Flexible Fitness: Helping golfers get in shape for season's start
When the phrase "spring training" is heard, thoughts of the Red Sox, Florida and baseball come to mind. Spring training is about preparing the body for the athletic challenges it will meet in the new sport season.
This pre-season conditioning helps to recondition the body for the stresses of the sport. It is essential in preventing injuries during the regular season. A smart professional athlete wouldn't think of skipping this pre-season regimen, so why should you?
It is not often that an amateur golfer would think to pre-condition his body prior to golf season, but he or she should take a lesson from the pros in this instance. If they think it is necessary to gear up physically for the season, it is probably more important that the average golfer does the same.
Picture this: A golfer sits all day at his job, has a history of a couple of sprains or muscle pulls, maybe a "bad back," and the closest he has been to exercise all winter is shoveling snow. His body already aches just thinking of the previous scenario. If this typical weekend golfer doesn't take steps to prepare his body for the game, he could very well end up with an injury during the season that could significantly impact his ability to play the game.
Golf may seem easy on the body, but the golf swing is actually a plyometric action, meaning it is an explosive movement. It generates high forces quickly and requires a large amount of power from the core trunk muscles to be effective.
In the swing, the core acts like a coiled spring, storing energy as the golfer winds into the backswing and releasing this energy and power through the downswing. This coil effect is actually what powers the drive, not the arms or shoulders. Now think of your core: Are your abdominals, lower back and hip muscles as strong as they could and should be, or is there room for improvement? A
good way to increase your club head speed and drive power is to target these muscles with a sport-specific strength training program. This can be done fairly easily with basics such as squats, practicing half and full swings with medicine balls, and basic core strengtheners such as pilates.
Another way to help improve your swing is to make sure your body is as flexible as possible. Most people tend to be tight in the pectoral region, often resulting in a slouched, forward shoulder posture. Many people also have tightness in the neck and shoulder region, all of which can limit your backswing and cause compensations to occur at other body parts such as the lower back or hips.
Limited range of motion in the upper or lower back can also alter your swing plane and cause you to rely more on your arms, reducing the power and accuracy of your drive. Hip flexibility is also very important because the hips play a large role in the coil effect and initiating the down swing. If the hip range of motion is limited this too reduces your drive power.
Basic stretches for the chest, shoulders, hips, back and lower extremities can make a big difference in your swing capabilities and help to reduce your faults. Who doesn't want that?
Golf season is almost upon us, and now is the time to prepare your body to have a safe, enjoyable and successful year. Take the time to work on your body's limitations to reduce the effect they have on your game and to prevent injury in the future.
Nicole Tomasino, DPT, received her doctor of Physical Therapy from the MGH Institute of Health Professions, and is a staff physical therapist at the Spaulding Framingham Outpatient Center in Massachusetts. She has a special interest in treating sports injuries.