October 24, 2011

Interview with Susan Hill-Most Burning Questions Answered Part 1

Your Most Burning Questions Answered-Part 1

Announcer: Good day, golfers, and welcome to Fitness for Golf with Susan Hill. Golf fitness continues to grow and expand in popularity within all age groups and abilities, and here to get you in mental and physical shape for your game is host, Susan Hill.

Susan: Welcome to the Fitness for Golf Internet radio show. I’m Susan Hill and today I’m really excited to have the opportunity to focus on some of the most asked questions I get from golfers of all levels. I’ve been collecting and saving some of the most asked questions I get. These have come from Tour players, juniors’ parents, and competitive golfers, literally from around the world.

My goal today is to try and get through as many of these questions as I can and help each of you try and find the answers that you’ve been looking for. I actually am starting with a pretty long list today, and I really tried to focus on those questions that I get repeatedly.

I know for so many people that write me, they’re thinking that maybe this is the only time that they’re asking this kind of a question. I always get a chuckle when it turns out this is probably a question I get several times a day, and certainly monthly or yearly, and from players at all different levels. I’m going to start out today and jump in with a question.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about each golfer, or the information I’ve been able to collect. The first question that I’ve received is actually from a golf instructor. His name is David, and David is a full-time instructor at an elite junior golf academy. I’ve had the privilege of working with him and a lot of his students over the past several years and we’re just going to go ahead and get started with his comment.

First he sent me an email: “Congratulations, Susan. You never stop thinking and working, and you really deserve a lot of credit for creating energy in a stoic industry. Seriously, keep up the creativity. Here’s my question. Many players and trainers talk about the importance of core strength. What would be the best approach to help junior golfers understand the importance, and what are some good core exercises for intermediate and advanced players? Thank you.”

I may not get a ton of questions from PGA professionals or instructors, although I do work with quite a few. This is a question that is very commonly asked and it doesn’t just apply to juniors. What I thought I would do is talk a little bit about juniors, but also talk about why the core is so important and help you understand what it means.

I’m actually going to be giving you a couple of activities as well, so if you’re in the position where you may not be at work, you’re at home and you’re relaxed, you can actually work along with as I’m giving you some of these exercises or drills.

The first thing I want to focus on with the core is making sure that the core is the issue with juniors. I have worked at an academy for quite some time and one of the things I see is difficulty with understanding movement patterns. That might sound kind of funny to a lot of people when they hear this, but the juniors that I’m working with today, I believe, are very different from the juniors that we’ve seen in the past.

The difference is that ever since Tiger Woods came out, and now we’re hearing stories about Michelle Wie, I think there’s inherent pressure for a lot of the players to begin playing golf earlier and earlier. With so much competition in the field at these younger ages, I’m not seeing the kids playing other activities.

They’re basically coming out of the womb, being handed a club and they go ahead and start to work on their game. They’re not playing soccer. They’re not playing basketball or doing gymnastics, and those are things in the past that we saw a lot of kids do, which helps them to develop really good movement patterns that were transferred over to golf.

That’s the first thing I want to address is a lot of the core involvement, strength and engagement that I think we’re missing is from juniors who didn’t have basic athletic movement or weren’t taught these principles. When they started with golf, having golf as the only background, hopefully, that makes some sense.

That’s the first thing I wanted to address. The second thing is that when I work with Tour players or players of all levels, I try to explain the core to help people understand there is a soft belly position and a hard belly position. I always get a chuckle from this, because I don’t mean it from a standpoint that your belly is big or small, but understanding that every single person, regardless of age, has a soft belly position and a hard belly position.

I’m not sure as you’re listening to me, if you’re in a position where you’re standing or sitting, but it doesn’t make a difference. If you were to place your hand about mid-level or near your belly button, most people are sitting in a very relaxed position, and their stomach muscles feel very soft or what I call the soft belly position.

If you were then to actually concentrate, think about it and then pull that belly button in towards your spine and create some tension there. Remember, you still want to breathe in that position. You don’t want to have it so tense and tight that it wouldn’t be a normal position. It’s really what we call good posture.

When you actually pull that belly button or navel in towards your spine, keeping that hand there, you can feel the muscles in your stomach become somewhat taught or a little bit tight. That’s what I call the hard belly position. The hard belly position is a level of engagement in your core that you can actually feel.

I like for all of my players to be able to feel that position before they start any exercise movement. We’re going to talk about some of those things as we move along in the show today. I’m going to give you all an exercise because so many people talk about the core. In trying to answer David’s question, they want to know when is it engaged? How is it engaged? How do I know it’s engaged?

I’m going to give you not necessarily an exercise, but a test. The way the test would work is you would lie down on your back. When you’re lying down on your back, you are going to have your knees in a bent position. They’re actually going to be at a 90 degree angle. You’re going to place one hand underneath your lower back and one hand on your stomach muscles at about the same place we were talking about near your belly button.

As your legs are extended in the air, I want you to really focus on pushing the stomach muscles down, so you actually feel like you’re putting a ton of pressure on your hand, so you feel it nice and tight on your hand. Once you get in that position, into that hard belly position, start to move your legs down slowly towards the ground, and think about what’s happening to your body.

Be very aware of what’s happening. There are three basic things that are going to happen. One is that your lower back is lifting away from your hand and you can’t feel any more pressure on your hand. The second thing that might happen is your lower back is lifting, but you can still feel a little bit of pressure on your hand. In the final scenario, you would have the same, exact pressure on your hand.

If you think through what might be happening there, if you had a really strong core and you kept that hard belly position even as you were moving your legs, you would realize that your hand would stay the same. That would never change. That’s ultimately what we want in the golf swing, regardless of what’s happening with our body.

Our lower body is stable. We’re rotating our hips. We’re bringing our shoulders back, and as we’re making that golf swing motion, we want to know that we still have that hard belly position. That’s what we’re going to work towards. As you’re doing that test or exercise, if you notice that your lower back did lift, and especially if it was completely away from your hand that was beneath it, then that is really an area that you need to work on.

That’s how you know if you need to work your core. There’s a whole, wide variety of exercises that we can do. If you fail that exercise or test, that would become a great exercise for you to do by just continuing to do that exercise over and over, really focusing on keeping that hard belly position. Thanks for writing that question in, David. Hopefully that answers your questions on the core.

I’m going to move into another question. This is from Noah, and he’s 39 years old. He’s a nine handicap from Seattle. I’m going to read these questions exactly as they came in to me. “I’ve been hitting the gym more regularly recently for a combination tone-up/weight loss/golf strengthening goal.

Are there any exercises I shouldn’t do? For instance, are there any that might hurt my swing, and which areas of the body or exercises should I focus on, specifically for golf, for example, with balance?” That’s a great question, Noah. I get that question a lot, and especially in the age group that you’re in. Thank you so much for asking that question.

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I have a couple of specific exercises that I do not like for the golf swing and then, I have one general rule that is very important. The most important rule to me is, regardless of the exercise that you choose, anything that’s done with bad posture is a horrible exercise for golf. It may sound really basic, but I’ve seen people do a chest press with really poor posture.

I especially see people doing back exercises with really poor posture, and so, anything that you’re doing where you’re slouched forward, your neck is in a forward position, your shoulders are slumped forward and then you’re adding weight to those positions, every single one of those exercises are considered bad for your golf swing. All you’re doing is reinforcing by adding the weight to poor positions.

The most important thing that I really want to stress is good posture, and we talk about it every day in the golf swing. Every time we swing a golf club, that’s what we’re thinking about is getting your good golf posture. It’s a fundamental thing that we need to work on. Every time we go into the gym, we need to get into our good golf posture, get into our good exercise posture or something along those lines.

Then we would know that we’re doing those exercises correctly. In addition to that, I want to mention a couple of exercises I don’t like. One of my exercises I really do not like golfers to do is a behind-the-neck press. I’ve seen this done a couple of different ways. Unfortunately, in almost every situation, it’s done incorrectly, which puts so much pressure on the neck and shoulders, and ultimately creates an injury in the shoulders.

As you know, for a golfer, this is fatal. One of the things I don’t like to see is a behind-the-neck press and that could be done with dumb bells. I’ve seen people sit down on a bench or in a standing position, take those dumb bells towards the ceiling and then reach back behind their neck as the press it in and towards their shoulders.

Unfortunately, people tend to use both poor form and also excess weight. When you’re rotating your shoulders back into that position, it puts a lot of stress and strain on those shoulders, and I consider that a very poor exercise for golf. The other exercise I see, and it’s very similar, is at every single gym, there is a lat pull down.

A lat pull down is a machine that has you sit down, and I’ve seen people pull this bar behind their neck. That’s something that I’ve never considered to be a good exercise for golf. I can’t believe how much information we’re covering already, and I want to talk about a few more of those items. We’re ready for our first brief commercial break and we’ll return in a few minutes with the Fitness for Golf Show.

Announcer: Have you envisioned standing on the tee and hitting it longer and with greater strength than ever before? Are you completely confident you could play better golf if only you were given access to better resources and a team with experience? FitnessForGolf.com allows every level of golfer the opportunity to learn what’s being taught at the most sophisticated and prestigious golf performance centers worldwide, only in the comfort of their own living space. Prepare your body; prepare your mind to play your best with FitnessForGolf.com.

Susan: Thanks for staying with us. This is Susan Hill, and just before our break, we were talking about exercises that I didn’t like for golf, and I just wanted to review those quickly. I don’t like anything that’s done with poor posture, which means that pretty much everything that’s done with great posture and good body motion is great for golf, as long as you have good variety in your routine.

The only exceptions to that, as I was just mentioning, is the behind-the-neck press down or behind-the-neck pull down that I see so often in the gym. I want to switch over to another couple of questions that I like. This is actually one I feel I get every day. I’m sure that is not true but I love this question, because I think the answer is different than what most people think.

This is from Alex. Alex is 51 years old, and he’s a six handicap. He’s from Kenya. “I normally work out every day in the morning, and some of the days I do lift weights, and play golf in the afternoon. I was wondering whether it was advisable to do so or not to lift weights the day I’m going to play golf.”

I’m not sure how many of you asked that question, but I’ll give you an answer that obviously is going to depend upon the level of player you are and what your level of fitness is. First, I want to answer that by saying I’ve looked at Vijay’s program. I’m familiar with Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir, and Annika. I’ve either worked with their trainers, been involved in some sort of process, or have read about their programs.

Every single one of them work out before their golf game. This rationale has been explained to me by either the trainers, or in my intimate knowledge of the situation. Once a player becomes conditioned and has a program, and a program could be everything about the way they warm up mentally, technically and physically—whatever their process or program is, it’s very important that they’re committed to that program or process.

If it’s the day of the Masters, and this may be extreme, but this is exactly the way it works in real life situations, if they normally work out on a Thursday, then they’re going to work out on a Thursday. It doesn’t matter what the event is. They try and keep that because that’s their normal schedule.

If the Masters would be occurring on a Thursday, they wouldn’t wake up and say, “Oh, my gosh. It’s the Masters. I feel a ton of pressure. I can’t work out today.” In fact, that exactly the kind of scenario that would put a player off of their program and make their head spin a little bit. The idea is to be very relaxed, thoughtful and just continue along the path the same way that they do.

The answer to that is do whatever your normal routine is to try and keep it as consistent as possible, and that does include working out. Now, of course with everything there is an exception. The exception is, and we’re not going to spell out specific players, but let me give you an example of situations where that wouldn’t apply.

If a player were to call me in the middle of their season, contact me and say for whatever reason they’ve never worked out, they finally decided to get on the bandwagon, or they used to work out and haven’t for the last six months. Can I help them? I am not going to immediately throw them into an aggressive strength training program, because I know that doing that is going to be really disruptive to their process, as well as mentally, and that’s the last thing that I want to do.

I’m going to ease them into a program and I’m really going to be looking for a lot of feedback from them as to how sore they’re getting, how comfortable they’re feeling and how it’s translating to their game. If you’re listening to this show today, you’re going to be one of those two types of people, and that’s a person that has a regular schedule and is going to continue playing and working out, mixing those two together.

The other is one that’s going to want to ease into it so that it’s not too disruptive. Here’s another great question. This is from Gary. He’s 16 years old and a five handicap. “I’ve been playing golf for almost three years, and my handicap is five. I was wondering which muscles I would need to concentrate on by doing weights to improve my distance?”

That’s another great question, especially related to distance. So many people either ask me how to get more distance or which muscles should they be working on. This is a great question because in my time as a trainer, I’ve really seen a big transition and a lot of changes in the way that we train people.

Like in all things, I think the golf swing, our understanding of the golf swing, and our understanding of the knowledge is part of training that we continue to learn. Even myself as a professional, I continue to learn, develop and change my techniques. In the old days, which it seems like yesterday, but it’s getting further and further behind us, we were really compartmentalizing our muscles.

We were thinking, “I’m going to do this for my biceps,” or, “I’m going to do this for my triceps.” Those are the things we’re trying to get away from. The golf swing encompasses so many muscles and they’re working very fast together, and we want it to be a smooth transition, so wouldn’t it make sense if we train our body in the same fashion?

So we think about a transfer of power when we think about distance. I always look at the golfer as a complete individual, a whole person, starting from the ground up. All the studies have shown, when you study biomechanics, that that’s how power is transferred. We look at what is the base of support?

We literally start with the feet and ankles, and look at what stability you have at the ankles. Then we move up to the knees and hips, and go to your core. Ultimately, it transfers to the upper body. I like movement and I like exercises that incorporate the body in that.

An example is instead of doing your bicep curls or tricep extension, that you’re doing maybe some single-leg squats. I’m a big fan of single-leg squats, that you can do very simply in a gym or at home and you can put a chair behind you. You’re relying on the strength of just one leg to go ahead and sit down behind you.

See how low you can go, and then you’ll feel that force and you’ll fee the importance of that leg strength because you have to really push through that foot, which is firmly planted on the ground, and see if you can move your body up. The answer to your question is really to focus not so much on individual muscles, but on a whole development of your body and instinct.

I think that makes a lot of sense. I got another great question, and this is very specific to a gentleman named Mike. I had worked with an LPGA player and I was talking. One of my favorite things to do is case studies. Case studies are real life things that I see in the golf swing, and in working with players. We eliminate the names because it doesn’t matter.

What I’m trying to do is teach different golfers what I’m seeing, what I’m learning, and if this is happening to you, how it’s going to play and how it’s going to help you. I had just worked with a player who was not getting distance and we were trying to figure out how to make that different. I had talked in my newsletter about the Paula Creamer dip.

Have you all seen the Paula Creamer dip, when she sort of dips down as opposed to rotates through her golf swing? This is from Mike, who’s 48 years old, and a six handicap. “I’m 48 years old, a six handicap, with a goal to reach scratch. I was a better player when I was younger, but children and work took me up to about nine over the course of about 10 years.

“When my son started to take more interest in golf a couple of years ago, I started to work on my game, and set a goal of reaching scratch. In working on my swing over the past year, my instructor has noticed that my poor shots are accompanied by a lack of upper body rotation. He has shown me video where everything looks good in my backswing and the first move down.

“But once my hands reach about the hip level, in the forward swing, my upper body stops rotating while my hands and arms continue. At its worst, it ends up causing sweeping hooks and lots of lost strokes. I have worked hard to focus on upper body rotation this year, but have developed back pain.

“While I do work out and stretch every day, I was wondering if something else is going on that needs attention. I will take the test on your website tonight, but I didn’t want to wait and forget to send this message to you. I’d like your input.” One of the things that I have featured on the website, FitnessForGolf.com, is a set of assessments.

There are a lot of different ways of looking at your body, but it’s really important to know where your body restrictions are. In other words, where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, what you’re good at and what you need to develop. I had Mike go on. What I suspected, because I see this in upper body rotation a lot, when the lower body isn’t following, there are typically two reasons for this.

Actually, let me put it into three reasons. If you’re having difficulty rotating, then it’s usually in the mid back, so it’s right along the spine and towards the middle. The other thing, and this is very typical of men in Mike’s age range, which is the 40s, although it can certainly happen in the 30s and the 50s, is very tight hips.

When that body wants to rotate, either the upper body is catching them, or the lower body just doesn’t want to move. So, I first suspected his hips. I also suspected his upper body or his mid back. The third thing, because of the back pain, I was wondering if he was, as I was reading this, having that soft belly position.

He not only was having trouble in that rotation, but he has that soft belly which is creating the back pain. There are only two things that keep you upright. You have to be able to keep nice, good core strength to be able to keep that pressed in against your spine or else all the absorption from the golf swing is going to go to your back, which makes it break down.

Sure enough, when he took the test, we determined that he had both really tight hips and also a tight mid back. This is something that is very common. I’ve heard people say that 80% to 90% of golfers have this. Whatever the number is, it’s very common. I’m going to give you one of my favorite stretches for the mid back and it’s going to be standing.

I’m going to have you stand in your athletic posture, in your good golf posture. Go ahead and place one hand on your head. If your right hand is on your head, your left hand would be right at your waist. Actually, I’m going to have to keep you hanging here in this position, because we have to take a very quick commercial break. As soon as we come back, I’m going to take you right through my favorite stretch. Thanks for joining us, and please come back in just a few moments.

Announcer: Have you envisioned standing on the tee and hitting it longer and with greater strength than ever before? Are you completely confident you could play better golf if only you were given access to better resources and a team with experience? FitnessForGolf.com allows every level of golfer the opportunity to learn what’s being taught at the most sophisticated and prestigious golf performance centers worldwide, only in the comfort of their own living space. Prepare your body; prepare your mind to play your best with FitnessForGolf.com.

Susan: Thanks again for staying with us. This is Susan Hill and we were just talking before the break. I can’t believe I left you hanging like that. I told you about one of the most common problems we see in the golf swing and it applies to 80% or 90% of you. I put you in a position and left you there. Hopefully, you’re ready to resume because it really is one of my favorite stretches.

In fact, if you go out on the LPGA Tour and see some of the ladies doing this, you can say, “I bet that came from Susan.” We were standing in our nice, athletic posture, in our golf position. Our feet are about shoulder width apart and we have our left hand on our hip. We have our right hand right at the top of our head with our elbow extended.

All we’re going to do is we’re going to be bent forward slightly from the hip. We’re going to tilt that right side all the way back into a full rotation. What you’re going to feel is natural rotation around your spine. It’s a nice, gentle stretch. You’re keeping your hand on that left side. If you’re very, very tight, your body’s going to want to rotate completely to your left side and almost take you off balance.

You’re really going to have to stay nice and tight in that position. Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed on both sides. Go ahead and reach on your right side, back as far as you are comfortable, because everybody’s going to have a different range of motion. You’ll feel a little pulling motion or a tightness in the mid back.

That’s where you want to go, where you start to feel that resistance, and then take it back. There are many stretching methods. I’m a big proponent of what’s called an active isolated stretch, or an AIS stretch, and that’s just holding it one to two seconds which keeps the body in a dynamic position. You’re going back, one, one thousand, two, and coming back to a relaxed position, then going back into the stretch, one, one thousand, two, and back to a relaxed position.

I’d like to see you do that ten to 12 times, and then repeat. Try it on both sides, and as you do that, again, I’m a big believer in just being aware of what your body’s trying to tell you. When you’re really paying attention and remove the restrictions that are around you, or any distractions, you can really focus on it. You’ll notice maybe one side’s a little bit tighter than the other. That’s my great stretch for the mid-back area.

I want to switch over to another question. I might seem like I’m spending a little bit of time on some of these answers, and I’m definitely going to spend a lot of time on this next question. I get asked all the time about if I’m here, and I want to get all the way over here in terms of my golf game, say I’m a ten or a 15 handicap and I want to get to scratch or win a tournament, how do I do that?

Again, I chuckle because that’s one of the most loaded questions I could ever get asked as a trainer because I literally could do an entire show about periodization. I was trying to think, if people ask that all the time, how come there’s no information on periodization for golf that I believe is mainstream or public?

I think it’s because it’s complicated. It’s involved and a lot of us work our entire career trying to build a program like that. I decided to make that as easily available to you today. I’m going to try to go through as much detail as possible. I think this is really important information. It is information I do use every day in working with Tour players.

In fact, I’m using it exactly right now because we are in the off season for the Tour players. While the rest of you are relaxing at home, this is my busy season. This is the time where I get calls. This is the time where my pressure is high, because the players have just come off the Tour and they’re looking and saying, “What could I have improved? What went right? What went wrong? Maybe you can help me.”

Let me read the question and then you’ll see where I’m headed with this, and we’ll go on to a little bit more elaborate answer. “Hi, Susan. My name’s Matthew. I’m in the last year of training to become a PGA golf professional in England. The reason for the email is I’m wishing to play more next year and have two major competitions.

“I hope to have peak physical and technical performance, and I was wondering if there were any tips you could send me to help me with my planning drills. I’m going to use a periodization plan that includes the relevant phases that come with them. I was wondering if you could give me some help with this, maybe some guidelines.”

Now you could see why I say that’s a loaded question. Of course, that was condensed down to one small paragraph. That was a huge question. Again, this is what I do as a living is help people achieve that. So, what he’s talking about in periodization is what most high level players have and it’s a system.

The idea is to maintain a high level of performance in golf throughout the season. The purpose of putting a training program like this in place is to actually accelerate each player’s development and helping them to go through a preparation process where they peak at the right time. If you think about it, can you put together a program where a player comes to me and Tiger Woods says, “I want to win the Masters. It’s not that I have to win every tournament”?

For most people that’s unrealistic, but I want to win that tournament. I could have a collegiate golfer that says, “I need to win the individual because I want to turn pro after my college season,” or any number of situations. With recreational golfers, something that’s very inspiring for all of us, including myself, is to be able to win a club championship.

That obviously occurs on a very specific date, and that’s what people want to prepare for. The essence of what periodization is all about is it reflects a very calculated and planned way of developing a golfer’s game. It takes into account where your game is currently and where you are attempting to go. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high handicap golfer, if you’re a scratch or professional.

It’s a purposeful, succinct, and efficient program that’s going to get you there as quickly as possible. I’m going to name five exact phases of how this works. I just want to assure you again, I really feel strongly about giving people accurate information, but this is something that’s a very purposeful plan. This has been a plan that has been developed by a number of people and is used by many current Tour players.

The first phase of development is called the assessment period. I’m going to go through these five phases very quickly. The first is called the assessment. The second is called the technical preparation. The third is called your pre-competition. Then it goes into your competition. Your final phase is an active rest and regeneration.

Again, I’m going to say this. You’re assessing. You do an assessment. You go into a technical phase. You go into a pre-competition phase, a competition phase and then an active rest and regeneration. There are some specific ways that you do that. I’m going to try and summarize what’s happening, because there’s a lot of really neat stuff that’s happening in each of those phases.

Right now, with all of my players that I’m working with that are in the season, we’re in the “assess your game” and the technical phase of development right now because we’re in the off season. That’s the time to do it. What’s happening in the assessment phase is a total breakdown of your game. It’s stepping back from who you are and what you’ve achieved and saying, “Okay, when I take this down,” it’s like a self-discovery mission.

“What are my strengths and weaknesses from a physical, technical, and mental standpoint?” We’re really breaking the whole thing down. The main question is “What is holding me back from playing my best golf?” That’s ultimately what every player says. What is it? That’s the question that they ask themselves. Nobody can step in and look at you, and say, “Oh, well. Gee, Bob. It’s this. Why can’t you see it?”

It obviously is a very involved answer and one that takes some work to discover for you what those strengths and weaknesses are. In the assessment phase, what we’re doing some physical assessments like we were just talking about with Mike. Is it his hips? Is it his mid back? Is it tight hamstrings? Is it his shoulder? Is it his left or right shoulder?

Is it his strength? What’s the problem? Once we determine what the problem is, then we can find a solution. When we find a solution, oh, my gosh! Can you imagine? You literally unleash an entire new player. We’re looking at the body assessments which I just mentioned and then we’re looking at, from a technical and mental standpoint, how far do you hit every single club in your bag?

We are writing it down and doing a full technical breakdown of your game. Also, mentally, what is your confidence with every single one of those clubs, and if you’re like me, and you play a lot of golf, there are certain clubs that you just could hit all day long. You give me that club, and I can hit anything. Then there are other clubs where I don’t have the confidence. Oh, no, this is going to be a pitch shot and I’m terrible when I pitch.

It’s all those things. It’s developing where your weakness is, technically, mentally and physically. Then, we go into the technical period where we’re gong to start fixing all of those issues. That’s when we’re breaking down the swing mechanics. We’re building on our weaknesses. We’re learning about our attitude and how each of our shots are going to affect the outcome, depending on what our thought process is and whatever self-talk we’re giving ourselves.

Then we go into a pre-competition phase. Now, we’re getting our routine down. We’ve basically fixed the issues from a body standpoint. We’ve got all the solutions that we’re working on. Pre-competition is a way of finessing all of those. What does our system look like? What is our mental warm up? What is our physical warm up? What is our relaxation procedure and our visualization procedure?

What’s our pre-shot routine? Now, this is all about finesse. We’re really preparing for competition. By the time we get to competition, we are dialed in. We are just really dialed in. All we really want to do is play good golf. We just want to play the golf and the game that we’re capable of playing.

The reason why you get to play such great golf in competition is because of all the previous work that you did in each of those different phases. It’s a building process. In the competition phase, we’re not looking to break all of these barriers in fitness. We’re looking to maintain all of the hard work we just did. From a technical standpoint, we’re not sitting there thinking, “I need to fix this or that.”

We’ve already addressed all of those issues so we just want to reinforce the good swing. We want to reinforce the good mental attitude that we have. We’re just not trying to push ourselves. We’re just trying to be fluid, natural and do everything with ease. The last phase is the rest and regeneration. We call it active rest. Some players will actually take a real break during this period.

In other words, they may put the clubs aside and say, “Forget it. I don’t even want to look at you for a couple of weeks,” or whatever the process is. We’ve seen this a couple times with Tiger Woods and with other players. Other people take an active rest, so instead of practicing a certain number of hours a day, they’ll go ahead and just cut that back.

It’s really just creating a very relaxed state of mind, a certain presence and finding a place where you can really regenerate and get ready to go through the process again. We’re going to go ahead and take a brief break here. Thank you for staying with us, and please stay with us for one more segment. I look forward to having you join us.

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Susan: This is Susan Hill and I really appreciate you staying with me today. I think we’re covering a lot of really important topics as they relate to golf. I do get asked so many of these questions over and over. It was my goal today to really focus on some solutions so regardless of what your specific issue is today, and regardless of what your level of play is, I wanted to make sure that you left this radio show today with some very concrete and specific steps that you can take to work on your game.

We left off just before break in talking about a subject which is very involved, as you are probably getting a feel for, and that’s on periodization and really becoming the best player that you can be. As I’m talking, I’m thinking I really should do a follow-up segment on this because it is so involved and there is so much great information in here.

I want to finish off where I was when I left, and that is those five different phases of development. This is the system, the periodization system that is in use by many high-level players. The five-step system is, first, to assess your game. Second is to go through the technical preparation. Third is to go through the pre-competition phase, then go into a competitive phase and the last is an active rest and regeneration.

This reminds me of another question that’s related somewhat to this answer, so I wanted to read it. This is from Ken. Ken is 63 years old and he’s a 13 handicap from California. Here is his question. “How often should a person work out? I’m 63 years old and I’m in great shape. I play golf five days a week. I always play very early and work out before I play. Morning is the best time and is the time I can control. Therefore, I want to continue to work out before I play.”

Then he goes on to say he’s usually up at 4:00 a.m., works out at 4:30, and then he always eats a good, well-balanced breakfast, and tees off around 7:00 or 7:30. “The two days a week I don’t golf, I work out for an hour and a half. These days it’s more cardio and weights. The other days I do one of your Fitness for Golf routines.”

My first obvious response is, Ken, that is so fantastic, and I love to hear that you take your fitness so seriously, whether it was golf related or not. I know this will serve you well to have a wonderful, healthy life. That serves as inspiration to me and I hope that serves as an inspiration to many people because that’s something that we should all work towards.

In answering your question, “How often should a person work out?” I always go back to a fundamental answer or a question back to you. “How is that working for you so far?” In other words, given that you’re a 13 handicap, are you all that you’ve ever wanted to be at a 13? Are you all that you want to be physically and mentally? If you are not, then this is where I’m tying it back into the periodization that we were discussing.

In what areas do you think you need or could seek improvement? It’s so difficult for us to get this honest feedback on ourselves, which is why it’s great to have good friends, instructors or other people that you trust as part of your team, so you can really go back and ask them these questions. I trust you to ask this yourself and come up with the answer.

Then, if you’re getting the results that you want, then I’m comfortable with you playing as often as you play and working out as often as you work out. I think the body gets accustomed to it, and it has a response that we either like or we don’t like. It’s when we’re not getting the response or feedback on our golf game that we want, that’s when we seek to change things.

The only thing I would add is make sure that you do remember your recovery period. I might also encourage you, because it sounds like from your level of play and from what you’re getting out of this, you might want to try, just for fun, to try more of a periodized schedule where you’re altering your workouts.

I would encourage you to make sure that you’re getting what you want out of it, and then trying this periodized approach to golf fitness and your whole golf program, and see if that alters or improves your whole scheduling. I think that you might want to try that. Another great question I got is from Joe. Joe is 51 years old and a nine handicap from British Columbia.

“I am a healthy, fit, 51-year-old male with a nine handicap. It used to be lower. I have been having trouble loosening up my shoulders in the past couple of years, and I would like to know, what is the best way to get more strength and mobility in that area?” This is another great question. Tight shoulders, what does that mean other than everything?

When the shoulders are tight, we either see that as a difficulty in making the backswing, or when we get into a backswing, the shoulders are tight. You can’t get the club in the proper position, then it’s off-plane. There is no way to make a proper swing with the club with tight shoulders. I’m going to walk through one of my favorite stretches, and this is one that is very easy to do on the course.

Again, this is a stretch you might see a lot of other instructors use. It’s nothing created brand new here, but it’s still one of my favorites and one I would recommend with my Tour players. What I would have you do is if you’re on the driving range or course, and you want to do a nice, gentle stretch, you want to go ahead and grab a golf club.

Go ahead and stand with your nice, good golf posture as we’ve been talking about throughout this show. The club is going to be behind you, straight up and straight down. What I want you to do is take your right hand and reach first towards the ceiling and then back over the top of your shoulder. Grab the top of the club. It doesn’t matter if the head of the club is pointed up or down, because the motion you’re going to be doing as part of the stretch is the same.

Let’s take your right hand. We’ve reached up towards the ceiling and then gone behind our back and grabbed hold of the top of the club. Then you’re going to take your opposite hand, it might be your left hand, and reach back behind your back, but at your belt level where your belt loops are, and grab the club from that opposite.

You’ve got both hands on the club, one in the low position and one in the high position. All I would have you do is go ahead and let that right hand or the top hand overpower, and bring that club straight up towards the ceiling. You’ll feel a nice stretch in that lower shoulder, right at the shoulder blade or right at the rotator cuff.

When you start to feel the tension, again hold it one to two seconds as we discussed with some of the other stretches, and then slowly let that lower hand overpower and take over the motion. Now it’s pulling that golf club straight down and you’re going to feel that tension on the upper part in those rotator cuffs on the right side, on the top of those muscles.

Again, you bring that into a place of slight tension, and you’re holding it one to two seconds. So you’re going up, and then you’re going back down. It’s one of my favorite stretches for the rotator cuff muscles and something that I like to see all the golfers do. Another great stretch for you is to place your hands on the club, and stay in that great golf posture that you’ve already established.

Place one hand on the club and the club is going straight up and down. Rotate your hand all the way to the right, as far right as it will go. You’ve got your elbow nice and straight, so your arm is completely straight. Rotate it all the way to the left, so you’re rotating it all the way to the right and then all the way to the left, keeping it in a nice, dynamic motion. You don’t want to have a lot of movement in the arm, just that nice, easy to the right and that nice, easy to the left. I think you’ll also like that as a great stretch for your shoulders.

I cannot believe how quickly this hour has gone. I have this long list of questions, and I was thinking we would get through all of them with these nice, easy, short answers, and as you can tell from listening to Susan Hill here, there is no such thing as a short answer. Nothing concise on this radio show, but I hope that I’ve been able to provide you with some information that you can take to your game, that it can be immediate, and you can see exactly the kind of results that you’re looking for.

I will be here next week. Please feel free to call in. You can always reach me at Susan@FitnessForGolf.com. Send me your questions, and I look forward to seeing more questions. We’ll put together another list and do another show just like this. Thank you so much for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you again at the Fitness For Golf Internet Radio Show.

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