Exam Room – Warm Up to Go Low
In a previous article, we showed you how to use a foam roller. Foam rolling is the first step to warming up your body, not just for golf, but before you work out and even before a stretching session. Now, we are going to show you how to warm-up like the Pros. Along with this article, we have pictures of some of our team, including Jordan Spieth, showing examples of a proper warm-up, but we also have further in-depth examples up on the Chirosport of Dallas YouTube Channel as well as our Social Media platforms.
Warming up properly for your round or a workout is one of the most overlooked aspects we see to improving your performance on the golf course. Not warming up properly increases your risk of getting injured, since you aren’t priming your body for the activity at hand. The goal for warming up is to prep your muscles for activity, increase your range of motion in key areas for your golf swing and activate the correct muscles for movement.
What you usually see at the driving range, golf course and gym is not what we would call a warm-up. A couple swings before the first tee, or arm swings, toe touches, and a couple hamstring stretches is not doing yourself any benefit. Hitting short wedges and working through the bag towards the driver is also not an adequate warm-up. We would much rather you sacrifice some swings on the range and rather spend time before your round doing the correct body prep. This will prepare your body to swing more freely, aide in injury prevention, and prolong your career – even if your career only consists of a Saturday morning game with your buddies.
Let’s talk about what goes on behind the scenes on the PGA Tour. Most people are not aware of what these guys do to prepare their bodies, long before stepping out on the range. Our guys go through a full table warm-up which includes the testing of key areas for the golf swing, soft tissue work, mobilizations, manipulations and stretching. After that, they go through their personalized warm-up designed for their specific bodies and asymmetries. This takes about an hour total, so before they even step on grass to get loose, they have already spent an hour preparing their bodies for their round of golf.
An hour to prep yourself for your round of golf is a lot of time for many of us, however we’re going to give you a few tips to help you get the most out of your time, and to get the most out of your golf swing and workout routine.
Here’s our formula for a proper warm-up:
- Foam roll and/or soft tissue or self-myofascial release
- Stretch the specific muscles or movements for the activity at hand
- Activate the proper muscles
- Dynamic stretching
If you haven’t already, read our previous articles or visit our website, YouTube and social media platforms for how to properly foam roll.
Once you have followed our directions on foam rolling, move into your stretching routine. There are plenty of different ways to stretch, but what we care about is that you do something for each of these areas before swinging a golf club.
- Thoracic spine
- Hip flexors
After rolling and stretching, you can proceed to the most important part of the warm-up: activating the proper muscles. Prepping the core and glute muscles are the most important. The glutes are the only muscle that functions at 100% during the golf swing and is the biggest and strongest muscle in the body. Remember Tiger saying his glutes weren’t activating when he was struggling on the course? Most people laughed at this, but it’s a real issue with golfers. And many of the patients we see in the clinic either have an imbalance or aren’t activating their glutes! Working to activate them before your round will definitely help but come into the clinic to make sure your body is working to the best of its ability by allowing us to check for imbalances like this that could be hindering your scorecard!
Another fact about the body during the golf swing, is that your most important core muscle is not your abs, but rather your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the key muscle for breathing, which we do around 23,000 times a day! However, what we find is most people do not use their diaphragm properly, but rather the other muscles or what we call accessory breathing muscles like the chest and neck. Not using the diaphragm properly can lead to neck and lower back pain. Activating your diaphragm is just as important as activating your glutes, and if Tiger says it’s important for the golf swing, you ought to listen.
The last step to warming up is dynamic stretching. This is the personalized section of each of our Touring pros’ warmups because there are so many different ways to achieve the properly prepped body we are looking for. For those working on their own warmup, learn during the beginning of your warmup which areas of your body need more attention and then head to our website for dynamic stretches to help.
Most courses do not have a gym facility or space where you can warm-up, so to avoid the strange looks and stares while stretching on the ground on the driving range or first tee, do your warm-up before you leave for the course or in the locker room. But, as long as you aren’t driving more than an hour to the course, warming up at home before you leave will get you prepared enough so you can head straight to the grass and start swinging.
Here is a fun fact about warming up, swinging a weighted club or holding several clubs to swing will actually make you swing slower. This has been scientifically shown to decrease your club head speed. If you think about it, you are actually recruiting the bigger muscles and teaching your body to swing slower. Swinging slower means slower ball speed and shorter drives, the exact opposite of what we want from our warm-up Instead, if you want to increase your club-head speed while trying to get loose, swing the heavy club then swing something light, like a club shaft or alignment rod after. Or skip the heavy club altogether and just swing a club shaft or alignment stick. Swinging faster will actually get you looser faster and increase your club head speed before the first tee!
In summary, warming up is overlooked and under-utilized, and can be the difference between falling apart on the back 9 or shooting your best score. More importantly to us, warming up properly decreases your chances of getting injured, and making your way into our office involuntarily! Not that we don’t want to see and teach you, but our job here is to inform you how to decrease your chance of injury while improving your performance.