Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stretching Routine

Upon further reading of “Complete Conditioning for Golf,” by Pete Draovitch and Ralph Simpson, I prepared a daily stretching routine to help increase my flexibility as I begin this crazy journey.

In my preliminary assessment, I found deficiencies in the following areas:

Hip Mobility – After doing the squats required for the test, I couldn’t help but feel that my right hip was slightly higher than my left as I performed the exercise.

Upper Back (Ribcage) Rotation – I experienced tightness in my left side when I turned to the right. At the time, I didn’t see a problem with this, as I could simply wreak havoc with my follow-thru. But, as it turns out, unless I increase my flexibility in this area, I’m limiting my rotation and therefore my ability to coil properly on the backswing. This, of course, can lead to a loss of power, and I’m not freakin’ letting that happen.

Weight-Bearing Lower Body Rotation – Although the angles I created with my hips met the requirements, I still feel I need to loosen them up a bit.

Abdominal Strength – While I was up against a wall pretending to sit in a chair, I couldn’t help but notice how difficult it was to keep my lower back against the wall while I raised each foot. While I would like to blame this indiscretion on my abdominal strength, I think my lower back also had a part in this. If my lower back were stronger, I could’ve forced it to remain stationary on the wall. So in addition to abdominal work, I need to figure out a way to increase my lower-back strength as well, if for no other reason than to prevent it from hurting like a bitch after an hour on the putting green. Standing over the same putts can hurt your back after a while. Man I’m getting old.

Lateral Torso Endurance – In trying to support myself on one elbow, I couldn’t help but notice that my right side felt weaker than my left.

Push-ups – Although I was able to do 30, I don’t think it would be too hard to get above 36 or 40. I remember reading somewhere that push-ups are really good for your golf swing, so it can’t hurt.

Static Balance Test – Again, this test pissed me off more than any other. I mean, how hard is it to balance on one foot? Apparently I’m no Shawn Johnson. My best time so far on one foot is 8 seconds. I have to get over 10. In fact, make it 15 seconds.

Before I share the routine I’m going to use, I thought I’d share a few things from my reading thus far.

Firstly, greater amounts of force can be delivered when a muscle is pre-stretched before performing an activity demanded of it. When a muscle is pre-stretched, it creates “elastic recoil” that applies additional force for a more powerful contraction of the muscle. This pre-stretching procedure is called “preloading the muscle.”

Another interesting concept I found in this book relates to “escape routes.” When there is (or are) a glaring restriction in your range of movement or flexibility, your body compensates by moving around the problem or adding excessive pressure and stress on another area, and that area can become easily injured.

Come to think of it, I can think of a time when I had a GLARING escape route. Maybe some of you can relate: until a friend of mine pointed it out, I was sliding my hips toward the target on the downswing, instead of rotating them. My poor hip rotation caused a lateral “shearing” of my spine. Granted, I was only 25 at the time, so my youth might have saved me a bit. But you get the point: a good range of motion can help prevent injury in the long run.

So, keeping these issues in mind as well as using my previous evaluation, I put together the following routine:

Spine Rotation Recovery

90/90 Side-Lying Stretch – Lie on your side with your legs in the fetal position. Rotate your top shoulder down toward the floor, and stop at the first barrier of movement. Hold for 30 seconds. Then, straighten the knee of your top leg while extending your top arm up and behind you, and hold for 30 seconds. Do the same on the other side.

Standing Wall Twist – With your back 6-8 inches away from the wall, turn like you’re making a backswing, placing your right palm against the wall and crossing your left to reach. Hold for 20-30 seconds, and do the same on the other side.

Extension of Middle Back and Ribcage

Extensions – Roll a towel and place it just under your shoulder blades on the floor. Arch your back, keeping your lower back on the floor; support your head using your hands. Only hold this for 2-3 seconds, and then move the rolled-up towel on top of your shoulder blades, repeating the exercise. Do it once more where the towel is just above your shoulder blades.

As an aside, I really didn’t get the point of that last one, but I did feel SOMETHING happen. So I guess that’s good.

Pectoral and Neck Stretch – Grasp your hands behind your back and move them away, keeping your shoulders stationary. Turn your head to the left and hold, and then do the same on the right side.

Hip Rotation Recovery

Supine Figure Four Hip Rotation – Lie on your back with the towel supporting your head. Your legs should look as if you’re sitting in a chair, at 90 degrees, with your feet flat against the wall. Raise your right foot and rest it on your left knee, pressing against your right knee to feel the stretch in your hips. Do this on each side at least once.

Crossover Stretch – Similar to the last stretch, except after you rest your right foot on your left knee, you’re going to pull your knee toward your chest. Stop if you feel a pinching sensation in your groin (definitely). Repeat exercise on the other side.

Hip Extension

Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch – Kneel with your right knee on the floor, and lean forward towards your left foot. Raise your right arm and bend your upper body to the left. Do the same on the other side.

Side-Lying Quad – Get on your side in the fetal position, and prop yourself up on an elbow. Grab the ankle on the top leg and pull the heel toward your butt, keeping your bottom leg in the fetal position. Repeat 1-2 times on each leg.

And that’s about it. Other than spending 5-10 minutes with a brisk walk outside to get the muscles ready to stretch, I think I can get this whole routine down to under 20 minutes a day. The book recommends doing it every day for 4-5 weeks, because after that point, even if you’re only able to stretch for 1 day per week, you will have still attained long-range benefits from your exercises. Granted, I’m not going to be stretching like this before I go out to play. I would imagine there are pre-round “minor” stretches I’m going to learn soon for that.

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