As you’re taking to the green this season, or any season if you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, stretching and strengthening before a round can help keep you healthy and improve your game. Physical therapist and golfer Greg Reinhardt answered online users questions on avoiding injury and lowering their handicap.
What is the most typical injury for an amateur golfer? Any tips to avoid such?
The most typical injury for golfers is back pain. Most amateur golfers do not swing the club the same way each time and therefore place unnatural stresses and forces through the back. To avoid back injury, make sure your core is fully engaged during your swing and try to initiate your swing through rotating your hips instead of pulling down by your arms and back. Getting into a good posture with hips back and abdominals engaged can set you up for a healthy swing.
What stretches should I do before and after the round?
Stretches that target your hips, back and shoulders are important before and after you play. To stretch the front of your hip, place one foot on a chair or the tire of your golf cart in a lunge position with your other leg straight behind you. Reach over head with your arms. You should feel a stretch in the front of your hip of your back leg. Stretch your back by standing by the side of a golf cart or a wall for support. Lower into a lunge position and reach overhead to the opposite side of the back leg (right leg back, reach toward the left.) Feel a stretch down the side of your back above the back leg. For your shoulders, try to pinch your shoulder blades together to maintain an upright posture. Your pectoral muscles also may need to be stretched to help you maintain a good posture. Reach one arm up and out and hold onto a solid object while you turn your chest in the opposite direction.
My shoulder hurts during my backswing. Could I be overextending?
If your shoulder hurts during your backswing, you may be trying to extend the arm too far, or bringing your backswing back too far. First, try to decrease the height of your backswing, Next, try to keep your elbow in a little closer to your body, reducing the reach of your shoulder. Your posture may also be contributing to shoulder pain. Maintain an upright posture with shoulder blades back, and make sure your pectorals are stretched before you play. Those who initiate their swing with excessive use of there arms may place their shoulders at increased risk for injury. Make sure your core and trunk are rotating first to reduce stress placed on your shoulders.
My hips are sore after playing and walking 18 holes. What exercises would help?
If your hips are sore, your swing may not be fluid throughout your downswing and follow through. Rear hip soreness may be due to staying back and not transferring weight onto the lead leg. Working on weight shifting to the lead leg can help. Insufficient hip rotation may limit you from gaining the most motion out of your hips. Work on stretching the muscles of the front, back and side of your hips to gain some range of motion through easing the tension in the soft tissue. Gaining strength and endurance of your gluteal muscles will enable you to stay in the correct posture throughout your swing and reduce the stress put on your lumbar spine. The relationship between your trunk and hips is also important. Make sure your hips are doing their part during your swing.
I’m looking to shave a couple strokes off my handicap. Any exercises that can improve my performance?
Exercises that work on power will improve your performance. After completing a good strengthening program, you can begin exercises that work on speed and agility. Working on lead hip posterior rotation power will enable you to not only initiate your swing through your hips, but to rapidly rotate your lead hip to build torque in your swing. Core exercises will generate power and control at the same time. Power is also generated by the forces produced by your opposite shoulder and hip. Exercises that work the opposite shoulder and hip at the same time, like standing on one leg and pulling a band or cable with the opposite side arm toward the standing hip, will work your core and stability together. Build your explosive power around a stable core, and your golf game will improve by a couple strokes!
Gregory Reinhardt, PT, MSPT, has worked as a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery since 2008. Greg has a specialized focus on hip and spine pathology and the rehabilitation of golfers.