Instruction

Breathe your way to better posture

Photo: Angus Murray

Roger Fredericks' breathing technique can improve flexibility during the swing.

Spending so much of your time sitting (either in the car, at a desk, or on the sofa), severely tightens your hip muscles which changes the position of your pelvis and also pulls your shoulders forward. If you’re like most people living in this culture, you’ll notice that while looking in a mirror, your shoulders are actually rounded and pulled forward. The situation is even worse for players who don’t regularly engage in proper exercise and stretching routines. The bad thing about tightness in your hips and rounded shoulders is that they dramatically alter your posture and make it difficult for you to make an effective golf swing. If you have posture problems and try to copy your favorite Tour player, you’re going to write a lot of big numbers on your scorecard.
 
In addition to limiting your range of motion and your ability to create speed, poor posture negatively affects your breathing. Although you may not consider breathing as necessary to hitting solid shots as, say, swinging on an inside-out path, it’s highly critical to on-course performance. Proper breathing provides your muscles (and brain) with the oxygen they need to function optimally. It also relieves tension, which allows you to swing faster with less effort. Proper breathing also allows you to maintain focus and avoid mistakes that seem to pop up when your head isn’t in the game.

(RELATED PHOTOS: Natalie Gulbis, Gary Player among Top 10 Fittest Golfers)
 
The best thing about breathing correctly is that it can improve your posture without your having to perform a single stretch. While there are a lot of ways to breathe properly, I prefer a method called “East-West Breathing.” Here’s how to do it.
 
First, inhale through your nose. As you do so, push out the lower part of your diaphragm. Imagine you have a child’s swim float around your midsection (picture the tube against your love handles) and that you’re pushing out against the float as you breathe in through your nose. As I tell my students, try to “get fat” as you breathe in. Hold the breath while pushing out your diaphragm for two seconds, then let both go by exhaling through your mouth. Make a  “H-A-A-A-A-H” sound as you exhale while allowing your diaphragm to collapse inward. Breathing like this may feel strange at first—most people tend to suck in their belly when they inhale instead of pushing it out. The more you practice this technique, however, the easier—and more effective—it will be. You know you’re doing it right if your feel tension leave your body along with the breath through your mouth. Repeat five times.
 
Perform this breathing exercise a few times a day. When you’re on the course, do it before you tee off and on every other hole. Within a few weeks, you’ll find that your abs are a little stronger and that you’re able to stand up taller with less tightness and better posture.

(RELATED: Three great pre-round stretches to avoid injury)
 
Breathing while you swing
Here’s another way you can use proper breathing to enhance performance. After taking your stance, relax your abdomen just before you start the club back. Softly let your belly button out, or get “fat.” This will help you make a smooth takeaway and swing with better tempo and rhythm from start to finish. Most golfers tend to hold their breath when they swing, which creates tension and more of a herky-jerky motion. Tension limits movement while relaxation encourages it.
 
The next time you watch sports on TV, you’ll notice that your favorite basketball player usually takes a breath before shooting a free throw. Baseball pitchers also take a breath before delivering the ball to home plate as do tennis players before serving.
 
Try this breathing technique and you’ll not only begin to develop better flexibility and posture, but also have greater peace of mind and movement in your swing. In fact, you’ll feel like you took a breath of fresh air.
 
For more information on breathing and for a personal posture rehabilitation program, visit Fredericks' website here.
 
Golf fitness pioneer Roger Fredericks has worked with more than 70 Tour players, including seven Hall of Famers. His DVD, “Roger Fredericks Reveals the Secrets of Golf Swing Flexibility” is the best-selling golf fitness DVD of all time.

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