November 2012

Tips From A Golf Pro :How to Increase Your Golf Flexibility

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Last month in our article re: the “X Factor,” we discussed swing theory and why it is unwise to limit one area of body rotation while attempting to increase another. Attempting to increase rotation in one area of the body to compensate for a lack of rotation in another area can lead to injury. It is far more beneficial to increase your range of motion; i.e. flexibility, so your swing becomes more efficient and powerful. The way to do this is through stretching, and the stretching must be done for each group of muscles that contribute in sequence to the total golf swing.

The daily routine many of you follow is directly responsible for your lack of flexibility, at least as it relates to your golf game. Constant sitting, whether it is at a desk or driving your vehicle, wreaks havoc on the muscles controlling your posture. The result of endless hours of sitting is tight hip flexors, psoai, iliacs, abductors, thoracic back, etc. Being in these positions on a daily basis actually worsens an already bad situation. Fortunately, there are some stretches that will allow you to gain more flexibility.

When we are sitting, our body’s natural tendency is to lean forward to a continually greater degree due to the muscles in the front of the body tightening and shrinking. The more you practice golf, the more these muscles are tightened as well. Think about it. Are you not bent over when playing golf? Because these muscles are constantly being tightened, we need to ensure that they are stretched to allow for a more efficient range of motion both during the golf swing and in our day-to-day living.
The following stretches are ones that have the biggest impact on our students’ games, and they all contribute to create a more fluid, repeatable and powerful golf swing.

Hip flexor stretch

Of all the stretches for golfers, this is the one prescribed most often. This allows the hips to rotate while simultaneously keeping the legs stable in the golf swing. Primary muscles stretched are the rectus femoris, psoai and iliac muscles.
Kneel down and set the top of your rear foot on top of a workout ball, sofa, etc. Suck your belly button in and keep your body erect as you breathe deeply. It is very important to tuck your pelvis under you and not let it drift backwards. The closer you can get your rear end to your heel, the better the stretch.
(fig 1a &b – yes vs. no).

90/90 hip stretch

This stretch will help to release your glutes, abductor and adductors. It can be done standing or sitting. Place one leg in front of you bent at 90 degrees and one leg to your side/behind you bent at 90 degrees (fig 2).
(For the standing version, keep your rear leg straight.) While keeping your spine vertical (no rounding), lean forward from the waist until you feel a stretch at the glute of the leg that is in front of you. Switch sides and repeat.

IMPORTANT: If you cannot get your lead leg flat on the ground from the ankle to the knee, do not lean forward! Assume the position for the stretch and allow gravity to slowly move your knee to the ground. Once it does so, you can begin leaning forward.

NOTE: All of the above stretches should be held for two minutes on each side. If you notice you have extreme tightness, repeat each stretch for a second set.

Thoracic stretch

This stretch has three levels yet all levels are done in a similar fashion. The difference is that as you advance from one to the next, the ability to pinpoint areas of tightness is improved.

Lay a foam roller horizontally on the ground. Lie on top of the roller (your spine is perpendicular to the roller) with the roller just under your shoulder blades as if supporting your upper body (fig 3).

Inhale as you draw your belly button in; as you exhale, slowly allow your upper body to fall back over the roller while keeping your rear end on the floor. Hold this position for one minute while breathing. Come up from this stretched position and rest for 30 seconds. Next move the roller down your back approximately one to two inches and repeat five times or until you get the roller down to your rib cage. The progression is to move to a smaller roller (a four-inch roller can be purchased at most grocery stores) with a dowel rod inserted in the middle (fig 4). The next and final step would be to tape two lacrosse balls (PIC 5) together and follow the instructions above. This really gets deep into the muscles and not only gives you a great stretch but can relieve tightness and adhesions along the muscles of the spine.

You should start to see the results of your stretching within three weeks. Some of you, depending on your level of stiffness, might take longer. If you are really tight, you might even experience some muscle soreness. Stick with it and don’t give up.

The muscles have been dormant and it might take them longer to wake up.
By doing these stretches, you will find it easier to make an efficient, powerful golf swing. Many also find themselves hitting the ball farther. Proper stretching of the proper muscles is critical to playing good golf.

If the above stretches don’t improve your ball striking and consistency, or if you need an evaluation of your flexibility, contact me at (843) 338-6737, pete@golfacademyhiltonhead.com or on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head. We look forward to answering your questions on stretching and all other aspects of improving your game.

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