Stretching Exercises for Golfers
A vital part of keeping fit and healthy in any sport is stretching. This is all too often neglected. In a haste to get on to the course, court, pitch, ring or multitude of other sporting arenas, players simply forget or think of stretching as an unnecessary time consumption. This could not be further from the truth. By not stretching adequately, you are greatly increasing the likelihood you will suffer an injury.
Statistics show that those who fail to perform stretches suffer increased muscle soreness and potential for injury. This is especially true in the sport of golf. During a golf swing, huge pressure is being exerted on the body and a range of muscles which may otherwise be static in daily life. Therefore, it is even more important to loosen these muscles before stepping out on to the course. This can be achieved through a fantastic range of stretching exercises which will increase flexibility and reduce injury.
Common Injuries Among Golfers
To identify which stretches will best benefit us, it is useful to first take a look at where the biggest dangers reside in terms of injury as a golfer. This will help to prioritize stretching routines and streamline the process in the most effective manner.
Easily the number one injury culprit among golfers is back complaints, more specifically, lower back complaints account for around 54 percent of injuries in the sport of golf. Given that 75-85% of the American population will already experience back pain at some point in their lives, it really is key to try and reduce our exposure, especially in a high risk sport such as golf.
Back injuries are particularly pertinent in golf for several reasons, the first being that the club swinging action and body movement through each swing takes a huge toll on the back muscles. Twisting and turning constantly at high speed and awkward angles is certain to result in injury at some point in a golfers career. Secondly, the bent over stance assumed during golf, often for multiple hours per day, in time, wreaks havoc with posture and the spine.
This is an almost unavoidable hazard of the game. Finally, the repetitive motions engaged over a long career in golf can often lead to pinched nerves and bulging or in the worst of cases, herniated disks. This is evidenced in a multitude of cases with the most infamous of course being that of Tiger Woods.
Whilst these injuries certainly cannot be completely prevented by stretching thoroughly, their incidence can be reduced. More precisely, it can be taken as fact that failure to properly stretch before a round would certainly increase your chances of sustaining a back injury, growing increasingly likely as time progresses.
Most famously known as one of the most common injuries in tennis, elbow tendonitis is also highly prevalent in golf. Inflammation of the outer tendon is commonly referred to as tennis elbow, while similar injury to the inner tendon is otherwise known as golfer's elbow. Incidentally, a high number of golfer's actually suffer from both tennis elbow and golfer's elbow due to the nature of use during swinging.
Golfer's elbow is one of those nagging injuries where treatment is surprisingly difficult, as it simply requires time for the tendon to heal. This is best treated with professional assistance from a doctor or physiotherapist, as there needs to be a fine balance between low load loading, mobilization, and rest. For those with more minor golfer's elbow that find they can easily play through it, many use a golfer's elbow strap to help prevent the pain from arising while playing.
Another common source of injury to golfers is knee damage. The knee is one of the most complex joints in the body. Due to this, it can be susceptible to a wide variety of injuries. These can range from sprains and strains to acute ligament injuries which can result in long term lay-offs and severely impact future performance. This can be shown in the case of Dustin Johnston, sidelined recently due to right knee surgery for cartilage repair which will likely see him out until the New Year.
Knee injuries are usually caused by the twisting motion of the body during a golfers swing. An off balance swing can lead to a nasty injury of the knee. Rotation of the hips whilst swinging also creates increased pressure for the knees.
Considering these factors, it is paramount to perform comprehensive stretches, both for flexibility and strengthening of the knee joint to ensure a lengthy and pain free golf career at any level.
Injuries to the shoulder joint are understandably one of the most common injuries in golf. This is largely due to the club swinging motion and the amount of stress which this places on the shoulder joint. In today’s game where power is a pre-requisite and a beastly drive is essential, the shoulders are coming under increasing pressure. Martin Kaymer is the most high profile of recent sufferers, having pulled out of the PGA Championship through shoulder injury.
The rotator cuffs, the four stabilizing muscles in your shoulder, are the most common source of injury in this case. These can occur when swelling the area causes pinching between the arm and shoulder bones or otherwise when there is a tear in the tendon. Either way, these are painful injuries which can be very detrimental to your game.
Stretching thoroughly and performing strength exercises are the most effective methods for preventing a shoulder injury. In the case of existing injuries, the R.I.C.E. method is recommended as an ideal solution prior to rehabilitation.
Exercises to Increase Flexibility
There are many stretches which you can conduct prior to starting a round to help relieve muscle tension and increase flexibility. Not only will these stretches help to reduce the chances of injury, they will also help you swing freely and give you the best chance of shooting a low round.
This exercise will serve to loosen up your core and lower back muscles. You will likely feel some light tweaks and cracks as you perform the exercise.
This simple exercise will greatly help loosen your shoulders and keep any niggling injuries at bay.
Crossover Arm Stretch
This exercise focusing in stretching your posterior deltoid and is another great way to ensure that your shoulders are thoroughly stretched out and free of tension, helping reduce your injury risk on the course.
With this exercise you should feel a stretch in the quadriceps muscle. This will help relieve tension in the knee joint as well as increasing the strength of your standing leg, vital to maintaining stability during your swing motion.
This stretch will help loosen up your wrists, key to preventing hand or wrist problems when swinging. It will also serve as a measure to reduce the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome which develops in many golfers due to the repetitive motion and club vibrations transferring into the wrist after ball contact.
Advanced Exercises to Increase Strength
Stretching to improve range of motion and flexibility is certainly key when it comes to preventing injury. Another key element however is protecting yourself against injury recurrence and rehabilitation from an existing injury. This requires the addition of strength training exercises.
Building muscle strength not only helps prevent repeated injury but also protects against the initial injury by creating an improved resistance barrier. It has been shown that strength training to aid rehabilitation has a profoundly positive outcome for knee injury patients.
In this section, we will outline some advanced exercises for those golfers looking to really improve their game and reduce the risk of injuries. These are advanced enough that they should be reserved for general healthy individuals who have some level of experience at the gym.
Medicine Ball Throws
This exercise will help to build your core power as well as removing muscle tension and building stability in multiple core muscles.
One-Armed Dumbbell Chest Press
This exercise will greatly assist with building shoulder strength and stability. Shoulder injury is another common issue for golfers, therefore great attention should be paid in trying to build up stability in those joints.
Pushups With a Physio Ball
For this exercise, the traditional push-up would also be beneficial. These help to relieve a lot of excess tension in both the shoulders and back as well as building strength. Balance, a key part of stretching, is also improved by incorporating the physio ball with the exercise.
The combination of these strength building exercises and stretches to increase flexibility can well be performed as circuits to achieve maximum cardio fitness benefits in addition to injury reduction.
We can clearly see that although there are a variety of stretching exercises available to golfers and other athletes alike, it is key not to adopt a one-dimensional approach to stretching. We need to ensure that every key joint and muscle group is targeted.
Many tend to overlook thorough stretching, especially prior to exercise. This complacency can bear a cost in future pain, at the very minimum, athletes would certainly suffer from delayed onset muscular soreness. This can be combated by developing an effective stretching routine.
Even more importantly in the recovery and rehabilitation phase, we can see that not only stretching, but muscle strengthening is of paramount importance for preventing recurrence.
Given the knowledge and advanced techniques at our disposal, it is important to heed the facts and dedicate some additional time at the beginning of the round to performing a complete stretching routine. Not only will your injury risk be reduced but your muscle tension will be relieved allowing you to swing with greater freedom.