Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Power Up Your Golf Game and Fitness with the Kettlebell Swing!

PicturePhoto by Thomas Kreutzer
Without a doubt one of our favorite exercises to build both strength and power in the back, hips, hamstrings and core is the kettlebell swing. The kettlebell swing delivers more bang for your buck than any other exercise we've come across, and according to EP Golf co-founder Hugh Kinney, whenever he hears people say that they only have 10 minutes to do something he recommends the kettlebell swing.

When done with heavier weights for sets of lower repetitions this exercise is great for strength and power development. When done with lighter weights for longer sets of higher reps it improves joint integrity by strengthening the tendons and ligaments, and challenges the cardiovascular system as well.

As an added benefit to the golfer, the kettlebell swing strengthens the postural muscles required for the stance. A stronger more balanced stance that you can maintain for longer periods of time will not only improve your performance, it will reduce your chance of injury and post-play soreness.

Please enjoy this video of EP Golf co-founder and physical preparation specialist Scott Shetler instructing EP Golf team member and professional golfer, Melissa Siviter on the dynamics of this awesome exercise.

Kettlebells are great to have at home. To do an effective kettlebell workout you need very little space and in a short period of time you can get more work done with one or two kettlebells than you can at most big-box fitness centers. We recently came across a study that showed 8 minutes of high intensity kettlebell circuit training to have a similar metabolic effect to 20 minutes of running!

If you take advantage of our $69 / year EP Golf Club membership we have an entire fitness training program with options for beginner, intermediate and advanced fitness enthusiasts, that provides instruction in kettlebell exercises as well as other drills we recommend to round out your training plan. The EP Golf Fitness Program is a downloadable e-book with corresponding videos available in our members-only section. In addition to the EP Golf Fitness Program we provide tons of awesome content through articles and instructional videos.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Develop a Powerful Golf Swing with the Full Contact Twist!

In golf, and virtually every other sport, rotation of the torso is an important physical skill. Rotation allows us to swing golf clubs and baseball bats, throw footballs and baseballs, and throw powerful punches and kicks. Strong and powerful rotation comes from driving through the legs and the hips and not twisting at the waist.

Many of you might have seen, or even used, those Nautilus-style abdominal rotation machines at your gym or fitness center. The goal of that specific machine is to strengthen the oblique abdominal muscles which are responsible for both rotating and laterally flexing the spine.

There are a few problems with this type of machine.

First it is a seated machine and swinging a golf club is not a seated movement. The development of power in a rotational movement, such as the golf swing, begins with the feet driving into the ground to produce the force that it sends up the legs into the hips and torso and finally into the arms and club which make contact with the ball.

Second the machine locks your hips into place and encourages rotation of the lumbar spine. This is not to goal when swinging a golf club, rather we are looking for an integrated rotation between the hips and torso with little to no separation of the two.

A better way to develop a strong and powerful rotational capacity in the hips and torso, is to perform the Full Contact Twist exercise using a rotational sleeve device (we favor the Westside Barbell powerlifting club coach Louie Simmons' "Grappler") or to simply stick the end of a barbell in the corner between the floor and two walls to create a pivot point.

For instructions on how to perform this exercise, please view our training video with EP Golf advisory board member, Melissa below.
There are many levels of core training for golf, from static exercises to dynamic exercises, and for more in-depth information we recommend joining our exclusive EP Golf Club. This gives you access to our members-only section of the website that provides more articles, training videos and the entire EP Golf Fitness Program. In addition we update the site with new content regularly and as a member you will have access to all published articles, videos, e-books and other information property we develop.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Don't let shoulder pain stop your game - get the Rotater!

All too often we hear about golfers suffering from rotator cuff injuries. We honestly feel that with a little bit of flexibility and strength training these injuries can be avoided, or at the very least reduced.

One of the best tools we’ve ever come across is The Rotater developed by Chris Melton and Scott Kay of Joint Mechanix.

Granted, some injuries simply cannot be avoided-for instance an injury incurred due to participation in a contact sport-but, the likelihood can be reduced with proper training. The Rotater allows for just that. This device is an easy to use tool that makes stretching and strengthening the muscles of the rotator cuff a breeze. Once you understand how to properly use this tool (that takes all of about 5 minutes after watching the short video provided with the Rotater) all it takes is about 10-15 minutes of implementing the stretches and strength exercises to gain the benefit of these movements.

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that connect the upper arm to the shoulder blade.

The muscles (S.I.T.S. is the way to remember them according to the previously mentioned A&P classes) and their respective functions are:
  • Supraspinatus - abduction of the upper arm (i.e. raises it to the side of the body)
  • Infraspinatus - external rotation of the upper arm (i.e. rotates it toward the backside of the body)
  • Teres minor - external rotation of the upper arm (i.e. rotates it toward the backside of the body)
  • Subscapularis - internal rotation of the upper arm (i.e. rotates it toward the front of the body)

All four of the muscles function to stabilize the shoulder joint.

The Rotater is a simple tool that allows for stretching and strengthening the internal and external rotation function through multiple angles.

We’ve been testing this device for quite some time now and are very impressed so far. It only takes a couple of minutes of playing around with it to become comfortable with how it operates.

The device comes with a wrist strap (which you need for the stretching exercises), the strong-arm band which can be easily adjusted to provide more or less tension depending on your strength levels, an instruction sheet, and a DVD that gives a great overview of the shoulder joint, the function of the rotator cuff muscles, and directions for using the Rotater to stretch and strengthen the rotator cuff.

The video basically demonstrates three positions each for stretching the internal and external rotation function and three positions each for strengthening the internal and external rotation function. Once you get accustomed to these basic movements, the video encourages you to explore other arm positions since the shoulder is not static.

Who is The Rotater good for? Everyone! Certainly golfers will benefit from this device, but anyone else, regardless of your sport or fitness levels, will as well. It is a highly effective, very easy to use, and inexpensive piece of equipment that will provide tremendous benefits if you use it consistently. We recommend it highly!

Click here to visit our store and purchase your own Rotater!

-EP Golf

Monday, December 22, 2014

Healthy Habit Building Tips to Improve Your Golf Game: #6 Use a Foam Roller

In May 2013, Golf Digest published a great article describing a 42 point, six week get fit plan

We’re expanding on the points and adding insights and perspectives. The list was authored by Ben Shear, who trains many of the game's top players, including Luke Donald, Jason Day and Webb Simpson. Embrace his suggestions, and it won't be long before you look better, feel better and, yes, play better golf.

Buy a $12 foam roller, and knead the muscles of your body three times a week while you watch TV--especially your hips. Click here to get your foam roller now!

Good hip and spine mobility benefits everyone, especially golfers. Hip and spine mobility provide the foundations for a powerful and explosive golf swing. It helps relieve our backs from the stress of sitting behind a desk all day and from every day bending over to pick things up. Our hips are the hinge point upon which most activity depends. Keeping them flexible and capable through their entire range of motion will benefit your swing and reduce your chance of injury.
Foam rolling is a form of self-massage. Muscles and other soft and connective tissue can become damaged or inflamed due to injuries. Golfers place stresses on the shoulders, neck, back, hips, legs, and feet which can result in injury and inflammation.

Injuries stimulate the body to create scar tissue. Scar tissue forms in concentrated areas of muscles and connective tissue and does not stretch like healthy muscle tissue. Thus scar tissue cannot be easily repaired using flexibility and mobility exercises and often requires more intense therapy. A massage therapist or other soft tissue therapist can be very beneficial for treating muscles with scar tissue.

Not all golfers have access to visit a soft tissue or massage therapist when needed, so foam rolling provides an excellent alternative. Foam rolling is a very effective form of tissue therapy. It is also a great way to increase the benefits gained from the work performed by soft tissue and massage therapists.
The basic foam roller soft tissue work is simple. We include foam roller movements for the glutes, hip flexors, IT Band (side of the hip), hamstrings, calves, back, and lats in the ep-golf fitness program. Click here to join the EP Golf Club and get access t the entire EP Golf Fitness Program!

You may initially hurt a little bit and feel minor pains in some spots and your back may crack a few times. You’re tenderizing and loosening tight spots and possible minor scar tissue. Make sure to roll slowly and pause over any areas that feel especially tight or sore. Going up and down gently over short distances and then moving on to a different spot, rather than just doing a few quick sweeps, can be beneficial.

The movements are easy to do while watching TV and make you feel great. Start a foam rolling habit and feel better through the week and during your round.

-EP Golf

Monday, December 15, 2014

Healthy Habit Building Tips to Improve Your Golf Game: #5 Take the Stairs

In May 2013, Golf Digest published a great article describing a 42 point, six week get fit plan

 We’re expanding on the points and adding insights and perspectives. The list was authored by Ben Shear, who trains many of the game's top players, including Luke Donald, Jason Day and Webb Simpson. Embrace his suggestions, and it won't be long before you look better, feel better and, yes, play better golf.

Take the stairs; two at a time if you can.

The fact is that most of us spend a large percent of our lives in an office or at a desk. We stay in the same location most of each work day, which isn’t helping our general fitness level or our golf games. Even if you cannot find time for a strenuous daily workout, you can use the environment around you during the day to help tone your body and prepare it for the weekend round. You can be active around the office and you can do it so no really notices. A simple way to incorporate beneficial activity into your daily routine is to take advantage of the stairways.

Stairways are accessible throughout the day either at the office or in shopping areas. Sometimes you must look for them beside or behind the elevators. They provide quick benefits because the elevation change requires additional effort to scale them as you climb. The best way to achieve fitness benefit from the stairs is to take them whenever you have the opportunity. Take them two at a time to increase the workload a bit. That single action during each day can provide improvements to your body and your heart which will enhance the preparation for your weekend round.

If you want to do more, you can try Stair Jumps. Jumping up the stairs increases difficulty for your muscles and heart and the associated benefit. Plyometric movements like jumping help increase the body’s ability to generate explosive force which is necessary for long drives and iron shots.

Another way to increase difficulty (and benefit) is to climb the stairs with some type of load in your hands. Take the stairs while carrying a box of paper or your brief case or your computer backpack. Adding some load to the stair walk can get your breathing and heart rate up a little more. A third way to utilize the stairs is to increase the intensity by sprinting up the stairs. If you don’t want to feel self-conscious, simply use the excuse that you’re late for an important meeting.

Using the stairs on a daily basis is a simple, effective way to prepare your body for golf and gain an edge on the course.

-EP Golf

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Golf Swing Conditioning and Habit Building – Follow Through

Explosive Golf, Using the Science of Kinesiology to Improve Your Swing is a book by Dr. Michael Yessis that demonstrates ways to enhance your physical approach and understanding of swing mechanics though golf focused training movement.  Try incorporating these routines with your functional fitness work as prescribed by ep golf and build your golf foundation for performance improvement.

Follow Through – The follow through carries maximum club head speed through the contact area to ensure delivery of power to the ball.  Ideally, it keeps the club head in contact with the ball for the longest possible time in order to deliver the greatest force to the ball.  Cutting the follow through short or trying to stop the club early will reduce both distance and accuracy.  Momentum is responsible for club movement during the follow through but specific muscles are stretched in order to slow the club down.  As the muscles stretch, they develop tension with the ever increasing range of motion until the club is stopped at the end of the swing.

Right (trailing) Arm Horizontal Adduction - In the downswing, the right (trailing) arm moves down and across the body (adduction) and then up and across during the follow through.  The muscles on the back of the right (trailing) shoulder and arm play an important role in slowing the club during the follow through and other phases of the golf swing.  They play roles in enabling a compact backswing and proper arm rotation during the downswing.  They can become injured in the follow through due to the very powerful stretch that they experience.  Also, they are small and usually under-developed which also contributes to potential injury.

  • Standing Row - click on the link below to view the video.  A good exercise to strengthen the muscles involved in the follow through is the standing row.  Attach a flex band approximately shoulder high and grasp the end with the arms extended and tension on the band.  Stabilize the body and pull the handle back by bending the elbow.  Keep the arm in line with the shoulders and pull the elbow beyond the back to fully contract the muscles.  Slowly return to the initial position keeping the movement under control.
Side Bending – A powerful weight shift and hip turn will generate spinal side bending in the flow through.  If the range of motion exceeds your capabilities or the proper sequence of actions is disrupted, back injury may occur.  The muscles of the core and lower back provide stability to the spine and help prevent injury that may occur due to unexpected forces encountered during the swing and follow through.

  • Side Bend without Hip Slide - click on the link below to view the video.  A simple exercise to strengthen the core and lower back muscles involved in the follow through is the side bend using either flex bands or a dumbbell.  When using flex bands, stand with one end of the band firmly secured under your feet.  Hold the other end on the same side of the body with the band under tension.  Bend to the opposite side as far as possible keeping the hips in place.  Return slowly to the original position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions then repeat on the other side.
  • Side Bend with Hip Slide - click on the link below to view the video.  A more advanced version of the side bend adds a lateral hip slide as you bend to the side.  Start with a well-balanced stance while holding a dumbbell in one hand.  Lower the shoulders and shift the hips as far as possible away from the arm holding the dumbbell.  After reaching the bottom, inhale and raise the trunk up and over toward the other side as far as possible.  For greater stretch and strengthening, execute the movement with the arms overhead while holding a light dumbbell and preform the movement through the greatest possible range of motion.
Spinal Hyperextension – At the completion of the follow through, the swing ends with the back in a reverse-C curve with a hyperextended spine.  If the finish is correct, the hips are forward and the shoulders are back.  This position requires a strong core and lower back to safely and effectively execute. 

  • GHD or Stability Ball Sit ups - click on the link below to view the video. This movement may be performed on a Glute Ham Development machine if available or a large exercise ball.  Start in a seated position and secure the feet under the foot supports of the GHD or under a solid object or furniture (if performing on a large ball).  Cross the hands over the chest and roll the ball and hips forward as you lie back.  In the final position, the lower back arching should duplicate or go slightly beyond the amount of arch you experience in the follow through.  After reaching the lowest position, tighten the core muscles to sit back up to the original position.  Pause and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  • Backward Overhead Medicine Ball Toss - click on the link below to view the video. This movement is a good exercise for developing the lower back and using the core to control the amount of reverse-C achieved at follow through.  Start in a standing stance position holding a medicine ball in extended arms in front of the body.  Slightly flex the legs and bend forward at the waist while maintaining normal spine curvature.  Go into a squat, inhale, and forcefully extend the trunk and legs while driving the ball upward with straight arms.  Release the ball over your head as the body is fully extended and you go into the reverse-C position.  Toss the ball easily at first and add speed and power as you progress.
Incorporate these golf specific and other core and lower back movements into your weekly activity routines.  Developing core and lower back strength will add distance and accuracy to your shots while reducing chances of back injury and pain.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Golf Swing Conditioning and Habit Building – Downswing (Part 2 of 2)

Explosive Golf, Using the Science of Kinesiology to Improve Your Swing is a book by Dr. Michael Yessis that demonstrates ways to enhance your physical approach and understanding of swing mechanics though golf focused training movement.  Try incorporating these routines with your functional fitness work as prescribed by ep golf and build your golf foundation for performance improvement.

Downswing – the downswing is the most important element of the golf swing.  It’s the element where we generate the power and explosiveness and transmit energy to the ball.  We must generate the maximum amount of controlled force with the downswing to create maximum club head speed at impact of the ball.  We must integrate strength, flexibility, power, and speed in order to produce the best possible explosive swing.

Part 1 of the downswing focused on the primary large muscle groups which generate the primary power for an explosive downswing.  Part 2 highlights the smaller but still important muscles of the wrist, arms, and fingers which enable us to strike the ball solidly at contact.

Wrist Roll – after the trailing arm straightens, the arms are held essentially straight and the hands turn as a result of the arm rotation that occurs at the shoulders.  For golfers that maintain slightly bent arms prior to and during contact, the hands turn strongly and quickly.

  • Wrist Supination (palm up) and pronation (palm down) - click on the link below to view the video. Kneel in front of the long side of an exercise bench or sit with thighs parallel to ground.  Place the forearm flat on the bench or thigh so that wrist and hand are clear of the surface.  Hold a strength bar or golf club with an neutral grip and the heavier end facing the sky or ceiling.  Turn hand palm down until the bar is parallel to the ground or slightly beyond.  Maintain the forearm and elbow in contact with the bench or thigh and then rotate the forearm and hand in the opposite direction (palm up) until the shaft is parallel or slightly below.  perform 10-15 repetitions and then repeat with the other arm.
Wrist Break – The wrists are cocked in the backswing and remain so during the initial movement of the downswing.  A forceful wrist break which contributes to power and accuracy, begins when the hands are approximately hip height and ends just prior to impact. 

  • Wrist Flex - click on the link below to view the video. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and hold a strength bar or club beside the body with the weighted end pointed to the rear and down so that the wrist is maximally cocked.  Keep the arm straight and raise the weighted end of the bar or club as high as possible.  Relax the muscles slightly and return to the original position while keeping the weight under control.  Pause and then repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Repeat with the other arm.
Arm Rotation – Proper amount and timing of arm rotation creates accuracy and consistency of shots.  The amount of rotation that occurs in the backswing is unwound as the club returns to the initial position for impact.  If we do not fully rotate back, the club remains open and the result is a slice.  Too much rotation may close the club head resulting in a hook.

  • Medial and Lateral Rotation - click on the link below to view the video. Assume your golf stance with the intended arm raise forward.  Hold the bar or club with the weighted end up at an angle away from the body.  Rotate the bar inward so that the weighted end is lowered toward the midline of the body.  From this position, rotate the bar back to the vertical position and then continue in that direction through the full range of motion.  Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and repeat with the other arm.
Finger Grip – The grip consists primarily of the index and middle fingers of the right (trailing) hand and the pinkie, ring, and middle fingers of the left (lead) hand that make full contact on the club.  The initial grip is relaxed to provide feel and club position.  During ball contact, a strong grip and firm wrists help to transfer the power of the downswing to the ball at impact.

  • Finger Flexion - click on the link below to view the video. To develop the fingers to improve the grip, use exer rings, grip developers, old tennis balls, or other flexible balls that can be squeezed.  Squeeze using all fingers with the greatest comfortable force then relax and repeat.  Repeat using only the thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Repeat using only the thumb, ring, and pinkie fingers
Strengthening the muscles required to perform strong, repeatable wrist roll, wrist break, arm rotation, and grip will enable us to transfer the power generated from the hips, core, and shoulders to the ball accurately and consistently.  Adding power, accuracy, and consistency to the swing will result in lower scores and increased enjoyment of the game.