August 16, 2012

Breathe for Golf

Man is to air as a fish is to water. We cannot live without air.  It is a necessity to our existence. Yet, it is so present in our lives and available that most of us are unaware of it and the power it beholds for us. To increase one’s strength, one must first learn to control their breathing.

Proper breathing has great benefit for athletes to raise their stamina, improve their concentration, and be on top of their game.  Controlled breathing helps golfers particularly reduce stress on pressure shots by regulating heartbeat and relaxing the nerves.

But proper breathing is also crucial for game preparation by helping increase your strength through exercise.  The secret to real strength lies in creating intra-abdominal pressure. The tighter and harder the abdomen, the more tension is created everywhere else. This tension in exercise creates muscle strength beyond the actual physical exertion of the exercise so you get more out of your workouts.

There are three areas in the body that sense tension. One is the hands, the tighter they grip the more muscle fibers that are recruited throughout the body. The second is the plantar fascia of the foot. The more pressure the plantar fascia senses, the more muscle recruitment that occurs throughout the rest of the body. The third and final place is the abdomen. The muscles surrounding the abdominal cavity act as an amplifier for strength for the rest of the body. They can distribute tension throughout the body. The tighter and more stable the abdomen the more power and strength the body can use efficiently and the less wasted energy.

To create this tight abdomen one must learn to use their diaphragm, pelvic floor, rib cage, and transverse abdominal. These are all the deep muscles of the torso and tough muscles to feel so it takes practice to become aware of them.

To practice you must first activate your pelvic floor. Lightly draw in your naval and act as if you are stopping yourself from going to the bathroom mid stream. This closes off the pelvic floor making the base of your torso stable, and it prevents leaks of power.

Next exhale and flatten your abdomen and tighten your ribcage, drawing your ribcage closer together. Doing this activates your body’s natural weightlifting belt.

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Finally inhale deeply and push your breathe all the way down by your belly button, while still keeping a tight abdomen. Doing this drops your diaphragm, creating more tension in your abdomen by increasing intra-abdominal pressure and in turn amplifies your strength.

From this point on you need to practice 80-20 breathing. Inhale 80% and only allow a 20% exhale. This will ensure a tight abdomen and will not allow you to deflate the tension held in your abdomen.

Practice this breathing on all of your exercises to experience a drastic increase in your strength.  Take this consistent regulated breathing to the course and find the stress of shot execution minimized with the added bonus of more stamina and concentration throughout the round.

Bill Esch is the founder of Smith and Esch fitness systems.  He is a qualified C.H.E.K Golf Biomechanist & Nutritional Lifestyle Coach, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, USAW Sports Performance Specialist, and Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor.   Bill currently holds the 24kg Kettlebell Long Cycle American record with 91 repetitions. 

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