I want you to indulge in the cravings of your inner "Dennis The Menace" for a moment. Imagine that you are going to engage in a routine rubber band war with your childhood buddy. But what is this?! It looks like your mom put your bag of rubber bands in the freezer last night. Being the young scientist that you are, you take a rubber band and try to fire it as normal. You attach it to your thumb, but when you pull it back. SNAP! The natural reaction is to pull it back a little slower next time. Unfortunately, the rubber is still cold, and the band breaks again. The third time, you take the rubber band and rub it vigorously between your hands. After the rubber band is heated, it functions perfectly.
The cold rubber band is the classic example of what a muscle is like prior to activity. We need to heat the rubber band, or muscle, prior to activity. As a golf fitness instructor, I see countless instances of golfers trying to fire the cold rubber band. Let me clear up a common misconception. There is a BIG difference between “warming up” and improving one’s flexibility. (1) Warming up means heating the rubber band. Improving one’s flexibility means increasing the range of motion that the rubber band can go through. Improving one’s flexibility is NOT appropriate before a round of golf. It should be done after the round or as part of your exercise program. Before the round of golf we need to warm up. Let’s look at how to, and how not to warm up.
The things that scare me when I see them as a form of warm up are:
Improper stretching techniques – trying to touch toes and holding for longer than a few seconds or even bouncing. We do NOT want to force ourselves farther than our body will go comfortably. In the short term, this method will DECREASE the muscles’ ability to respond. A method of stretching that is a better form of warm up is Dynamic Stretching. Examples of dynamic stretching are shown below.
Swinging Heavy Clubs or Multiple clubs – Professional baseball has done studies and found that increasing the weight of the ball by more than 20% will change the muscle pattern and increase your risk of injury. (2) Secondly, swinging a heavy object will condition your body to respond SLOWER. If your top clubhead speed is 100 MPH and you swing a heavy implement when you return to swinging a golf club, you will swing a few MPH SLOWER. When it comes to the golf swing, we want our muscles to respond quicker, not slower.
Starting with putting and working up to full swings – good way of preparing for a round, but putting is not a WARM UP. According to Dr. Peter McKay at the world golf fitness summit, a large percentage of back injuries occur in the first 15% of motion. Getting into your putting posture will cross that threshold. I would prefer to see you warm up prior to any golf related activity.
So how can we heat up the rubber band? At Clubgolf we advocate a complete warm up, but here is what I consider a bare minimum. In its entirety, it should take less than 5 minutes.
Helicopter Lunge – Do this to warm up the warm muscles of the core first. Start slowly at first and pick up speed after a few reps. Starting in a good “lunge stance position.” (Place 1 foot in front of the other. Bend the knees around 90º but keep the front knee over the center of the front foot.) Extend your arms out and rotate your torso while keeping your gaze forward. Rotate back and forth about 5 times. Switch legs. Repeat 5 times.
Figure 4 Walks – Now that the core is warmed up, lets move on to the hips and lower extremities. Stand on one foot and grab your opposite foot/ankle with both hands. Raise your foot up belt line height and hold for a second. Switch legs. Repeat 5 times.
Leg swing – Continue to warm up the lower extremities with a focus on the hamstrings. Use a golf club like a crutch so that one leg may hang freely. WITHOUT arching your back swing your leg forward at a controlled speed. Place the emphasis on stabilizing your core and controlling the leg swing. Swing the leg back and forth 5 times. Switch legs and repeat
Saws – Begin to warm up the smaller muscles in the chest and rotator cuff. With your core engaged and your knees flexed (golf posture is a good model) and your elbows bent 90º saw your arms back and forth. When you pull your elbows back toward you, keep your abs engaged to prevent from arching your lower back. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades to help warm up the shoulders. Saw quickly back and forth 10 times.
Prayer Presses – Finish the upper extremities by warming up the elbows and wrists. Place your palms together in front of your chest. Keep as much of your fingers and palms contacted as you raise your elbows up to chest height as well. Keep your shoulder blades pinched and press your palms together as hard as you can. Repeat 5 times.
NOW, proceed with your normal preparation for your round at the driving range.
Always remember, no exercise should be performed to the point of discomfort or pain and always consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise program.
For more information about Titleist Performance Institute, please visit www.mytpi.com.
1) Michael Boyle, “Functional Training for Sports” Copyright 2004.
2) Dr. Coop DeRenne Sport Science University of Hawaii