lamb and Glazier, 2017 for a full review of body segment sequencing in golf). As we stated earlier, previous research has already told us how the shoulder generates around 20% of total clubhead speed (Hume et al., 2005)!

While the exercises below are designed to help you to work on the stability of the scapula and mobility in the shoulder, you should be aware that if there are dysfunctional links lower down in the kinetic chain then these will also need correcting to help you swing that golf club as fast as you possibly can.

“Impairment of one or more kinetic chain links (anatomical segments) can create dysfunctional biomechanical output…When deficits exist in the preceding links, they can negatively affect the shoulder…programs focused on eliminating kinetic chain deficits and soreness should follow a proximal-to-distal rationale where lower extremity impairments are addressed in addition to the upper extremity impairments.”

(Sciascia et al., 2016, p.317).

For this reason, it’s important to work with both a golf coach and a golf fitness trainer / strength and conditioning (S&C) coach to identify and address any impairments that might be limiting the full potential of your swing.

Research tells us that shoulder issues can be linked to limited scapula stability, rotation and position (see Mackenzie et al., 2015 for full review), but this golf specific research also highlights that golfers will often present asymmetries between their trail and lead scapulae’s upward rotation in the coronal plane.  For all the trainers/S&C coaches reading this: Be aware that the researchers, who studied 45 European Challenge Tour golfers, also stated that this does not indicate increased risk for injury and is perhaps just due to the varying demands placed on each shoulder and scapula during the different phases of the swing over prolonged participation in the sport (Mackenzie et al., 2015). However, this asymmetry should not be trained into golfers in a strength and conditioning programme!

As we mentioned, faking good posture by simply pinching your shoulder blades together may make you look taller in the short term, but can be exposed by the force generated in your golf swing. It’s time to build up the strength, control and mobility you have around this area of the body so that you can spend more time playing golf and less time thinking about holding yourself upright.

Check out these videos of some great exercises to help you work on the points we have discussed above…

Scapula Wall Slides – facing the wall

This exercise is a regression from the back to the wall scapula wall slides.

The aim here is to keep the forearms in contact with the wall as you slide them up and down. You should feel the scapula rotating around the rib cage as you can see in the video. The arms should never quite get to full extension at the elbow as that draws the focus away from the upper back.

Wall slides can help to increase shoulder mobility, activation of the upper back muscles, and scapular stabilisers.

2-3 sets of 30-60 seconds.

Scapula Wall Slides – back to wall

This exercise is a progression from facing the wall. It again benefits shoulder rotation, activation of the upper back muscles, and scapula stabilisers.

Keep the head, upper back and forearms in contact with the wall throughout. Before you begin sliding the arms you should tip the pelvis backwards to reduce the curve in the lower back – i.e. try to flatten the back on the wall.

Progress through wall slides is generally quick and therefore the next exercise adding some resistance will help to maintain overload and progression.

2-3 sets of 30-60 seconds.

Mini-Band Wall Walks

A point to bear in mind when working on scapula stabilisation is that if the resistance you select is too heavy then the shoulder will likely shrug causing the prime movers to take over the movement and not effectively work the intended stabilising muscles (Coffel and Liebenson, 2017).

Therefore, select a mini-band that allows the shoulder to stay down while your forearms walk up the wall. Keep the spine neutral and the forearms parallel to each other throughout.

Begin with 2-3 sets of 5 walks up and down the wall with 2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Mini-Band Arm Raises

Keep a stretch on the band throughout and maintain the position of the palms (facing each other) throughout the movement. When your arms get to the point of full extension at the elbow pull them apart even wider and raise overhead. Hold for a count of three and then return to the start position. Taking your time through this movement will lead to benefits in both scapula stability and shoulder mobility.

Begin with 2-3 sets of 5 arm raises with 2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Half-Kneeling Landmine Overhead Press

This great exercise benefits thoracic mobility through the anti-rotation core stability work involved. It also acts to increase the dynamic stability of the scapula.

Use a landmine or a free plate on the floor to place the bar in. Brace the core to keep the body still with no rotation or extension as you press the bar up straight out from the shoulder to a fully extended arm. Maintain good neutral posture throughout.

Begin with 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each side using your 10 Rep Max (10RM).

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Bent Over Row with Barbell

In this exercise the posture of the upper body is very important. The spine should be in a neutral position throughout. Make sure the upper body is bent over from the hips in an almost horizontal position – how close to horizontal you get dictates the muscles that are worked on during this exercise. These can include the lats, rhomboids, posterior deltoids, traps, and biceps.

As you row towards the lower ribs make sure nothing moves apart from the arms.

Begin with 2-3 sets of 10 reps using your 10 Rep Max (10RM) where you can still maintain form.

Reverse Flyes

Reverse flyes target the strength of the posterior deltoid, the rhomboids and the traps. Again, in this exercise the posture of the upper body is very important. The spine should be in a neutral position throughout. Make sure the upper body is bent over from the hips in an almost horizontal position. As you complete the flyes ensure the chin stays tucked in with the spine in neutral so that you don’t do any pigeon head movements! As with the bent over row – nothing moves apart from the arms.

Begin with 3 x 10 reps using your 10 Rep Max (10RM) where you can still maintain form.

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Plank Mini-Band Walks

A great exercise to work on core stability through anti-rotation, upper back and shoulder strength. Assume a plank position and imagine there is a + on the floor beneath you. Walk your hands along each line of the imaginary +  (forwards, backwards and to both sides) while minimising rotation of the hips and torso.

Repeat two cycles for every set and complete 4-6 sets with 2-3 minutes rest between sets.

We hope you enjoy these exercises. Here's to improving your posture and your golf game in 2018!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for more golf fitness tips:

@BenLangdown  @HolisticFitSF


References:

Brody, L. T., & Hall C. M. (2010). Therapeutic Exercise: Moving Toward Function. (3rd edn), Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health: Philadelphia.

Coffel, L., & Liebenson, D. C. (2017). The Kettlebell Arm Bar. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 21(3), 726-738.

Hume, P. A., Keogh, J., & Reid, D. (2005). The role of biomechanics in maximising distance and accuracy of golf shots. Sports Medicine, 35(5), 429-449.

Lamb, P. F., & Glazier, P. S. (2017). The Sequence of Body Segment Interactions in the Golf Swing. In M. Toms (Ed.) Routledge International Handbook of Golf Science (pp. 24-32). Routledge: Oxon.

Mackenzie, T. A., Herrington, L., Funk, L., Horlsey, I., & Cools, A. (2015). Sport Specific Adaptation in Scapular Upward Rotation in Elite Golfers. Journal of Athletic Enhancement 4(5), 1-6.

Paine, R., & Voight, M. L. (2013). The role of the scapula. International journal of sports physical therapy, 8(5), 617-629.

Sciascia, A., & Monaco, M. (2016). When Is the Patient Truly “Ready to Return,” aka Kinetic Chain Homeostasis. In J.D. Kelly IV (Ed.) Elite Techniques in Shoulder Arthroscopy(pp. 317-327). Springer International Publishing: Cham.

5 Exercises for Increasing Thoracic Spine Mobility in Your Golf Swing

 By Dr. Ben Langdown, PhD ( @benlangdown ) and Jennifer Fleischer ( @holisticfitsf )

By Dr. Ben Langdown, PhD (@benlangdown) and Jennifer Fleischer (@holisticfitsf)

Our last blog focused on exercises to increase the strength of the gluteals and discussed their role in creating various movements. This time we’ll address the thoracic region of the vertebral column (commonly known as the T-Spine) and provide examples of mobilisations and exercises to improve mobility in this area.

Do you want the chance to create a more effective swing and increase clubhead speed? Read on to see how mobility exercises can help...

As a whole, the vertebral column (often described in press as ‘the spine’ or ‘spinal column’) has 5 main functions:

  1. To support the weight of the head and the trunk
  2. To allow movement of the head and trunk
  3. To protect the spinal cord which transmits signals all over the body
  4. To allow nerves to exit to each part of the body
  5. To provide sites for muscle attachment
 

The functions of the vertebral column, from an anatomical point of view, are well established. However, how we improve movement in the thoracic region and transfer it to the golf swing needs further investigation. This blog focuses on function number 2 -- the ability of the spine to allow movement of the head and trunk -- and in particular, the movement of the trunk.

We know that golf is a sport that involves a great deal of rotation...and that rotation has to come from somewhere in the body.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The Thoracic Spine!

 
                 A thoracic vertebrae

                A thoracic vertebrae

 

12 chunks of bone, stacked on top of each other, named T1-T12, increasing in size the further down you go, pointy ‘processes’ for muscle attachment, a close relationship (‘articulations’) with the ribs, an ability to rotate, flex, extend and bend sideways...the T-spine certainly plays an important role in the golf swing.

 
 The thoracic region of the vertebral column

The thoracic region of the vertebral column

 

While a golfer should produce sufficient rotation through the thoracic spine, it is also important that the hips provide rotation during the golf swing. Note that we said “hips” here and not pelvis! The pelvis itself cannot rotate, as it is not a joint. We can measure the resulting rotation of the hip joints via the change in pelvis position from address using 3D analysis during the golf swing. Beware of compensatory movements that contribute to this rotation though. Studies (e.g. Murray et al., 2009) have found that golfers with decreased hip rotation were more likely to complain of lower back pain. This suggests that increases in lumbar rotation in the golf swing may be one of the reasons why this pain occurs. We have previously discussed how sitting at a desk for prolonged periods can lead to poor posture and limited thoracic rotation. If the T-spine can’t rotate enough, the lower back will often rotate to compensate for this lack of mobility.

Table 1.0 shows the normal range of motion expected at each area of the spine and the hips. One thing to note is that the total amount of lumbar rotation usually ranges between 3° and 18° when in a neutral posture but values can be higher in younger children due to the orientation of the facets on the lumbar vertebrae (aged up to ~11 years of age; Kondratek et al., 2007). Anything over 3° rotation at each joint for adults can result in compensated movement and greater risk of injury and low back pain (Bogduk, 2005) . The function of the lumbar region should therefore be one of stability while the thoracic region should provide mobility.

 
 The lumbar region of the vertebral column 

The lumbar region of the vertebral column 

 

Do you often get low back pain during or following golf? Or is your PGA Professional saying you over-rotate your pelvis in your backswing?

When swinging the golf club, we must remember that we are not simply rotating. We are also flexing, extending and side bending throughout the swing. As a result, too much lumbar rotation, extension and lateral flexion (side bend) when in posture at the top of the backswing and especially through the high-force phase of the downswing and eventual follow through can increase the incidence of lower back pain and risk of injury. As a result, good range of motion in the thoracic spine and hips can help reduce the amount of compensatory movements in the swing.

Hashimoto et al. (2013) have even gone to the extent of analysing golfers wearing corsets in an attempt to increase stability in the lumbar region. They found that corsets could significantly reduce lumbar extension, tilt and rotation while also increasing hip rotation in the trail hip (16% higher) at the top of the backswing and lead hip (19% higher) at the end of the follow-through. However, they didn’t measure clubhead speed or any performance parameters, so unless you are already in the habit of wearing a corset to the golf course then currently this may not be a practical or comfortable solution!


Having established where the rotation should be coming from, we can propose that there are plenty of golfers out there who are generating their backswing ‘turn’ through other compensatory movements! They will gain rotation through the lumbo-pelvic region by making these compensatory movements (e.g. changes in leg movements, buckling knees inwards or straightening the knee joint to provide any sort of added rotation through the hip and generally excessive resultant pelvis turn), but this may come at a cost: reduced clubhead speed (lack of separation between upper and lower body) and increased risk of injury to the back, hip, knees or other areas of the body, especially when combined with overuse of these movements.

As rotation is so important, how do we go about ensuring it comes from the right places?

The key is to make sure that clubhead speed in the swing is not limited by physical constraints, and in this case, a lack of range of movement in T-Spine. The strength and conditioning focus, therefore, needs to be on improving both T-spine AND hip rotation (both internal and external).

The focus of this blog is to provide a few ideas for increasing thoracic rotation. Remember, thoracic mobility is only part of the puzzle for increasing clubhead speed and altering movement patterns. Many other factors contribute, including (but not limited to) the range of movement available at the hips and also how any increases in T-spine movement is transferred into the swing. For this reason, working with a PGA Professional in addition to a strength and conditioning coach is vital. A team approach is required to alter movement patterns both in the gym and out on the golf course.


5 Exercises for Increasing Thoracic Spine Mobility

You should only perform the following exercises if you have had clearance from your Doctor. Perform them when you are warmed up and start with 3 times per week.

SKLZ Accupoint Drill

Place the Accupoint (or two tennis balls taped together) under your T-Spine, towards the lower part of your ribcage. The Accupoint shouldn’t be touching the vertebrae, instead it should be touching the muscles either side. Perform 5 small crunches with the hands on the side of the head and then lower yourself down onto the Accupoint for the second phase of the drill. Reach the hands into the air above the head and keeping the elbows straight drop each arm towards the floor aiming to touch the thumb to the ground. Hold for a couple of seconds and then repeat on the other side and then with both arms.

Move the Accupoint slightly higher up the back and repeat the process. You should aim to do this with the Accupoint in 4-5 different positions up the thoracic spine.

Open Book

Lying on your back place the top leg over to the side and keep the knee held down as you perform the exercise.  Your head can be resting on a pillow or pad and you should let it move as you complete the exercise. Take the top arm over to the opposite side of the body to the held down knee and rotate the torso to increase the stretch through the T-Spine area. The important point in this movement is to keep the pelvis stable so that the stretch is felt in the mid-upper back. Hold the position for a count of 5-10 and repeat several times each side.

Anti-Rotation Drills – Plank Rows

Assume a plank position on the hands. The aim with this exercise is to not let the body rotate as you lift one hand off the floor. To make this easier you can place your feet wider, or to challenge yourself keep them closer together. Before you raise your hand, brace your core and slowly row your hand to your side, lower it back down and repeat on the other side. To increase the load you can use dumbbells and you can also mix it up by lifting one foot at a time. Remember – there should be no movement of the body, just the limb that is being raised off the ground. This exercise, although it’s called ‘anti-rotation’ will actually strengthen the muscles that drive rotation in the swing. Perform 2-3 sets of 4-6 rows each side as part of your exercise programme.

Reach Backs

This exercise can be done in two positions: sitting down on the heels and on all fours. Place one hand on the head and move the elbow from the floor to the air, rotating through the T-Spine. Try to fix the position of the pelvis so that there is no compensatory movement adding to the rotation. Complete 5 reps each side and then repeat the drill, this time trying to rotate a little further through the T-Spine.

Spiderman Stretch

This is a great stretch for increasing mobility through the hips and the T-spine. Lunge forwards, place both hands inside the front foot and reach with alternating hands into the air with rotation from the torso. Hold this position for a count of 5 and repeat on the other side. You can keep the back knee off the floor to challenge yourself further and you can also add in a hamstring stretch to the exercise straight after the lunge, as shown in the video.


References:

Bogduk, N. (2005). Clinical anatomy of the lumbar spine and sacrum. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Hashimoto, K., Miyamoto, K., Yanagawa, T., Hattori, R., Aoki, T., Matsuoka, T., ... & Shimizu, K. (2013). Lumbar corsets can decrease lumbar motion in golf swing. Journal of sports science & medicine, 12(1), 80.

Kondratek, M., Krauss, J., Stiller, C., & Olson, R. (2007). Normative values for active lumbar range of motion in children. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 19(3), 236-244. 

Murray, E., Birley, E., Twycross-Lewis, R., & Morrissey, D. (2009). The relationship between hip rotation range of movement and low back pain prevalence in amateur golfers: an observational study. Physical Therapy in Sport, 10(4), 131-135.


 

 

 

 

Four Exercises for Stronger, More Powerful Glutes

Whether you’re looking to improve your golf game, speed up your sprints or simply prevent injuries and low back pain, focusing on glute strength is one of the most important things you can do in the gym. In this blog, my mentor Ben Langdown (@benlangdown) Sports Scientist, Golf Strength & Conditioning Coach and Ph.D in the field of Golf Biomechanics and Swing Variability, shares four exercises he uses with his athletes for increasing glute strength, ranging from beginner to more challenging. In our previous blog together, Ben discussed the negative effects of desk posture and how it can cause a tight low back and hip flexors as well as weak abdominals and glutes. In this blog, we are going to focus on what exactly the glutes do, what happens when they are weak, and what you can do to get them working for you again! While there’s no substitute for going to see a strength and conditioning coach to get an individualized program, we hope this blog will teach you how to start training for stronger glutes in your next workout. I hope you find it useful!


If you are keen on progressing your training in the gym to higher loads or intensities while remaining injury-free, then it’s imperative that your glutes are effective in their roles. Let’s start by having a brief look at the role of each of the gluteals and how limitations in their strength can affect your daily life and your golf performance! The gluteals are made up of three different muscles which, although they sound like they have been named on their success as Roman gladiators, are actually named based on their size: Gluteus Maximus, Medius and Minimus. Each has a different role to play within the movements we make:

Maximus: The gluteus maximus, as its name suggests, is the largest of the gluteal muscles and acts as a powerful hip extensor(1). It helps maintain balance when you walk, provides control of your torso when you run, and is activated to drive you back up when you get to the bottom of a deep squat (i.e. where the thigh breaks parallel with the floor). The gluteals also play a vital role in golf performance(2) and it has been suggested previously that the gluteus maximus contributes significantly to hip stabilisation during the swing(2,3).

Strength in the gluteus maximus can also allow posture to be maintained during the swing(4), power to be created during the downswing and the triple extension movement to occur through impact which can result in greater clubhead speed. This has been shown in previous electromyography (EMG) research studies(5) where it has been identified that in right-handed golfers the right gluteus maximus is highly active during the beginning of the downswing and the acceleration phase towards impact.

Medius: The gluteus medius provides internal hip rotation (inwards), hip abduction (moving the leg out to the side) and stabilisation of the hip. When you walk, for example, your gluteus medius muscle allows your standing leg’s hip to be stabilised, which keeps your pelvis level and prevents your opposite hip from dropping. Severe cases of weakness here can result in the “Trendelenburg gait” which is an abnormal walking coordination pattern where the opposite hip to the standing leg drops due to underactive hip abductors (i.e. the gluteus medius and minimus) and the upper body moves to compensate through each stride.

Ok, so we know weak gluteus medius can affect our stride, but how does it affect our golf swing? Again the gluteus medius plays a large role in preventing excessive lateral sway and slide of the pelvis into the backswing and downswing respectively. If the gluteus medius is conducting its role effectively then it will aid internal rotation into the trail hip in the backswing and the lead hip in the downswing. It has also been suggested that the glute medius is active on the trail side during the acceleration phase of the downswing (i.e. where the club is moving from half way down to impact with the golf ball)(2).

However, if the gluteus medius becomes under-active, the TFL can become overactive which can lead to knee pain, hip pain, and unwanted movements of the knee joint.

Minimus: Although it’s the smallest of the gluteals, the glute minimus has important functions to perform including being a primary internal hip rotator and also helps with abduction of the leg, and hip extension. Along with the gluteus medius, the minimus is also responsible for stabilising the hip of the standing leg when walking.

Now that we’ve gone over the gluteals and their functions, let’s look a bit closer at what can happen to golfers when their glutes are lazy!  A research study on 56 golfers found a substantial difference in the glute strength between lower handicap golfers (high skilled) and high handicap golfers (lesser skilled)(6). The study determined that golfers with a lower handicap were more likely to have increased pelvis rotation speed (503 d/s) compared to higher handicap players (380 d/s). Potentially this difference is due to their increased skill level and more effective motor patterns rather than, or alongside, physiological variations, which can be a major limitation of different skill group comparisons. The authors of this research came to the conclusion that this disparity was the result of increased gluteal strength in the low handicap golfers, specifically the strength of the gluteus maximus and medius.

Low handicap group:

Mean strength for right and left gluteus maximus = 30.5% and 30.6% of body weight respectively.

High handicap group:

Mean strength for right and left gluteus maximus = 21.9% and 20.7% respectively.

Similar results were reported for the gluteus medius. This research doesn’t explain everything but it suggests that strengthening the glutes can be a contributing factor to improving your golf swing and reducing that all-important handicap level. Another researcher has also suggested that clubhead speed could be influenced by the strength of the gluteals (and other lower body muscles)(7), which should further motivate you to get in the gym and ensure that at least some of your training programme targets this area of your body!

Right, enough with all the talking -- you want to know how to strengthen the glutes! Below are four exercises that I use with my athletes to engage the glutes and build strength in these important muscles. There are four single leg exercises and one is the basic squat movement using body weight or a dumbbell to get you started if you’ve not done much glute work before. As mentioned above, you should see an expert trainer for an individualized program if you are serious about taking your training to the next level.

Goblet Squats:

This is the first squat progression I use with my athletes (using both legs) to improve their movement patterns. A body weight squat is a great exercise to begin with and then you can add weight to complete the goblet squat. Often the weight provides a bit of counter-weight that helps people drop lower into the squat without falling backwards or tilting the torso forwards. Researchers have suggested that the best exercise to activate the gluteus maximus is the full squat(8). In order to fully activate the gluteus maximus you need to break parallel with the thigh in relation to the floor. Don’t lose form as you go to this depth. So, keep the pelvis in a neutral posture and avoid tucking it under (posterior tilt) and curving the lower back. On the other hand, avoid sticking the butt out and excessively arching the lower back as again this can place too much pressure on this area.

Feet around shoulder width apart, toes can be turned out to around 5 to 1 / 10 to 2 on a clock face (turning them out can allow increased depth for those with restricted range of movement).

Set the shoulders and brace the trunk before you begin the descent and take a breath in and hold until the end of the upward phase of the squat.

Begin the descent by flexing at the hips and knees simultaneously. Then descend into the squat moving your weight from mid-foot to the heels at the bottom position. The bottom position should be where the thighs have broken parallel with the floor.

Drive back up from the bottom position leading with the chest and using the glutes to fire back up to standing.

Repeat for 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps

Single Leg Squats:

There are two progressions to this exercise. The first (easier exercise) is to use a gym ball against a wall. Place the standing foot under the hip and lean onto the ball with your hip. Lift the inside leg up to around 90 degrees and then squat down as low as you can. Use the ball to support you and ensure your squatting leg does not collapse inwards at the knee. The knee should track over the toes as you squat. If you can’t feel the glutes working try tucking the pelvis under slightly just before you start the squat each time. The ball is there to help you so make sure you lean into it while keeping that standing leg under the hip. Repeat for 3 sets of 4 reps to begin.

Once you are comfortable with this exercise try moving on to a single leg squat to box using a mini-band to further activate the glutes. Place a mini-band just above the knees, pull the free leg up and out to the side to put tension on the band. You should feel the glutes activated when you do this. Then putting your arms out in front of you to help control your descent, squat down through the standing leg towards the box / bench. Try to lightly sit on the box / bench and then drive back up again. If you can’t get to this point you could always add a pad onto the box in order to reduce the depth that you need to squat to begin with. Try to increase the depth you squat every week until you can get to the box. Control the squat – don’t just sit down! Repeat for 3 sets of 4 reps to begin.

Comfortable doing these? Challenge yourself – can you do a pistol squat?! If you can, congratulate yourself, I don’t come across many people that can do this.

Ok, enough showing off…on to the final two ideas for you to try in the gym which will incorporate some rotation and upper body work…

Supported Single Leg Deadlifts with Rotation:

A great little exercise that requires rotation and stability as you are standing on one leg throughout. Place one foot against the wall and ensure the front foot is far enough forwards that when you complete the exercise you can feel the glutes being worked! Ensure that you rotate towards the front leg and turn your entire torso (instead of just swinging your arms). Squat low enough to touch the inside of your foot and don’t try to reach with your hand. Try completing 2-3 sets of 6 reps each side to begin with. If you are struggling with balance, place the back foot on the floor and then progress up to the wall.

Single Leg Deadlift with Dumbbell Row:

The final exercise for this blog is another single leg drill. Weight doesn’t need to be used to begin with if you struggle with the deadlift part. Try to keep the knee at the same angle throughout this exercise (straight leg but unlocked knee). Hinge at the hips and keep the torso (spine angle) tight / braced throughout. This exercise requires stability through the standing leg and requires work from the glutes in both the standing leg and the free leg as it lifts into the end of the downward phase. At this point you can add in some upper body work through additional movements such as the row (demonstrated in this video) or reverse fly type exercises.  Again try completing 2-3 sets of 6 reps each side to begin with and add additional load when you are comfortable with this exercise.

I hope you found this blog useful! Be on the lookout for my next blog with Jennifer -- we will tackle the upper body and give you some exercises to help with thoracic mobility. That’s right, we’re going to help you increase torso rotation in your swing! 

References:

1.    Kang, S.Y., Jeon, H.S., Kwon, O., Cynn, H.S., & Choi, B. (2013). Activation of the gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles during prone hip extension with knee flexion in three hip abduction positions. Manual therapy, 18(4), 303-307.

2.    McHardy, A. & Pollard, H. (2005). Muscle activity during the golf swing. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(11), 799–804.

doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2005.020271

3.    Watkins, R.G., Uppal, G.S., Perry, J., Pink, M., & Dinsay, J.M. (1996). Dynamic electromyographic analysis of trunk musculature in professional golfers. The American journal of sports medicine, 24(4), 535-538.

4.    Phillips, D. (2013, March). Early Extension Swing Characteristic. TPI Improve My Game Articles. Retrieved from: http://www.mytpi.com/articles/swing/early_extension_swing_characteristic

5.    Okuda, I., Armstrong, C.W., Tsunezumi, H. & Yoshiike, H. (2002). Biomechanical analysis of a professional golfer’s swing: A case study of Hidemichi Tanaka. In E. Thain (Ed.), Science and Golf IV: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf (pp. 8-16). London: Routledge.

6.    Callaway, S., Glaws, K., Mitchell, M., Scerbo, H., Voight, M., & Sells, P. (2012). An analysis of peak pelvis rotation speed, gluteus maximus and medius strength in high versus low handicap golfers during the golf swing. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 7(3), 288–295.

7.    Hellström, J. (2008). The Relation Between Physical Tests, Measures, and Clubhead Speed in Elite Golfers. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 3, 85–92. doi:10.1260/174795408785024207

8.    Wilson, J., Ferris, E., Heckler, A., Maitland, L., Taylor, C. (2004). A structured review of the role of gluteus maximus in rehabilitation. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy, 33(3), 95-100.

What’s in YOUR Water Bottle? The Four Best Elixirs for Promoting Detox

 ...and petting the dog helps too

...and petting the dog helps too

It’s that time of year again: After indulging in more sugar, grains and alcohol than usual over the holidays, most of us are feeling the need for a little detoxification. All too often, people embark on a weeklong juice-cleanse or starvation diet in an attempt to press the reset button after the holidays. But their results are usually the same: the stress of not eating produces even more lethargy and exhaustion than they felt before they started. Regardless of what the other emails flooding your inbox might be telling you this week, you don’t need drastic measures to get your body (and habits) back on track.  You don’t need to run five miles a day or subsist on steamed peas. The best way to safely detoxify your system and get back to a happy, healthy you is to return to these seven basic principles:

  1. eat only whole, unprocessed foods
  2. eat only high-quality foods
  3. eliminate gluten and avoid most other grains
  4. eliminate sugar
  5. sweat
  6. drink ½ your body weight in ounces of clean water daily
  7. rest

In addition to these principles, here are four of my favorite detox elixirs for when I feel like my body needs a little additional support.

Bone Broth:

What it does: Fights infection, boosts digestion, heals leaky gut syndrome, reduces joint pain (it’s packed with the raw material necessary for healthy bones and joints), fights inflammation

How to use it: As a post-workout snack or an alternative to tea or coffee when you want something warm and nourishing to drink. I’m a big fan of the frozen chicken and beef stocks at BiRite, Prather Ranch and Five Dot Ranch. Additionally, both Belcampo and Prather Ranch now serve bone broth in to-go cups for sipping.

Turmeric: 

What it does: Dr. Perlmutter refers to turmeric as a "super supplement" for brain health: Protects mitochondira, improves glucose metabolism, supports memory and other cognitive functions, boosts immunity, highly anti-fungal, anti-microbial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and packed with antioxidants

How to use it: Fresh is best. One of the easiest ways to get a healthy dose of fresh turmeric is in Juice Shop’s Turmeric or Healthy Moose’s Liquid Luck shot. I’ve also been buying turmeric from BiRite, peeling and slicing it and simmering it with black pepper and coconut oil (both ingredients make the turmeric more bio-available).

Apple Cider Vinegar:

What it does: Lowers blood sugar, boosts energy, reduces inflammation, highly antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal.

How to use it: Look for cold-pressed brands that have sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Lately I’ve been getting my daily dose in Happy Moose’s Feel Mo' Betta shot with added lemon and ginger but you can also make your own elixir by adding two tablespoons to eight oz of water.

Magnesium:

What it does: Impacts nearly every function of the body, eases stress, reduces inflammation, improves nerve function, aids in the formation of joint proteins, relaxes muscles and can even help with irregular heartbeats

How to use It: I’m a big fan of sipping the unflavored Natural Calm product in warm water before going to sleep at night, but you can also find magnesium in pill form. If you’re not into supplements, pumpkin seeds, spinach and swiss chard contain more magnesium than any other foods.  

I hope you found these tips helpful and healthful! Here's to a happy new year. 

Is Your Desk Ruining Your Golf Swing? Part 2

By @holisticfitsf & @benlangdown 

Part 2 - Upper Crossed Syndrome

So from part 1 of this blog, we know that lower crossed syndrome (weak gluteals and abs and tight hip flexors and low back) can cause a host of issues in your golf game, but what about the upper body version?! I’m sure we can all identify with a typical lazy desk posture: rounded shoulders, hunched upper back and a chin that pokes farther forward than a pigeon strutting across the park!

Have you noticed any loss in torso rotation through your spine, an inability to get the club on the right “plane” that the coach has been suggesting you need to achieve, swinging “over the top” or losing posture at the top of the backswing?! You may not have even noticed these limitations slowly creeping into your game over a number of years.

When you sit at a desk for long periods of time, your chest and upper back muscles can become very tight while the deep cervical flexors of your neck and mid back muscles become very weak. We call this postural dysfunction Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) and this can be seen alongside a neutral posture below in figure 2.

Figure 2.  Normal posture (left) and UCS (right). Note the forward position of the head in comparison to the neck and the rounded shoulders and upper back.

However, by doing the right exercises, you can overcome the upper body limitations that emerge from sitting for too long at your desk. To reverse UCS you must increase the flexibility in your chest and upper back muscles and increase the strength of your deep neck flexors and mid-back muscles.

I’m throwing out lots of technical terms and muscle names but here are some examples of exercises that can help reduce the effects of your occupational desk-bound duties on your upper body!

One solution to upper crossed syndrome is to strengthen the muscles through the mid-back that sit all around the shoulder blades. Ts, Ws, and Ys are common exercises that you might have tried before, but just in case you've forgotten, take a look at the video below. 

Coaching Points:  Lie face down on a gym ball with the feet apart and legs almost straight for support. For extra stability, place the feet against a wall. All of the movements in these exercises begin with the hands underneath the eyes with the palms facing upwards. To make the letter T, take the hands and arms out to the side of the body until they are straight and in line with your shoulders. You should make the shape of the letter so that if a bird flew above you, it would see a letter T with your body. Next are the Ws. These are similar to the Ts but with bent arms at the top position forming a W. Finally the Ys, the hardest out of the three, so don't be tempted to raise the upper body or head to help get the arms fully extended out in front of you. Keep the body tight throughout and the head looking down to the floor. Remember not to hold the top positions, simply repeat the movement for each rep continuously until you have done 10 on each letter to begin. To progress, you can add light weights to the Ts and Ws and then later on, add weight to the Ys. 

A less common and even more dynamic exercise for strengthening the muscles that sit around the shoulder blades is Crab WalksThe late Ramsay McMaster, a world-renowned golf physiotherapist, originally demonstrated this exercise. It’s an excellent exercise that combines work for the muscles involved in both LCS and UCS.

Coaching points: Place a mini band around both legs just above the knees and hold a piece of tubing or theraband behind your back with a pistol grip. Keeping the elbows tucked into the side and the chin pulled back into a neutral position, begin to circle the hands backwards. Do not force the shoulders back and stick the chest out, as this is not a neutral position. Instead, gently pull the shoulder blades down and in as if sliding them into an envelope on your back. Once you have got the arms going begin some side steps, like a crab! Make sure your feet stay apart throughout the exercise and the closest they should ever get is the width of your stance in your golf address position. You should feel the glutes, mid-back and triceps all burning after doing 2-3 sets of 20 steps in each direction.

With regards to the tight areas in UCS, it is important to stretch out the chest. Prior to this stretch, you can use a spikey ball or massage ball to roll into the pectorals (the chest muscles) to improve the tissue quality and increase the flexibility across this area. As with the LCS hip flexor foam rolling, do not do this every day as it may bruise and your muscles will need time to recover from the massage effects. Follow this rolling by completing the chest stretch using a chair (your office chair perhaps?!) or a gym ball.

Coaching Points: Keep the arm bent to 90° at the elbow and raise it level with your shoulder. Kneeling down, gently press the torso downwards, bending the supporting arm if necessary to increase the stretch felt across the shoulder and pecs. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds and repeat twice on each side every day when warm.

While certain exercises can help us overcome the negative postures we all adopt at our desks, if you really want to improve these limitations quicker and for the long-term -- you guessed it -- you need to focus on reducing the hours spent at your desk in a poor posture. Whether this means increased desk breaks, more hours spent out on the golf course (!) or simply being aware of how you sit at your desk and how you stand when walking, anything you can do to reduce the negative effects of LCS and UCS will pay dividends out where it counts!

For more information on Strength & Conditioning sessions with Jennifer or Ben please contact them on Twitter:

@HolisticFitSF

@BenLangdown

References for more information on Janda’s work:

Janda V. (1987). Muscles and motor control in low back pain: Assessment and management. In Twomey LT (Ed.) Physical therapy of the low back. Churchill Livingstone: New York. Pp. 253-278.  

Janda V. (1988) Muscles in Cervicogenic Pain Syndromes. In Physical Therapy of the Cervical and Thoracic Spine, ed. R. Grand. New York: Churchill Livingstone. 

Is Your Desk Ruining Your Golf Swing?

by @HolistictFitSF & @BenLangdown

Whether you want better posture for increased golf performance, injury prevention or simply a more confident, youthful appearance, this blog is a must-read. In this two-part blog series, Ben Langdown, Sports Scientist, Golf Strength & Conditioning Coach and Ph.D. in the field of Golf Biomechanics and Swing Variability, gives us a thorough breakdown of how desk posture can affect your golf performance and what you can do to fix it. I was lucky enough to meet Ben at the Titleist World Golf Fitness Summit last November, where he and his colleague Jack Wells came all the way from England to give an outstanding presentation on the ultimate dynamic warm-up for golfers. Many of you have heard me reference their research since then (yep, Ben is one of the experts that helps his golfers hit the ball up to 40 yards farther just by giving them the right type of warm-up). 

In part 1, Ben will discuss lower crossed syndrome, the swing faults or injuries that commonly accompany it, and together we will show you exercises you can start performing today to improve your lower body posture. I hope you enjoy it!

Part 1: Lower Crossed Syndrome

Your office desk. Your neat little set up. Or is it more like your enemy, joining forces with your office chair…conspiring against you...set to ruin your posture and even your golf game?!  

Many people fail to realize that their desk habits impact their performance on the golf course. If you like to play golf and you also work in an office environment, it’s imperative that you address your desk posture and spend time training in the gym to reverse the power struggle between your posture and your office furniture. The next 10 minutes could change your life! Well, ok maybe not your life, but your ability to hit that little dimpled white ball around the 18 holes at your local golf club!

Recently, the press has asserted that sitting is “the new smoking”.  Like smoking, clocking up hours in a sedentary position can have a multitude of negative health consequences such as increased risks of developing cancer, heart disease and type II diabetes. OK, so we know sitting can be detrimental to your health, but did you know that it can also lead to lower and upper crossed syndromes (see Janda, 1987 & 1988 for further research). Sounds serious, hey?! When it comes to your golf performance, it could well be the difference between getting (or not as the case may be) into those positions your golf coach has been talking about for the last few seasons!   

In the first part of this blog, I’m going to focus on how desk posture leads to lower crossed syndrome and what you can do to fix it.

The habit of sitting over a period of years can lead to the main muscles in your golf swing becoming lazy, including the gluteals, also known as your buttocks! In your swing, the gluteals provide stability, rotation and power. If these important muscles aren’t firing properly, a variety of swing faults can emerge. Along with the gluteals not firing effectively, the hip flexors (the muscles on the front of the hips) and the lower back often become tight from too much desk time, which can lead to an altered pelvis position (too much forward tilt) when you address the golf ball. This altered set-up position can have consequences such as over-rotation (reversed spine angle) and may even increase the risk of injury and lower back pain.

In addition to the gluteals becoming weak, another culprit of adopting a lazy attitude and becoming weak when we sit for long periods of time is the abdominals. Without strong and functional abdominals it’s nearly impossible for us golfers to transfer forces up through the body and out to the arms and clubhead during the motion of the golf swing. So now you could be facing a situation where you have an unstable lower body (weak gluteals) trying to send forces up to a lazy abdominal region. It’s been said before that this scenario is like trying to do the shot put on an ice rink, or fire a canon from a canoe. We call this postural dysfunction Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS) and this is shown on the right side of figure 1 below with a normal posture on the left.

lowercrossed

Figure 1. Normal posture (left) and LCS (right). Note the forward tilt of the pelvis and the increased arch in the lower back.

Solutions to overcoming LCS include strengthening the glutes through exercises such as Speed Skaters. 

Coaching Points: Using a mini band, placed around both legs just above the knee, you should keep the torso tall and skate back and out to the side with alternating legs. You can imagine there is a raw egg behind you on either side, when you skate back you are not allowed to smash the egg with your toe tap on the floor! In other words, control the movement, use that front leg to squat down slightly and then return to a tall standing position after each rep. Complete 3 sets of 6 reps each side to begin.

As well as strengthening the weak areas of LCS we also need some flexibility work to take place and correct the tight hip flexors and erector spinae. The following hip flexor exercises involve using a roller to improve the muscle tissue quality and reduce tightness through the hips followed by a hip flexor stretch to increase flexibility in this area.

Coaching Points: For the rolling you should do 2 x 30 seconds on each side no more than 3-4 times per week to allow your muscles to recover from the massage effects of rolling. Use the free leg for support to reduce the pressure on the roller if it is too painful to begin with.

Coaching Points: The hip flexor stretch should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds on each side and completed every day when warm. You can increase the stretch by reaching tall and leaning slowly over to the side of the front leg. Do not twist the torso at all as you lean. The stretch should be felt on the front of the hip for the trail leg. Ensure the legs are far enough apart if you can’t feel the stretch.

Obviously there are more exercises to complete than this but start by giving these exercises a try and look out for my blog post next week on upper body postural dysfunctions, how they affect your golf swing and what you can do to fix them. 

Four Simple Daily Detox Rituals

As Dr. Mark Hyman says, “If you feel lousy, it’s likely you’re toxic.” Have you been feeling lousy lately? A little sluggish? Getting more headaches than normal? Finding yourself craving sugar and starchy, processed foods?

If so, it might be time for some detoxification. We all know to eat clean, drink plenty of water, get quality rest and exercise, but here are a few daily rituals you can easily incorporate into your routine to optimize your body’s ability to remove toxins. In just a few extra minutes a day, these rituals will boost everything from your immune system to your metabolism.

Skin: Dry Brushing

One third of your body’s toxins are eliminated through the skin. Because it stimulates the lymphatic and circulatory systems, dry brushing is one of the most effective ways to help the body remove toxins. It’s even been shown to improve the strength of the immune system and decrease the appearance of cellulite.

As the name suggests, you want to dry brush when your skin is completely dry. Before you shower, simply brush your skin in large, upward strokes and circles going in the direction of your heart. Tip: Look for a brush with natural bristles. The harder the brush, the more lymphatic response you’ll achieve.  

Body: Epsom Salt Soak/Clay Baths

Baths: Soaking in Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) draws out toxins and helps to replenish the body’s magnesium levels. As many of you know, magnesium is a wonder mineral. In addition to flushing toxins from the body, it also eases stress, reduces inflammation, improves nerve function, aids in the formation of joint proteins, reduces irregular heartbeats – the list goes on and on.

Add two cups of Epsom salt to warm water and soak for at least 12 minutes. I also like to add in some Abra Muscle Therapy Bath to help soothe sore muscles. For those of you looking for a little extra indulgence, International Orange recently brought in a wellness line I absolutely love called Pursoma. Pursoma offers a variety of bath ritual packets, many of which are formulated with ancient volcanic clay. Pursoma also created a luxurious body mask designed for accelerated detoxification. 

Brain: Meditation

We all know that stress leads to chronic inflammation. But many of us forget that to our bodies, bad thoughts are a form of stress. Negative thinking has been proven to literally pollute your mind, weakening your immune system and creating an overall sense of lethargy. Meditation is a fantastic way to break the cycle of negative thinking and detoxify your brain from its effects. There are many different types of meditation you can try, but some find it easiest to start with guided meditation, such as those on calm.com.

Second Brain: Gut Health

Now that your brain is detoxified, let’s move on to your second brain – your gut.

Incorporating more probiotics into your diet is a great way to detoxify your body, improve your blood sugar regulation and speed up your metabolism. By increasing the amount of antioxidants in your body, probiotics have been proven to help get rid of the toxins associated with heavy metals, free radicals and dangerous bacteria. And because toxins are stored in fat, the less toxic you are, the less fat your body will accumulate. In fact, a recent study found that people who took a probiotic on a regular basis not only lost weight but were more likely to keep the weight off. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, you can also increase your probiotics by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut.  I recently found a fermented drink called “Gut Shot” and am loving it. Nutrition tip: Did you know? The best time to take a probiotic is after a meal. 

I hope you found these ideas helpful. Here's to a little spring cleaning! 

Gluten-Free in 2015? A Guide for Beginners

Wheat

Thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, Novak Djokovic, JJ Virgin, Dr. Oz and too many others to name, the gluten-free diet has gained incredible recognition in recent years.  In addition to all of the benefits that come with the gluten-free diet gaining popularity, I’ve also noticed two things:

1. More gluten-free junk foods on the market

2. More people saying it’s a fad

With so much confusion and doubt in the air, I decided to create this Beginners Guide to Going Gluten-Free to help any of you looking to eat healthier in the New Year. Before I get into the safe and unsafe foods, two general tips:

1. Go gluten-free but don’t eat gluten-free: Gluten-free replacement foods are not health foods. In fact, many gluten-free foods are more caloric than their gluten-containing doppelgängers. I’ve seen many people actually gain weight when going gluten-free by merely swapping out their Cherrios for gluten-free cereal in the morning. For optimal nutrition, eat real, whole foods and eliminate processed foods as much as possible.

2. Gluten-free isn’t enough: Do you know about lectins?

While discussed less often, lectins are incredibly harmful for a number of reasons. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that are in all plant and animal products, but are highly prominent in wheat, rye, rice, spelt, beans, soy, dairy and in nightshades (such as tomatoes and eggplant). Wheat contains a particularly harmful lectin called Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA).

What Lectins Do To The Body And Why You Should Avoid Them:

Lectins are part of a plant’s natural defense mechanism, helping them fight off mold and parasites. When plants sense an invader, lectins attack them by binding to the foreign sugar molecules and stopping their infestation in its tracks. When lectins get into your body, they still use this defense system to attack sugar molecules. Why does that matter? Our digestive systems are lined with sugar-containing cells that help us digest and break down foods. Lectins bind to these sugar-containing cells, wreaking havoc on our digestive and immune systems. What’s the result? Intestinal damage (which leads to reduced nutrient absorption), altered gut-flora (which makes us more vulnerable to certain types of infection, such as E. Coli) and leaky gut syndrome (essentially gut permeability, the negative effects of which could take up an entire blog). Lectins can bind to any tissue – thyroid, pancreas, collagen in joints, etc. and disrupt the function of that tissue. When lectins bind to these tissues, the body reacts by releasing white blood cells to attack the lectin-bound tissue and destroy it. As many of you know, this reaction is commonly referred to as an autoimmune response. For this reason, the consumption of lectins is highly correlated to autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, migraines, hypothyroidism, IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and many others.

I can hear some of you now. I can’t even think about lectins yet. Give me the gluten-free facts. I’m new to this and don’t know what to eat!

Okay, okay.

CONTAINS GLUTEN:

Wheat

Rye

Oats: Look for gluten-free. Commercial Oats contain gluten

Barley (and Barley Malt, which is often in candy, chocolate bars and snack bars)

Triticale

Some fancy terms for wheat:

Bulgur

Durum Flour

Farina

Graham Flour

Kamut

Semolina

Spelt

DOES NOT CONTAIN GLUTEN:

Rice

Corn (Polenta, Cornmeal)

Oats (when gluten-free)

Potato

Tapioca

Teff

Montina

Flax

Sorghum

Quinoa

Millet

Buckwheat

Arrowroot starch

Amaranth

Many flours are gluten-free. Some common ones:

Nut Flours

Coconut Flour

Tapioca Flour

Rice Flour

Bean Flours

Hide and go gluten -- You’ll often find gluten lurking in the following foods:

Breading and Coating Mixes (Panko Breadcrumbs)

Energy Bars

Stews (ask if they added wheat to the broth)

Salad Dressings

Imitation Meats and Veggie Burgers

Marinades

Chocolate and Candy (even certain mints)

Processed Deli Meats

Soy Sauce

Soups (always ask)

Sauces such as gravy (always ask)

Jerky

Let’s not forget alcohol!

Distillation supposedly removes all of the gluten molecules in alcoholic beverages. Some people still choose to play it safe and avoid alcohol made from gluten-containing grains, especially when they are new to the diet. So, playing it safe: 

CONTAINS GLUTEN:

Beer

Lager

Ale

Whiskey

Scotch

Bourbon

Gin

DOES NOT CONTAIN GLUTEN:

Wine

Rum

Tequila

Potato Vodka

Gluten-Free Beer 

I hope you found this guide helpful! When in doubt, skip it. Gluten stays in your system for up to 90 days, so if you've done the work to remove it, do a little research to make sure it doesn't sneak back in. 

Get *The* Most Effective Workout With This Simple Formula

WGFS

 

I recently attended the World Golf Fitness Summit, an incredible conference hosted by Titleist that featured some of the world's leading experts in sports performance training. The speakers ranged from NFL Coaches to PGA and LPGA Movement Coaches to Olympic Team Coaches to a pitching guru -- really too many experts to name. I'll be writing several blogs based on what I learned at the WGFS, starting with some takeaways from Strength and Conditioning expert Mike Boyle. Many of you have probably seen or read Mike Boyle in Golf Digest, or have seen his blog. Whether you play tennis, hockey or golf, or just want to train injury-free, Boyle is your man.

Most people get to the gym, do a few stretches from their high school soccer days and then jump on a cybex machine. This formula, although common, is a recipe for disaster. As Boyle explained in his presentation, we all want the same thing when it comes to training. First, we want to remain injury-free. We want effective workouts that leave us feeling energized, not beaten to a pulp (he actually had a great word for the beaten to a pulp workouts: SHIT - stupid high intensity training). Second, we want to train to prevent future injuries. If your trainer understands functional anatomy and can screen you for potential kinks in your body's stability/mobility chain, you're in good hands. And third, regardless of our sport, we all want to train to improve our performance. We want to be stronger, faster, better. 

So what's the best way to ensure our workouts hit the three goals Boyle mentioned? There's a formula:

1. Foam Roll

2. Stretch

3. Dynamic Warm-Up

4. Lift 

5. Condition 

What does this mean to you? When you get to the gym, grab a foam roller and start working on the quality of your tissue. If you don't know how to foam roll, watch this video. Once you've achieved a therapeutic effect from rolling, stretch. Now we're working on tissue length. [A note on static stretching: There are quite a few studies indicating that static stretching often hinders athletic performance. That said, certain static stretches have their place. In this video, for example, you'll see Boyle perform the 90/90 hip stretch. The 90/90 is one of those static stretches that's excellent for those of you with immobile hips and/or low back pain. But also note the stretches he says to avoid]. After you stretch (if you need to) move on to your dynamic warm-up, getting the tissue nice and warm. Here and here are some ideas. After the dynamic warm-up, move on to your functional lifts. Squats, dead lifts, pushes, pulls -- the exercises aimed at tissue strength. Then, finally, go home and come back to the gym again a day or two later. In other words, get stronger -- now we're talking tissue tolerance. 

And remember, it's not just about training. Rest and nutrition have just as much to do with your success as your workout program, if not more. See you in the gym! 

Want Flat Abs? Ditch The Crunches And Try This Instead

Today I watched a man at the gym do crunches for three minutes straight. He was pulling his head forward with his hands, his feet were coming off the ground each time he curled up and his stomach was rolling over his shorts. I wanted to stop him, but I figured I'd write to all of you instead. 

The abdominal crunch is not for most people. 

As many of you know, if you want lean, toned abs you must FIRST address your diet. Because food intolerance inhibits the abdominal wall from working properly, the presence of inflammatory foods such as dairy, gluten and most grains in your diet renders ab workouts futile. It doesn't matter how great your trainer is or how much of a burn you feel in your abs, if you're eating the SAD (standard American diet) you're going to have to work that much harder to look good AND you'll most likely feel terrible in the process. Bottom line:

If you're eating inflammatory foods, most ab exercises won't help. 

Ready for an exercise that tones your abs and helps improve your posture?  Try the Stability Ball Ab Push Back. In addition to helping you get a lean midsection, this exercise is fantastic for stability in the scapula and pelvis and mobility in the shoulders. To keep from winging the shoulder blades, be sure to push the ground away from you and imagine a fish hook lifting your chest. It's also very important to maintain a neutral pelvic tilt in this exercises, so watch yourself in the mirror at first to ensure that you aren't arching the low back too much, or rounding through the mid back. And most importantly, have fun!!

*To make this exercise easier, bring the ball closer to your pelvis and start with a very small range of motion. 

Are You Eating This Superfood?

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut -  A Fat Burning and Immune Boosting Superfood

Want to lose body fat and increase your immunity? Add some sauerkraut to your meals each day. As a fermented food, sauerkraut is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, loaded with vitamins, digestive enzymes and healthy bacteria. 

Fermented Foods and Immunity:

About 85% of your immune system is in your gut. If you have a leaky or permeable gut wall from eating grains, low-quality oils and other processed foods, you likely have a weakened immune system. Reintroducing healthy bacteria into your gut helps support the function and integrity of your GI tract and increases your overall immunity. 

Fermented Foods and Weight Loss:

In addition to helping boost your immunity, fermented foods are loaded with healthy bacteria that is vital for weight loss. Recent studies show that a lack of healthy gut flora might be more responsible for diabetes and obesity than most doctors and nutritionists previously realized. 

According to Integrative Medicine Practitioner Chris Kresser, "Changes in the gut flora can increase the rate at which we absorb fatty acids and carbohydrates, and increase the storage of calories as fat. This means that someone with bad gut flora could eat the same amount of food as someone with a healthy gut, but extract more calories from it and gain more weight. Bad bugs in the gut can even directly contribute to the metabolic syndrome by increasing the production of insulin (leading to insulin resistance)."

Because sauerkraut, which is essentially fermented cabbage, is relatively mild, it can easily be added to a variety of dishes. Try it with eggs and bacon in the morning, on a salad at lunch or as a side with virtually any dinner. 

Want to take further steps to increase your gut health?

  • Eliminate all dietary toxins such as wheat and industrial seed oils

  • Use NSAID's and antibiotics carefully

  • Supplement with the amino acid L-Glutamine to promote gut wall integrity

  • Eat fermented foods 

  • Manage your stress

A Summer Superfood That Packs A Punch

arugula

Often overlooked, arugula is a nutritional powerhouse, adding a potent dose of antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds to your summer meals. While other varieties of greens have been overly-farmed and nutritionally diluted over the years, according to a recent article by Jo Robinson in the New York Times, arugula "is very similar to its wild ancestor. Some varieties were domesticated as recently as the 1970s, thousands of years after most fruits and vegetables had come under our sway." 

And why is this notion of ancestry so important when it comes to your foods? According to Robinson, "if we want to get maximum health benefits from fruits and vegetables, we must choose the right varieties. Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers." Wild dandelions, for example, have up to seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, the dark leafy green that is arguably most heralded for its health benefits. Arugula, being slightly more common than wild dandelions and a bit more versatile, stands out as an easy, younger-generation supergreen to incorporate into your diet this week. 

A Few Arugula Tips:

Baby arugula is slightly sweeter and more versatile than more mature arugula, which lands on the spicier side. So for those of you who think arugula is too strong, try the baby variety (hint: baby leaves are small; mature leaves will be between 2-4 inches). 

How to Buy: Arugula leaves should be green (not yellow), fresh smelling, bright, firm and lively. 

How to Store: Store arugula in the fridge in a closed plastic bag and use it before it becomes wilted. 

How to Cook: Arugula is an excellent accompaniment to a variety of meals, ranging from breakfast to dinner. Because it is so flavorful, it only needs to be dressed lightly in salads, where slightly sweeter foods (such as berries, figs and tomatoes) will lend balance to its spice. If you want to cook warm dishes with arugula, simply toss it in at the very end in order to preserve its high nutritional content (it is excellent, by the way, as a finishing garnish on soups, and in otherwise plain halibut and chicken dishes). Get too much arugula from your CSA? Leftovers can easily be transformed into pesto. In a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, simply combine 2 cloves of garlic, 2 cups of arugula, 1/2 cup evoo, 1/4 cup of nuts (pine nuts or walnuts are preferable) 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, sea salt and pepper...and enjoy. Arugula pesto over roasted cauliflower adds an unexpected twist, and drizzled on top of fried eggs in the morning -- it's one of my favorite treats. 

What Is A TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor?

TPI

As many of you know, I am a Level 3 Certified Golf Fitness Instructor through the Titleist Performance Institute. Titleist is the leader in Golf Fitness education, drawing its curriculum from the world’s experts in sports performance.

As a TPI Certified Golf Fitness Instructor, I am trained to take golfers through a three-step process that is designed to improve their flexibility, strength and power, and eliminate any pain that might be hindering them on the course. 

Step 1: Screen – Using TPI’s cutting edge assessment process, I screen and identify limitations in the body as they relate to the golf swing.

Step 2: Prescribe – Based on the TPI screen results, I’m trained to develop highly individualized Golf Performance Programs designed to eliminate swing faults (and the physical limitations that contribute to them) for good.

Step 3: Implement – Building on over 7 years as a C.H.E.K (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology) Practitioner and Nutrition Coach, I teach clients the most effective stretches, mobilizations and exercises to help them reach their maximum potential. At this stage I also take clients through highly individualized Nutrition and Stress Management Programs, both of which have a profound effect on golf performance.    

Maybe you’re not a golfer. Maybe you just want to get rid of your nagging knee pain and hit the slopes again this winter. Because the foundation of the TPI curriculum is based on the work of some of the most advanced experts in the areas of functional movement and sports medicine, the TPI screen can help you, too. Feel free to email me with inquiries.