NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Caddy Smack Deuce: More Fitness Tips to Improve Your Golf Game

It’s that time of year again. The temperatures are starting to change for the better, and that “itch” to get back out onto the golf course may be starting to emerge. If you are like me, you check your weather app at least four or five times a day to see if the conditions for the upcoming weekend are going to be suitable playing conditions (mid 40s, no wind/rain = good for me).

Iamgolf.jpegMost of us might have been lucky to get out and play a handful of times over the winter, but some might be picking up a club for the first time in almost five months when that first tee time rolls around. Regardless of how many times you have played in recent months, everyone can benefit from improving golf-specific fitness areas before the full-fledged season begins here in Indy in the next few weeks.

About a year or so ago, I wrote a blog called “Caddy Smack” (hence “Caddy Smack Deuce”). Caddy Smack was designed to give you a few starting points on how you can increase one very important aspect of the golf swing, rotational power. Rotational power is a very important force-generating factor and may help you gain a few extra yards off of the tee. But as most of you probably know, there is MUCH more to the golf swing than just power. Follow along as I go over five of the most important fitness areas to improve that can have a direct impact on your swing.

Ankle Mobility

All great golf swings start from the ground up. How the feet are positioned and the movement (or lack thereof) can change a smooth swing into one that looks like a rusted teeter-totter. Lack of mobility throughout the ankles can constrict your range of motion and can also prevent you from using the ground as a force-generating tool.

What can you do to improve it? Do Wall Ankle Mobility Drills: 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg

Hip Mobility

As Chubbs from the movie Happy Gilmore once said, “It’s all in the hips.” Well, I’m here to tell you that Chubbs wasn’t lying. A solid portion of the movement that occurs in the swing can be attributed to your ability to achieve a full range of motion within your hips. If you have been around the game long enough, you know the term “hip turn.” This does not happen with poor mobility.

What can you do to improve it? Do Supine Bridge Leg Circles: 2 sets of 5 reps (clockwise and counterclockwise) per leg

Rotational Power

If you have read this blog’s big brother, you know that rotational power plays an important role in your swing. My belief is that if you become more powerful, you will not have to swing as hard in order for the ball to fly the same distance, thus minimizing mis-hits due to being out of control. Essentially, you are generating the same amount of force (or possibly greater) without feeling like you are doing anything different. Seems like a win-win to me.

What (else) can you do to improve it? Perform Standing Rotational Shot Put: 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps per side

Shoulder Mobility

I know you have done it, watching the slow-mo of one of the tour players’ swings, being enamored by their ability to draw the club back so far (Phil Mickelson goes way past parallel to the shoulders). The next time you hit the driving range, you try to mimic that exact takeaway and the shot is a proverbial dumpster fire. I’ve done it too. You wonder to yourself, “How do they do that”?

Well, for most of them, their swings have been forged since they exited the womb. That feeling is natural to them. But one factor in which they may have a slight advantage over you may be shoulder mobility, or the ability for the shoulder to move freely and under control throughout the range of motion without the sense of constriction. There is no way that you will be able to recreate a backswing of such length if you cannot perform similar tasks without the golf club in your hands.

What can you do to improve it? Standing (or seated) Wall Slides: 2 sets of 10 reps

Single-Leg Stability

My final important aspect to aim to improve for your golf swing is single-leg (SL) stability. SL stability combines other factors that I mentioned previously (such as ankle/hip mobility), but for some individuals, it’s just something that needs to be practiced. After you make contact with the ball in your swing, there is a transfer of weight to your lead foot, which causes that hip turn and allows you to hold the finish pose. Although both feet are still in contact with the ground, the lead leg is providing the majority of the support.

When is the last time you balanced on one leg for 30 seconds? What about balancing for 30 seconds with your eyes closed? What about balancing with your eyes closed, juggling flaming bowling pins, while eating sushi (okay, maybe I’m kidding). That is a good place to start. Feel what it is like to stand without using anything but that plant foot. Do it on both sides. After you have mastered the balance, you can add more elements.

What can you do to improve it? Do Single Leg Balance with Tennis Ball Bounce (against wall): 3 sets of 20 per leg

The golf swing is as unique and complex as any movement that I have ever analyzed. There are so many factors that could make or break your success; however, many of those factors are modifiable. I hope that this spring, summer, and fall golfing seasons are the best you’ve ever had!

Now, watch me hit a ball over the White River bridge!

Golf blog 2

This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

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Topics: fitness balance golf golf swing

Effective Grip Strength Training Solutions

ThinkstockPhotos-472123412.jpgGrip strength is quite a conundrum in the fitness industry. It is so often called upon during training, yet grip-strength training itself can be overlooked.

Many people don’t even think to train grip strength, or they don’t think that grip training will benefit them. Have you ever had trouble opening a jar or a can? Have you ever dropped a bag of groceries while trying to carry in every single bag from your car (like I do every Saturday)? Now do you think grip training might benefit you?

How Can a Better Grip Help You?

Any activity that involves holding something is going to require grip strength to some degree. Here are a few activities that may or may not come to mind when you think grip strength.

  • Golfing: When playing golf, every shot you take requires you to hold a club. When holding the club, it pays to have a tight grip. Why? When you hit the ball, there is a transfer of energy from your hands to the club, and from the club to the ball. To get all of the energy from your hands to the club and the ball, you need to allow for as little movement of the club as possible when striking the ball. Grip strength is required to minimize the movement of the club upon striking the ball.
  • Carrying a suitcase: Whenever you carry anything, you need grip strength. This usually isn’t a concern when the item you are carrying is light, such as a book or a cup. However, an item like a jam-packed suitcase can really test your grip when you are running through the airport to catch your plane. And if you work grip strength exercises into your workout routine, you can catch that plane and make it to family Christmas on time!
  • Picking up a heavy object: This one seems like common sense, right? That’s because it is. When lifting a heavy object, such as a piece of furniture, grip strength is what keeps that object from crashing to the ground. You may have very strong legs, arms, and back, but if your grip is too weak to hold the object, you can’t move it!
Training Your Grip

So how can you train your grip to be stronger and have more endurance? There are many different ways, and here are a few (for more exercises, see this article):

  • Using a thicker bar: A larger object is harder to hold onto than a smaller object. Therefore, a thicker barbell will be harder to hold onto than a thinner barbell. You can incorporate a thicker bar into your normal weightlifting routine by substituting it into every exercise you would normally do with a regular bar. Don’t have access to a thick bar? You can create a thicker bar. All you need is a couple of towels. Just wrap them around the bar to the thickness you desire, and you’re ready to go! (CAUTION: Be careful and use a spotter when weightlifting. A new technique means you will need to take time to get used to it.)
  • Plate pinches and flips: If you’re lucky, your gym will have bumper weight plates (and yes, we have plenty here at the NIFS Fitness Center!). These work great for either plate pinches or flips. In a plate pinch, you pick up a bumper plate between your thumb and your other four fingers, and you either stand still to go for time, or you can walk with them and try to go for distance. In a plate flip, you grip the plate in the same way as you would for a pinch, and you do a half flip, catching the side of the plate that was just facing the ground. (Again, use caution when doing these exercises. These plates can be heavy, and if the exercise is done incorrectly, somebody could get hurt.)
  • Dead hangs: For this, all you need is a pull-up bar. From a pull-up position, just hang freely from the bar for as long as you can. This will test your grip strength endurance, which is very functional for things like carries and holds.
Grip strength has been a crucial part of my recent training. I like lifting heavy weights, so it was frustrating for me when my grip strength was my limiting factor on lifts such as the deadlift. I have incorporated a few of these techniques, and after a couple months I saw progress. Weights that used to slip from my hands felt much more manageable in several different lifts that involved gripping and pulling. If you don’t believe me, try these for yourself! Give it a little bit of time; soon enough, your grip will be stronger and your days of struggling to open that pickle jar will be over.

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LIFT_logo_white.jpgNIFS introduces a new Lifting program in 2016! LIFT is for all levels wanting to learn proper Powerlifting and Olympic lifting techniques. Our expert trainer will teach fundamentals, evaluate movements and help build a customized training program around your lifting goals. If you would like more information contact Aaron at acombs@nifs.org

This blog was written by Aaron Combs, NSCA CSCS and Health/Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: NIFS fitness center weightlifting golf grip strength

Thomas's Corner: Off the Beaten Path—Outdoor Fitness Options

Sunny days and warm summer weather are now upon us. It’s hard to complain about a pretty day, except when you are confined to an indoor lifestyle or job. Outdoor fitness is exactly what you need to get rid of the summertime blues, but I’m not talking about running or boot camp. Indianapolis is packed with fitness activities just waiting to be discovered. Parks throughout the city are highlighted by fitness trails, open fields, and accessibility. The opportunities are only increasing as we, hopefully, move toward a more health-conscious society.

In this blog we are going to think outside the box and explore some outdoor fitness options that are not only good exercise, but also fun and stimulating.

ThinkstockPhotos-178092126Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding, a mode of recreational transportation, has been around much longer than you might think. When it was first invented is undetermined, but evidence of its existence dates back to early exploration of the Pacific Ocean in the late 1700s by Captain James Cook. 

Fast-forward a few hundred years and you will see paddleboarding nearly everywhere, including rivers, lakes, and oceans. Because it enables you to take in scenery and nature, paddleboarding can be both calming and serene. On the other hand, in some windy conditions, paddleboarding is completely challenging, giving the rider a great workout. Riding the tide for extended periods of time provides plenty of balance, core stability, and endurance opportunities for the aquatic enthusiast.

For paddleboarding in Indianapolis, visit local shops such as Rusted Moon Outfitters to see demonstrations and buy gear to satisfy your paddleboarding needs. If you are a beginner and would like lessons, another local company, Salty Dog Paddlesports offers not only training sessions, but also more advanced yoga classes on paddleboards!

Geocaching

Geocaching is a relatively new outdoor recreational activity that combines old-school orienteering and treasure hunting with modern GPS technology. The concept of geocaching is not new; following clues and landmarks to find hidden treasure has been around for a long time. 

In this modern-day search for “x” on a treasure map, individuals use clues via internet videos or posts to find hidden packages or containers yielding log books to sign your name, often a small prize, or even another clue to find your way to another hidden site. The treasures aren’t necessarily huge in size; the excitement comes from successfully navigating your way to the treasure. After the site is discovered, it is neatly hidden away so that another geocacher may discover it. 

Because it usually takes place outdoors in rugged terrain and involving hiking and walking, a geocacher’s main needs include comfortable clothes, shoes or boots, and a functioning GPS system. Most cell phones have GPS built in already, so becoming a geocacher is even more convenient than you think. Geocaching is happening in Indiana, and the Indiana Geocaching website is dedicated to it. There is plenty of information regarding upcoming events and links to other national geocaching clubs. Channel your inner Indiana Jones while you are actually in Indiana!

Disc Golf

One of the fastest-growing recreational sports and activities, disc golf is quickly becoming more than just a niche hobby. The concept of disc golf, obviously, is derived from traditional golf, including the terminology. Disc golfers typically throw one of their many discs (each one has specific characteristics, not unlike drivers, irons, and putters) from a tee box toward a basket on a pole. Score is kept with eagles, birdies, par, and bogeys. 

Sprinkled throughout Indianapolis are several disc golf courses that offer a variety of challenges and an opportunity to experience some of the many scenic neighborhood parks that otherwise may go unnoticed. There is even a disc golf organization (Indianapolis Disc Golf Club) that holds several notable tournaments, bringing in top competition in the area and the Midwest. 

Like all skill-based activities, disc golf requires practice time. This is easily countered by disc golf’s relatively easy concept, cost effectiveness (discs are around 10 to 15 dollars, while courses are free), and inviting atmosphere.

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If you are bored with your current situation or just want a fun activity for you and your pals, there are definitely some excellent options to keep you active and your brain stimulated. Whether you want to take on some waves with your paddleboard, track down a series of clues while geocaching, or take a stroll through the park while disc golfing, the landscape for outdoor activity is ever changing. Be adventurous this summer and try a new outdoor sport or activity today!

Rejoice and Evolve,

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: summer balance endurance core outdoors golf sports hiking

“Caddy Smack”: Fitness Tips to Improve Your Golf Game

golferWith summer in full swing, I thought some tips to improve your golf game might be a good way to start my blogging experience. No, I’m not going to fix your slice or tell you how to hit out of a bunker (I still can’t fix that myself). What I’m going to do is give you a few fitness tips that could potentially help add some yards off the tee or with long iron shots.

Getting More Distance on Your Shots

One of the best ways to bolster the distance of your shots is to increase the club head speed during your swing. Now, you are probably thinking, “Okay, I’ll just swing harder than I normally do.” Those of us who have done that before already know the outcome is not favorable for scoring par or birdie. The ball probably ended up two fairways over or at the bottom of a lake and left you saying, “I almost crushed that.”

What if there was a way to increase that club head speed without altering the mechanics of your swing? The concept of rotational power may be the key to unlocking that extra 10 to 15 yards for that tee shot. Rotational power is something I focus very heavily on with any of my teams that involve a swinging aspect (such as golf, tennis, and softball). It involves moving your upper body/torso and hips in a circular path to generate a large amount of power while keeping under control. Increasing the ability to generate this force (getting more powerful) will allow you to feel like you are taking your normal swing but have a little more “oomph” behind it. Simply put, you are able to swing harder by increasing the ability of those muscles that are important to the swing.

Training to Increase Rotational Power

Now, how should you go about training to increase your rotational power? Luckily, the NIFS Fitness Center has a ton of tools that can provide opportunities to do so. I am going to focus on one piece of equipment for this specific goal, which are the Dynamax balls located at the south end of the fitness center floor. The following three exercises are designed to help you become more powerful and hopefully improve your game at the same time. Remember, your driver and irons do not weigh a bunch, so use one of the lighter Dynamax balls (I recommend the 10-pounder to start with). The golf swing is a fast event, so focus on the speed aspect rather than the weight during these drills.

  1. Dynamax Pocket Throws (3 sets of 15 per side)
  2. Half-Kneeling Rotational Throw (3 sets of 8 per side)
  3. Overhead Rotational Throw (3 sets of 6 per side with maximum effort)


I know there are many more parts to the golf swing than rotational power, however, this is a key factor. Hopefully in a few weeks you will be hearing a louder “smack” of the club and see some extra distance when the ball comes to a stop.

Hit them straight; hit them far!

If you are looking for more ways to improve the strength of your golf swing or have any other sports specific goals, contact me for a free fitness assessment. 

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: exercise muscles training golf core strength rotation golf swing