Frigid temperatures, stiff cold muscles and bulky winter coats paired with blustery winter winds. Even the most diehard golfer would agree that these conditions are not ideal for practicing or playing. With relatively little invested time (20 minutes a day), you can begin increasing your range of motion to help your body prepare for when the snow melts and the birdies return. Below is a stretching routine for players who might have tight or restricted motions in their upper body and also some swing drills that tie in with upper body stiffness.
Warm-Up – A very important aspect of any workout or routine. You must get your body ready and warm for the rest of the routine to be effective.
- Forward Bend/Hamstring Stretch – Start by standing up straight with your feet six inches apart. While maintaining a straight back, bring your arms above your head and start bending from the waist until your hands reach your toes, or as close as you can get. While bending from the waist try and keep your spine as straight as possible. Hold this stretch for three to five seconds and repeat three times.
- Standing Hip Stretch – You’ll want to make sure you have your golf club with you to aid with your balance during this stretch, as you will basically be balancing on one leg at a time. Begin by placing your right ankle on the outside of the left knee, as though you were going to sit Indian-style. Take a deep breath and as you do, begin to bend your left knee as though you were going to sit down in a chair. Bring your chest toward your shin and roll your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for three deep breaths and repeat three times on each side.
- Neck and Trunk Stretch – Start with your feet shoulder width apart, looking straight ahead. While keeping your body still, look up to the sky trying to extend your chin as high as possible. Hold this position for two seconds. While still looking up, extend your arms above your head while holding the club in both hands (the shaft of the golf club will be parallel to ground). Lower your hands so that the shaft is lying across the back of your neck. Maintaining the current position, rotate your shoulders as thought you are swinging to the top of your backswing. Once your backswing is completed, hold this position for two seconds. Then rotate your shoulders to a follow through position, and hold for two seconds. Repeat the whole process two more times. To increase your flexibility throughout the stretch, try restricting your hip movement.
Stretching Routine – Follow each stretch in the listed order.
- Oblique Stretch: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width while reaching your hands high, holding a golf club. While restricting the lower body, bend towards your right and hold for three deep breaths. Repeat motion to the left for three deep breaths. Then repeat motion leaning backwards for three deep breaths. Repeat all three motions 2 more times.
- Club Behind the Head Shoulder Stretch: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and in your address position. Hold your club with your right hand on the grip and your left hand on the clubhead with palms facing down. While keeping elbows as straight as possible, reach hands high overhead, trying to extend your arms bend your head and back as far as possible. Hold for 3 breaths. Repeat 5 times
- Rotator Cuff Stretch: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold your club in front of you with your right hand on the grip and your left hand on the clubhead with palms facing upwards. Now rotate your arms clockwise until your arms have crossed. You will feel a stretch in your left rotator cuff. Hold for 30 seconds while taking deep breaths. Rotate arms counter clockwise for right arm and repeat
- Deltoid Stretch: Stand in a door way and reach your left arm across your chest to the right and hold on to doorway with your hand. Hold for 30 seconds while taking deep breath. Repeat with right arm.
- Chest Stretch: Stand in doorway with both arms reached out to your sides, holding on to the door frame. Slowly walk forward until you feel a good stretch. Hold for 30 seconds while taking deep breaths.
Practice Drills – Follow each drill in the listed order.
- Take Away Drill: Stand in your address position with your Driver. Now place the butt-end of the grip into your sternum above your stomach. Fully extend your arms down the shaft and take your normal grip. While keeping you lower body and head both still, rotate into your backswing. Stop when the shaft is parallel to the ground. Look at the back of your left hand (for right handed golfers) and the toe of the clubhead. The back of your hand should be pointing perpendicular to your target line and the toe of the clubhead should be pointing towards the sky. This is the proper take away position. Repeat this in slow motion, ingraining that feeling. Now take your normal grip and stance and see if you can replicate the motion.
- Top of the Backswing Drill: Without a club, stand in the middle of a doorway and take your address position and simulate your grip. Now start your backswing with the goal being that you are trying to put your hands in the top corner of the doorway. Stop at the top of your swing. Notice the feeling of your arms reaching high, but remember not to let your upper arms separate from your body. Repeat this in slow motion. This will generate more width in your backswing needed for added power in the downswing.
- Start of the Downswing Drill: Hold a golf club (preferably a long iron) out in front of you with the club completely vertical with the clubhead pointing to the ground. Position your hands with your left hand above your right hand and together (for right handed golfer) gripping it like a baseball bat. Now rotate back as if you were making your backswing and stop when the golf club is approximately on a 45 degree angle of your foot line and stop. Bend from your hips until the club touches the ground and take a firm stance with yours arms fully extended. You are now in a position that is similar to the top of your backswing. Now the drill is to rotate your hips as much as you can towards the target without moving your upper body (use the club for a brace). This is the first crucial movement of the downswing. Repeat this motion until it becomes habit and make it your trigger to starting your downswing. This will help the club starting inside the target line and get you into the “slot” or the ideal downswing position.
Be on the lookout for more routines to come!