Because of the movement mechanics during the golf swing, functional flexibility is very important, and most golfers I know don’t spend enough time focusing on this. Golfing clients often notice instant improvement in their game when we begin to release certain parts of their bodies that are involved in their swing.
As I’ve written before when discussing flexibility and stretching, there are two important times to stretch, and different approaches needed at each. Shortly before playing a round of golf or driving a bucket of balls, the golfer should perform dynamic warm-up activities and dynamic range of motion movements that prepare their body for the ballistic rotation of the repetitive swings. An example of this kind of movement would be side to side torso twists, where you might perform 20-30 repetitive turns with increasing range and speed.
The kind of stretching and flexibility work that you do after you’ve played, or on non-playing days, can be referred to as static stretching. This is the more traditional stretching, where you warm up your body first, then perform specific golf-related stretches that are held for longer durations (usually 30-60-seconds). The focus of this kind of stretching is to permanently lengthen short muscles that can restrict your mobility or cause you to lose your balance during your swing.
Following are three great exercises for flexibility and improved function. Always remember to do a proper warm-up, and make sure that you consult your physician before undertaking a new fitness program or making changes to your current routine.
The necessary range of motion at the shoulders is quite significant during the swing, and regular stretching can help improve your performance. Since many golfers don’t have enough flexibility at their shoulder joints, they experience inefficient swing mechanics and unnecessary stress. A golf club is an excellent tool for improving your overall shoulder mobility. Start by holding the club in your right hand, placing your thumb at a certain position on the club. Reach the club up and over your back, letting it hang down behind your backside. Reach up with your left hand to grab the bottom of the club. Hold for 30-60 seconds, gradually working your hands closer to each other. Release the club with the right hand, and notice the location of your left hand on the bottom of the club. Now repeat with the left hand on top, paying attention to the overall distance between your hands, and symmetry from one side to the other. Focus on good head position and spinal alignment, remembering to breathe comfortably throughout this stretch.
Quadruped golf twist
Rotational mobility is critical for golf, and symmetry in the body is very important. Start on your hands and knees with your back flat and spine neutral. Reach your right arm out and upward toward the ceiling as you rotate your torso and shoulders to your right side. Be certain to keep your hips and pelvis neutral to encourage greater spinal rotation. Breathe comfortably, letting your spine, shoulders and hips stretch out thoroughly for 15-20 seconds before taking a deep breath, exhaling and reaching even further upward for another 15-20 seconds. Perform this stretch on both sides of the body to ensure balanced flexibility.
Ball squeeze torso pendulums
This movement will help you to maximize power to the ground by engaging both your adductors and abductors of your legs and hips as you create fluid rotation of the torso and spinal flexibility. Start by placing a small exercise ball on the floor between your legs and drop into a neutral athletic position, with your hips, knees and ankles slightly flexed and your core engaged. The ball should just fit between your legs when you’re in your standard foot placement as you address a golf ball. Place your legs against the edge of the ball and lightly weight the inside edges of your feet. This should activate your inner thigh muscles just enough to lightly squeeze the ball. Hold a light medicine ball in both hands at arms length in front of your pelvis. Without letting your pelvis move at all, begin a small arcing motion from side to side with the medicine ball, being certain to create the rotational movement through your mid section, and not with your arms. Be diligent about maintaining constant pressure through the ball and neutral alignment of the spine as you perform 30 turns. Gradually increase the speed and range of the rotations for increased flexibility.