As golfers begin to approach the twilight of their peak golfing years, the same question comes up repeatedly. “How can I continue to play the game I love for years to come and not lose the power and distance I’ve enjoyed during the peak of my playing days?” The answer is intuitive and complicated at the same time!
Across all of the major sports leagues from the PGA to the NBA, there is only one competitor that has achieved and maintained an all-time undefeated record. Father Time. As athletes age, certain physiological changes are inevitable and a steady decline in performance should be expected and embraced as a fact of life. However, the good news is that golfers can participate in important stretching regimens that can hold off Father Time and not only lengthen the time spent in their peak years but will also aid in preserving, and in some instances, improving driving distance.
Rubber Bands and Muscles
When thinking about your muscles, it’s not too far of a stretch (pun intended) to think of them as a complex network of rubber bands. Imagine holding a relaxed rubber band in the palm of your hand. At rest, the potential for that rubber band to produce power is minuscule at best. Now take that same rubber band and stretch it as far as you can without breaking it. Depending on the density and length of the rubber band, you have now created a situation for the rubber band to produce more power.
The complex network of muscles involved in the golfer’s swing can be looked at in a similar fashion. As the golfer addresses the ball they become the physical embodiment of that relaxed rubber band in the palm of your hand. As the golfer coils into their back swing, they then become the stretched rubber band ready to unleash energy into the golf swing.
This analogy is why it is crucial for golfers to maintain mobility that will allow for an adequate wind up into their back swing, therefore creating the highest potential for club head speed and subsequently ball speed and distance. Two of the biggest indicating factors in terms of golf swing mobility are related to thoracic and internal hip rotation mobility. Make time for the following exercises in order to increase your playing longevity while giving you the flexibility, range of motion, and power to keep swinging safely and efficiently!
Thoracic mobility refers to the range of motion in regards to flexion, extension and rotation of the 12 vertebrae in your spine from just below the base of your neck to just above the small of your back. In golf, the ability of this area to rotate while remaining in extension is paramount for swing speed. Below are a few exercises that should be incorporated into your daily routine in order to preserve thoracic mobility and keep you swinging fast and pain-free for years.
- Kneeling Thoracic Rotation(1) (Helps with rotation and extension of the thoracic spine) 2 sets of 10 reps in each direction.
- After getting on your hands and knees and setting your body in a flat table top position, place one hand behind your head and rotate upwards as you point your elbow upwards.
- Keep your core tight and focus on deep and relaxing breathing as you perform this exercise.
- For added strength and stability, hold each rotation for a full five seconds
- Thoracic Turn and Tilt (2) (Helps with rotation and extension of the thoracic spine) 1 set of 10 reps each direction
- While in any seated position, sit up tall and lengthen your spine while placing your hand behind your head and pointing your elbows out to the side.
- Slowly turn to one side until you reach your limit. While maintaining an upright posture bend your body in the direction that your elbow is pointing.
- Return to the upright position and continue to turn and tilt until you have reached your limit on this side. Once your limit has been reached perform the same turn and tilt method in the opposite direction.
Internal Hip Rotation Mobility
In order to get a feel for exactly what internal hip mobility is, sit upright in a chair, and squeeze both fists together between your thighs and loop one foot at a time upwards. How far were you able to lift your foot? The average PGA Tour golfer (3) is able to rotate their foot upwards about 45 degrees. In the golf swing, the ability to internally rotate the trail hip will allow for greater range of motion in your backswing. The ability to internally rotate the lead hip will allow for greater range of motion through the follow through of the swing. Try the stretches below to make sure your ability to internally rotate your hips isn’t getting in the way of your ability to stretch into both sides of your swing.
- Banded Internal Hip Rotation (Helps with internal rotation, strengthening, and stability of the hips) 3 sets of 10 reps
- Lay flat on your stomach with your legs together and knees bent at 90 degrees with a light resistance band tied around your ankles.
- Slowly rotate both feet outward as far as possible and return to the starting position in a controlled manner.
- If needed, place a small pillow under your hips during this exercise to provide more back support.
- Glute Medius Stretch (4) (Helps stretch and lengthen the glute medius which can limit internal hip rotation) 5 sets of 15 second stretches
- Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet spread wide.
- Allow your knees to collapse towards each other and hold for 15 seconds.
- Safely increase range of motion with each subsequent stretch by placing light pressure downward on your knees.
Incorporate these exercises into your regular fitness program and you will be swing faster and hurt less for many more years.
- Mark Wong, PT 17 Exercises To Improve Your Thoracic Spine. http://posturedirect.com/17-exercises-to-improve-your-thoracic-spine/ Nov. 9, 2015.
- Vanessa Gospel, Movement to Enhance Performance. http://uat.fitnessfirst.com.au/fitness-plans-and-workouts/movement-to-enhance-performance/
- Greg Rose, MD. Your Hips and Your Swing. TPI. http://www.mytpi.com/articles/swing/your_hips_and_your_swing Nov 1, 2012.
- Brian Reddy, BS. Talking About Hip Retroversion. https://b-reddy.org/2013/05/09/talking-about-hip-retroversion/ May 9, 2013.