Pilates can help improve your golf swing

February 4, 2014 Updated: February 4, 2014 at 8:49 am

Whoever said golf is a good walk spoiled probably was having a bad swing day.

Joan McConnell knows those bad swing days can be traced to many causes. An avid golfer, McConnell is also a longtime Pilates teacher who owns Springs Pilates, which also operates as Peak Golf Fitness.

It's the only studio in Colorado Springs certified to offer Hole in One Pilates, a program for golf and golf injury that uses Pilates and Gyrotonics to help players avoid all of those duffs and shanks.

She won't teach you how to golf - that's up to the pros - but she claims that the program, created by Deanna Zenger, executive director of the Association of Golf Fitness Professionals, will improve your strength, stability, range of motion, focus and flexibility.

"Everybody wants improved club head speed," said McConnell, who completed the certification for the program in 2012. "I help them swing better, straighter and farther with less risk of injury and back pain."

Golf injuries can happen. The back, in particular, is at risk due to the spine's rotation during the swing.

"The golf swing is dynamic and athletic," McConnell said, "and if done improperly, over time we'll develop injuries."

McConnell watches students practice their swings and then suggests exercises.

"We'll focus on the back and entire body during the swing," she said. "Certain parts need to be mobile, and other parts need to be stable. We'll be looking at the address position and the swing and how they move."

Once McConnell spots a potential problem, she works to find a solution.

"If they need more rotation, why are they not getting it? And what can they do that will improve that?" she said.

Pilates, developed by Joseph Pilates during World War I, consists of floor exercises and work on a reformer machine. The system strengthens and elongates muscles while improving core strength and focus.

"You need that (core strength) in a golf swing," McConnell said. "That's where the power comes from."

After dancing injuries benched Juliu Horvath in the 1970s, he created Gyrotonics to rehabilitate himself. It employs the principles of gymnastics, swimming, ballet and yoga, and emphasizes spiraling and circular movements, whereas Pilates focuses on linear movements.

The look of McConnell's studio might surprise guests. For good reason, people often describe a Pilates reformer and Gyrotonic equipment as having the appearance of old-fashioned torture devices - full of pulleys, cables, bars, straps and springs.

But golf students quickly will learn to use each apparatus and also learn floor exercises. McConnell's goal is for clients to walk away with a home routine.

"You can take golf lessons, but your body can only do what it can do," she said. "But I can make your body do it better. You can change your equipment all day, but you can't change the biomechanics of the golf swing."


Mulson's Live Well column appears biweekly in Health and Wellness

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