Functional Fitness

Most people don’t consider golf a very fitness-intensive sport, and indeed it’s not very intense in the cardiovascular sense, but it does require a level of control over the body that can only be achieved through athletic training and functional fitness techniques.

The five pillars of golf’s kinetic chain–flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, and power—are at the heart of functional fitness training. What is functional fitness training? It’s athletic training with a focus on movements that emulate the natural motion of the body during sports and day-to-day activities. Our muscles and nervous systems are so delicately coordinated that training with the mechanical, one-dimensional motion provided by machines cannot prepare your body for real motion in space. It’s vital that your muscles learn to work all at once, supporting one another as they would in natural motion. Otherwise, it’s possible to develop a muscle imbalance and potentially set yourself up for an injury. Imagine a bridge built with heavy-weight, highly developed steel cable, but made with small, poorly-made bolts. That’s the kind of body you can get from limiting your training to gym machinery. Your kinetic chain will have weak links, and you won’t know they’re there until you get hurt.

That’s why I focus on training for stability, mobility, and quality of movement before I even introduce strength training. Stability training is so important that I recommend doing 5-10 minutes of it before any workout.

Bodyweight training is an excellent choice for strength training because it incorporates in itself aspects of stability training. It also allows me to assess a client’s imbalances, compensations, weaknesses, and symmetries. When you do bodyweight training, you’re engaging the whole of your body all the time, even if you’re only intending to work on a specific muscle group. This way, you develop better balance, and you also become more mindful of your body’s location in space; both of these are great skills to have whether you’re golfing or just leaning over to get something out of the fridge.

For cardiovascular performance, I recommend athletic training as opposed to steady-state cardio training, like you would get on a treadmill or exercise bike. Athletic training means any exercise where you move like an athlete—fast, agile, and powerful. It increases your cardiovascular fitness and your total-body balance, and it’s also much more fun than traditional cardio.

After your workout, it’s important to be able to return to a positive baseline state. Stretching, massage, foam rolling, and trigger-point techniques are tools that I can use to help my clients wind down and recuperate from the positive stress of exercise.

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