How I Trained Cheryl Ladd in Golf Fitness

We all have our favorite angel. Gabriel and Michael seem to be on most people’s top five list of spiritual protectors. My list includes just one angel, and her name is Cheryl Ladd. How could anyone not feel spiritually safe having a blonde bombshell carrying a gun as your personal benefactor? Imagine, then, my surprise coupled with an anxiety attack when I got a call from the Angel herself asking if I could give her a golf fitness workout. Cheryl – yes, I assumed upfront that I could call her Cheryl – is an avid golfer and just happened to be staying in Golden to speak at a fundraiser for Actresses Who Still Look Fantastic at Sixty. It turned out that she had heard from Jack Nicholson that I was an expert on Golf Fitness, an event that made me proud, being that it was the first time Jack had ever talked about someone not named Jack Nicholson.

We met at Einstein Fitness, with me treating this as a special occasion – meaning I combed my hair. She told me that her swing was fluid but that her five-foot-four frame (really five-foot-two) limited her ball-distance. I replied that she had come to the right place, since, as a five-foot-eight middle-aged male, I could drive the ball beyond the 250 mark in the true sense of the word – not, mind you, Cheryl, in the male sense of always claiming an extra 40-50 yards.

In the functional training room, she demonstrated her swing, which was textbook good.

“I’ve had a lot of free lessons from male golf pros,” she offered as a reason for her sound mechanics.

“Of course you have,” I smiled, wondering if I, too, would fall enough under her spell so that I would walk away from our session not having made a penny.

I began with Cheryl as I do with all my golf clients – that is, identifying the seven key positions of a golf swing: 1) the Setup (how one addresses the ball in terms of stance and grip); 2) the Initial Takeaway (the first 18 inches of the backswing); 3) the Top of the Backswing (the end of the backswing and the start of the downswing); 4) the Initial Downswing (the start of the club moving to the ball); 5) the Impact (the instant the club hits the ball); 6) the Extension (the straightening of the right arm during the follow-through); 7) the Finish (the pose at the end of the golf swing).

What strikes one about interacting with Cheryl Ladd is her sunny disposition, which is odd for a Teutonic girl raised on the lugubrious plains of South Dakota, but explains how she could pull off being the TV wife of the irascible James Caan in the series Vegas. I mention this because she did not come off as a stuck-up diva when she said:

“I love looking pretty at The Finish.”

“Yes, and let’s not forget that a pretty finish usually indicates a nice, effective swing and an excellent ball-flight, whereas an ugly finish is nine times out of ten accompanied by an errant shot. But let’s start with the Setup. Believe it or not, Cheryl, this, to me, (duplicating the same stance and grip over and over again) is the hardest part, with the Initial Backswing being the second most difficult.”

“But, Jim, that could be mental,” she smiled before amping up the sunshine to add, “I mean, you’re such a physical specimen. That leaves only the mind, right?”

I could already hear my wise female friend saying, “So you did end up giving her the session for free? Figures!”

“Well, yes, that makes sense…So let ‘s describe the muscles involved in the Setup and the best exercises to strengthen and stretch those muscles.”

We spent the next hour going through all seven swing positions:


The key on the setup is maintaining correct posture (and that includes not dropping your head) and keeping the same slightly bent knees. A straight spine translates into good rotation. Imagine your spine, Cheryl, as an axle on your car. Letting go of the wheel would result in you driving off the road. In golf, a bent spine results in you driving the ball into the woods.

To achieve good posture, you need strong hamstrings and back muscles, and a flexible core.

Two supersets of these exercises:

—  Ab stretch on stability ball. 30s

—  Seated yoga lateral core stretch. 20s each side

—  Oblique and lat stretch holding club above head

—  Barbell Dead Lift. (I had to convince Cheryl that what seemed like a grunting muscle guy move is actually the single best exercise for both a strong back and hamstring. It is the primary exercise from which is derived Supermans and Back Extensions.) 15 reps

—  Leg Curls using stability ball. 15 reps

—  Supermans with emphasis on lifting the head all the way back. (Remember how you must address the ball without letting your head fall forward.)  15 reps

—  Reverse crunches. (Strong abs are another component in maintaining core stability.) 20 reps


Tiger Woods knows golf, and he says that the Initial Takeaway is the most important part of the golf swing. Remember that Chaos Theory posits that a slight change in the initial conditions of a dynamic system will lead to a much different outcome, which, when applied to golf, means that a series of inconsistent Initial Takeaways eventuates in shots that are never the same twice – in short, you may as well pencil in a 133 on your scorecard.

To ensure that those first 18 inches of the backswing remain constant with repetition, you must maintain a triangle between your arms and the line connecting your shoulders – that is, refrain from using your arms to lift the club. Also do not rotate the hips. All you are doing is turning the left shoulder parallel to the ground in the direction toward your chin. The muscles doing most of the work are your transverse and oblique abs, followed by the lats and rhomboids, though the pecs contribute a little to keeping an isosceles triangle.

Two supersets of these exercises:

—  While in setup position, hold the spherical part of a small kettle bell and swing the weight left, then right (for the sake of muscle symmetry) a little beyond the initial 18 inches. 15 reps

—  Standing (while bending at waist) reverse dumbbell flies. 15 reps

—  Flies on ball (only head and shoulders should be on ball while keeping your hips as high as possible in a plank position). 15 reps

—  Seated (on ball) rotational pull using pulley with row attachment (hands will be vertical and 6 inches apart). 15 reps.


I told Cheryl, now glistening with sweat, that there is a simple mathematical formula for greater ball flight, and it is called Newton’s Second Law of Motion, or Force equals Mass times Acceleration. The Mass is the club-head, and the Acceleration is the accumulating speed of the club-head. Therefore you will achieve greater acceleration if, at the top of the backswing, your hands are far from the ball, which, in golf lingo, is called Width. That is why tall players have an advantage over shorter players, and why it is so important for shorter players – like you and me, Cheryl — to maximize their Width. But an important caveat to Width is that you keep your hip rotation to a minimum, that you maximize your shoulder turn to hip turn ratio. This creates a taut coil, or, to again use a physics term, collects a greater amount of Potential Energy that will be unleashed on the downswing.

The essential element to greater width is torso and shoulder flexibility; second is rear deltoid and rhomboid strength.

Two supersets of these exercises:

—  Bent-at-Waist Dumbbell Windmills (maintain a straight line through both arms, as hands stay at opposite ends of a pole, and rotate shoulders all the way to each side). 15 reps

—  Backswing stretch (place hands on vertical beam at the height of your target top swing position and turn shoulders all the way and hold stretch.) 60s

—  Execute sound backswings – from setup to the top – while squeezing an exercise ball between your knees so to discipline your hips not to rotate and to therefore achieve a tight coil. 12 swings

—  Execute sound backswings while keeping left foot mounted on small exercise ball. 12 swings

—  Hip Crossover with ball squeezed between legs. 15 each side


Cheryl had fun with the last segment of stretching and handling the actual club, but now it was time to return to grunt mode. The downswing is initiated by the hip and leg muscles, followed by the torso (using lats and ab muscles) and then the shoulders. The point is to unleash that Potential Energy you worked so hard to amass with a sound backswing.

Two supersets of these exercises:

—  Planks w/rotating hips. 12 reps each side

—  Hip Lifts. 12 reps each side

—  Full Squats (air or weighted). 20 reps

—  Straight-arm Lat Pulls. 15 reps

—  Kneeling Pulley Trunk Rotations (turn right shoulder over left knee and then, switching positions, turn left shoulder over right knee). 12 reps each side

—  Complete downswing using rope attached to high pulley. 12 reps


Now, Cheryl, let’s hit the ball. Here is where you begin thrusting forward your hips while straightening out your arms. At impact, the objective is linearity, which is to say, your arms are extended in a straight line with the club-shaft. Your torso is tilted toward your right foot so to achieve that goal – all the while keeping your eyes locked on the ball. Yes, we finally get to focus on arm and wrist strength. But there is one constant throughout all seven stages of the golf swing, and that is an active back, glutes and legs. Hence why we shall include another squat/lunge move.

Two supersets of these exercises:

—  Swings club-head into beanbag (remember linearity and make sure your head is behind bag at impact). 15 reps

—  Dumbbell shoulder raises. 15 reps

—  Overhead pulley triceps extension. 15 reps

—  Wrist curls (using barbell). 15 reps

—  Front Lunge (holding club above head). 15 reps


Cheryl, if there is ever a time when you know you have hit a good shot before even seeing the flight of the ball, it is at the Extension. The ideal Extension has you pointing the club at the target with your eyes still directed at the point of impact – and thus your brain is already preparing for a pretty finish, or The Pose. Your legs are shifting forward (activating the abductor and adductor muscles in your thighs). Now your calves are at last being put to good use.

—  Side Lunges (for the abductors and adductors). 12 reps each leg

—  Russian Twists (keep arms straight in front during this modification of supine bicycles). 20 reps

—  Vertical Jumps onto elevated platform. 12 jumps


Okay, Cheryl, you are always pretty, but I know that you love to look even prettier at the Finish. You have hit a great shot that has been the result of a sound swing, and so why not strike a pose for posterity. A pretty finish involves standing tall and maintaining perfect balance. Your hips are thrust forward toward the target, with your right toe planted on the ground. Your club-shaft is on the same line as it was at the Top of the Backswing. Cheryl, even Abe Vigoda would look pretty in that position.

Two supersets of these exercises:

—  Hip Raises with heels on stability ball. 15 reps

—  Shoulder stretches (holding club with both hands and bringing it over and behind your head). 12 reps

—  Torso and hip stretch (get in lunge position and turn shoulders over front knee). 30s each side

—  Swing club to finish while resting right foot on exercise ball. 12 swings

We finished with Cheryl executing full swings as if she were on the course. She looked a little tired from the workout, but, yes, she looked pretty at the Finish.

She did pay me for an hour-long session, only the above workout, with all the instruction, lasted for two hours.

“So,” said a wise female friend, “in a way she did get a free session.”

(Check out my Amazon Author Page at

About How I Trained a Celebrity

My name is James Johnson. I have a B.S. in Biology at UMass Boston. I am a writer satire/humor and live in Denver, Colorado. You can visit my website: Also, to browse my Amazon Author Page to check out my four published books, go to:
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