Editor’s Note: The Golf Digest 1 Percent Challenge will present a new challenge every weekday in January. Catch up on Week 1 and Week 2 here.
It’s one of the oldest jokes in the golf book—when you want to needle opponents, you simply ask them if they inhale or exhale during the backswing. Giving thought to something that requires none? What could be worse for a golfer’s brain that already is overloaded with anxiety, swing tips, computations, etc.
That said, breathing is an important part of athletic performance. And not just because most of your muscles require oxygen to work optimally
Solution: Even in golf, how you breathe and when you breathe matters, says Michael Mullin, a world-renown breathing expert and trainer. “Whenever possible, you should be breathing through your nose only,” Mullin says. “And when you exhale versus when you inhale for athletic performance depends on what phase of muscle activity you’re in.”
Today: Breathe through your nose as much as you can. When you do, you produce nitric oxide, a chemical that allows your body to have good homeostasis (balance/stability). When you’re practicing golf swings, get in a habit of breathing in as you take the club back and breathing out as you swing down. You can breathe in again after the ball is gone. The goal is to inhale during the eccentric (think “stretched out”) phase of muscle activity and to exhale during the concentric (think “flexed”) phase.
And then… : Exhalation is a big part of force production. It’s why you often hear body builders grunt when they lift a heavy weight or women’s tennis players yelping as they smash a serve. Experiment with exhaling really hard as you try to hit golf balls with your driver. Time the exhalation with the start of your downswing and keep “blowing out,” so to speak, until your club reaches the ball. You’ll soon find that you are putting maximum force into your swings if you consciously exhale as your muscles fire the club into the ball. —Ron Kaspriske
Catch up on Week 1 and Week 2 of the 1 Percent Challenge >>
More on the 1 Percent Challenge
Look, every golfer has big goals—30 more yards, 15 fewer pounds, tighter lines and better scores. We’re not here to tell you those goals are out of reach. The problem with most New Year’s resolutions, though, is they start you at the foot of a mountain without a clear map to the top.
The Golf Digest 1 Percent Challenge, meanwhile, is meant to be both ambitious and achievable. None of the daily individual tasks will be so arduous that you’ll need much time to cross them off your list. These are the type of modest improvements intended to make you just 1 better percent than you were the day before. But they’re also meant to provide you with a new skill that over time, can make a meaningful difference in your game.
The way it works is simple: Our team of expert editors in golf instruction, equipment and fitness have devised 23 challenges for each weekday in January that can be completed at home with minimal equipment. Things like checking your posture at address in the mirror, identifying yardage gaps in your club setup and testing the strength of your golf muscles. All of these challenges will have immediate value. But each challenge also comes with a suggested follow-up task that can lead to better habits, and ultimately, better performance.
It is the perfect way to get ready for the next golf season, even if you live somewhere where “real” golf is still months away. The more you follow along, the better your headstart on everyone else. —Sam Weinman
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com