Allow me to paint you a picture. It’s finally Saturday morning and your weekly round with your buddies is just about here. You’ve been looking forward to this since 7am last Monday morning and after a particularly long week, you can enjoy the next four and a half hours (hopefully) of fun out on the course. You feel really positive about your chances of putting together a good round today, ball striking is good, and so is control of the short stick. You pay at the pro shop, hit a couple of putts and chips and before you know it you’re next on the tee.
People refer to it as warming up, I prefer to use the term, body/movement preparation.
You stride out onto the first tee box as if you’re in the final pairing of the US Masters, brimming with confidence, so confident that you double your weekly individual Stableford bet with your mate. Fast forward to the sixth tee box, you have managed to use up a large majority of your handicap already, you’re four down through five and your mate is already counting how many beers he can buy with his imminent winnings. How could this happen? The answer could very well lie in the fact that you haven’t prepared your body for the golf swing.
People refer to it as warming up, I prefer to use the term, body/movement preparation. Because you are doing exactly that, you are preparing your body for the highly complex movement that is the golf swing. Hopefully by the end of this article, you will have a fairer understanding on the importance of body preparation. A study done in Pinehurst, California showed that only 18.1% of golfers performed an appropriate warm-up prior to their round. In addition to this, already injured golfers were even less likely to warm up (9.6%) (Fradkin et al.,2008).
I have yet to see a golfer who doesn’t perform some kind of “warm up” prior to striking the first blow. Be it a quick touch of the toes, a couple of swings with your four and five irons together and some strange twists and turns. Such a routine, although done with the best of intentions, can be more harmful than helpful.
Static stretching, a position which you hold for a series of 15-20 seconds, has little or no immediate benefit to your game. Static stretching is to be done during the week, as part of a workout or programme.
An effective preparation routine is so much more than just making your muscles more flexible. It prepares the neuro-muscular system to fire in the correct patterns.
Studies have shown that static stretching prior to a round actually causes an immediate reduction in a maximal golf drive (Gergley 2009). Gergley also found that holding a static stretch altered the synchronisation and impaired the neurological system, which drives your coordination, which in turn limits your ability to transfer force via the body. So in short, scrap the static stretching pre-round and leave it for during the week. I would recommend a more dynamic approach to prepping the body. Dynamic stretching is a series of sports specific movements designed to prepare the body for the task at hand, in this case, the golf swing.
An effective preparation routine is so much more than just making your muscles more flexible. It prepares the neuro-muscular system to fire in the correct patterns. The golf swing is a multi-planar movement, so your routine should ultimately cover movement in all the required planes. Simply put, we need to tell the body and the brain to prepare for the golf swing. So that it is ready to swing a club from the word go. Not after five holes have passed and your round is in turmoil!
Prepping the body correctly is also vital for injury prevention. The golf swing is a highly explosive movement, exerting forces on multiple joints in multiple planes. As a result, it is imperative that you prepare the body for such an activity. Studies have shown that warming up prior to a round significantly decreases your risk of injury (Fradkin et al,2007a).
Take a look at these exercises below that will get you ready to stripe it from the first hole.
This is a great exercise to prepare the ankles, knees and hips for your swing. Hold on to your driver, golf cart or stretching pole (Figure 1). Drop down into a squat, allowing your hands to slide down the club for stability if need be (Figure 2). You want to ideally get your thighs passed parallel (Figure 3). If you feel that this is beyond you reach, go to where you feel comfortable. Your upper body will remain in a golf posture through the exercise. Complete three sets of 10 reps.
This is a convenient exercise to mobilise your thoracic spine whilst maintaining a stable base. Place the club on your shoulders (not your neck) and assume a golf posture (Figure 4). Your arms will create a “W” shape. Rotate your shoulders fully back and forth, whilst maintaining your golf posture. The key is to keep your belt buckle pointing forward at all times (Figure 5 & 6). Let your shoulders rotate around your lower body. Complete three sets of 12 reps.
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Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Expert
In Association with the Logical Golf Lab, Durban Country Club