Golf Warmup – Above Par
Golf is an extremely athletic sport that requires almost every joint in your body to move in a coordinated dance, which starts from the back swing to the follow-through. Precision, power and flexibility are what separate good players from the great ones.
But what goes into developing a powerful swing while avoiding injury?
Most golfers will tell you that the controlled power you can generate from your swing is the key to a great game. Generating this maximal force while minimizing the impact on your joints is important. If you have poor posture and body mechanics, you are leaving yourself open to injury that will last beyond golf season. The best swings produce massive power but minimize the torsional (twisting) forces in the body, and specifically the torsion in the lumbar spine. In fact, the
best swing doesn’t come from how much you can twist, but what you can create in the hips.
Professional golfers do this by creating “elastic energy”. Elastic energy is achieved by creating a short, quick stretch of the muscles without a lot of rotation in the lumbar spine. It gives you more control of the golf club and club head through the swing, which translates to better control of the golf ball. Short back swings generate the same club head speed at ball impact as a longer back swing does, so you are actually not generating any more force by twisting the spine on the back swing. Elastic energy reduces twisting on the lumbar spine, which allows you to play more games during the season without relying on aspirin to get you through it.
In golf, the major muscles involved in creating this elastic energy are initially the latissimus dorsi and the gluteus maximus in the back swing, and later through the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. If there is any restriction in the hips, pelvis or any of these muscles, the tendency is to hyperextend the low back in order to complete the swing. Over the course of the season, this causes compensatory movement patterns to emerge, and places major stress and trauma on joints and muscles. That’s when you end up in my office with golfer’s elbow, low back and sacral pain.
My best recommendations during golf season are to make sure your hips are free of restriction with a good stretching regimen, as well as following a diet high in green leafy vegetables, flavonoids, bromelain and omega-3 fish oil. Prevention and maintenance of proper function of your hips and pelvis are not only important to your golf game, but your ability to perform activities in your daily life without pain.