Different sports require different elements of fitness to enhance our athletic ability. These come in an array of combinations for specific sports. For example, a sprinter needs a healthy combination of strength, power and speed. Whereas a gymnast may also require these attributes but may rely more heavily on flexibility and coordination. So "fitness" in terms of different sports comes with its own blueprint.
What makes up the blueprint for "golf fitness" ? Golf fitness requires a mix of endurance, flexibility, coordination, strength and speed. In order to improve your golf fitness, you should should train all of these areas. In golf, flexibility has been shown to become very important. Elite golfers like Justin Thomas, are known for their rigorous stretching routines often assisted by a trainer. Mobility in the trunk area is extremely important. When we improve our mobility we provide a platform for coordination and power development. So what does increased mobility from improved flexibility do for the golfer? Quite simply, stretched muscles = greater range of motion=more length. As a side benefit, by improving our golf fitness fitness and mobility we are also prone to less injury.
The prerequisite for good mobility is sufficient muscle and tissue elasticity. Thus, stretching exercises are central to training for golf. Golf is one of the few sports that can be enjoyed throughout our lifetime. However, the older we get, flexibility decreases. The good news is we slow down this natural process by regular stretching. Regular stretching keeps our joints supple and soft tissue flexible. Yet, most golfers train strength and endurance to the neglect of mobility. If we want longevity in the game, just a few minutes of stretching each day can have an enormous impact on our mobility and improve our game.
According to experts, a short, daily program is just as effective as a single one-hour program per week. Randy Myers of the Titleist Performance Institute says
“Proper stretching quickly produces positive results, including a smoother swing. The best golfers in the world stretch with a trainer before and after each round. "
Ernie Els, has been one of the absolute world class since the mid-1990s, who states "The mobility is without a doubt the key factor in my swing".
So we are clear that stretching has its benefits in golf. The question remains, how should we do it?
There are basically two types of stretching: dynamic stretching and static stretching. Dynamic stretching achieves the greatest possible range of motion by swinging, rocking or springing gently. This type of stretching is often performed by gymnasts when warming up. Static stretching, on the other hand, is different. The muscle group is continuously stretched until reaching a "stretched end position". In static stretching, muscle resistance increases until you feel a light and comfortable pull in the muscle.
With both forms of stretching it is best to first warm up the muscles. This may involve 10 minutes of jogging, jumping rope or jumping jacks etc. Stretch each muscle group (both sides) for at least 20-30 seconds; Slowly and carefully pre-stretch, then intensify the stretch. The longer you stretch, the better. Stretch until there is a comfortable pull, no pain. Stretching exercises daily: ideally with at least three / four repetitions.
Their have been a number of manuals and books written on the subject of flexibility in the golf swing such as The Flexible Golf Swing. While there are wide range of golf training aids on the market, very few target flexibility as the goal.
Rotatix® - A Golf Specific Stretching Training Aid
We were delighted to come across the German produced training device known as Rotatix®. It has been designed specifically for stretching the upper body in a golf posture. They stipulate that the device enables the golfer to stretch the muscles while rotating around the spine. This certainly sounds promising since the movement of the golf swing is simulated while performing the stretching exercise. The device is used in a slow, deliberate manner involving the movement of the legs, hips, upper body, shoulders, arms and wrists. With regular use rotational distance increases range of motion which, in principle, should create more club head speed.
So whichever path you choose to improve your flexibility the important thing to understand is better flexibility = better golf!