Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stable Shoulder Blades Equals the Key For a Great Top Position In the Backswing

What's holding you back in your golf swing?
You go to the golf pro or swing coach, you get a great lesson, hit a few good shots, but lack that consistency on the course. You have the best brand, most forgiving clubs, but for every 1 good shot you hit, there's a couple "fat" and "thin" shots that follow.  You get frustrated. You threaten to give up the game and throw your clubs in the river. Slow down, man.... The issue here is not the club, it's not the swing coach or pro. Your body creates the motion and power that is distributed into creating that golf swing.  Anything "not working" in your game can be traced back to a body issue or physical limitation. 
Good news, this CAN be fixed!  What it takes is first figuring out which area of the body may be causing the physical limitation. There could be a few, but lets handle the major threat first.
Let's say you have not so great posture. You work a job that has you in this hunched over, sitting position for the majority of the day. We find ourselves in this position eating, driving, messing around on the computer, and reading. This poor posture becomes our norm and presents itself in the golf address position and carries over into the swing. It's very hard to rotate your torso in a flexed/hunched over position. This condition is known as Upper Crossed Syndrome (, and is a combination of muscle imbalances found in the chest and back area.  It leaves our mid-back area weak and WILL lead the golfer into having absolutely no scapular stability. The scapula or shoulder blade area (scapulo-thoracic joint) has to be a very stable area of the body in the golf swing. This area locks down and allows the shoulder ball and socket joint (gleno-humeral joint) to be very mobile to extend the club to the top of your backswing and initiate a proper swing path coming down during the downswing. If you lack this stability in your scapula you are telling your shoulder to try and be both mobile and stable at the same time. This is not going to go over that well and will not lead to consistent golf shots.
What you need are corrective golf-specific exercises to strengthen this physical limitation in the body.  If you keep the pattern above going on too long, you will continue to have muscle imbalances in the body that will surely lead to injury. It's not a question of IF but WHEN. 
Try this exercise below. It will both strengthen the shoulders and add stability in your shoulder blades. It will also improve shoulder mobility as this exercise takes each shoulder through flexion and extension.  The nice thoracic extension this exercise demands will lead to better golf posture and everyday-life body posture.
Strong scapula (shoulder blades) will help you keep a stable thoracic spine giving you a good strong turn and consistent swing path that will hopefully hit great golf shots.  This will leave both you and the golf pro very happy.  

If you're looking to get screened for any physical limitations that may be adversely affecting your golf game, contact me at  I'm Titleist Performance Institute trained.
With my screening process information and your swing analysis, I can come up with a unique plan of action to improve your golf game and personal well-being.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Engage Your Glutes!!!

Some experts refer to the Glutes (AKA your butt muscles) as the "king" of the golf swing.  Along with the core the glute muscles (Gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) help to create a strong, stable lower body that the upper body can rotate around, allowing you to finish off a powerful, efficient golf swing.  Our Glute muscles help to provide stability in our body and generate power from the ground up.  This sequence happens in many actions: throwing a ball, punching, doing a power clean, hitting a hockey puck, and what we are talking about here, swinging the golf club.

Because of the lifestyle that many of us live this day and age, too many individuals are walking around with muscle imbalances and improper muscle recruitment patterns.  The "comfortable" seated positions that most chairs provide are keeping people in locked-up, undesirable positions for hours at a time throughout the day.  Posture is poor and flexibility/stretching drills are things that most people are not incorporating into their daily planners.  I understand that we cannot escape the seated positions that are common in so many functions that we do throughout the day; I'm guilty of it as well.  It's one of the reasons that fitness IS so important to me. I want a balanced body.  I am conscious of my posture as I walk down the hall, sit in a chair at work, or driving in the car.  It's awareness of how YOUR OWN body feels.  We must have that.  But people that lack body "feel" or awareness typically have inhibited neuromuscular systems or muscle weakness.  They suffer from issues like Lower Crossed Syndrome and instead of recruiting their Gluteus Maximus, which is inhibited or "turned-off'', they are recruiting their hamstrings and lower back for hip extension.  Other parts of their body are compensating for this physical flaw and it could eventually lead to injury and definitely affect the consistency in something like ball striking for your golf game.  This is where golf-fitness corrective exercise would come into play.  Once it's uncovered that an individual has weak Glutes or muscle imbalances in the pelvis and core, proper strength training and stability exercises can be put into place that will attack this weakness in their fitness/body that's affecting their game.
Here's a great test to determine if you have weak gluteal muscles:

Exercises like hip bridges, squats, and lunge variations are excellent ways to strengthen the glute muscles.  These muscles are incredibly important for your golf game and also for healthy movement throughout life.  Engage your Glutes! 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

The body is a complex assembly of bones, muscles, organs, blood vessels, nerves, skin, and connective tissues.  When the body moves correctly, it seems effortless. It's a beautiful thing.  Our bodies move with a symphony of bones, nerves, muscles, and joints working together synergistically to get us moving in whatever way we are asking it to perform, whether that's picking up a baby out of the car seat, deadlifting 500 lbs, or running up a flight of stairs late for a meeting.
When we are babies, we are taught by our parents to move our bodies efficiently, in a way that sticks in our brains, and doesn't get us hurt.  Imprints are made in our neural pathways.  Our motor cortex processes these things.  We learn how to operate a spoon, walk, tie our shoes, run, etc.  The point here is that our nervous system drives the movement.  Athletes may make very complex movements look effortless, but in the learning stages, a lot of time, energy, thinking, and hard work was probably put into those movements. 
Jami Lynn doing a Stability Ball Wall Squat

When it comes to exercises and moving our bodies in different planes of motios, you will be better served to take it slow.  Start with the basics and learn to just move your own body-weight efficiently.  Even if you were a high school star athlete but it's been years since you've done anything recreationally, I would start you out as a beginner.  I'd put you through the basics because we need to get sound technique down from the start.  You have to check your ego at the door and look at the big picture.  Exercise and really just moving your body without pain are things you want to be able to do until you check out of this place.  The Law of Facilitation states that, "When an impulse has passed once through a certain set of neurons to the exclusion of others, it will tend to take the same course on a future occasion, and each time it traverses this path the resistance in the path will be smaller." (Dorland's Medical Dictionary)  What this means is that when you practice moving your body in a certain way over and over again, you better hope it's in the right form.  If you are moving your body inefficiently, and repeating these bad habits over and over again, these neural pathways are imprinted in your brain.  After doing this for months/years, it's going to be hard as heck to re-write this movement.  That's why it's my opinion that it's not practice makes perfect but perfect practice that makes perfect.  
Liz performing a Lunge

Do yourself a favor, when you start to exercise your body, start slow and ease your mind by bringing in a qualified personal trainer to show you proper form for exercise.  Your health and exercise longevity will benefit in the long run, giving you many fun-filled years of functional use.   

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Most Functional Machine at the Gym: Your Body

I train clients around town at some of the "globo-gyms".  They serve a purpose for me and my clients quite well but still seem to irritate me.  My irritation lies in the fact that most of the useable floor space is eaten up by a plethora of weight machines, contraptions that lock an exerciser in very "artificial" body positions.  The machine manufacturers have done a good job marketing these products making everyone feel as if these are exactly what they need.  The exercise description is right there in front of your face somewhere on the machine, and heck, it even shows you what muscles you're working.  I get it.....It's a gym owner's dream, they are generally safe and easy to use if you can figure out how to sit in the damn thing (perfect for a minimally staffed 24 hour operation).

Here's the problem - their design does not replicate real world movement.  You are in a fixed position generally singling out one major muscle group. Paul Chek of the C.H.E.K. Institute in California has this to say about machines, "Machines in general are one-dimensional.  They guide movement such that the body need not stabilize its own joints.  This leads to over-development of prime movers relative to stabilizers." [I took that from his course, "Equal But Not the Same"].  He makes a great point here.  They are designed to primarily strengthen the prime mover muscle for the particular exercise.  The movement path is fixed by the machine's structure.  The body does not need to rely on what are known as the stabilizer muscles.  Personally, I got to know my shoulders stabilizer muscles real quick when I attempted my first overhead squat in a CrossFit Foundations Class.  The overhead squat depends greatly on shoulder girdle flexibility but you must also have strong stabilizer muscular recruitment to keep that bar solid and fixed in that overhead position.  If that bar wavers forward or backward even an inch, you have to bail.

Strengthening these stabilizer/"helper" muscles are a must.  When we get out recreationally or on the job in the real world, we use our bodies as a complete unit, muscles working synergistically together.  If I have weak stabilizers, I open up the potential for injury and that may hurt, and I don't like pain - I try to stay away from that.

I realize some machines allow more free motion than others, but speaking generally, machines are designed as a one size fits all.  And, we know that everyone is not the same size plus our bodies move in different ranges of motion.  The point here is to get you focusing on the machine that is your body and training it to move.  Here's an example:  you're a mom who is about to pick up your child from the stroller and place him in his car seat.  In this real world movement, you bend to deadlift the child out of the stroller, twist with the torso, and press the child into the fixed car seat.  These are functional movements that you can definitely strengthen in a gym setting so that they are strong and familiar in you real life.  
If you are able to, and most of you are unless you are rehabilitating an injury or a paid bodybuilder, ditch the machines and favor body-weight movements and multi-joint movements with weights.  These allow you to move the body in multiple planes of motion (just like real life!) and you burn more calories if you are trying to lose a few LBs.  As always, SAFETY FIRST..... If you don't know how to properly move your body through common exercises, hire a trainer or have a friend show you some basic movements.  Exercise is more fun with someone else anyways, and it will give you an accountability partner.  Have fun

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Workouts are Hard, So are Your Bones - Hopefully!

A few years back the Dairy Council came out with a campaign touting milk as the key for strong healthy bones.  They told you and me to drink our milk.  This is not a post talking about the benefits or fallacies regarding the industrialized dairy practices that give us our milk products.  But I'll say this, the milk we drink today is not the secret to a lifetime of healthy bones.  Nutritionally, you can probably get more calcium from leafy greens.  We must eat foods that give us Vitamins C & D, calcium, magnesium, and potassium to help us keep our bones strong, but I'm here to tell you that nutrition is not the key component.  The secret to strong, healthy bones is Exercise, you moving your body.  Healthy nutrition is necessary, but you can't do that alone, and it's not the key factor.

I recently began working with a new client, one who deals with Osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis.  Losing bone density is an issue for her, and it became my job to help formulate a plan to allow her to not only keep what bone density she has but to also develop more.  Osteoblasts are bone building cells that replace lost bone tissue in the body.  You see, your bone tissue is not much different that the tissue in your heart, muscle, and lungs.  To remain healthy, these tissues need to be stressed/they need to be worked/they need to be EXERCISED

As I dug around looking for what I needed to do to train someone with bone density issues, I realized that there was not a lot of info out there specifically targeting that.  I found general stuff, and then it hit me....What these people need is no different than what anyone out there really needs when it comes to physical exercise, they need to move a load against gravity.  Weight-bearing exercise gives us the best bone building benefits (weight-bearing being bodyweight, dumbbells, a loaded barbell, whatever).  These osteoblasts (bone cells) are stimulated when the muscles pull around the bones to produce human movement.  Now, we are all unique on our fitness journey.  We start at the basics and as we progress, we have to turn up the intensity.  It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 80 years old, the body is smart and adapts quickly.  Our exercise should be intense and should have variety.  The body tires of the same routine over and over.  It yawns and asks what's next....the more stress you put on your bones, the stronger they will become.  We need to continuously challenge our osteoblasts to stay on the positive side of bone density.  We should be smart with our training, paying attention to any injury or limitations, but always remembering that hard work builds strong bones. 

I found that people with Osteopenia (really anyone with bone density issues) have 3 main areas on their body where the major concern lies:  spine, hips, and wrists.  With my client, we are focusing on lunges and step-ups for her hips, squats for her spine, and a variety of presses for her wrists.  We also are using torso rotational exercises to strengthen her core and other exercises to improve and strengthen her balance. 

With these weight-bearing exercises I should distinguish one major criteria involved.  These movements should involve the athlete/exerciser pushing into the ground.  There has to be IMPACT, pushing their weight into the earth.  Unfortunately, people who hit the ellipticals and bikes do not get the same bone building benefits as people who run or do weight-bearing exercise.  IMPACT increases bone density.  There is a time and place for all modalities of fitness; so, if you have your doctor's or your own consent, push into the earth whenever possible.  If you can jump, jump...if you can run or sprint, do it, it you can move around a barbell, get after it.
With my client, we have found by really slowing down the tempo of the exercise that it maximizes the time under tension of her muscle tissue.  The time under tension also causes those bones to be under impact for that longer duration too.  This is something that we feel is beneficial for stimulating the production of more bone density for her.

So, remember, exercise makes the outside of your body look really good, but it also strengthens the framework on the inside too (Your Bones). And, this is a major important thing.
Have fun, move your body, be consistent with your exercise and good nutrition, and squeeze the people you love.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Have You Been Soaking Your Nuts?

I know, I know...You saw this title, and you're like, What the Heck is he talking about anyways?
For centuries, many different cultures all over the globe have soaked their grains, nuts, and seeds prior to consuming them. Why? To gain the maximal dietary nutrition from them.
You see, nature is smart and all nuts, seeds, and grains have an outer layer of protective armor called Bran.  This substance contains Phytates or Phytic acids that are enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances.  In nature, the phytic acid helps the nut (we'll use nut because we are soaking pecans right now) by preventing it from sprouting or germinating too early.  It shields the nut until the growing conditions are perfect.

Phytic acids can be problematic, they are also known as "Anti-Nutrients".
When we ingest them, they sit in our small intestine and will grab a hold of very important minerals like: calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, and especially, zinc (zinc is one of our main nutrients responsible for a strong, healthy immune system) and cause us not to absorb them.  This process can lead to nutrient deficiencies and even bone loss, and when talking about blocking zinc, can harm our immune defenses.

The enzyme inhibitors found in Phytic acid force the body to work so much harder in the digestive process just to produce the right enzymes to maintain proper digestive function.
The wisdom of traditional cultures teaches us that simply soaking these foods over night would breakdown the nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances found in the Phytates.  We essentially trick nature, causing the nut or seed to germinate, and bump up the nutrient profile considerably.
Modern farming practice usually puts the grain or seed on the table before its had an opportunity to germinate.

 We soak in glass containers.  Be careful not to use plastics. Soaking in plastic could leech some of the chemicals from the plastic into your food.
Soak nuts anywhere from 12 to 24 hours in room temp or warm water mixed with 2 teaspoons of sea salt.  You should really try to use filtered or purified water if you can.  
After soaking, rinse the nuts, pat them dry with a towel,  let them dry with room air, or stick them in a dehydrator or oven at a temp of 115 deg F (that seems to be the magic number). 
Soaking the nuts is a relatively easy process.  Soaking makes the nut more nutritious, easier to digest, and surprisingly a lot tastier.
Experiment for yourselves.

Monday, August 26, 2013

You're Stuck!!!! Why????: Trying to Understand Cortisol

Let's start off this article by saying that we are all beautiful and perfect in our own way.  The human body is a dynamic miracle that is amazing to watch function.  The goal of this article is not to make you think or feel that you should look a certain way in order to be healthy and beautiful.  But, rather to educate you on a behind the scenes look at what stress can do to your body. 
Here's a scenario:
You work out on a regular basis, but you're not getting any stronger, faster, and can't tell if your fitness level has improved.  You go on a diet, but you still want to lose that last 10 lbs or get rid of that obnoxious belly fat.  You have been busting your ass and these improvements just aren't happening.  You may feel like a hopeless case, and you throw in the towel......or would like to but don't want to be labeled a quitter.  Why is this happening? What's going on?
Here's the deal, you are over-stressed.  This may sound unbelievable to some of you, but it's true.  So, take a deep breath, relax, and soak in some knowledge.

First of all, let's meet the hormone Cortisol.  It is known as the "Stress Hormone" and produced by the Adrenal cortex in times of stress (you've all heard "Fight or Flight").  Cortisol is released in response to stress as it preps the body for what it feels is an IMMEDIATE threat. Cortisol suppresses our immune system and spares glucose for the Brain and our Muscles so we can survive. Honestly, Cortisol is our friend, he's a good guy.  We need Cortisol.  Besides helping our body cope with an immediate threat, it is a key component in proper glucose energy metabolism, helps to regulate our blood pressure, regulates proper insulin release for blood sugar maintenance, helps the immune system to operate properly, and makes sure we have a functioning inflammatory response.  The problem arises due to the simple fact that our modern world has us over-stressed.  The body is perfectly willing and able to handle an urgent, quick crisis.  Then, it should be allowed a long recovery period to reset and rebuild.  This is fine under perfect conditions, like maybe back when a caveman encountered a threat in the wild or something.  He ran for his life, made it, and recuperated in his cave or mountaintop.  He didn't grab a cup of coffee and work until 2am.  For us, we live in a world where we are constantly being stressed by things we willingly do to ourselves: by not getting enough sleep, eating a crappy diet, relying on medications to treat symptoms, over-training with our exercise, being in abusive relationships, taking on too much of a workload at work, not ever getting outside to get a little sunshine, and the list goes on.......there are countless things that indirectly stress us too, but the point is that we are dealing with Chronic Stress and our bodies are unable to reset and return to normal. 

When you are under chronic stress and Cortisol levels remain high bad things can happen:  impaired cognitive function (you can't think straight), suppressed thyroid function, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, blood sugar imbalances like hyperglycemia, decreased bone density, and increased Abdominal fat. 
Interestingly enough, the body doesn't differentiate the stressor....It doesn't matter whether the stress is psychological, physical, or emotional.  It will all create a stress response in the body. 
And chronically elevated Cortisol levels tell the body to preserve body fat.  It is programmed to handle this threat and the body needs energy to do that.  If Cortisol levels are too high, it can even eventually lead to the erosion of muscle mass, further weakening your body.  Elevated Cortisol levels tell the body it needs energy.  It wants quick energy, there is a spike in your appetite, and you want sugary foods.  This explains why we ALL have these cravings for "comfort foods".  There is such a thing as stress eating and eating these high fat, sugary, processed foods do relieve stress (there is a reward), but it is short-lived and gets you into a pattern of having to constantly do it (it's an addiction).  You cannot out-exercise poor food choices and eating these types of foods increase your visceral/abdominal fat and increase you chance of developing Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 
So how do you know your Cortisol levels are high? I pulled this from a good article by Dr. Lissa Rankin called, "10 Signs You May Have Way Too Much Cortisol"

1. You have chronic back and head aches.  High Cortisol levels and Adrenal fatigue can raise Prolactin levels, which increases the body's sensitivity to pain.

2.  You aren't sleeping well.  Cortisol levels are supposed to drop naturally at night. The problem is that a lot of us remain over-stimulated at night by lights, tv, night job, and other stressors.  We don't allow our bodies to come down.

3.  Even when you sleep well, you are still tired.

4.  You're gaining weight, especially around the Abdomen (even while "eating well" and exercising).
Remember, Cortisol spikes the appetite.  High levels have you craving sugary, processed foods.  Mixed with the fact high levels of Cortisol also have you preserving body fat, this makes it hard to lose belly fat or those last 5 to 10 lbs. 

5.  You catch colds and infections easily.

6.  You crave unhealthy foods

7.  Your sex drive is in the crapper.  Stress hormones counteract the Sex hormones.  If you're body is in a state of fight or flight, it's probably not thinking about making a little romance......

8.  Your GI System is acting up due to the fact that this system is sensitive to the stress hormones.

9.  You feel anxious often.

10.  You feel depressed; Cortisol suppresses Serotonin, the body's feel-good neurotransmitter.

 Good news, my friends, there are things we can do (yes, we; we are all faced with stress).  First things first we need to realize that we do deal with stress.  A lot of it we control and it comes in physical, mental, and emotional forms.  Lack of sleep, our jobs, too much exercise, and the food and drink we put in our bodies can be forms of stress.  Just like we have a "fight or flight" response in our body that is automatic, we have a relaxation response too.  "Relaxation Response" was a term developed by Dr. Herbert Benson in 1975.  We have a complex nervous system that has to be relaxed to work properly.  If we are chronically stressed, our nervous system is unable to activate natural repair mechanisms and heal.  We can help this relaxation response numerous ways, and here are a few examples:
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Listening to Calming Music
  • Taking a Hot Bath
  • Incorporating an Exercise program into our routine
  • Getting a good nights sleep or taking a nap
  • Drink Black Tea (antioxidants)
  • Laugh regularly
  • Get a Massage
  • Do something Spiritual
  • Chew Gum (calming and increases Brain blood flow)
  • Breathing Exercises
Cortisol is a very important body hormone.  If Cortisol levels are constantly high, it leads to bad health problems.  Health practitioners can check these levels for you.  Take a look at your lifestyle, see if things need to change, and do what you can to feel good. No one knows your body like you do; so tune in and notice where stress is impacting your life.  These recommendations above are all great things that can be fun and enjoyable too.  Sometimes we just need to unplug, relax, and slow things down a bit.  Enjoy your life and do the best you can to feel good and have your body work in the condition it was intended to. 

Be Well
Keith and Jami