Golf and Warming Up
I hear it all the time in clinic: “Dr. Sam, is this because I did not warm up before playing golf?”
We’ve all heard about the importance of having a solid pre-round warm up. It has been said that it helps to improve your game of golf, find your rhythm and warm up your muscles before you tee off for the day.
The question is: Does a pre-game warm up actually make a difference and what is a good warm up after all?
Firstly, what is a warm up?
Warm ups are smooth, rhythmic, non–stressful exercises that are meant to increase your range of motion, increase blood flow to your joints and muscles, and to prepare your body for the requirements of the upcoming round. Warm ups are done not just so that we can achieve peak performance right from the first tee off, but it also helps us prevent any injury that could happen during the game due to vigorous and quick movements.
Why would I even need to warm up?
Well, let’s first consider what you’ve been doing all day before playing golf, many of us have been sitting for hours (in a car, at work or at home) in the hours preceding our golf game. This puts our spine and especially our low back at risk. This is the same case as playing golf early in the morning. Our spine has stiffened from the lack of activity and this increases the risk for injury.
Also, let’s not forget that with increasing age, warm-ups get more and more important with every decade. If you have a reduced level of fitness due to a decrease in mobility, flexibility, stability and strength or an existing injury or physical problem (e.g. arthritis), all these can impact your movement during your game and make warm ups all the more important. Warm ups will help your overall movement and by moving better, we not only reduce our risk of injury, we also prepare out body to perform better.
What do warm ups usually consist of?
Usually we ‘warm up’ by walking from our car to the course and by casually stretching our muscles while chatting up our golf buddies. We also swing our golf clubs a little just to get into the feel of things and we head off to the course feeling like we’ve done enough and that we’re ready to start the day.
Believe it or not, recent journal articles have been finding that simple stretches like these are not only not good enough to warm up your game but they can also be detrimental, if done alone. How then do we warm up appropriately? To achieve your optimum game, we need to not only do these Static Stretches, we need to also focus on Active Dynamic, sport-specific warm up exercises.
Here is a basic outline of what would be considered an appropriate work out that has both static as well as active dynamic warm up exercises. Remember, everybody’s body is different, but this can be a good basic guide as you find a warm up that is suited to your body and your golf game.
We start with general warm up exercises. These activities would help to generate heat in the joints, muscles, ligaments and other soft tissue before we move into the next phase. Activities could include climbing stairs, a comfortable jog or brisk walking. This is meant to be simple and the goal would be to increase our heart rates at a comfortable pace, increase blood flow to muscles used as well as temperature, flexibility and response time. General warm ups should not take longer than 5 minutes.
Next, we focus on joint movement. Here, we want to reduce the stiffness in our joints and prepare our nerves and muscle systems for the game ahead. Warm ups here include stretching all the joints we are about to use in the game. Do not forget the smaller joints such as fingers and ankles. This will help lubricate the joints and get rid of stiffness that will create more stress in the joints during the game.
Then, we look to warm up specific muscles. This should include: The spine (neck, mid-back, low-back), shoulders, arms, hips and legs. These exercises would include lunges, chest opening swings, side stretches, trunk rotations, hamstring and low back stretches.
Lastly but certainly not the least, we need to activate and warm up our central nervous systems. This should be activity-specific. So imagine, if you were going for an intense jiu jitsu class, you would need to do back bridges, sprawls and hip escapes. For golfers, high knees, twist lunges and spiderman are a few of the many exercises that could help get the body ready for powerful and complex movements. Just remember that the warm-up should produce a mild sweat without fatiguing yourself. A general time-frame required for a proper warm-up will depend on how intense the exercises are performed and to what extent each type of golf shot (putting, chipping, driving) is practiced. A good target is 15 – 30 minutes.
Hopefully, with all these warm up tips, you will be able to prevent injuries as well as improve your golf game. Happy golfing!
At Healthworks, I see many golfers of all ages with lower back, neck and swing issues. Feel free to come down for a consult if you’re looking to improve your golf game and your spinal health!