Part of the core of our business is golf flexibility through golf stretches and golf exercises. So it surprises some golfers over 50 when I advise them to not stretch.
Although stretching is vital to the health and effectiveness of your golf game, their are 4 instances when stretching could cause injury, increase your risk of injury, and possibly ruin your golf swing.
What is the Goal and Benefit of Stretching
It is important to first be clear about what you should be trying to achieve when you stretch. You want to increase your range of motion by elongating your muscles and tendons. The longer they are, the more consistent and powerful your golf swing will be.
1. More Consistent and Powerful Golf
When we work with senior golfers and golfers over 50, we often find that stiff and short muscles and tendons prevent them from making a good swing with correct and basic fundamentals. We want you to stretch so you can perform the correct fundamentals to play better golf.
2. Decrease Injuries
In addition, if your muscle and tendons have shortened due to not stretching, you have a much higher risk of injuring yourself. Injuries are expensive to correct and no fun because you usually have to give up golf for a while…if not permanently.
Having said that, there are certain situations in which stretching can also be potentially harmful to your health and your swing.
…when you wake up or have been inactive.
We will begin in the morning when you wake up and get out of bed. We all want to stretch out a little but should be relatively cautious.
When you have been sleeping or non mobile for more than 30 minutes, your tendons, ligaments and muscles will stiffen up.
Muscle and tendon stiffness is different than muscle and tendon shortness.
As a result, stretching muscles that are “stiff” will not elongate them. In addition, stretching muscles before they are made pliable can result in muscle tearing/strains and prolonged pain and injury.
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…when you or your muscles are cold.
A good analogy for stretching muscles and tendons is stretching out a rubber band. When a warm rubber band is stretched, it is able to elongate fully and easily. However, when a cold rubber band is stretched, what happens?
The same is true with you. If you stretch when you are cold, you run a higher risk of injury. Cold muscles are “stiff.” you need to warm up the muscles to make them more pliable and, thus, safer to stretch.
Stretching muscles when they are cold and stiff, will not improve their flexibility or your range of motion. It is essentially a waste of time and ineffective.
…before you play golf.
This is a difficult concept for many golfers over 50, and younger, to accept. Since our first PE class, we have been taught to stretch before you play. Stretching has long been accepted as a way to reduce your risk of injury before you play a sport.
Research over the past 20 years have proven this to be inaccurate to the degree that stretching before you play can increase your risk of injury.
As mentioned earlier, stretching when you are cold is ineffective and could also cause injury. But also, stretches held for longer than 7 seconds decrease your bodies ability to prevent injury.
Science Stuff…avoid reading if necessary!
You have special sensors in tendons and ligaments that perform the duty of early intervention and correction of any movement that it feels could cause an injury.
For instance, when people sprain their ankles it is usually due to the foot rolling outwards quickly. Your injury prevention sensors detect that the ligaments/tendons are being stretched at a speed that could cause an injury. They send this message to the spinal cord which relays an emergency response to the muscles in your leg to counteract the movement to reduce the injury. The faster and stronger your sensors send the message, the more likely you could avoid an injury.
Holding stretches for longer than 7 seconds, cause these sensors to react slowly. This inhibits their ability to detect any movement that could cause an injury, which, increases the chance that your body will not react in time to stop or slow the movement.
…while you are playing golf.
Again, when I mention stretching, I am specifically referencing holding a stretch or longer than 7 seconds. That is approximately the time when your protective sensors will be negatively affected.
You should avoid stretching during your round of golf for the same reason you should avoid it before you play golf: to prevent your protective sensors from shutting down.
What You Should Do Instead
For all of the four situations listed above, you should avoid stretched position for longer than 7 seconds and focus on warming up the muscles instead. What you really want from your muscles right before you play is for them to be more pliable.
Again, think of the rubber band that is warmed up. You would have to work much harder to stretch the band to the breaking point. That is exactly what we want your muscles to be like when you begin a dynamic and high velocity motion like swinging the driver.
You can increase your golf performance and reduce your risk of injury by following our dynamic golf warm up before and while you play. It’s free, take a look:
If you would like to read more on this topic and our dynamic warm up, you can review our previously published article here: Don’t Stretch, Dynamic Warm Up for Golf.
PS. Remember, that stretching at all other times is highly recommended! If you want to improve your flexibility, try our latest DVD: Age Defying Golf Ez. 100% guaranteed because I know it will work for you. I still use it myself.
Thanks for reading!!!
Dr. Ryan York, DPT CGS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Golf Performance Specialist
Age Defying Golf