1. DYNAMIC LUNGES To help swing the club with the necessary torso stabilization, the dynamic lunge is an awesome stretch. First, place your front leg (do one leg at a time) out in front of you with your knee forming a right angle (a towel on the back knee can be used for support, if you want). Keep your back upright by pulling your navel in and lifting your rib cage off your waist. Also, place both hands over your knee. From here, lunge forward and keep your upper body vertical as you do so. Repeat this stretch 10 times, then switch sides. After just a few stretches, you'll feel that this stretch will help you make a better hip turn in your golf swing and improve your posture, too.
2. WINDOW WASHERS One of my favorite stretches for increasing flexibility in the lower body, especially in the hips, is the window washer. Begin on your back with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your heels placed outside of the glutes. Inhale as you press your knees to one side, then exhale to the starting position. Alternate from side to side 10 times, and remember to breathe as you perform each stretch. This stretch not only is great for warming up, but it feels great during the round, too! If you hit a congested tee box, take a minute and feel free to do a couple of window washers. It helps you rotate your hips properly and stretches the quads and lower back.
3. REVOLVING SIDE-ANGLE TWISTS Another great stretch for a better rotation of the body on the backswing and forwardswing is the revolving side-angle twist. Place your right hand on the outside of your left knee and rotate your torso from the deepest part of your abdominal muscles up to the back of the shoulder. Hold this pose for seven deep breaths. To add more challenge, place the back of your right arm over your left knee. Bring your hands together and push your right shoulder away from your ear. Focus on the rotation and hold for seven breaths. Do this 10 times, then switch sides. You'll quickly feel as though you have more room to rotate.
4. PLANK POSE Maintaining a consistent spine angle is key in the golf swing. This stretch/exercise helps strengthen not only your core, but also your hands, wrists, shoulders and glutes. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and spread your fingers as wide as possible. Draw your shoulder away from your ears and navel toward your spine before you lift your legs off the floor. Squeeze your legs together, engage your glutes and lengthen your spine. Hold for 10 breaths, relax and repeat three times. If, at first, you find the plank pose to be a little challenging, try and hold for five breaths at a time and work your way up to 10 breaths. With practice and repetition, you'll develop added core strength for a better spine angle in your golf swing from start to finish.
5. CHAIR SQUATS Your glutes are a big power source in your golf swing. This pose will help you harness the bigger muscles in your legs and help you improve your posture. Bring the club over your head, initiating the movement from your core. Don't bring the club behind your head, as this motion should support your best posture, not force a forward head position. Draw your navel toward your spine and inhale as you lower (press your glutes) toward the ground as if you're sitting into a chair. As you exhale, push your lower body into the ground as you return to the starting position. This action of lowering and pressing against the ground is a perfect example of the powerful subtleties that make the pose effective. Repeat 10 times, and you'll feel it in your glutes!
6. WARRIOR POSE A great stretch for improving your balance is the warrior pose. The goal is to keep your body in one powerful line, with no break at the waist as you move through the pose. Visualize a see-saw, one straight line, if you will. As you bring your club over your head, engage the core of your body for better balance. As you begin to lift the right leg, the upper body lowers. At the pinnacle of the pose, your body looks like the letter "T". Repeat five times, then switch sides. You'll quickly improve your balance and strengthen your lower body.
7. PRACTICE TEE DRILL This is a favorite stretch of mine on the practice tee, and it's surprising how few golfers actually do it. Start by simply crossing the club in front of your body. Get into an athletic position and hinge at your hips. Inhale as you rotate to your right, exhale through. Repeat 15 times. You'll feel looser, more supple and more ready to hit a big drive off the first tee.
As a golf fitness professional, my goal for my clients is performance-based, but the ultimate goal is the balance of flexibility and strength so my clients can play the game for a long time. Play better, play longer, play injury-free, and enjoy the game more–that's my motto!
This series of stretches, exercises and poses targets flexibility and strength in various planes of motion.
Here are three guidelines for success:
1. Focus on your breathing. Practice long deep breaths in and out through the nose, even when working your strengthening poses. Move dynamically in each pose, inhaling and exhaling in each direction for 10 repetitions, then switch sides.
2. Pay attention to the subtle details of the pose. For example, if you slightly pull your navel toward your spine before you begin each exercise, you stabilize the torso and activate a deep power source.
3. Adherence over duration is the key. Practice this sequence every other day for four weeks. Stay with it! You'll experience change even with the simplest effort.
Katherine Roberts is the producer of seven DVDs and author of the groundbreaking book, Yoga for Golfers. To learn more about Katherine and her fitness system for better golf, visit yogaforgolfers.com.