Tee Up for Spring: Get Ready for Golf Season
Posted 3/15/2016 by UHBlog
Athletes, it is said, aren’t made during the season. They are made before the season. With golfing weather just a couple flips of the calendar away, this is the ideal time to start preparing your body for injury prevention – and a better game.
“Swinging a golf club is not a natural motion for your body, so you’re already at a higher risk for injury when you do it,” says physical therapist Paul M. Smith, PT, MS, AT, CGFI. “If you have restricted motion or limited flexibility, your potential for injury just keeps going up.”
To get the most out of the upcoming golfing season and reduce the chances of a summer-ruining injury, Smith suggests starting as soon as possible on a four-pronged preparation regiment aimed at:
- Becoming flexible – Increased flexibility and range of motion can increase your club head speed, improve your swing and reduce the chances of muscle pulls and other nagging injuries.
“Many golfers underestimate the importance of flexibility and range of motion,” Smith says. “Young golfers are more muscular than they were in the days of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, but swing velocity actually comes more from motion and flexibility than it does from strength. What many people don’t realize is that even power lifters who raise a 1,000 pounds over their heads are incredibly flexible.”
Concentrate on your body’s core – the hips, trunk, chest, shoulders and back – to improve flexibility.
“Good rotation and range of motion through those areas is important to generate torque,” he says. “Neck flexibility also is important. You’re always told to keep your eye on the ball. If you don’t have enough neck flexibility to be able to turn your chin toward and over your shoulder to follow the ball, you’ll have to compensate by twisting your body in an unusual way.”
Simple exercises to improve core flexibility include figure-four hip stretches and seated trunk rotations when the buttocks and hips are stabilized. To stretch shoulders out, pull your arms across your chest as far as possible.
- Gaining strength – “The most important places to build strength are in your core and back musculature,” Smith says. “When you spend more than four hours in a somewhat bent-over position, you need strong support muscles to avoid fatigue in the back nine of the course. Fatigue can change your swing plane and alter the flight of your ball.”
That's why back strength is more important than arm strength.
“You’re not really generating power with your arms,” he says. “Your arms are guiding the swing, but the power is coming from your feet on up through the rotation of your hips and trunk.”
Simple strength exercises include planks and leg rotations while lying on your back with your shoulders down.
“Do exercises that are similar to your swing,” Smith says. “You should strengthen the muscles in the way that you are going to use them on the course.”
- Building balance – “Taking a rotational swing at a ball that is situated a couple feet in front of you with a long stick that is weighted on the end can throw you off balance,” he says. “A good exercise to help build your balance is to stand on one foot for a minute, then the other. Then try it for a minute with your eyes closed. You also can practice light swings standing on one foot.”
- Improving fitness – Even if you use a cart, you’re still going to do a lot of walking on the course.
“We’re blessed in Northeast Ohio with a lot of beautiful golf courses,” Smith says. "But they aren’t flat. They can be taxing – and things go wrong when fatigue sets in. If you start now, there is still time to build up your stamina.”
Simply walking at a brisk pace that gets your heart and lungs working is an easy way to do it.
“Before you start any exercise program, you should first consult your physician to be sure that you don’t have any limitations or medical conditions to be concerned about,” Smith says.
Golf pros can also offer help. Many physical therapists in the University Hospitals Golf Rehabilitation program are Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certified.
“We work hand in hand,” he says. “A golf pro is the one to teach you how to swing a golf club correctly and how to play the game. Therapists can evaluate your body and identify limitations that will make it harder to swing the club correctly. Based on 12 tests that identify restrictions, we can probably tell you what your ball path looks like.”
To find a TPI-certified golf fitness instructor close to you, call 216-286-REHAB (7342).
Paul M. Smith, PT, MS, AT, CGFI, is a physical therapist, Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certified golf fitness instructor and sports rehabilitation manager at University Hospitals Mayfield Village Health Center. You can request an appointment with Smith or any other University Hospitals health care provider online.