Stretch, then swing
Posted on 7/22/2021
We have all heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” The nutrients that you put into your body dictate your overall health, function and performance in any activity you do. A similar motto could be, “You are how you train.” The way you move is important. Allowing your body to move in the correct manner will not only decrease your chances of injuries, but it will also allow you to move in a pain-free manner with all daily activities.
Rotational athletes move their bodies through high velocity motions that cause increased stress on tissues. This stress then leads to increased strain on the body. Golfers undergo some of the quickest changes in body movement in any sport, and that precision of movement is key in preventing injuries.
Our bodies are comprised of a system of joints that are either considered a stable joint or a mobile joint. When we confuse the two systems and change a stable joint into a mobile joint, injuries occur. For golfers, low back injuries can occur due to changing a stable joint (the lumbar spine) into a mobile joint because of not conditioning and stretching enough. The good news is that can be changed, and injuries can be prevented if you take the time to stretch.
By training your body in the proper manner, you can learn to swing your golf club pain-free and improve your overall mechanics. This would allow you to hit the ball farther, and without that wicked slice. Stretching is a key component in any sport and is often overlooked. By allowing your body to stretch certain muscle groups, you are permitting for improved movement. In order to perform your best on and off the links, incorporate stretching into your daily regiment starting from the tips of your toes, to the top of your head. Low back spasms, neck strains and shoulder injuries can all be lessened or even avoided if you stretch properly before your next round.
Below are body regions that are important to stretch before your next round in order to avoid injuries and enhance your game.
- Neck: The neck is a vulnerable body part when it comes to the golf swing, and can be the source of some tissue strains if there is restriction in movement. If you lack proper cervical flex and rotation, that can lead to injury and a poor golf shot. To ensure you have proper mobility and range of motion, complete some cervical flexion and rotation stretches.
- Curl your chin to your chest until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your neck. Rotate your head side-to-side slowly in small motions. This will help to loosen up your muscles, minimize stress and keep focus on the ball during your swing.
- Shoulders: When a golfer lacks mobility in the shoulder girdle (the clavicle and scapula), this can lead to poor swing and shoulder pain. A golfer needs good shoulder rotation to ensure a fluid backswing and follow through in order to not compromise both the labrum and rotator cuff. A stretch that can be completed prior to your swing is the standing prayers stretch.
- Place your golf club in front of you with both hands on top of the handle with the club head on the ground. Lean backward while hinging at your waist until you feel a comfortable stretch across your shoulders. Some players will also feel a stretch across their lumbar spine, so don’t be surprised!
- Thoracic and lumbar spine (see image): Low back strain and other injuries are common amongst golfers. No matter what phase of your swing, your thoracic spine is one of your main forces for rotation; however, too many golfers learn to rotate through their lumbar spine due to decreased overall core stability. Many golfers also have poor mobility along their thoracic spine (located in the upper and middle part of the back) as a result of improper training. The exercise below retrains your body to rotate through the thoracic spine while keeping your lower abdominals engaged, thus creating a stable base along the lumbar spine and preventing excessive rotation. This stretch can also help minimize injury and improve overall swing mechanics.
- Start by laying on your side with your arm straight in front of you. Keep your eyes on your hand and allow your chest to open. Lift your arm to your side and keep your abs tight. You will feel a stretch in your middle back, and your low back should be stable with no pain.
- Hips: Just like the shoulders, the hips are meant to move freely in three different planes. Your hips ensure you have enough mobility to move efficiently with golfing. In order to improve your swing, hip internal and external rotation are important as it pertains to the backswing and follow through. If you do not have enough mobility in your hips, you will pull off early from hitting the ball. This causes many faulty swing mechanics. Stretching your hips will allow you to address the ball better in all phases of the golf swing, and help you strike the ball straight each time.
- While standing, complete small circles with a straight leg in a clockwise and then a counter-clockwise motion.
Golf is an amazing sport, but in order to compete pain-free you have to learn to move correctly. Proper body mechanics help to decrease stress on your body and avoid injuries. Remember to stretch first, then swing. And who knows, by doing this you may even add a few more yards onto your drive!