We’ve all heard that a proper warm up is important before exercise, and that skipping it can lead to injury. As physical therapists, one of the more common places we see people skipping warm ups or doing them improperly is at the golf course. For many golfers, the warm up is carrying the golf bag from the trunk of the car to the cart. For others hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range or taking some practice swings is a warm up.
The golf swing is a complex, full body motion that puts a lot of force through the bones, muscles, and ligaments. Jumping straight into swinging a club without properly preparing those bones, muscles and ligaments puts golfers at risk for injury. A good rule of thumb to help you remember what a proper golf warm up looks like is that you can’t swing to warm up, you have to warm up to swing.
A proper warm up happens right before you start golfing, so that means you’ll be doing it at the course. If swinging a club isn’t a good warm up, what does one look like? It’s a series of dynamic activities that raises your heart rate to 60% of your maximum. The easy way to figure this number out is to subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum, then multiply that by 60% to get your target heart rate for your warm up. So for a 55 year old, the maximum heart rate would be 165 (220-55) and 60% of that is 99 (165 x 0.6). Each exercise below should be done for about 1 minute on both sides of your body to keep symmetry and be done a pace to get your heart rate up to the target you calculated. Neck circles Drop your chin down to your collar bone, then rotate your head in a circle, bringing your ear to your right shoulder, up to the sky, to your left shoulder, then down at the floor. Repeat for 30 seconds and then switch directions. Neck Rotation Turn your head to the left and hold for 2 seconds, then to the right and hold for 2 seconds. Continue for 60 seconds. Torso Rotation with Club Stand in a 5-iron posture with your feet shoulder-width apart, and a slight bend in your knees and waist. Hold the club in front of your shoulders with crossed arms, and keeping your hips steady, rotate your shoulders from side to side. The end of the club should point forward at the biggest point of the stretch Side Bends with Club Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold the club on your shoulders behind your neck. Keeping your back straight, bend to your left and hold for two seconds, then to the right and hold for two seconds. Make sure you’re not bending forward or backward as you bend from side to side. Shoulder Circles Do small shoulder circles for 30 seconds, first clockwise and then counter clockwise. Toy Soldiers Walk forward, kicking one leg and then the other out in front of you while keeping your back and knees straight. As you kick, reach your arm on the same side, aiming to touch your toes to your fingers. Keep your toes flexed toward your body as you kick. High Knees Walk Walk around where you are, and with each step, grab your leg just below the knee with both hands and pull it as close to your chest as possible, feeling a stretch in the glute. Hold the stretch for a second and then release and take the next step. Reverse Lunge Calf Stretch Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and step back with one leg. Keep your back knee straight with your heel on the ground as you bend your front knee and drop into a slight lunge. Hold for a moment and then switch legs, alternating legs for 60 seconds. Hold onto a wall or chair if you need to. You might wonder where the static stretching is in this warm up. Research has shown that static stretching (holding a stretch for a long period of time) done before activity can actually hurt your performance. Static stretching is important as part of the cool down after activity, however. So before you head to the 19th hole, stretch and re-hydrate with some water.