Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 4

golf-pilates-pics-41To complete our series of articles outlining the ideal set-up for the golf swing, we will discuss the importance of shoulder placement.  As with all aspects of alignment, Pilates can help build body awareness and bring attention to bad habits!

Our first article discussed ideal alignment in the set-up, which stated that the shoulder of the dominant hand should be slightly lower than the other, as the dominant hand should be slightly lower than the other, as the dominant hand holds lower on the club.  Because the dominant hand is lower (the right hand in the photo), this sets the spine on a slight tilt to the right, which should be maintained during the back swing.  Thus, from the side, a forward lean, and from the front, a sideways lean, is present.

“One of the most common faults is to have the right shoulder too low at address,” explains Rick.  (See picture below left.)  “This creates a position that forces the arms to dominate the backswing instead of the core muscles, which should be in control.  Also, when the right shoulder is excessively low, the body is not centered, which prevents a sound pivot as the shoulders are unable to turn at 90 degrees to the spine.  The result is a powerless swing which could lead to injury.”

golf-pilates-pics-42 golf-pilates-pics-43

Rick continues, “Less common is a tilt to the left, or to the side of the non-dominant arm.  (See picture above right.)  The elbows of both arms should be loosely bent — not locked — so that the arms have energy in them without being rigid.”  The picture below shows the side view again, from the side of the dominant arm, which you can use to improve your positioning further.

golf-pilates-pics-44To continue improving your body awareness and to strengthen your abs and back more, try Obliques Roll Back, Swimming and “the Banana” from the Side Leg Lift SeriesObliques Roll Back strengthens the spine in rotation and flexion, Swimming targets the muscles of the back and “the Banana” strengthens the obliques and improves lateral flexion.  For simple arm exercises that will help rid the body of excess shoulder tension, try Pilates in Ten — Arms!

“Tis the season for golfing again, so brush up on your golf game and blow the competition away when you hit the green again!  Contact Rick Nielsen at Power Golf Pilates, powergolfpilates.net!

April 16, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 3

golf-pilates-posture-311Adding on to our week long investigation of the set-up of the golf swing and common problems to avoid, we’ll highlight another common problem and show you how Pilates can help.

PGA certified golf instructor and certified Pilates instructor Rick Nielsen cites “sitting in the set-up” as another habit that essentially kills all hope for a good swing!

As stated in Part 1 of our Golf and Pilates series, in the set-up position, “the knees should be slightly bent…”  So don’t squat!  Sitting in the set-up position displaces the body’s weight backwards, thus the relationship of your body to the ball is altered, as the picture below shows.

golf-pilates-posture-321The exercises we described last time – the Spine Twist, the Spine Stretch Forward and the Saw – are excellent choices here as well, as all three exercises bring awareness to spinal movement and proper posture.  To conquer the sitting habit, try this:

1.    Stand with your back against a stability ball against a wall, so the ball is between you and the wall.  The ball should be placed roughly at your lower back.  Take a step forward with each foot so that your feet are not directly under you.

2.    Inhale, pull in your abdominal muscles and bend your knees to no more than 90 degrees of flexion, keeping the spine perfectly straight.

3.    Exhale, extend your knees to return to the starting position.

You may be thinking, “how will this teach me NOT to sit?”  This exercise helps build awareness of squatting, as most golfers who have the habit of squatting don’t even realize they are doing it!

Did you feel your core muscles engage doing this ball exercise?  Most likely, the answer is yes!  Well, that is because the ball helps you remain vertical when you bend your knees so that your core muscles engage naturally.  When you perform a typical squat, you have no choice but to stick your backside out and lean forward so that you don’t lose your balance.

Interested in longer workouts?  Try the “Get on the Ball” Workout for more great ball exercises or “Meet Your Core” for great core strengthening workouts using the BOSU from UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!  And if you’re interested in a golf lesson, don’t call us!  Contact Rick Nielsen at PowerGolfPilates.net.

April 15, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 2

power-golf-pilates-1Yesterday we showed you “ideal” alignment in the set-up of the golf swing.  Today, we’ll discuss one of the most common errors that negatively impact the success of the swing:  rounding the shoulders and the spine.

“Most golfers bend from the waist instead of the hip sockets due to lack of body awareness and the inability to physically do it,” says our favorite Golf and Pilates expert Rick Nielsen.  “The hip girdle and spine should be tilted forward about 25 degrees to allow the arms to hang freely and the club to move around the spine in a predictable manner.”

Rick suggests holding a golf club at your back to keep the spine straight before and then leaning forward from the hip socket.  “Of course your entire spine will not stay in contact with the club due to the spine’s natural curves,” says Rick, “but doing this can tell you if you are rounding your spine.”

The below picture shows proper set-up:

power-golf-pilates-2Not only does setting up with rounded shoulders and a rounded spine take the body out of the optimal alignment needed for a good swing, it could also lead to injury.  Rotating the spine abruptly with the spine flexed (rounded) instead of straight is more damaging to the discs and the surrounding musculature.

To build body awareness and strengthen appropriate muscle groups, try the following exercises:

1.    The Spine Twist:  This original Pilates exercise will teach you to keep your hips completely still and just rotate the spine. This will strengthen the deep muscles that stabilize the spine and build awareness of the ribcage and the hips as independently moving parts.

2.    The Spine Stretch Forward:  This original Pilates exercise takes you from a straight spine to a flexed spine and then back to a straight spine again…all using the abdominal muscles instead of gravity!  This is a great choice for those of you who may not know your spine is rounded to begin with!

3.    The Saw:  This original Pilates exercise combines flexion (rounding) of the spine with rotation, building abdominal strength and body awareness.

For all of the above exercises, it may be necessary to sit up on a cushion or pad if the hamstrings or hip flexors are tight.  The most important part of these exercises is to perform them from an optimal starting position, which means the spine should be as straight as possible.  It is ok to perform these exercises sitting in a chair as well!  (Hint….you could probably sneak some of these in at work!)

Interested in longer workouts?  Try the “My First Pilates Workout” or “Technique and Fundamentals” workout from UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com!  And if you’re interested in a golf lesson, don’t call us!  Contact Rick Nielsen at PowerGolfPilates.net.

April 13, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . 1. Leave a comment.

Golfers find better posture through Pilates, part 1

golf-pilates-pictures-posture-1We’re back for a week of golf-related Pilates articles with our resident golf expert, PGA member and certified Pilates teacher Rick Nielsen.

Pilates offers many benefits to the golfer looking for effective cross-training by focusing on alignment, proper biomechanics and symmetry of movement.  Good posture is key to achieving a good set-up position for the golf swing, so this week, we’ll focus on proper posture in the set-up along with some common errors.  We’ll also recommend some exercises for building body awareness and strengthening appropriate muscle groups.

First, the feet should be approximately shoulder distance apart and the weight evenly distributed between the right and left feet.  Next, the knees should be slightly bent with the body angled forward (approximately 25 degrees) from the hips to hold the club.  The shoulder of the dominant hand should be slightly lower, as it is the hand holding lower on the club.  As you can see from the side view, the shoulders, knee caps and balls of the feet should be in one line.  From the front, the joints of the body should be stacked on top of each other:  knees over ankles, hips over knees and shoulders over hips.

“Sound posture produces good balance by establishing a solid foundation,” says Rick Nielsen of Power Golf Pilates.  “Pilates facilitates good posture because it not only strengthens the deep muscles of the abdomen and spine which help maintain the body’s proper posture but also it enhances body awareness.  Most golfers aren’t aware of their own faulty posture habits, and Pilates builds the body awareness necessary to recognize one’s own posture.”

As a training tactic, Rick often has his students stand on two air pads or balance discs in their set-up stance both to challenge the musculature that supports good posture AND shine a light on some bad habits!  By doing this, you’ll see where you tend to carry your weight (because you’ll start to fall that way…) and you can correct accordingly!

Check back tomorrow for more tips!  Can’t wait to get started with exercises?  Try the Spine Twist, Spine Stretch Forward and the Saw!  If you wake up with low back tightness, try the Morning Low Back Care Workout on UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com.

April 9, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Pilates on Fifth Postings, Pilates Posts, The Pilates Center of New York Postings, UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com Postings. Leave a comment.