Total Golf Preseason Conditioning: Flexibility/Mobility

conditioningI don’t know about you all but where I live, this winter has been harsh.  It’s already March 8th and by March 1st last year courses in town were opening.  This year, snow is still falling and staying on the ground.  So technically, while golf season should be starting, it’s still preseason and time for some conditioning to prepare for the upcoming season.

For those of us living where courses close in the winter, the best case scenario is that we stay in shape at the gym but don’t pick up a club for 5 months while the worst case scenario is that we hibernate all winter, don’t move a muscle, and gain 10 pounds.  In either case, many recreational golfers simply play their way into golf shape at the start of the season, while there is some merit to this approach (if done properly), it is slow and can be a sure fire recipe for injury.  This series of posts will provide some of the best ways of conditioning your body and mind into golf shape before you even step on the course.  No doubt this will give you an edge over your buddies, or competitors, right from the get go.

Today’s post will focus on addressing common flexibility and mobility issues related to the golf swing and also to get your body ready for the strength and power exercises discussed in the next article in this series.

Flexibility Conditioning

Step one is ensuring you have sufficient flexibility.  All those months of sitting on your butt at work and on the couch has tightened up your hips and back.  Even for those of you who stay active in the winter, you likely haven’t been swinging and twisting to keep your hips and spine flexible.

Flexibility testing

Hamstrings

  • Lying on your back
  • Wrap a skipping rope (or towel) around your right foot
  • Keeping your leg straight, bring your foot as close to your head as possible by pulling on the skipping rope. Repeat with the other leg

Pass: You should be able to bring both legs at least to the point where they are perpendicular to the ground.

Hip Flexors

  • Lying on your back on a raised hard surface (like a sturdy table or counter) with your butt at the edge so your legs hang down towards the floor.
  • With your hands, pull your right knee as far to your chest as you can (with leg bent)
  • At the same time let your left leg hang freely. Repeat with other leg.

Pass: The line the bottom of your left thigh makes should fall below the line of the table.

Thoracic Spine

  • Laying on your left side with your knees bent and slightly in front of you and your arms straight out in front of your chest
  • Rotate your upper body to the right as far as you can while bringing your straight right arm along for the ride.
  • Your legs should not move as you rotate!!
  • Repeat on the other side

Pass: you should be able to easily touch your right arm to the ground without moving your legs

Shoulders

  • Lean your back against a wall
  • Ensure your back is flat against the wall without an arch in your back (your low back should be pushed against the wall)
  • Bring your arms to shoulder height and bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
  • Externally rotate your arms (move hands towards the wall) as far as you can without moving any part of your spine/back off the wall.

Pass: you should easily be able to touch the back of your hands/wrists to the wall.

Flexibility Conditioning

Static stretching is dead and the new kid in town is Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF stretching), actually it’s been around for a while but doesn’t get much attention in the general public.  Basically, you perform your stretch to your maximum range, once you get there you try to move your limb in the opposite direction of the stretch without actually moving.  To do this you will have to be holding the limb with your arm or a rope, or be stretching on the ground so you push into the ground when trying to move.  By doing this you create an isometric muscle contraction and exhaust muscle sensors that prevent you from moving past your normal range of motion by triggering muscle contraction.  After this isometric contraction, you will be able to push slightly past the previous maximum range of motion.  Follow the below protocol for all stretches.

  1. Move to maximum range of motion
  2. Hold for 8-10 seconds
  3. Perform isometric contraction in the opposite direction of the stretch at 20% of your max strength
  4. Contract for 5-8 seconds
  5. Move to new maximum range of motion
  6. Repeat steps 2-4
  7. Continue for a total of 1-2 minutes

Hamstrings

  • Lying on your back, wrap a rope or towel around your right foot
  • Pull your straight right leg back towards your head using the rope until you reach maximum range of motion
  • Apply PNF process for 1-2 minutes continuous on each leg.

Hip Flexors

  • Get into a lunge position with your back leg bent and foot supported by a couch, bench, or wall.
  • Keep a neutral spine and bring your hips forward to maximum range
  • Apply PNF process for 1-2 minutes continuous on each leg

couch stretch

Thoracic Spine

#1 Soft Tissue Release

  • Using 2 taped together lacrosse balls or a peanut soft tissue release ball
  • Lying on your back, place the balls on either side of your spine about midway up your back
  • Oscillate on the ball for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Move the ball up your back about 1 inch at a time and repeat oscillation
  • Once you reach the level of your shoulder blades begin to add straight arm movements from your side to over your head as close to the floor as you can.
  • Warning, there will be some discomfort 🙂

#2 Stretch

  • Sitting with a tall neutral spine in a chair or on a bench
  • Put your right hand on the outside of your left knee and your left hand behind you on the chair back or bench
  • Rotate your upper body to your left to your maximum range
  • Gently apply PNF process for 1-2 minutes continuous in each direction

 

Shoulders

  • With the use of a broom stick or something similar get into the position shown in the below picture
  • Using the lower arm, bring the broom stick forward (rotating your upper arm externally) until you reach max range in external rotation.
  • Gently apply PNF process for 1-2 minutes continuous on each arm

External Rotator Stretch

Mobility Conditioning

Believe it or not, mobility is not the same as flexibility.  Flexibility is passive range of motion while mobility is the capacity to actively move your joint through a full range of motion.  Below are some dynamic exercises designed to target key areas involved in the golf swing.

Hamstrings/Hips/Lumbar Spine

½ Sun Salutation

  • Take a standing position with feet no further than hip width
  • Bend forward from your hips as far as you can while keeping a flat back and straight legs.
  • When this point is reached, round your back and reach as close to the ground as possible
  • Raise up to your maximum flat back position
  • Then round your back and reach as close to the ground as possible
  • Raise to a standing position by keeping your back rounded and raise one spinal segment at a time until you reach standing neutral posture
  • Repeat 10 times

 

Lunge

  • If you don’t know how to do this, look it up
  • Key point is to always ensure your front knee is directly over the middle of your foot, it should not move forward past the toes
  • Approximately 3 sets of 10

Squat

  • A full squat is one of the ultimate tests of mobility
  • Not only that, but all humans should be able to achieve a butt to ankle squat. A full squat is actually considered a resting position and in countries where this occurs often (some Asian countries), the incidence of back pain is significantly less than North America where we use chairs instead.
  • Work on eventually getting to a full depth squat as outlined in the below video
  • Approximately 3 sets of 10

Jefferson Curl (This is advanced so take it very slow and light!)

    • Please click on the below video link for an instructional video
    • Remember to start very light and progress very slow. You may not even be able to use weight when you start this and never progress past body weight.
    • Also, keep in mind that the people who do body weight with this movement are elite gymnasts and/or super strong mobile athletes
    • Do this for approximately 3 sets of 10 reps

One Leg Straight Leg Deadlift with Leg Swing

  • Stand on your left leg with a slight knee bend
  • Reach down to the ground keeping your left leg straight and spine neutral.
  • During this motion your right leg stays straight and moves behind you, staying in line with your spine.
  • Reach as close to the ground as possible
  • Reverse the movement to return to your starting position
  • Upon return to standing position swing your right leg up as high as you can to touch your outstretched left arm
  • Try and make this whole thing one fluid motion without pause
  • Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.

Cossak Squat

Thoracic Spine

Clam Shells/Open Book

  • Laying on your left side with your knees bent and slightly in front of you and your arms straight out in front of your chest
  • Rotate your upper body to the right as far as you can while bringing your straight right arm along for the ride.
  • Return back to the starting position and repeat for approximately 3 sets of 10
  • Repeat on the other side

Cat/Camel

  • Get into a position on all fours with your knees bent and directly below your hips and your arms straight with hand directly below your shoulders
  • Slowly arch your full back, sticking your butt in the air and look upwards (all in one motion)
  • Slowly round your full back, tucking your butt under your pelvis and looking between your legs (all in one motion)
  • Repeat 20 times

Shoulders

Wall Angels

  • Probably the best shoulder mobility drill
  • Lean your back against a wall and make sure that your full spine is touching the wall and your shoulders are retracted back so your shoulder blades are also flat against the wall.
  • There should be NO space between your low back and the wall
  • Put your arms at shoulder height against the wall with a 90 degree bend at the elbow
  • Try and reach upward by straightening your arms
  • Your thumbs or the back of your hand should stay in contact with the wall.
  • Stop when your back starts to move away from the wall
  • Return to starting position and repeat for 3 sets of 10

Scapular Push-Ups

  • Get into a push-up position
  • Keeping your arms straight and spine neutral, drop your chest towards the ground
  • This motion strictly comes from the shoulder blades retracting on your back.
  • Then push away from the ground as far as you can by bringing your shoulder blades forward towards the ground.
  • Always keep your arms straight and your spine in neutral for the full exercise
  • Repeat for 3 sets of 10
  • You can also do these against a wall or on something raised like a bench or chair.

Shoulder Dislocates

  • Grab a broom stick or something similar
  • With feet shoulder width apart and your spine in neutral position
  • Hold the broom stick with a very wide over hand grip
  • Raise the stick out in front of you, over your head and then finally behind you and down to your lower back. This should be done in one fluid motion.
  • Reverse the motion back to your starting point.
  • Your back should never arch during this motion
  • If you can’t perform this movement, take a wider grip on the stick and slowly progress
  • Do 3 sets of 10


Banded Shoulder Movements

  • Using a light exercise band, attached to something sturdy, perform multiple shoulder movements at around 10 reps
  • Lateral raises – progress to a full movement from your side to all the way over your head
  • Front raises – progress to a full movement from your side to all the way over your head
  • Reverse Flies
  • Forward facing arm circles
  • Back facing arm circles (the opposite of the above )
  • External rotations
  • Internal rotation

While the above may not address every single issue for everyone, it is a very good general approach and should eventually fix many mobility issues most of us experience.  Flexibility and mobility exercises can be done every day and the above mobility drills are a great warm-up before a round of golf, a practice session, or a strength/power workout which we will be discussed in my next post.

Always remember to discuss starting or changing exercise routines with your medical practitioner first, particularly if you have an injury or medical condition.

Sincerely,

The Barefoot Golfer

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