The question: I am about to go on a golf holiday, but it's been months since I've last played. What are some exercises I can do get game-ready again?
The answer: To improve your game in any skill-based sport, you need to practise and, more important, exercise.
Practice is easy: Hit the driving range before your vacation.
But consider the physical demands of golf: Fitness expert Paul Chek of the CHEK Institute says that hitting a golf ball is comparable to lifting your four-rep max at the gym. You would never attempt to lift your four-rep max for four hours, but golfing asks that of your body. The main takeaway is you need to be strong and flexible, or risk injuring yourself all too easily. The best players also have great endurance – power and accuracy diminish quickly in moments of exhaustion.
A good golf workout should focus on multijoint functional exercises such as squats and wood chops, and should exclude isolation exercises such as machine leg extensions and crunches. Functional movements require your body to work as a unit and, when done correctly, promote good posture, which is key to executing golf's precise swinging actions.
Try doing a squat and single-arm cable-row: Stand facing a cable machine, with a cable attachment in your right hand. Lower yourself into a squat. As you stand, engage your bum and core while simultaneously using your upper-back muscles to row your right elbow backward. Do eight reps, then switch sides.
Next, assess your flexibility. Make sure your head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles have adequate and fairly symmetrical ranges of motion.
If a joint (for example, stiff hips) doesn't have the range needed to swing a club, your body will compensate (say, with over-rotation through the lower back) and that will often lead to injury.
A good stretch to try is a figure-four: Sit in a chair. Place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Sit tall. Push gently on your right thigh. To intensify the stretch, lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Trainer's tip: One caveat: Don't overstretch. Only prioritize mobility workouts if you don't have adequate flexibility. Optimal bio-mechanics require a balance of strength and flexibility. So if you are very mobile, you should focus on strength training. Only stretch to maintain, not to increase, your flexibility.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is kathleentrotter.com.