Training aids through a doctor’s eyes

They are called training aids, training tools or teaching aids.

All golfers have seen them. Some, like the omnipresent Kallassy Swing Magic or the high-profile Medicus, might be considered billboards on the Great Golf Swing Highway. Others have lower visibility but offer distinct advantages to golfers who are willing to train and practice.

At the 2004 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., Golfweek dispatched Dr. Bill Vostinak, an orthopedic surgeon from Allentown, Pa., to investigate physical aids.

“It is important to think of three basic areas as we attempt to maximize our physical abilities: cardiovascular fitness, stretching and strengthening,” said Vostinak.

So, with the ultimate goal of maintaining stamina, endurance, strength and elasticity for 18 holes, here are six noteworthy devices, with comments and analysis provided by Vostinak. Some are designed to be sold to courses, and others are aimed at individuals.

This collection of six items is only a sampling of the many physical aids that are targeted at golfers seeking improvement. As sports physiology has gained popularity, core strength (the muscles between the ribcage and the kneecaps) has become a catch phrase to many athletes and golfers. Because core strength is crucial to consistent golf, an ambitious exercise program might best be done with a therapist as a guide.

Butch Harmon - Complete Golf Fitness

Celebrity instructor Butch Harmon endorses the three-machine set that is targeted to courses but also is available to individuals with the space and capital. A stacked weight pulley system provides isotonic resistance for golf motions using a fixed cord and a Reminder golf grip system as well as attachable stirrup handles.

A seated stretching apparatus (ProFlex) has multiple degrees of freedom and allows documentation of flexibility gains for the lower back, hips and lower extremities. It provides a very intelligent approach to golf preparation. The ProFlex stretching device can be ordered online for $499.99 (www.dominionfitness.com).

The Swing Ball

Inventor Benny Park of North Kingston, R.I., has worked for two years perfecting his idea for stretching and strengthening the upper back, shoulders and arms with a portable device that can be used almost anywhere.

Park developed the idea for his product after working out with a medicine ball. Wishing that it were possible to hold onto the weighted ball to maintain swing-like mechanics, a fitted elastic strap was developed to remove tension from the hands when using the device. The strap can be used by left-handers or right-handers.

Maintaining a stable base when using the swing ball can strengthen the core muscles. Suggested retail prices are $99 (4 pounds), $104 (5 pounds) and $114 (6 pounds), plus shipping. (www.theswingball.com)

StetchHorse

The StretchHorse is a set of four bars best placed near the first and 10th tees or at a warmup facility. It must be firmly anchored by professional installers. It has a low impact, durable surface with non-slip rubber as the base. Using the patented set of four bars, the hamstring, calf, quadriceps (front of the thigh and hip) and back all can be stretched to facilitate a good start and hopefully reduce injuries. The price will vary based upon installation, but the hardware itself is approximately $1,600. Although it doesn’t directly generate income, it does add to the reputation of any club. (www.stretchhorse.com)

TrueStretch

The TrueStretch flexibility unit is a stretching cage that measures 4 feet by 5 feet by 8 feet. It has handholds and footrests and 180 pounds of stability, allowing golfers to stretch any part of their bodies. It is intended for at-home use as well as purchase by courses. It comes with an instructional booklet that outlines a series of stretches that are directed to different areas of the body. The 500SS (standard) unit has a suggested retail price of $1,195, and the 800SS (pro) costs $2,195. (www.truefitness.com)

GolfGym Power - Swing Trainer

Using a Reminder golf grip and a series of power cords, the GolfGym Power Swing Trainer allows the golfer to imitate the motions of a proper golf swing against elastic resistance. Backswing, downswing, impact and extension through the impact zone all can be practiced while anchoring the cords against an object such as a doorframe.

Using a mirror and slow-motion techniques, the core can be held taut with isometrics to emphasize the stability needed for a repeating swing. Three resistance cords can be purchased as a set, providing varying degrees of resistance. Using lighter resistance to maintain proper form is better than using improper technique against too much resistance. It is priced at $39.95 and $59.95. It comes with DVD or VHS instruction, carrying case and instructional materials. (www.golfgym.com)

Golflexx

Available in three flexes, the Golflexx fits in the golf bag for use at any time. It is constructed similarly to a graphite golf shaft, has grips on each end, a pad in the middle and comes with a series of suggested exercises.

Golfers also can customize their own routines and work on problem areas of tightness. The suggested retail price is $34.95, although the Web site sometimes offers lower prices. Lower and upper back areas, chest, arms and hip areas are targets for the company’s illustrated stretching routines. (www.prosperous2000.com/golflexx.html)

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