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 that target those areas. The truth however is that our 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 stretching directly 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 and still as possible and ONLY follow the thumb with your eyes. Do this 10 times on each side
- After the initial 10 reps per side, progress to the next phase in which you continue to rotate your arm out to the side and follow with your eyes, however this time you will rotate your head in the OPPOSITE direction. Make sure to keep your eyes on your thumb even while you rotate your head the opposite direction. Do this 10 times per side as well
- Re-test your range of motion and notice an improvement from your original point of reference. Depending how accurately you complete the exercise the added range of motion will vary. If you don’t notice any change then you have completed the exercise incorrectly!
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 Oculomotor 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.
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. Be non-traditional, let your playing partners have a giggle. You’ll get the last laugh when your straight down the pipe on the first tee.
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Swing Healthy Folks!
PGA of Canada Associate Professional
TPI Golf Fitness Specialist
CHEK Golf Performance Specialist
CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach
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