“Warming up” is by far the most overlooked part of physical exercise and movement, particularly when it comes to the game of golf. This tends to happen for a multitude of reasons, but for the most part I think it’s the general excitement to get out onto the course as quickly as possible. Immediately hitting the driving range or getting right onto the course is extremely tempting, but I encourage you to give yourself enough time to properly warm up. I guarantee that you will feel better, and play better throughout your round.
Warming up lubricates your joints, warms your muscles and connective tissues, activates your nervous system, and helps sharpen your senses resulting in an increase in performance and athletic potential. This is especially important for the golf athlete as most golfers, and people in general, do not have the level of flexibility needed for proper swing mechanics. There’s plenty of factors that go into “why” flexibility falls short, but for most it’s increased periods of sitting, orthopedic injuries, or everyday aches and pains that can tighten people back up in a matter of hours. The best way to combat this is by performing something called “pre-event stretching” and undergoing a warm up. It is important to note that specific stretching techniques should be applied to pre-event stretching and warmups to reduce the likelihood of injury or decrease in performance. Static stretching, or holding stretches, is not recommended before a day on the course. This is because holding stretches can actually sedate the muscles, compromise muscle stabilizer functions, and lengthen muscle spindle cells without the brain being able to effectively monitor that change. You’ve probably had a feeling like this in your swing, you go to swing, and as you move through the motion something just doesn’t feel right and it impacts your ability to hit the ball properly. This is the brain responding to the change in length, and then altering the muscle length to match the pattern it’s used to. All in all: not good.
Dynamic warmups and muscle energy exercises like the ones we use in LYMBR have been found to be the most effective at warming up the body, engaging muscles that will optimize swing mechanics, increase performance, and will reduce the likelihood of injury. This means that you will stretch into your target muscles without holding the stretch, and move in and out of the stretch until you loosen up. The repetitive nature and the minimal holding time is more effective as the brain can actively monitor the change in muscle length. This prevents the negative impacts of static stretching for pre-event such as joint destabilization and coordination deficits. In fact the body may actively tighten itself up during static stretching exercises as a way to protect the joint, especially if the joint is already sore.
Dynamic stretching does not put the body into a “threatened” state as the body responds better to being actively moved, and tends to allow the joints to move more freely. Typically, the golf athlete will respond better to this stimulus than trying to stretch across tight joints, especially in golfers over the age of 40. This is because aging creates degenerative tendencies in joints which decreases mobility unless there is focused flexibility practice to maintain or increase joint ROM (range of motion). This style of stretching and warmup not only lasts longer in most cases, but is also more effective for the body to learn how to move through an increased range of motion.
4 STRETCHES TO GET WARMED UP
To make the most of these stretches, figure out where your biggest area of concern is for you and your swing (i.e. hips, shoulders, spine, pelvis, etc.) and pick the exercises that will help loosen these areas up. To assess which exercises make the greatest amount of difference, take out a club and swing it a few times before you stretch and mobilize. This will give you a solid starting point to reference as you move through your warm up and pre-event stretch. Indicators of improved range of motion from the exercises are as follows:
- Increased range of motion in spine, pelvis, and shoulders
- Reduced effort in swing, enhanced fluidity of motion
- Possible heightening of sense such as hearing, sight, and movement awareness.
#1: SEATED BACK ROTATION WITH THUMBS UP
Take a seat in a chair with your legs shoulder width apart. Lift up your right arm with your thumb up. Turn your body with your arm and keep your eyes on your thumb. Return to the starting position and repeat for 5 repetitions. Repeat on the left side for 5 repetitions. Take a rest before repeating another set. Keeping the thumb up is great for hand eye coordination, it helps loosen up the shoulders, mid back, neck, and hip rotators.
#2: SIDE LYING BACK ROTATION
Laying down on your side, place your bottom hand on your knee to prevent the leg from coming up. Rotate backwards gently and hold for 2 seconds. Return to starting position before repeating the stretch for another 4 reps. Turn onto the other side and repeat on that side for 5 reps. Rest before repeating the exercise for another set. This is a great way to mobilize the upper back, neck, and shoulders.
#3: HORIZONTAL GLUTE
Laying on your back, bring your leg up to a 90 degree angle. Use your opposite arm to bring your leg across your body. Try and keep your low back on the table. Bring the leg back to starting position and repeat for 5 total reps. Repeat on the other side for 5 reps, and rest before doing another set. This will help with your hip drive through your swing.
#4: HIP FLEXORS
Grab a pillow and kneel down onto the pillow in a lunge position. Squeeze your glute, and drive your front knee forward until you feel a stretch on the front of your hip. Hold for 2 seconds, return to starting position and repeat for 5 total repetitions. Switch legs, and repeat on the other side for 5 repetitions. Rest before repeating another set. This will help with your hip drive through your swing and will prevent any compensations in the hips and lower back.
WARM UP TO WIN
Add these 4 stretches as part of your pre-round routine. The few minutes you invest in a proper warm up will make the hours on the course more enjoyable and successful.
Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Stretch Therapist and Academy Instructor.