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Sports & Pilates Series…Golf

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Spring is in the air and you may be getting out onto the golf course more often.  But do you ever stop to think about the impact of the movements you make on your body?  At lot of our clients play golf and they often mention that attending regular Pilates classes benefits them, so let’s talk about how it could help you…

A golfer’s swing involves a complicated mix of coordination and muscular activity right throughout the body from the feet, legs, torso, arms and finally to where the club hits the ball.  It means there’s a lot of possibilities for a breakdown to occur in the complex chain of movements.

The big ‘mover muscles’ that are used in the golf swing include the quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, rectus abdominals and the obliques, latissimus dorsi, pectorals – and there’s also the rotator cuff area in the swing arm itself.

Golfing can cause overuse in the muscles on one side of your body because it’s continually rotating in one direction, creating an imbalance in the spine.  It’s why golfers most commonly experience injuries in the lower back and the elbow, wrist and shoulder joints.  Another problem arises when you’re walking around the course, carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder, which encourages bad posture too – especially if you carry the bag on the swing side.

Practicing some tailored movements for the sport in regular Pilates classes will strengthen the smaller, deeper muscles of the torso and improve overall control and balance, to try and combat the stress of the sport on the body.  In the studio, we can improve rotation with springs on equipment to challenge the muscles more, including:

·       Balancing on the Wunda Chair: we use the standing foot pumps, and balancing on only one leg makes this much more challenging on overall body stability;
·       Performing the ‘mermaid’ on the Cadillac and Reformer encourages spinal rotation in both flexion and extension.  The mermaid is a combination of a side bed with a twist in forward flexion and then a twist back in;
·       On the Cadillac, we ‘double spring’ the legs at the thigh and lower leg points for more support, in order to mobilise the hip flexors.

Plus there’s a few exercises that you can do at home on a mat or a thick rug, anytime you like!

·       Spine twist: sit cross-legged with a straight spine.  Lengthen and elongate the spine before rotating on the out breath.  Repeat five times, alternating sides;
·       Stabilizer: kneeling on all fours, making sure your knees are under your hips and hands under your shoulders, engage your abs and on the breath out, extend the opposite arm and leg away from each other without twisting and tilting the pelvis or shoulders.  Repeat five times on each side;
·       ‘Thread the Needle’: Staying on all fours, on the breath out, thread one arm under the other arm to create rotation through the spine.  Keep your pelvis as stable as possible to ensure maximum twist in the torso, rather than from the hips.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of effective thoracic breathing, which we regularly use in Pilates.  This will help to control the movements on the exertion of the swing, powering it from the torso rather than the arms, which should remain fairly relaxed.