Perception and reality…two entities that receive a lot of attention in the mental performance world. In golf, often they are two TOTALLY different entities, not even in the same universe, which is why working to connect the two can be so valuable to performance improvement.
In the world of golf fitness and performance, often this disconnect exists in a much more subtle environment and, in my opinion, is the MOST under addressed issue we face in the sports performance world of golf.
Hundreds of golfers have come through my doors and one of the top complaints I hear is “I need to get more flexible for my golf swing.” While sometimes this is the case, more often feeling “tight” is just a perception, not the reality. A lot of these people who I am quoting are as bendy as Gumby (for those of you who remember that lovable green bendy cartoon).
The perception of feeling tight often comes not as a result of a short muscle, but rather the brain having that muscle in a constant state of actively tightening or fascial restriction from a variety of causes. The reason it is important to determine why a tissue is “tight” is because the strategy required to successfully correct this is significantly different depending on the cause.
If there is an actual tissue length problem, statically holding a stretch is part of the equation but must be done, according to research, for somewhere between 5-30 minutes at a time! How many of you have been stretching your hamstrings for YEARS for 10-30 seconds and still have tight hamstrings? If you are one of those people, it is probably time to start looking for a different trick.
More often than not, I see people whose body has adapted tightnesses as protective responses to adaptations that have occurred due to injuries or years of poor posture (sitting at a computer anyone??). The number of people who walk into my center unable to touch their toes and then “magically” in 5 minutes are palming the floor I can not count on all of my fingers and toes (and yes I can count beyond 20).
The addition of myofascial techniques such as foam rolling, soft balls or other tools such as theracanes can be valuable to any golfer, but particularly those who are aging or naturally “tight”. Beyond these techniques, manual therapy such as active release techniques, deep tissue work and trigger point dry needling are all fantastic options, as well, depending on the cause.
When it comes to “getting more flexible for golf,” the first step is to start with a proper assessment to determine which strategy will give you the best results quickest. No one wants to wake up in 10 years doing the same “try to touch your toes stretch” and still only getting to the middle shin…do yourself a favor and don’t be that person. And if that person is you currently…please try a new trick!
The link below is a link to a playlist of some basic myofascial mobility exercises that are great for golf from our youtube page.
This link is a playlist of some of the most valuable stretches for golf.
Remember to consult your physician or medical/fitness professional if these are right for you because you could just as easily be rolling the same tight spot 10 years down the road.
Chris Finn, MSPT, CSCS