Athletic training takes flight out on the golf course

I am an athlete.

I may not dribble a ball down a court and call out plays anymore, and I will never again stand at home plate awaiting the next pitch, but I am still an athlete.

I can remember going through high school contemplating what being an athlete consisted of and in which sports the participates were deemed "athletes."

Take cheerleading, for example. It was a running joke with the cheerleaders at the high school I attended that "cheerleading" was not a sport; therefore, they were not athletes. You can imagine how many dates that got me ...

Looking back and also taking in account of the now competiveness of cheerleading, there is a good chance that there are girls on the squad who are in far better athletic shape than the guys competing in the game. In conclusion, it is with a humble heart that I apologize to the cheerleaders from Byne Memorial High School '93-'97, you were indeed athletes ...

Now, moving on to another sport that catches a bad rap for being non-athletic, golf! Golf is in every instance a sport. It is something that I enjoy and, although I am not great at it, I love to play.

Now, before we go pointing fingers and name-calling about whether golfers are athletes, let me expound a little. I am not talking about the guy who goes to the course once a week to get away from the house, gets a cooler full of his favorite beverage and rides around with his buddies scrabbling for a bogey. I am talking about the guy or girl who lives to conquer new courses; who plays logically, trying to figure out ways to shave a stroke here and there and lower their handicap enough to get in a more competitive fight.

For those of you out there, this column is for you!

It's no secret that exercise will benefit all aspects of any sport. Therefore, golf is no different. Unfortunately, when the word "functional" is thrown out there and is related to exercises used to improve your golf game, we think about some twisting type movement of the torso while being connected to a cable or bungee.

Just because it mimics the movement does not necessarily mean it is going to help. Although I do not condemn the use of these particular exercises, I want you to broaden your perception of "functional."

I have a client who plays golf regularly. He has recently found that his swing speed has gone from averaging 115 mph to 126 mph. Now, keep in mind that he is no long-drive champion, however, the average swing speed on the professional level is 112 mph. He is able to achieve this speed with good form while remaining pretty technically sound, therefore striking the ball more solid.

All the increases in club head speed and power are directly attributed to the exercise regimen the subject is on. In combination with overhead squats, kettle bell swings and dead lifts, we have found that the clean and jerk is one of the most worthy exercises. Because both the golf swing and the clean's main power source are the hips, these two go hand in hand.

In addition to the explosive power of these movements, midline stabilization is also very important. When you address the ball, is hunching over at the lumbar considered good form? Of course not, and neither is it for these lifts. When performing these lifts correctly, your lower back and midline stability will get stronger, allowing your body to hold angles in the swing that it couldn't before. You must stay rigid and tight throughout all movements in order to recruit the most force.

We also have to look at any flexibility issues at hand. Having proper flexibility and full range of motion throughout all joints will benefit you tremendously! Do not ignore this aspect of your training. Tight Hamstrings is directly related to back pain and limited mobility, and we all know that's no good.

For questions on this or any other fitness related topic, please feel free to e-mail me. On a side note, Case Study contest winners will be contacted this week! Thank you again for reading these fitness columns and I hope that continue to stay beneficial. Stay warm, Albany, and thanks for reading The Herald!

E-mail fitness columnist Kris Morrill, certified personal trainer and owner of World Camp Fitness in Albany, at kris@worldcampfitnesstraining.com.