How to prep your body for optimal performance and injury prevention on the golf course
Story by Matthew Motes + Photography by Mike Ritterbeck
As a physical therapist in the Lowcountry, I am frequently asked what a warmup should look like prior to playing a round of golf. Many PGA and LPGA tour players have very specific routines they follow prior to going to the golf course. My goal for this article is to give you a few movements to perform at your house to get your body prepped and ready to play an optimal round of golf and to prevent injury.
The golf swing is a rapid movement that requires mobility, stability and speed at multiple segments throughout the body. I typically advise against static stretching prior to a round because studies have shown that this causes muscle relaxation. I relate the golf swing to a sprint with one of the goals being speed production. Therefore, a more dynamic warmup is more appropriate to prepare your body for a round of golf.
I believe that we should warm up to play golf and not play golf to warm up. There are numerous movements that could be appropriate to perform prior to playing. Here are five exercises to perform at home prior heading to the driving range that should take no more than 8-10 minutes to complete.
Squat with side stepping
This exercise will help to get the gluteal musculature firing. To perform, simply sidestep and perform a squat. To make it slightly more challenging, place a light resistance band just above the knees. The hip musculature is critical for good mechanics and power in the golf swing, and neglecting this area would be a mistake. Perform 10 repetitions to the right and 10 to the left.
Hip mobility: Supported stork standing rotation
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint and is made to move through multiple planes. When the hips are not rotating properly in the golf swing, problems can occur. To perform this exercise, stand on one leg while holding onto a stable surface or a golf club. Rotate your body into each direction while standing on your supported leg. Repeat 10 times on each side with a hold for a few seconds at end range on each side.
Shoulder activation: Diagonal with cervical rotation
My nickname for this exercise is “smelly armpit.” I have combined a few concepts to give you extra bang for your buck. Start by lying on your back. Then raise one arm with your thumb pointing towards the ground. Once your arm is up, rotate your neck towards the arm pit on the same side as the raised arm. Add a resistance band to make slightly more challenging. Perform this 15 times on each side.
Anatomically the thoracic spine (mid back) has more ability to rotate than the lower spine. When rotation occurs at the lower spine, it becomes more susceptible to injury. The open book or side-lying thoracic rotation is a fabulous way to get the mid back moving properly. To start, lie on your side with knees slightly forward. Extend your arms forward at shoulder level with hands together. Lift your top hand and rotate up and around towards your mid back. Slightly touch into the stiffness, take a deep breath in and out, and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times each side.
Core activation: Plank
Your core musculature is very important for good spine health and for the golf swing. It is often an area neglected in warming up. I often say that I can justify including core exercises into a treatment plan with every patient because of its importance. I recommend a simple plank, although there are numerous ways to challenge this area. Perform 3 repetitions of 30 seconds.
Matthew Motes is a physical therapist for Cornerstone Physical Therapy and Wellness and treats patients at Colleton River Club, where golf is a way of life. Additionally he played four years of collegiate golf and has completed continuing education related to golf performance and health.