Although we are still in the grips of winter, the prospect of spring beckons us golfers to rush out on the first day of warmer weather and hit the links; however, playing golf with an unprepared or deconditioned spine makes us vulnerable to injuries throughout the season. Just as our clubs have gathered dust over the past several months, so have our necks and low backs. The modern golf swing places incredible demands and forces on the spine, which is evident by even professional golfers being plagued by spine ailments.
Since the temperatures continue to be frigid now, there is no better time to start preparing your spine for the upcoming season. Just as a sprinter or other athlete conditions and stretches before their event, so must a golfer. If the large “core muscles” of the back and neck are weak and deconditioned, or the small joints and ligaments that comprise the spine become stiff, due to wintertime inactivity, this can lead to injury upon return to golf. Swinging for the long ball in this setting makes us prone to problems and, as most of us know, back and neck aches and pains can be debilitating. If your goal is a season of straight drives and sunken putts, now is the timeto prepare yourself. Preparation is the key for low scores and a healthy, pain free spine. The components you need to include in your program to prepare your spine for the upcoming season are stretching, strengthening, and over all conditioning.
Here is an exercise program designed specifically for the golfer that incorporates all of these components. When done 3-4 times per week this program will set you up for success on the course.
Using a strap or belt, hold for 1 minute- x2-3 repetitions each side.
Lower Trunk Rotations- Bring your knees up towrds your chest, slowly drop your knees to one side. Keep the movement slow- x8-10 reps to each side, holding for 10-15 seconds each side.
Lower Trunk rotation Variation With Gym Ball- x8-10 repetitions each side, holding for 10-15 seconds each.
Hip Flexor Stretch- Hold the stretch for 1 minute each side. x2-3 reps each side.
“Open Book” Stretch- Lay on your side, with knees bent towards your chest, both arms stacked, palms together. “Open the book” by slowly opening your arms, watch your top hand as you rotate your spine, bringing your shoulder blade towards the floor, until you feel a good stretch. Do not move hips or lower body. x8-10 repetitions to each side, hold for 10-15 seconds each side. (see photo progression)
Abdominal Crunches- 2 sets of 20 or 2 sets to fatigue.
Double Leg Bridge -see photo- as you lift hips be sure to push through your heels (not toes) x 10- hold for 15 seconds at the top, work up to 3 sets, then progress to the Single Leg Bridge, (below).
Single Leg Bridge- x 10 each side- holding for 15 seconds at the top. Work up to 2-3 sets.
Resisted Side Stepping- Place a band around your ankles and side step 20-30 feet one direction and then back to your starting spot, keeping knees bent. X 2-3 times back and forth or to fatigue.
Single Leg Dead Lifts- Stand on one leg keeping knee straight but not locked, reach towards the floor, keeping hips and shoulderssquare, and allowing opposite leg to come up behind, keeping motion slow. x15 each leg. Progress to using a weight. Hold weight in hand opposite from stance leg.
Planks- x 3 reps holding for 20 seconds each and working up to one minute each.
Side Planks- x 3 reps each side- holding 20 seconds at the top each rep and working up to a one minute hold.
Chops with Medicine Ball – stand on left leg, holding medicine ball- slowing move the ball to the right lower side and move up to left upper side. x10 Switch to right leg and starting at left lower side, moving up to right upper side. x10. Work up to 2 sets of 10 each side.
Using the above protocol of exercises will prepare your spine for golf and give you a great foundation to safely start the upcoming season!
Best of luck to you all, and I look forward to seeing you on the links.
Dr. Colin Crosby, MD
Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center.