Golfer Flexibility: Why Stretching is Crucial?
Flexibility is a highly controversial topic in the golf-fitness space. Initially, coaches believed that stretching before practice, training, and competition reduced the chances of injury in golfers.
Recently, though, a group of scientists dropped a bombshell, sending the world of golf into a furor: they claimed that, not only does stretching not prevent injury, but it also reduces both strength and power output.
Once this idea emerged, it spread like wildfire, causing coaches to lead innocent golfers (and their balls!) astray, throwing around catchy slogans like “cheetahs don’t stretch!” We’re not entirely sure what type of nature channel they get their information from, but cheetahs do indeed stretch, and if you don't believe us, ask them.
This recent “revelation” presents a massive problem for golfers. The aftermath of this hypothesis gone wild is that many coaches now prescribe to their golfers’ daily routines “20 minutes of zero stretching” and a whole mess of problems: muscle imbalances!
If you, like us, have done your research and these ideas still don’t seem to add up, that’s because they don’t.
Let’s break down the science: Why is flexibility important? What effect does it have on the body, for better or worse?
Flexibility is the Name of the Game
Flexibility, in most people, comes from training. Flexibility training fine-tunes muscle-activation intensity, direction, duration, motion, and positioning.
The purpose of flexibility training is to correct muscular imbalances, increase range of motion in joints, improve extensibility where muscles and tendons connect and decrease muscle soreness, spasms, and joint stress.
All this will, in turn, improve posture, alignment, and muscle function, allowing for a more efficient golf swing. Thanks, flexibility—we knew you had our backs.
Now that we understand the importance of flexibility, let’s talk about the effect that a lack of flexibility will have on your kinetic chain, and thus your game.
Straighten That Posture
The golf-swing motion depends on the alignment of a golfer’s kinetic chain. This is posture—the independent and interdependent alignment and function of each link in the kinetic chain.
If there were a holy trinity to a golfer’s kinetic chain, this would be it: the interdependent operation of the musculature system, joint system, and neural system.
In other words, these three major systems in the body operate together to create the optimal golf swing.
A flexibility deficit in any one of these systems will produce faulty muscle-recruitment patterns and increase demand on the body’s tissues, which leads to early fatigue, swing flaws, pain patterns, discomfort, and, worst of all, injury. Yikes!
Save yourself the hospital bill.
The golf swing involves three-dimensional kinematics, requiring high-velocity ground reaction force to strike the ball at impact. Golfers with poor flexibility and muscle function will limit their abilities to create and maintain a consistent pattern.
Our conclusion? Improved flexibility will add much-needed power, leading to increased clubhead speed, which is the aim of every golfer. So, if you were delighted by the thought of no longer having to invest in mind-numbing stretching time . . . you might want to reconsider.
Correct Those Muscle Imbalances
Many golfers are plagued by muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions, and postural problems. Imbalances happen due to the everyday grind of life: sitting behind a desk, enduring long commutes on traffic-packed roads, and irregular workout routines or customized workout programs.
The aging process varies from golfer to golfer, but, generally, as golfers’ bodies age, they naturally lose their elasticity, or flexibility. Less water intake, poor sleep, and suboptimal nutritional habits, combined with prolonged sitting and high stress-levels, will increase stiffness and tissue dehydration. This produces muscle atrophy, which is a loss in the size and quantity of muscle fibers. This loss of muscle fiber is often replaced by non-elastic, fatty connective tissue.
And who can we blame for this? The reduction of neural cells causes a decline in motor skills in adult golfers, specifically. The less one is physically active, the more muscular and neural atrophy increase.
Less extensible, fibrous connective tissue atrophies slower than muscle, meaning greater concentrations of fibrous, fatty connective tissues will be present.
Muscular dehydration is also a natural process of aging. Tissue studies have shown that the water content in infants’ tendons is 85%, decreasing to 70% in adults.
Don’t despair, old timer—we’re not ruling out anybody with gray hair!
With a professionally designed flexibility program, you can delay the physical changes that come with aging.
Stretch Those Muscles
Researchers find that static stretching before high-velocity activity decreases motor unit recruitment, motor unit synchronization, and rate of force development, meaning that static stretching is counterproductive to creating a high-velocity golf-swing motion (now that’s research we can stand by).
Here is where flexibility comes to the rescue, however: flexibility manipulates the duration and intensity of the body’s ability to stretch, the velocity of its movements, and its endurance of repetitive movements. It also increases neuromuscular efficiency and muscle function, which increase motor neuron excitability—placing golfers at less risk while enhancing performance potentiation.
So, How Flexible Are You?
I think we’ve proved our point that flexibility and stretching are essential for playing better golf.
Let’s recap the benefits of flexibility training:
- Decreases pain patterns, discomfort, and chance of injury
- Prevents the development of muscle imbalances
- Corrects existing muscle imbalances and joint dysfunction
- Improves posture and corrects postural alignment
- Increases joint range-of-motion
- Enhances flexibility, stability, balance, mobility, coordination, strength, speed, and power
Flexibility should be specific. Most golfers stretch randomly because stretching is very instinctive. When we feel tension in our bodies, we usually respond by stretching.
This is not an incorrect approach in day-to-day life, but to improve or maintain golf performance, this is a terrible strategy.
At Integrity Golf Performance, our kinesiologists assess your muscle lengths before initiating any form of flexibility training. This assessment, compared with anatomical normative values, will allow the kinesiologist to identify your particular muscle-length imbalances.
We’ll then customize a flexibility training program to fit your unique body and history.
Are you ready to improve your game?
Book your assessment today by clicking the button below. We'll call you to schedule your visit.