Shave strokes off your game with a 5 minute golf specific warm-up that will lubricate your joints, warm your muscles, enhance balance, and activate your nervous system. I am an avid golfer myself and the last thing I want to do is waste time when I'd rather be on the course. Admit it. You fall into one of the following warm-up pitfalls before playing golf:
Arrive at the golf course five minutes before your tee time, race to the tee box which everyone has hit off already, one practice swing, and then it's go time 2. Attempt a few feeble, yawn-like stretches in the parking lot to prevent your low back, shoulder, and elbow pain 3. Hit a bucket of balls only to get to the first tee box and feel like you never swung a club before, let alone 15 minutes ago.
By the back nine and numerous wasted shots, you hopefully start to loosen up with these common, flawed warm-up strategies. Specific stretching techniques must be utilized as part of your pre-golf regimen to optimize golf performance.
Performing traditional stretching with prolonged holding positions as a pre golf warm-up may cause more harm than good to your swing. Static stretching lengthens the targeted muscle without the brain being able to effectively monitor the length change. Ever start your back swing and by impact felt something go very wrong with the swing but couldn't correct it in time? The misinformation between the muscle length and brain is to blame. Static stretching can result in stress to muscles and joints, loss of coordination, and improper swing timing because the nervous system cannot control the lengthened muscles fast enough to respond appropriately.
Dynamic stretching is the best way to warm-up before golf. Move into and out of the stretch position approximately 10-15 times until you loosen up. Never move quickly or bounce, and never stop moving for more than 1-2 seconds. By constantly moving, not only do you warm the muscle, but the brain is constantly being updated of the changing muscle length. This prevents you from experiencing joint stabilization and coordination deficits that can come from stretching with prolonged holding techniques. David Quinn 2005 PGA Philadelphia Sectional 'Player of the Year' analyzed his swing on video with his normal hitting 50-60 balls as a warm up and then another day with dynamic stretching , 'My swing was drastically better with dynamic stretching. What it took me to warm up with 50-60 balls, I can do in just a few minutes of dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is definitely part of my pre-golf routine now.'
Restriction in one or more muscles will create over compensations in other areas making a consistent swing impossible. Identifying your short tight muscles that need to be stretched is the next crucial step. The following dynamic stretches target all the major muscles groups involved with the golf swing that are the most responsible for swing imbalances. Take note of stretches that feel tight, restricted, or uncomfortable. Incorporate them into your pre-golf warm-up routine. Move into and out of the position, never stopping for more than 1-2 seconds. Remember, no bouncing or jerking and never move quickly. Repeat 10-15 times in each direction or until the area loosens.
Dynamic stretch 1 targets the low back, upper back (latissimus dorsi), hamstrings, and calves. Grasp a golf club standing shoulder width apart. Keep knees slightly bent as you lower the golf club to your feet as far as you can comfortably. Then raise back to start position and reach golf club up over your head tip toeing as high as you can with balance.
Dynamic stretch 2 targets the low back, outer hip, neck and hip rotators. Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, arms straight out to the sides palm up . Cross right knee over left. Rotate legs to the left then right keeping both shoulders attached to the floor at all times. Rotate head the opposite direction of your legs. Swith legs and repeat.
Dynamic stretch 3 targets the hip, shoulder rotators, and inner thigh (adductors). Grasp a golf club right palm facing forward, left palm facing you. Stand shoulder width apart. Step back and to the right with the right foot only, left stays stationary. Simultaneously reach golf club up and over your right shoulder like you are shoveling over your right shoulder. Return to start position and repeat to same side as required. Switch palms and step back to the left with the left foot only reaching golf club over your left shoulder. Repeat as required.
Dynamic stretch 4 targets the lateral torso (love handle area) and outer hip areas. Stand shoulder width apart grasping a golf club at each end with the shaft resting on the back of your neck, shoulder region. Cross left foot over the right and step slightly forward. Simultaneously side tilt your upper to the left as far as you can comfortably. Step back to start position then cross right foot over left while you side tilt your upper body to the right.
Discontinue if pain arises with any of the stretches. Your balance will also be challenged which helps the body better prepare for a changing center of gravity your golf swing produces.
Dynamic stretching should be performed immediately before all golf activity. Fifteen minutes of inactivity is enough time for the body to start cooling down and lose all the benefit of dynamic stretching. Follow dynamic stretching with gradual swing progressions. Start with a 7 iron and take 10 swings starting at 50% effort, then gradually working up to 100% by the tenth swing. Next, follow this same progression with your driver. A golf specific warm-up includes dynamic stretching and gradual swing progressions that should take no more than 10 minutes to perform. This method is the easiest, most inexpensive way to shave shots off your score.
Finally, static stretching plays a key role in golf recovery and optimal swing mechanics. Holding a stretch for 30-60 seconds after golf is still the best way to reduce and/or alleviate post golf muscle soreness. A daily static stretching routine is also the best way to correct your muscular imbalances and achieve optimal golf performance. Tight muscles will restrict joint range of motion. Movement restrictions cause the body to compensate during the swing, leading to poor swing mechanics. See your doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, or personal trainer for a joint range of motion test and postural assessment to identify all of your tight, restricted muscles.
Kevin Hensel is a certified personal trainer and performance enhancement specialist located in Cherry Hill, NJ. For the past 11 years he has helped hundreds of clients achieve their weight loss goals at his personal training studio called Fit-4-Life, Inc.