Training Tips for Your Game - Get a Grip

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This week we will concentrate on the muscles of the hands. As I continue to prepare the pros for the next season, Ill show you the exact exercises that I do with the pros and give you exercise tips to do for all aspects of your game. We will be using many pieces of equipment to encompass flexibility, strength, power, balance, endurance and swing training drills. Remember, self-motivation results in improved accuracy, distance, stamina, focus and fitness level.
 
Pre-Swing Fundamentals:  Grip

The correct grip always remains in the eye of the beholder. Because of the number of bones, ligaments, joints, tendons and nerves in your hands, you have to keep these strong for a good grip as you age.
 
Here are two exercises for strength:
 
Flexor exercises: where resistance is applied as the hand closes into a fist
 
Extender exercises: where resistance is applied as the hand opens and the fingers extend.
 
The most common flexor exercise for the hand involves squeezing a ball. This is also one of the most misused and misunderstood of all strength exercises. The squeeze ball exercise is not a power lift. You aren't trying to apply pressure to the ball until it explodes!
 
Squeeze Ball
Repeating the exercise doing 10 to 20 repetitions. Aim for three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions with a rest of 30 seconds between each set. During the rest period, extend and spread your fingers to stretch your hand. Just because you can squeeze the ball 100 times without stopping doesn't mean that you should. Your hands bet a better workout if you take a break between sets.
 
Squeeze Ball

Working both hands equally. Don't fall into the old golf trap of thinking the left hand should be considerably stronger than the right. In strength training (as in life), both sides deserve equal time.
 
The keys to performing this exercise correctly are the following:
  1. Picking a ball that offers a medium range of resistance, not a tennis ball that you can't squeeze at all or a foam ball that provides no resistance. A racquetball or gel-filled ball is the most appropriate to use.

  2. Squeezing and releasing the ball slowly, isolating various fingers with each repetition.

Stretching a rubber band for strength
The extender exercise is equally simple, but almost never practiced. All you need is a sturdy rubber band and ten minutes. Here's how it works.
 
Rubber Band StretchRubber Band Stretch

  1. Wrap a short, strong rubber band around your thumb and a finger so that the band is relaxed when the hand is closed.

  2. Open the hand slowly, stretching the rubber band between the thumb and finger, then close the hand just as slowly so that you feel resistance in both directions.
Repeat the exercises 20 to 30 times with each finger of each hand until all fingers have worked through the same number of repetitions. Extend and release slowly to make the exercises more effective.
 
Applying these fundamentals changes your grip and exercising your hands can go a long way toward keeping you strong and competitive into your forties, fifties, sixties and beyond.
 

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    Editor's Note: Kelly Blackburn has traveled the PGA Tour and Champions Tour circuits as a fitness consultant and trainer for 11 years. Kelly welcomes your email questions and comments, contact her at BlackburnOnTour@aol.com. Visit KellyBlackburn.com to learn more about health and fitness for golf.