OFF-SEASON CONDITIONING: PART I
A thorough pre-golf routine is something a lot of golfers take for granted. A golf specific warm-up will lubricate the joints, warm the muscles and connective tissue, activate the nervous system and sharpen our senses.
Our body often limits our range of motion as a protective mechanism against sore joints. When we feel tight we often find ways to relieve our muscles by holding ourselves in various positions. The truth however is that out muscles may actually be tightened during long static holds to protect the fibres from being stretched through too great a range of motion. The best way to prepare yourself for a round is through dynamic stretching techniques.
With dynamic stretching, you stretch your tight areas without stopping, simply moving in and out of the stretch position until you loosen up. When you keep moving, your brain can constantly monitor the changing length of muscles and will prevent you from experiencing joint destabilization and coordination deficits during a round.
Dynamic warm-ups and muscle energy exercises work better for mobilization as the body feels plays an active role in the process and allows joints to move more freely. The body reacts more naturally to this type of stimulus rather than directly stretching across tight joint capsules. If you’re a golfer over the age of 40, this should be of particular importance to you. As the aging process produces degenerative changes to joints, mobility will also take a hit unless a deliberate effort is taken to maintain flexibility.
When performing muscle energy exercises, the brain is fully aware of the new range of motion within the joints. This in turn shuts down the body’s comparator function and stops the brain from correcting movement patterns mid-swing. Compare this to static stretching – during long holding positions, muscle spindles are lengthened without the brain understanding how to monitor changes in length. When executing the golf swing, the information required from the muscles will contradict the information stored in the brain which impacts mechanics and causes poor performance.
To make best use of the following muscle energy exercises in preparation for a round, choose the exercises that target your primary area of concerns and perform them before any other dynamic stretches. This will be sure to maximize mobility and minimize your risk of injury throughout the duration of a round. More importantly, these exercises will sharpen the nervous system and assist with increasing the fluidity of your swing.
THE NECK & TRUNK TRAINER
- Stand in a neutral position with your feet hip width apart and your arms at your side.
- Raise one of your arms in front of your face with your thumb pointed upward.
- Start by first testing your range of motion by rotating your torso trying to get your arm as far around your body as it will go. Pick an object in the far distance and use that as your point of reference.
- Initiate the exercise by rotating your arm out to the side while keeping your head and torso completely still. Follow the tip of your thumb with only your eyes as you rotate your arm.
- Stop the arm movement once the hand is out of your peripheral range. Remember to keep the head at as quiet as possible.
- Do this 10 time on each side and re-test your range of motion. You should see an increase in rotation!
What’s happening during this exercise? The neck/trunk trainer is an excellent way to activate the trunk, neck, shoulders and nervous system and allow them to work as one cohesive unit.
The movement excites the occulo motor reflex – as your eyes monitor the environment, your brain facilitates all the muscles in the movement. This interplay between the muscles, joints and reflexes of the neck allow you to rotate further around your body after several repetitions.
THE HIP INTEGRATOR
- Begin by lying on your back with one knee bent and your opposite arm stretched out to the side.
- To initiate the exercise, begin to place just enough pressure on the foot to lift the adjacent buttock off the floor.
- Perform 10-20 repetitions, progressively rolling the pelvis forward and lifting a little more of your spine off the ground with each repetition.
- You will know you’re finished once you can easily rotate the body so the adjacent hip and shoulder is completely off the ground and you are facing forward.
THE SHOULDER & SPINE INTEGRATOR
- Lie on your side with your legs and knees flexed to 90 degrees. Place a towel, pillow or foam roller underneath the head to maintain good neck alignment
- With both arms extended out in front of your body and the hands clasped together, inhale and begin to slide the top hand along the bottom arm and all the way across the chest until you reach the opposite shoulder
- Hold your breath in this position for 3-5 seconds then exhale and slide the top hand back across the chest and arm (picture #2).
- Continue sliding the top hand past the bottom hand position as you roll the body forward until you can’t reach any further (picture #3).
- Inhale again and slide the hand back across the body to opposite shoulder (picture #4). Repeat the process 10-12 times per side.
Try these exercises at home and see how each of them make you feel. Indicators of improved swing performance that may be identified without actually hitting a ball are:
- Increased range of motion in the shoulders, hips and spine
- Increased fluidity and sense of reduced effort
- Heightened activation of senses such as sight, movement awareness, clarity of thought
Once you’ve tried each of the exercises, take them to the course and see what they do for you before a round. When performing the exercises prior to hitting balls, golfers commonly experience Increased consistency, distance and a reduction of previously problematic swing faults. For even better results, follow the exercises up with some dynamic stretching that’s tailored to your needs.
If you’re ever running late and only have 5 minutes to spare before tee-off (we’ve all been there), at the very least complete the Neck/Trunk Trainer as it’s quick and highly effective. Find some room in the clubhouse, bring along a yoga mat, be non-traditional and make time for your body. Let your playing partners have a giggle. You’ll get the last laugh when you’re straight down the pipe on the first tee.
Swing Healthy Folks!