Sean Cochran, Phil Mickelson's golf fitness trainer since 2003, thinks too many amateur players are cutting corners, especially when it comes to fitness. You might walk a lot in golf, but the top players (and good amateurs) have great flexibility, mobility, stability, and core strength. "If the amateur golfer is lacking in those physical parameters, the ability to execute the golf swing in an efficient manner is going to be limited," he said. "Then, what typically transpires is the body can't execute the golf swing correctly. So compensation patterns are developed and swing faults are the result," said Cochran, whom we caught up with during the USGA's Play 9 Day. Whether playing nine holes or 18, Cochran offers these bits of advice to help all players stay fitter for a round of golf.
Flexibility Is As Important as Fitness
According to Cochran, "Your typical health and fitness training program is probably not going to get it all done relative to the golfer," he said. What the golfer needs to accomplish in a workout is to increase flexibility and mobility. "The golfer must recognize number one is that in order to create the rotary aspect to the swing, they have to have a lot of flexibility and mobility," Cochran said. "If they're limited in the flexibility, mobility components in those areas of the body, the rotational aspects of the swing are going to be difficult." For maintaining mobility in the hips, Cochran recommends windshield wipers, piriformis stretches, kneeling hip flexor presses, and stork turns.
But Don't Forget Core Strength
"In order to perform the golf swing, you have to maintain, what they call a fixed spine angle, certain postural positions," he said. "In order to do that you need stability or strength, particularly in the core region," said Cochran. "If I've got 30 minutes a couple of times a week, as a golfer, you know, I can do a lot for my body to help my golf swing," he said.
Try This: Divide the half hour evenly and spend 15 minutes working on flexibility and another 15 minutes in a core strengthening program. To help develop more core strength, Cochran says front planks, side planks, bent knee, back holds work well as well as saws, bent knee back presses with an exercise ball.
Always Warm Up
"Oftentimes the error for the amateur golfer is that they get to the tee late, they don't warm up and the first three to four holes for their round is just disastrous." Cochran recommends running through 5-10 minutes of dynamic warm ups. Try this: Start with ankle presses, move on to bent-knee side-to-side left swings, straight leg swings, wall slides, shoulder turns, and torso back swings.
And Stretch Your Feet
After four and a half hours walking the course, the feet can become tired and tight. "One thing I recommend with a lot of my athletes that I have them doing on a daily basis is what I call, is just basically a self massage with a golf ball on the bottoms of their feet," Cochran said. "I sometimes suggest it when you wake up in the morning or when you go to bed at night when you're brushing your teeth, just roll the bottoms of your foot.
While Golfing, Stay Away from the Booze
Many golfers swear by a little "swing lubricant." But Cochran says, while a beer or two may work for a few holes, drinking does not help in the overall process. "It does quiet some people's nerves, but in the big picture then you start to have issues with the coordination, athletic action's required, then you've got the dehydration issues there. It's hot while you're playing and drinking." So keep the booze for the 19th hole.
"What you've got to recognize is basically the golf swing is a repetitive movement, you're doing the same movement over and over again," he said. With repetition comes, fatigue and tightness. So, Cochran recommends a cool-down with some static stretching and self-mild fast relief exercises with a foam roller for a few minutes after the round is over to help create length within the body after it's become fatigued and tight.