There are plenty of reasons why golf is so enjoyable. You get to head outside for some fresh air, stroll through a beautiful setting, enjoy social opportunities with friends and even challenge yourself to better your performance on the course. It can also be a relaxing sport — one that doesn’t feel as intense as something like dance classes or racquetball — which is a big part of its appeal. But just because golfing happens in a tranquil setting, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t engage your whole body or provide a good workout.
Think about all the movements and motions you make while golfing — walking, swinging, bending. This sport requires you to engage more muscle groups than you might think at first. And there’s a number of reasons why you should warm up your muscles before you start the takeaway on your first drive. Find out why and learn some common stretches you can do for each muscle group to ensure you’re in tip-top shape from tee to green.
Why Is It Important to Stretch Before Golfing?
Stretching before you’re active is vital. The reason? It keeps your muscles flexible and strong so you can maintain effective range of motion while you’re doing different movements. This is important, because, according to Harvard Health, without stretching “[your] muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.” And you want to prevent injuries while doing a sport you enjoy, not get them.
Stretching for golf has a number of benefits. These include protecting yourself from injuries as much as possible. Common golf-related symptoms and injuries affect your knees, back, shoulders and wrists. Stretching ensures your muscles are as flexible as possible to reduce your chances of an injury. Because you’re keeping your muscles flexible, you’re improving your swing and accuracy. Your movements become more fluid which, in exchange, makes your golfing technique better.
Stretching is also an important part of ensuring you keep your balance and strength — essential skills for golfers of all skill levels. This can increase your confidence because it minimizes disruptions that discomfort in your body can cause.
Knowing exactly which muscles need stretching and what stretching exercises are useful is also essential for staying in shape as a golf player, whether you’re working on your expert chip shot or you mainly enjoy playing golf for fun.
Which Muscles Do You Use in Golf?
To better understand which muscles you need to stretch, it’s important to get to know the muscles you use most when you play golf.
External abdominal obliques
When you rotate your torso and practice your swing, you’re using your external abdominal obliques. You can find this muscle group on the side of your torso, going from under your arm to your hip. Rotation is an important part of golfing, so you should pay extra attention to your external abdominal obliques when it comes to stretching.
Your torso isn’t the only part of your body that rotates during a golf swing. Your buttocks allow you to rotate your thighs and ensure you keep your balance during your swing. Balance is essential for a good swing, which is why it’s extremely important you utilize your gluteus maximus muscles — and stretch them.
Most commonly referred to as your chest muscles, the pectoralis major helps your arms extend and your shoulders flex. If you’re looking to make your movements more fluid, prioritize stretching your pectoralis major.
If you reach underneath your armpit and touch the mid-level spot on your back, you’re touching the latissimus dorsi muscle. This acts as a shoulder joint. This muscle is connected to the pectoralis major and helps you to rotate and extend your arm.
Last but definitely not least is your forearm. An important part of perfecting your technique is ensuring you have a proper grip on your club. This is what drives the ball to move in the direction you want it to go — with the intensity you need to get it there. Your forearm muscles include your flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor digitorum profundus and flexor pollicis longus. It’s important to engage each of these muscles when stretching in order to get the most out of your grip.
Warm Up Key Muscle Groups With These Stretches
Get your whole body limber and ready for a round with these helpful stretches.
An easy way to stretch your core and torso is to kneel on the floor with your left or right knee. Lengthen your spine and lift up your torso and your arms. Push into the hip opposite of the knee you’re kneeling on. Hold the position for a couple of seconds but make sure to stop if you’re uncomfortable. Then switch your knees and repeat. Repeat this exercise two or three times on each side.
Called the child’s pose, this is one of the easier stretches you can do to warm up your back muscles. Kneel on the ground with your hands outstretched and reaching forward. Rest your hips over your heels and your belly on your thighs. If reaching forward is uncomfortable, leave your hands resting alongside your body. Breathe deeply for a couple of seconds and let your entire body relax. Thanks to the simplicity and effectiveness of this pose, you can hold it for one minute at a time.
You can stretch your hip flexors by kneeling on one leg and bending the other in front of you, with that foot flat on the floor. Make sure your back is straight as you slowly push your hips forward. You should be able to feel the stretch in your upper thigh. Hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds and repeat several times on each side.
The cross-arm stretch is a simple way to keep your shoulders flexible. Stretch one arm out in front of your body at chest height and hold it with the elbow crease of your opposite arm. Push the outstretched arm toward your body and stretch your shoulders without twisting. Hold this for 30 seconds before switching arms and repeating the exercise.
An easy way to stretch your elbows and get your swing in great shape is to try a stretch called the elbow bend. To do this, stand up straight and relax your arm next to your body. Bend it upwards until your hand can touch your shoulder. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite arm. Do this set up to 10 times.
Warming up your wrists is essential for a good grip. You can do this by rolling your wrists in a circle a couple of times. Be sure to rotate both clockwise and counterclockwise, slowly. Then, place your palms together in front of your face with your elbows touching each other. Lower your palms to waist height and slowly spread apart your elbows. Keep this stretch for a couple of seconds until your hands are at the same height as your belly button.
Always remember to listen to your body. If a stretch feels uncomfortable, reduce the number of seconds you’re holding each pose or modify it until you reach a more comfortable position.
“The importance of stretching,” Harvard Health Publishing
“Play It Safe: Golf Injuries,” The Center for Orthopedic and Neurosurgical Care and Research
“Muscles Used in the Golf Swing,” SportsRec
“Healthy Lifestyle – Golf Stretches,” Mayo Clinic