PRIMED FOR PAR
Simple warm-up can shave strokes off of your game
By Chandra Orr
Copley News Service
Golf is a surprisingly physical sport.
As with any sport, athletes need a proper warm-up to play a great game. And, no, the first three holes don't count.
A good warm-up literally warms the muscles - and warm muscles are more efficient, more elastic, more forceful and less prone to injury. The goal is to ease the muscles into their full range of motion by gradually increasing the intensity and force of movement.
"With the proper warm-up, you can easily shave five to seven strokes off your game immediately," said golf and fitness instructor Bobby Kelly, founder of Results Only in Paradise Valley, Ariz..
"For many golfers, the first couple of shots are errant, but if your muscles are warmed up and you have a full range of motion, you're less likely to have penalty strokes and missed hits in the first couple of holes."
Ten to 15 minutes of aerobic activity and gradual stretching is all it takes to hit the first tee with intensity.
"A lot of golfers think that the first stroke doesn't count, but it does, so you want to make sure you're ready for it when it comes," Kelly said. "You want your body to be ready to go out and play an efficient golf game."
Before you hit the links, spend some time easing into the game with these simple exercises, guaranteed to get your body primed for hitting par:
- Walk it off. Park in the back of the lot and walk to the course. That vigorous 3 to 5 minute hike will awaken tired muscles and help increase your core body temperature. The short burst of aerobic activity will increase your heart rate and prime your body for stretching exercises.
"You just need a few minutes to open up the joints, get some mobility in your muscles and get your core temperature up," Kelly said.
- Take mini swings. Grab your favorite 7-iron or 9-iron wedge and spend a few minutes taking short, gentle swings. Your range of motion should be minimal at this point. The goal is to awaken the core muscle groups, not power-drive the ball. With a gentle back and forth motion, swing from the 9 o'clock to the 3 o'clock position. Ten to 15 repetitions should be all it takes to loosen up your core region.
"The gluts, the lower back muscles, the abdominal muscles - that's the mainstay. That's the engine of your golf swing," Kelly explained.
- Limber up. Adopt your golf stance, and hold the same golf club across the back of your shoulders with one hand on the handle and the other hand on the blade. Point the end of the club at the tee then slowly rotate at your waist until the opposite end of the club is pointed at the tee. Ten to 15 repetitions of this torso-twisting exercise will warm up the hips and abdominal wall and lengthen key muscles.
"You should be starting to feel the full range of motions that you want when you get to the first tee," Kelly explained.
- Lunge into it. To play a strong, solid game, you need your legs. Walking lunges loosen up the quads, gluteal muscles and hamstrings. You may get a few odd looks on the links, but 10 to 12 stalwart lunges on each side will set the tone for a proper golf swing.
"I work with a lot of PGA golfers, and I insist on them doing this," Kelly said.
- Put your back into it. Adopt your golf stance, and hold your club with one hand on the handle and the other on the blade. With the club at shoulder height, keep your eye on the tee while performing a full back swing. Again, 10 to 12 repetitions should be all you need to loosen up the back and chest muscles.
- Drive it home. If you've been diligent with your warm-up exercises, you should be ready for the first tee after a few practice shots at the driving range.
"Most people go out and try to hit 100 balls before they play, but if you hit 15 to 20 balls and focus on your pre-shot routine and mechanics, you're good to go," Kelly said.
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