I always tell my golfing clients that they better stretch before they play, no exceptions. In addition to daily flexibility, there is a huge need for working on range of motion, especially in the rotational plane.
According to Vivian Eisenstadt MAPT, CPT, MASP, Sports Physical Therapist at Vivie Therapy in Los Angeles, “Because we sit so much due to computers and cars, the muscle in our back called our trapezius (or traps) start to compensate for our trunk movements, leading to a weak core and an overused neck. For that reason, in sports such as golf, people must be aware of where they’re getting momentum from and should stretch their neck and lower back before playing. In addition, I recommend performing core rotational movements to pattern their body into choosing movement for their swing from their obliques and transverse abdominals instead of their neck and lower back.”
The programs that Ms. Vivian talk about are very important to do regularly. The following program is for the golfer or for any recreational athlete whose mechanics involve rotation of the spine (such as tennis players and even baseball players). Please note that if you have any orthopedic issues, you should always be cleared by your doctor before participating in any new fitness programming and before playing your sport. Enjoy these exercises and be sure to move slow and concisely. You may do each exercise 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets.
1) Side Lying Rotations:
Start lying on your side with your bottom shoulder propped underneath you. You might need a rolled up towel under your neck to avoid your neck going into deep lateral flexion (you can see my neck is too flexed in the first photo and should have had a towel). Think clam shells of your upper body. Knees tucked up towards your chest. Very slowly inhale your top arm to open up towards the opposite wall. Reach through your finger tips so that you can truly open up your shoulder girdle and utilize your stabilizer muscles in the shoulders, lengthening and contracting the muscles in the lats, obliques, rhomboids, shoulders and arms. Repeat 10 reps slowly and then switch sides. See exercise demonstration HERE.
This exercise is fabulous for undulating the spine. Think of a slow moving snake, like the ones from your childhood that were made of wood and squirmed slowly as you held it. The goal is to bring your spine through a range of motion in your sagittal plane working the spine through flexion and extension. In cat pose, you should push your hands firmly into the ground, hollow your belly and send your upper back skyward. On cow, simply drop your belly towards the ground and send your tailbone towards the sky. You have the option to glance up or keep your gaze down if your neck is sore. The goal is to bring the spine into extension on cow pose, so send your chest between your arms and keep your arms engaged, and hands sealed into the ground. Go very slowly and repeat for 10 reps. See exercise demonstration HERE.
3) Bird/Dog with Leg and Arm:
This exercise is all about stability and core activation. There is a cat/cow component to it which adds spinal flexion and slight extension. Set yourself up in table top position, hands directly under the shoulders and knees directly underneath the hips. Slowly extend your leg back and point your toes to the ground. Avoid arching your lower back. Reach your opposite hand forward with your palm facing in, and your arm in alignment with your ear. Lengthen through the fingers and heel of the foot to feel all the fascia in your body engaged. Exhale the breath as you drive your elbow to your knee and pause. Find stability, then add mobility, extending your leg back and your arm forward. Do 10 precise reps. Then switch sides. See exercise demonstration HERE.
4) Three Legged Dog with Knee to Opposite Elbow:
Start in down-dog with your feet hip distanced apart and your hands shoulder distanced apart. Bend both knees to first send your hips back, keeping pressure out of the wrists and hands. Slowly descend your heels to the ground and drop your head in between your arms. Breathe deeply. On your inhale, extend your right leg back towards the back wall. Keep grounding through your hands and left foot. Keep your right hip squared to the ground. On the exhale, slowly draw the right leg in through the middle of your body and to the left elbow. Pause. Inhale the leg back towards the back wall to 3 legged down dog. Repeat the crunch on the exhale for 10 reps on each side. See exercise demonstration HERE.
5) Lunge with Rotation:
Starting in a lunge position, with your right foot forward and left leg back, be sure to keep your stance short where you aren’t hyper-extending your back hip, but long enough where your front knee is tracking directly over the front ankle and not in front of the ankle. Tuck your back hip slightly so that your hips and lower back remain neutral. Once you are set up, bring your arms forward and slowly rotate your arms to the side of your front leg. So if your right leg is forward, then you rotate your trunk to the right. Be sure to keep your hips straight and rotate through the obliques. On the way forward land in should extension, flying your arms back, with palms facing forward. Repeat 10 times then switch sides. See exercise demonstration HERE.
6) 4 Point Shoulder Mobility:
Standing tall with your feet grounded and your spine erect, bring your arms up skyward with your palms facing in. Cactus your arms, drawing your elbows down towards the ground and palms facing forward. On the inhale, reach up towards the sky again and open twist to the left. Keep your hips facing forward and keep your gaze going over the left shoulder in alignment with the left hand. Inhale your arms up and back to center, and on the exhale, switch to the right. Inhale back to center and either repeat cactus arms or draw your arms down to your sides and then repeat the whole sequence 10 times. See exercise demonstration HERE.
Photo and Video credits: Nancy Sharpe