As winter comes to a close and spring tries to make an appearance, golfers in the northeast are eager to play their first round. If you are fortunate to play year-round in warmer weather, chances are you have many rounds under your belt, with many more to come.
Is your body up to par?
Every golfer knows the importance of a finely tuned swing and the need for flexibility, yet their body often resists. The golf swing is one of the most complex motions in all of sports. It uses the entire kinetic chain to transfer forces from your feet, through your hips and back, to your shoulders and hands. It’s no surprise this motion can take a toll, causing sore muscles, and often injuries from overuse.
The primary objectives of the golf swing are to produce maximum distance, be accurate, and be in control through every phase of the swing. To do this successfully with less risk of injury, proper strengthening and proper mobility and flexibility are key.
Golfers perform a lot of repetitive motions and do so for long periods of time. During the backswing, muscles like the quadriceps, glutes and obliques are activated in the hips and core. When these muscles are working together properly, the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis muscles can efficiently be stretched at the top of the swing to the full position of the backswing.
During the downswing, the quadriceps, psoas, obliques and glutes are a couple of the major players responsible for creating hip stability, hip extension, and internal rotation. Speed in the golf swing is created through rotation. You can’t rotate efficiently if you’re tight and off balance. The pectoralis muscles and latissimus dorsi generate force and energy that will travel to the forearms. The forearms are very important to the swing as they will affect your grip and can be a factor in your drive ending up in the center of the fairway or in the rough.
In the follow through phase, muscle groups like the core and rotator cuff muscles take charge in deaccelerating the body after maximum power is generated. This is very taxing on the body and with the proper stretching and strengthening program put in place, these muscle groups can be conditioned to perform at a high level. Keeping these muscles in good shape will also aid in injury prevention.
Flexibility is equally important for a good golf swing – and many golfers come to us feeling like they don’t have enough of it. The most common areas we treat with our golfing clients are the low back, hips and shoulders. Long days in the office during the week sitting behind a computer while having to endure a lengthy commute, often hinders many. Maximal rotation in backswing and downswing is hard to achieve if your hips are locked up from sitting. Often, these muscles are tight and underused which will directly affect your swing and the way you feel swinging. It’s crucial to correct muscular imbalances and tightness before compensation occurs, throwing off the entire chain.
In order for your muscles to perform at their best, they must also be limber. For example, if you have strengthened your hip flexors to help power your swing load and turn, but the range that muscle can go is limited, so too will the power you hope to generate with that motion. When your hip flexors are able to assist in a full and smooth rotation, the power behind your swing will be optimal. This is true for all the muscles that fire in unison when you set your tee and hope to drive the ball down the center of the fairway.
Tiger Woods is a prime example of healthy play versus non-healthy play. We’ve seen him play like a well-oiled machine and we’ve also seen him end his day very early. A few years ago, he talked about not being able to activate his glutes and thus leading to low back pain. There are several reasons this could have happened. Possibly compensation of weak or underused glutes, poor posture or compression of nerves to name a few. These are things that can happen to anyone if the proper preventative measures are not taken.
Getting ready for golf season or trying to improve on your current season takes a lot more than going to the range and hitting buckets of balls. You will get a lot more out of your game if you invest in a program designed to hit all the major muscles involved in the swing. The right program will keep you limber, strong and playing as much golf as you wish to play.
Written by Michael Eaton. Michael is a Stretch Therapist and Assistant Manager in our Darien Studio.