This article appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of LINKS.
Aging and the repetitive naturE of golf can lead to joint problems, which can rob you of distance and time on the course, not to mention cause a lot of pain. To protect yourself (and your scores), develop the muscles that surround the joints with exercises that promote mobility. “Muscular strength and flexibility need to be concentrated on in the legs, core, and upper torso, while mobility has to be worked on in the ankles, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders, and wrists,” says Christina Lindstedt, a TPI-certified trainer at Beach City Health & Fitness in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. She suggests the following exercises and stretches to keep the joints young.
KNEES A sound swing relies on the right knee staying flexed and the left knee withstanding torque (for right-handed golfers). One of the best ways to keep knees healthy is by strengthening the quadriceps muscles.
Ball-Wall Squats Place a Swiss ball or something similar between your lower back and a wall, lean your weight on the ball, setting your feet in front of your body while keeping them in line with your hips. Lower into a squat, keeping your body weight on your heels and not allowing the knees to go past your toes. Push through your heels to return to a standing position. Do a set of 12, repeat. When you get strong enough, perform on one leg.
SHOULDERS Lack of shoulder flexibility is a problem for a lot of golfers, resulting in trouble keeping the club on plane.
Internal and External Rotations, done with an attachedresistance cord at shoulder level, both strengthen and stretch the joint. Internal: Turn 90 degrees to the anchored cord, grab the handle with the near (inside) arm extended and the elbow held close to your body. Pull the hand across your body working the range of motion of the rotator cuff; set of 12. External: Grab the handle with the outside or far hand and pull the band away from your body while keeping the elbow against the side of the body throughout the exercise; set of 12. Switch arms and repeat both exercises.
Field Goals Get into a golf stance with your arms bent 90 degrees at the shoulder and 90 degrees at the elbow. Holding five-pound weights, use your shoulder joint/rotator cuff to lift the weights up and down, beyond your spine if possible, keeping the elbows in position; set of 12, repeat.
HIPS Fast, flexible hips help create more distance and a better swing, so it’s important to keep the ball-and-socket joint strong and supple.
Stork Turns work the hips and improve balance. Standing with your arms across your chest, lift your left leg and place your foot inside your right knee. Keep your shoulders from rotating as you quickly turn the hips back and forth 12 times to the right so that your left knee passes the right thigh as you try to maintain balance. Repeat on the left leg.
Clams are a simple yet effective exercise. Lie on your back, lift both feet off the ground with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and put your fists between your knees with thumbs touching. Keeping your toes pointed up, swing your feet open and closed 25 times while keeping the fists together.
SACROILLIAC JOINT The SI joint, where the spine meets the pelvis, is another crucial component of a good rotary golf swing. To stretch it, lie on your back and hug a bent knee to your chest.
Hip Extensions will strengthen the SI. Stand tall and lift one leg straight back, moving from your hip joint and contracting your gluteus muscles; set of 12. Repeat with the other leg.
Lying Abdominal Contractions Lie on your back, lift your feet off the ground with bent knees, and push against your knees with your hands while contracting your abs; hold for three seconds and repeat nine times.