Golf stretching exercises to improve your golf swingJuly 26, 2009
Sean Cochran, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Golf flexibility exercises, golf stretches, and mobility training are not new concepts to the sport of golf. In this day and age on the PGA TOUR, it is well known that most professional players are committed to a golf fitness program with flexibility exercises and stretching to maintain the mobility required to swing the club.
The questions that go unanswered for the amateur player, though, are: What are the best stretches and flexibility exercises for the sport of golf? What is appropriate time to perform these golf fitness exercises?
This series of articles is going to focus on these topics. Prior to getting into too much detail on specific stretches for golf, let us first lay the groundwork on why flexibility and mobility is so important relative to the golf swing. In the most basic of terms, the biomechanics of the golf swing require the golfer to draw the club through a large range of motion. In order to execute this requirement of the golf swing correctly, certain levels of flexibility and mobility are required from the body.
If the golfer lacks the flexibility and mobility to execute the golf swing correctly, compensations in the swing will occur. In order to prevent such a situation from occurring, it is necessary for the golfer to develop the ranges of motion required of the golf swing. This can be achieved through a comprehensive flexibility and mobility program.
Now that we understand the importance of flexibility and mobility in terms of executing the golf swing, we can now turn our attention to what areas of the body require flexibility and mobility for proper execution of the golf swing.
To properly understand what muscles, joints, and areas of the body require mobility and flexibility for the golf swing, it best to refer to the mobility/stability pattern of human movement. This principle, which was first noted by physical therapist Gray Cook and strength coach Mike Boyle, states that efficient movement within the body occurs in an alternating pattern of mobile joints and stable body segments. If this pattern of mobile joints and stable body segments is altered, dysfunction in movement patterns by the body will occur (golf swing included). Listed below is a joint-by-joint view of this pattern within the human body.
Mobility -- Stability Pattern of Human Movement Foot -- stable Ankle -- mobile Knee -- stable Hip -- mobile Pelvis/Sacral/Lumbar Spine -- stable Thoracic Spine -- Mobile Scapular Thoracic -- Stable Shoulder -- Mobile Elbow -- Stable Wrist -- Mobile Cervical Spine -- Stable
As you can see from the above table, the human body -- from feet to fingertips -- operates in alternating pattern of a mobile joint followed by a stable joint. Please note it is obvious joints such as the elbow and knee are not rod-like pieces of iron that do not flex or extend, but rather these joints are stable in terms of limited degrees of motion. For example, the knee joint does not rotate in 360 degrees of motion like the hip or shoulder, but rather it operates in one plane of motion by flexing and extending.
If we take into account the importance of flexibility and mobility for the golf swing in addition to the mobility/stability pattern of human movement, we can key in on the areas of the body needing mobility and flexibility to execute the swing properly. Simply stated, the ankle, hip, thoracic spine (mid-upper back), shoulder, and wrist must be mobile to execute an efficient golf swing. If any of these joints lack mobility due to a lack of flexibility in the muscles surrounding these joints, the ability to execute the golf swing may be compromised.
At this point we know why mobility and flexibility is important to the golf swing as well as what areas of the body we need to focus on. As a result, we can turn our attention to this question -- when is the optimal time to perform mobility and flexibility exercises for the golf swing?
The answer is as follows: A flexibility and mobility program should be performed prior to practice or play, after the completion of a round or practice session, and on days in which no participation in golf occurs. Basically, there is a need for a pre-round, post-round, and maintenance program. Sounds like too much too handle?
Well, the amount of time spent on each of these programs is minimal, and completion of each of the programs can be accomplished in approximately 10 minutes. If the amateur golfer can commit 10 minutes a day to a flexibility and mobility program, improvements will occur.
At this point we have the framework in place for the development of a mobility and flexibility program for the sport of golf. Now we will begin over the course of this series of articles to develop a golf-specific flexibility and mobility program.
Since our last series of articles was geared around the development of a pre-round warm-up program incorporating flexibility and mobility exercises, this series of article will encompass the development of your post-round flexibility program.
A post-round flexibility program can be done at anytime after your round. This program does not need to be performed immediately after putting out on the 18th green. Basically, get this program in prior to going to bed.
The first exercise we will introduce into the post-round flexibility and mobility program is the Cat in the Wheel. This is a flexibility exercise focused on the hips and deep spinal muscles.
To begin the exercise, place both of your hands on the floor directly under the shoulders. Position both of your knees directly under the hips, eyes looking down and back flat. Begin by extending your lower back upward towards ceiling. Continue to arch the lower back up until it is rounded. Slowly pull your hips backwards towards the heels keeping the hands in place. Continue to pull the hips backwards until the glutes are resting on our heels. Hold this position for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Golf-orientated stretches, flexibility exercises, and golf fitness programs are all extremely important in terms of developing an efficient and effective golf swing. Taking 10 minutes a day and focusing on a series of golf stretches can go a long way in this process of improving your golf swing.