The golf swing is a dynamic movement that incorporates every major joint of the body. To achieve the optimal position and rotation required for your swing you place the upper extremities and spine at risk for injury. You must develop flexibility, strength, and functional balance to play better and with less pain and injury. With basic exercises you can MASTER your most important golf tool--- your body!! Your body is the only piece of equipment you can’t upgrade – TAKE CARE OF IT.
Most golf injuries are due to lack of conditioning and poor swing mechanics. Common causes of golf injuries are: Overuse (playing several days in a row), skipping your warm up, and repetitive strain (practicing a new swing by hitting 150 balls in a row). To avoid golf injuries you have to train your body to withstand the stresses that golf puts on it. Just playing several days a week is not enough to keep you healthy. Golf professionals spend hours daily training to withstand the rigors of professional golf, but you still hear of those who must sit out due to injuries, So we are remiss to think we can play 5 – 6 days a week and do nothing to prepare our bodies for the strain.
Golf fitness has three important components – flexibility, strength, and functional training. Flexibility is the ability to move your joints through their full normal range. The golf swing requires you to take the club through a very large range of motion. Each joint involved must move freely to swing correctly. Most swing faults are due to joint restrictions---NOT equipment or technique. A golfer’s focus should always be on restoring normal joint range of motion to the shoulders, hips, and spine before progressing onto more advanced strength programs.
A good golf stretching program should be performed daily and able to be performed in 10 – 15 minutes. It should consist of both static and gentle dynamic stretches with hold times up to 30 seconds to get a true lengthening of the tissue. The exercise technique is very important and depends on many factors. There is a big difference in exercising and exercising correctly!! Factors that must be taken into account are previous injuries, current medical status, level of fitness, etc. This is where your physical therapist comes in by evaluating your specific abilities and giving you an individual exercise program. A basic program may consist of : Arm Swings / Overhead Reach, Side Bends, Trunk Extension, Trunk Rotation, Toe Touches, and Calf and Hamstring stretches, etc.
The next phase is strengthening which should progress from basic to advanced. A main component of strengthening is functional strength which means exercising in functional positions similar to the golf swing. This helps you develop power where you need it and can be accomplished using dumbbells or exercise tubing. Functional strength exercises allow you to add resistance to the components of the swing while maintaining a good posture which will translate into a more powerful, compact swing.
The buzz word in fitness is “core strength” which is the strengthening of the paraspinals, abdominals, obliques, glutes, deep hip rotators, and pelvic muscles which act as our natural girdle. When conditioned properly they allow the golfer to maintain a set spinal angle and postural position which translates to the ability to generate rotational force which is the key to the long drive --- However, these exercises are advanced and should only be undertaken under supervision to avoid injury. All too often, I get new clients thanks to Golf Digest’s exercise of the month. (Someone thought they would try standing ON an exercise ball while practicing their golf swing, like they saw Sergio Garcia do in the magazine…. An ankle fracture later they were seeing me!!)
The important message is to train for your specific activity. The one piece of equipment that is the most important part in your golf game is your body – the only thing that we can’t trade in / upgrade so you have to take care of it. Don’t have any regrets. Take the time to take care of your body now and you will be able to keep playing golf for years to come.