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 low 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 low 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. Getting into a good posture by bringing your hips backwards first to bend at your waist while engaging your abdominals can set you up for a healthy swing.
What stretches should I do before and after the round?
Stretches that focus on rotation and opening of your trunk will ensure adequate flexibility is gained prior to 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 overhead 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. 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 to open up your chest. Separation of your hips from your trunk is key to your swing. Start out in a semi-squat position and keep your hips still while trying to rotate your trunk and upper body in each direction. Now, keep your upper body and trunk still while trying to rotation your hips in each direction under a stable trunk. This will create separation in your swing which will lead to increased power generation.
My shoulder hurts during my backswing. Could I be overextending?
If your shoulder hurts during your backswing, you may be trying to use your arms to generate your swing instead of your hips and trunk. 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 leg hip soreness may be due to staying back and not transferring weight onto the lead leg. Insufficient hip rotation may place excessive forces through your low back which can refer some discomfort into your buttock muscles. Work on stretching the muscles of the front, back and side of your hips can ensure your hips are not tight prior to swing. 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 plays a critical role in the sequence and timing of 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. The more separation between your rear shoulder and lead hip, the more power and torque is generated. But be sure to focus on control with this increased power to ensure a straight ball path flight. Build your explosive power around a stable core, and your golf game will improve by a couple strokes!
Reviewed on April 19. 2018.
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.