Thursday, July 08, 2010Pilates for Golfers:
By Deborah Preachuk
Egoscue University Affiliate Instructor & PAS Certified
BRS, BPE, STOTT Pilates Comprehensive Certified Instructor
Post-rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist
ACE Group Fitness Instructor
Today many professional golfers can be found incorporating Pilates training regimes into their off the green conditioning programs. With players like Rocco Mediate, Rich Beem, Phil Mickelson, David Duvall, and yes, Tiger Woods, adding to the growing list of celebrity endorsements, Pilates is fast becoming a household name in the golf community.
Pilates (Pi-LAH-teez), an almost 100 year old form of mind/body exercise first developed by German born Joseph H. Pilates (originally titled Contrology), is an off the off-the-green conditioning program of choice for golfers of all ages and abilities.
A whole system of restorative and strengthening exercises designed (with or without equipment) to have students move from the center of their bodies, Pilates can help golfers increase their range of motion in the spine and load joints, build core strength, enhance performance and reduce risk of injury.
It’s been said that the most important piece of equipment a golfer can bring to the game is the body. The best piece of equipment then? A body that is balanced front to back, side to side with flexibility and strength in the load joints and surrounding muscles.
Unfortunately, that body is a rare find on the golf course.
It’s been reported that “more than 60% of all recreational golfers will suffer one or more golf related injury during the course of their playing career.” Golf related injuries are one of, if not the leading reason why players leave the game.
The golfer’s best piece of equipment, the body, is not producing productive golfing outcomes and therefore prone to injury.
The majority of injuries result from overuse, repetitive faulty swing mechanics, generally poor physical conditioning for the game and postural limitations from forcing the body into positions it is not achieving with ease.
Enter Pilates. Touting benefits such as increased strength for the back and abdominal muscles, increased flexibility, enhanced muscle recruitment and improved posture to name just a few, Pilates and Golf are truly a synergistic match!
Golfers who regularly practice golf specific Pilates training see improvements in postural alignment, muscular strength and endurance, spinal flexibility and pelvic stability. It’s also common to see increased driving distance and accuracy, decreased pain while playing, reductions in injuries, and increased muscular endurance to play more rounds.
Golf and Pilates share the same basic principles and complement one another perfectly. Pilates is a form of mind/body exercise where just like golf, all movements come from the center of the body. The foundational principles consist of:
- Concentration – Pilates heightens the mind/body connection. As with golf, Pilates enhances body awareness, teaching students to focus mentally and consciously control movements.
- Control/Precision –Students learn to establish proper form repetitively for safe, effective movement.
- Centering/Stabilizing – Pilates is work from the inside out! By learning to engage and stabilize the torso (abdominals, pelvic girdle, lower back, gluteals, spinal muscles and shoulder girdle) students develop a strong core enabling the rest of the body to function efficiently. All movements come from the trunk and flow outward to the extremities.
- Balance – Pilates retrains the body to overcome postural, muscular and flexibility imbalances and minimize compensation movements. This reduces the risk of injury, and aids in overall health.
- Breathing – Pilates incorporates diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing aids in activating the abdominals, pelvic floor and lumbar spine muscles, and helps keep you focused.
- Alignment – Pilates teaches students correct postural alignment of position of the head and neck on the spine and pelvis, as well as correct positioning of the major load joints (shoulders, hips, knees, ankles).
- Fluidity – Pilates exercises are graceful and smooth, with emphasis on fluid continuous motion versus jarring repetitions
- Integration – Pilates simultaneously engages several different muscle groups to control and support movement.
A certified Pilates instructor who specializes in golf specific Pilates conditioning will be able to identify and address issues such as:
- muscular imbalances (strengths/weaknesses)
- postural limitations in the spine
- deviations in the four major load joints
- flexibility problems
which in turn cumulate in many of the common swing faults, pains and injuries common to golfers.
For example, a golfer who loses any spine angle or alters his/her posture from the original set up during the swing, known as ”Loss of posture at swing“ would benefit greatly from Pilates mat work exercises selected specifically to address the issue.
- Loss of Posture at Swing
The golfer who presents any load joint deviations in the ankles, knees, hips and pelvis, has limited flexibility in the hips and/or shoulders or is unable to separate the upper and lower halves of the body will experience a Loss of Posture at Swing.
The result is a significant alteration of the body’s original set up prior to hitting the ball. All aspects of the golf swing (timing, balance and rhythm) will be affected and since golf is a game of repetitive movement, over time, the golfer is suspect to pain, fatigue and ultimately injury.
Pilates mat work exercises such as the Single Leg Stretch and Saw both address the limitations and weakness in the upper body and help increase strength in the oblique abdominals and pelvic floor stabilizers.
The Single Leg Stretch exercise specifically strengthens the abdomen and hips while the Saw exercise helps increases flexibility of the torso and rotational muscles and aids in improveing posture and alignment.
Deb performs The Saw - Part A
- Deb performs The Saw
Deb performs The Saw - Part C
By working with a Pilates instructor who specializes in restorative movements, A golf specific Pilates program will be designed to meet your unique on the green postural and conditioning needs.
The result? A stronger, more flexible body from the inside out. That makes for longer drives, better concentration and control, and ultimately an improved game.
When searching for an instructor, look for one with a reputable certification from organizations such as STOTT Pilates or the Pilates Method Alliance. In addition, a background in injuries and special populations and experience teaching sport specific programs is a must.
If you’re looking to take your golf game to the next level, or struggling to overcome pain and postural limitations on the green, a Pilates conditioning program by a certified Pilates golf specialist can help you achieve your goals.
Deb Preachuk is a STOTT Pilates certified instructor with over 12 years of Pilates and 20 years fitness training experience. She is the owner of Pilates Integration MBS and Pain Free Posture MN. For the past 3 years Deb has partnered with LPGA Teaching Pro Sheryl Maize to present Pilates on the Green and Pain Free Posture Seminars at the American Express Women’s Golf Expo held at Crystal Lake Golf Course located in beautiful Lakeville, MN.