Spring training week one: Golf

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Spring is in the air, and many of us are now realizing summer is on its way. Tennis, cycling, jogging, golfing, in-line skating, baseball, swimming, hiking … I can’t wait!

With the longer days, many of us have a renewed sense of energy. So, along with the spring cleaning you may be tackling around the house, it’s time to get your body in tip-top shape if you want a fun-filled summer. Over the next several weeks, I will provide a number of exercises to prepare you for your favorite summer activities. Today we’ll begin with golf.

Golfing has experienced a rapid rise in popularity over the last few years. Veteran golfers aren’t surprised. In fact, longtime golfers love their sport so much they spend a lot of hours and money attempting to perfect their swing, fine-tune their skills and lower their score. But very few gung-ho golfers spend any time on improving their basic physical conditioning.

The reality is, the golf swing is a very complex, explosive and unnatural movement placing significant stresses and torque on the body parts involved. Because of the nature of the sport, golfers are at a high risk for developing overuse injuries to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint structures -- particularly in the low back, hip and shoulder areas. Professional golfers are injured on average twice a year and amateur golfers once a year, with the most common injury sites being the wrist (27 percent), back (24 percent), elbow (23 percent), shoulder (8 percent) and knee (7 percent).

Most of these injuries are the result of the repetitive nature of practice swings, combined with a poor warm-up and weak trunk, shoulder and wrist muscles. The stronger, better-conditioned golfer will be less susceptible to injury and will recover more quickly after an injury. A good golf conditioning program will incorporate balance exercises, full body rotational movements and a stretching program that increases a golfer’s ability to rotate at the spine.

Here are some exercises to help improve your golf swing and prevent injury. For a related photo gallery, visit www.columbian.com/livewell/spring-training.

Lunge with ball rotation: Start standing with your feet together and holding a medicine ball. (You can purchase medicine balls and exercise tubes at most department stores like Target or a sports equipment store.) Slowly lunge forward until your front knee is positioned over your foot at a 90-degree angle. As you lunge, rotate the medicine ball to the same side of the front leg. Keep your abdominals contracted throughout the entire repetition. Return to the starting position. Alternate legs performing 13 to 20 repetitions on each side.

Tube trunk rotation: Wrap a tube around a pole at about midthigh height. Stand sideways to the pole holding the tube in both hands, standing far enough from the pole so there is tension on the tube. Keep your abdominals contracted and slowly pull the tube across your body in an upward motion as your trunk rotates outwards. Perform 13 to 20 reps each side.

Rotationary V-sits: Start by sitting completely upright. Then recline back a few inches while maintaining a good postural position supporting your body weight on your sitting bones while keeping your chest out, shoulders back and abdominals contracted. Holding this position, slowly rotate your elbows side to side. Perform five times on each side, take a break and then repeat. To make this exercise more challenging, hold onto a medicine ball.

Hip and back stretch:Lie on the floor on your back. Lift your left leg straight up and wrap a stretching strap around the foot. Holding the strap in your leg arm, cross the leg over your body toward the floor so that the left foot almost touches the right hand that is resting on the floor. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. If this stretch is too aggressive, bend the knees. Repeat on the other side.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at www.nwPersonalTraining.com or www.ShapeupwithSherri.com.