The sunshine — and thus golf season — has FINALLY arrived! There is nothing better for one’s mood than doing a beloved form of exercise in the sun; the combo offers a double dose of mood-boosting hormones. Plus, doing something you love is always energizing, motivating, and fun.
The only all-too-common possible negative of the season? Golf-induced injuries! The good news is that injuries are not inevitable; you just need to follow the tips below to stay injury free!
Four ways to golf strong and stay injury free
1. Obviously, to improve your golf game — as in any skill-based sport — you need to practice. So, yes, get yourself onto a course or to the driving range ASAP to start practicing. The caveat is, don’t base what you do in your first few games on what you could do at the end of last season.
Gradual progression is key. Injuries occur when the capacity needed for an activity is greater than a person’s current capacity. After a winter of fewer — if any — golf games, your capacity (i.e. your golf fitness) will be lower.
Respect your current capacity; build your intensity and duration back slowly.
2. Don’t underestimate the physical demands of golf. Fitness expert Paul Chek says that hitting a golf ball is comparable to lifting your four-rep max at the gym. You would never attempt to lift your four-rep max for four hours, but golfing asks that of your body.
Since golf makes more physical demands than many of us imagine, make sure that between games you are actively working to improve your strength, core, balance, and flexibility. Again, respect both your current fitness capacity and what golf requires. Progress gradually.
“Don’t golf to get in shape; get in shape to golf.” You need to be strong and flexible or you risk injuring yourself too easily. The best players also have great endurance — power and accuracy diminish quickly in moments of exhaustion. Make sure you hit the gym between golf games.
3. A good golf workout should focus on multi-joint functional exercises, such as squats and wood chops, and should exclude isolation exercises such as machine leg extensions and crunches. Functional movements require your body to work as a unit and, when done correctly, promote good posture, which is key to executing golf’s precise swinging actions.
Try doing a squat and single-arm cable-row: Stand facing a cable machine, with a cable attachment in your right hand. Lower yourself into a squat. As you stand, engage your bum and core while simultaneously using your upper-back muscles to row your right elbow backward. Do eight reps, then switch sides.
4. Don’t underestimate the importance of flexibility in relation to golf. If a joint (for example, a stiff hip) doesn’t have the range needed to swing a club, your body will compensate (say, with over-rotation through the lower back) and that will often lead to injury.
Assess your flexibility. Make sure your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles have adequate and fairly symmetrical ranges of motion. If a joint does not have the range of motion needed for golf, make a point of incorporating a stretch for that body part into your regular workout routine. One caveat: Don’t overstretch. Only prioritize mobility workouts if you don’t have adequate flexibility. Optimal biomechanics require a balance of strength and flexibility. If you are very mobile, you should focus on strength training and only stretch to maintain, not to increase, your flexibility.
Use a foam roller to increase your mobility. Or, a good stretch for less-flexible golfers to try is a figure-four: Sit in a chair. Place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Sit tall. Push gently on your right thigh. To intensify the stretch, lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Respect where your body is NOW (rather than expecting it to be where you left off last season) and act accordingly. Progress gradually and don’t just golf: strength train, improve your core and balance, and work on your mobility. Live by the mantra “Get in shape to golf; don’t golf to get in shape.”