For years, experts in fitness and performance have agreed that, prior to every athletic activity, a proper pre-activity warm-up period is essential. The benefits of a stretching routine to warm-up properly for golf are equally important. Golfers who regularly spend several minutes prior to practicing and/or playing have significantly improved chances of performing better earlier in their round as well as finishing strong at the end of their round and do so with less chance of injury.
The biggest challenge it seems for most golfers when it comes to consistently performing a pre-golf stretching routine is planning enough time in their schedules before tee time. Many golfers race from their home or office to make their scheduled tee time. They run from their car to the first tee, take three to five full swings with the driver to get loose, say a prayer and then hope that they can make contact without ripping out their lower back or shanking their drive on their very first swing. This is not the best way to warm up before a round of golf.
Therefore, realizing the benefits of consistently practicing a proper pre-golf stretching sequence could perhaps help motivate golfers to consistently arrive a few extra minutes before the designated tee time. The benefits of a good warm-up include increased flexibility for a more complete turn, improved muscular efficiency for greater power and control, extra club head speed and distance as well as the reduced injury potential.
To make the pre-round warm up do what it needs to do, it needs to be golf specific. Stretching is a good thing; however, not all stretches are necessarily golf-specific. In other words, the stretching sequence of a pre-golf warm-up should always include exercises that will prepare the muscles that will be used for safe and efficient use during the golf swing. Furthermore, a pre-golf warm-up sequence should be customized to each golfer’s own physical needs. Some golfers need different exercises and/or need to perform certain stretches with special technique. Consequently, being evaluated by a golf-specific fitness specialist is recommended before starting any exercise program including a warm-up stretching routine before play.
Following are some typical pre-golf warm-up stretches that might be included in your stretching sequence. To begin with, a general full body warm-up should be performed for 2-3 minutes before you stretch. Simply take one or more irons and start with slow, partial swing motions gradually building to faster, full swing motions. This will help adequately increase your body temperature to prepare your golf muscles to then be more specifically stretched during the warm-up sequence
When you feel your body getting warmer and looser, and/or feel as though you are beginning to perspire, you are then probably ready to begin your golf-specific stretching sequence. Each of the following example stretches should be held for approximately 15-30 seconds each while you gently hold a comfortable stretch without bouncing or lunging during the stretch. Each exercise should be repeated about 3-5 repetitions or until your body feels adequately loose. You should also be sure to breathe as you stretch to help your body stay fully relaxed during each stretch.
Squat and Reach
The first exercise is called the “squat and reach” stretch. It is designed to help stretch your lower back, hips, spine, chest and shoulders. Simply hold a club vertically in front of you on the ground with both hands placed on the top of the grip, comfortably widen your stance and bend from your hips and knees as you then sag your chest down toward the ground. Continue to reach and stretch until you feel a comfortable stretch in your lower back, hips, legs, chest, shoulders and arms
Standing Reach and Side Bends
The second exercise is called the “standing reach and side bend” stretch. It will help increase flexibility in your chest, shoulders, hips and spine. To perform this warm-up stretch, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and reach a club over head, slightly bend at the hips and knees while you contract your lower abdominal muscles and rotate your pelvis into a neutral “tucked” position so your belt line is parallel to the floor. Then reach a club with both hands as high as possible over your head until you feel a gentle stretch in your chest and under your shoulders. Then, maintain your neutral tucked pelvis, bent hips and knees and slowly side bend to your right until you feel a comfortable stretch in your left side. Repeat this stretch several times in the same direction as recommended and then repeat the stretch to the left.
Trunk Rotation Stretch
The third stretch is called the “trunk rotation stretch”. It is designed to help warm-up the muscles of the spine and shoulders to improve your ability to make a full turn during your backswing and follow-through. To begin this stretch, start with your hips, knees and pelvis in the same position as for the previous “standing reach and side bend” exercise. Then reach your left arm across the front of your chest keeping your left shoulder blade squeezed down and back, your left elbow straight and your palm up. Then with your right hand placed just above your left elbow, pull your left arm across your chest while you rotate your upper trunk as far as possible to the right. Repeat this stretch several times as recommended. Perform the stretch completely in both directions.
Standing Forward Lunge
The last pre-golf warm-up stretch is called the “standing forward lunge”. It is designed to stretch the muscles and joints of your hips and legs. To perform this exercise, stand with a club held behind your spine, contract your lower abdominals and straighten your upper back simultaneously so the entire length of your spine is as flat as possible to the shaft of the club. Then, while keeping the club shaft vertical, step forward with your right leg while keeping your left knee straight and your left heel down on the ground until you feel a comfortable stretch in your left calf and ankle as well as in the front of your left hip. Repeat this stretch several times as previously recommended, switch legs and then repeat the stretch on the other side.
Remember, a proper pre-golf warm-up can provide you with the needed flexibility to hit the ball longer, more consistently from the beginning to the end of your round and it will significantly reduce the chances of injury. It is strongly recommended that you find out from a golf fitness specialist what your customized pre-golf warm-up routine should be and then plan a few extra minutes before every round to get your body ready to perform. It can make you a winner.
Body Balance for Performance is a golf specific health and fitness program. For more information, call 610-940-3835.