Stretching Before Golf: Research Update


These days more and more is being written about the value of stretching before engaging in any athletic activity. Indeed, scientists are beginning to look more closely at supposed benefits of stretching, and have begun to challenge the conventional wisdom that recommends stretching before partaking in any sport. Previously, stretching before activity was thought to warm up the muscles, make them more flexible, and prevent possible injury during the activity.

Research is now suggesting that stretching before activity actually DIMINISHES performance because a thoroughly stretched muscle is weaker, especially when it comes to power production (i.e., the ability to generate strength and speed at the same time). BUT here’s the thing: the stretching referred to in these studies is called STATIC stretching. That is, it is the traditional holding of muscle in a lengthened position for 20-30 seconds. Other studies that tested performance after DYNAMIC stretching have shown positive effects on performance and injury prevention. Dynamic stretching would include actions that move joints while lengthening the related muscles. Examples of this would be swinging a straight leg back and forth, or rotating your torso with arms outstretched so that the arms move freely as well. For golfers, taking some relaxed practice swings would also be a way to dynamically stretch in a very productive way.

If you want to get even more out of your dynamic stretches and practice swings, you really need to do a more thorough warm-up. A full body warm-up increases the range of motion of joints, sends more blood and warmth to the tissues, and gets the muscles geared up to use its fuel more effectively. This can be accomplished by doing five to ten minutes of aerobic activity such as fast walking or light jogging. In one study, golfers who did a dynamic warm-up and some practice swings increased their club head speed (aka, power).

There is a need for a lot more research on the specifics of warm-ups and stretching. For instance, one study involving collegiate volleyball players found that those who had warmed up and then sat on the bench for 30 minutes had stiffer lower backs than before they had warmed up. But, for now the bottom line is this: it appears that we golfers will get the best results from doing some light aerobic activity, some dynamic stretching, and some practice swings. Then, head out to play as soon as possible.

All the best

© 2013-2019 Kristen Carter.  All rights reserved. Kristen holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology, and is a Certified Health Coach and Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Professional.

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