Golfers improve their game with the help of Aiken physical therapist

(Featured photo is from Facebook of Hetal Acharekar helping a client)

Jordan Heier had aspired to live his life on the green and in the fairway by playing on the PGA Tour; however, life didn’t turn out as planned.

”I gave up on my dreams of playing on the tour about 20 years ago,” said Heier.

Although he’s given up on that dream, he hasn’t given up on the sport. He still enjoys playing golf and has been working with Hetal Acharekar, owner of PerformanceAbove in Aiken to maximize his game.

Jordan Heier demonstrates his swing. Photo courtesy Hetal Acharekar

Acharekar uses her physical therapy background to help golfers on the course. The approach grew out of her own involvement with the sport. She fell in love with it after taking lessons and playing with her kids, according to her business website.

She offers local consultations in her office at 116 B Pendleton St. S.W., Aiken but for some out-of-state clients such as Heier who lives in Virginia, she follows up with them virtually via calls and texts after the initial in-person consultations.

 Acharekar’s approach is to “blend golf with biomechanics of the body to help optimize the swing while helping prevent the most common injuries,” her website said.

 And clients such as Heier notice a marked improvement in not only their game, but in how they feel.

 “I’ve only made it to the range a couple of times (recently) but (with Acharekar’s help) have seen a swing speed increase of about five miles per hour. I’ve also been able to make it through marathon conferences at work without having to excuse myself to go stretch my back,” Heier said.

Acharekar uses a researched-based Australian system for golf assessment and golf performance for her clients, providing them with a specialized plan for their goals.

 “I perform a detailed assessment for each golfer. Based on the results, we figure out a plan to improve the overall performance. This includes mobility, strengthening, speed, balance and agility training,” she said.

She analyzed Heier’s swing and checks up on his progress.

 “Since the (first) session, Hetal has been very responsive…to see how my body and swing are progressing,” Heier said.

Hetal Acharekar

But there’s a lot that goes into that swing to make it go the distance. To be successful on the course, golfers must consider their entire bodies — from how they breathe to how they develop their muscles. She also works with them to determine how their daily life affects their game.

 “Generally, people think hitting golf balls or practicing at the range is the only way to stay and get better at their game. Practicing is very important, and so is keeping your muscles in optimal shape. From Bryson DeChambeau to Scottie Scheffler, we see that adding muscle mass not only helps power in a swing, but also gives distance and speed,” she said.

One of the challenges for Heier is that he works a desk job. Sitting at a desk all day can impact one’s flexibility. Heier had flexibility issues in his hips.

“A lot of sitting hours can cause weaknesses and tightness in the body which creates compensations, aches and pains, etc. On top of that, if you add a sporting activity like golf it surely will cause a lot of problems,” Acharekar said.

Acharekar starts with the basics of breathing.

“Breathing is the foundation for activating your core and the larger muscle groups. This reduces the pressure on the spine, vertebrae, and discs. Golf – being an asymmetric game —adds 7500 N (Newton) force on the spine during a swing. Without a good foundation, it is common to injure your lower back,” she said.

Jordan Heier takes a hop test. Photo courtesy Hetal Acharekar

Strength training as well as developing muscles equally on both sides of the body is also important. Heier has implemented some different types of exercises in his workout routine. He said he was surprised at how difficult some of the exercises Acharekar suggested were.  

“I was also really surprised at the differences between the left and right sides of my body. For example, I am right-handed/footed. I felt more stable doing the single leg hop on my left leg but had more distance when I jumped on my right leg,” Heier said. 

Developing those muscles doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of time in a gym or buying expensive equipment for home.

 Learning to use what’s available for workouts is important, and Acharekar works with her clients with what they have.

“I also don’t have a big inventory of workout equipment, and you never know what a hotel gym might have. (Hetal and I) developed a daily mobility and stability exercise routine that is personalized to me. It doesn’t require any equipment though it can be enhanced with a few items,” Heier said.

He’s added strength training into his routine.

”Hetal helped me understand that I really need to add muscle mass in my legs and glutes if I’m going to increase my power,” he said.

 To augment her business model,  Acharekar has also created an online Golf Fit fitness course at Performanceabove.thinkific.com.

Ron Baxley Jr. is a correspondent for Augusta Good News. He’s also the author of several books inspired by The Wizard of Oz as well as a graphic novel based on his Corgi, Ziggy.

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