Why golfers need mobility (updated)

by | Apr 3, 2022 | News Articles

Most golfers focus on hitting the gym to increase their strength, which can lead to increased speed, power and longer drives. However, in a largely sedentary world, mobility issues are common, leading to reduced flexibility, lower swing speeds and more golf injuries. If a golfer is lacking the mobility to go through a full golf swing, then being stronger won’t make a huge difference to your overall golf game. Golfers need to first work on being able to achieve the full range of motion required during the golf swing before worrying about getting strong. There are two main reasons why mobility can be so important in your golf game:

  1. Your mobility, or lack thereof, affects the degree or force of your swing mechanics.
  2. Your mobility dictates your clubhead speed and the length of your backswing.

How to increase your mobility?

Ankles: The ankles play a key role in your ability to get into the correct golf posture and consistency with striking the ball.  Poor ankle mobility (specifically dorsiflexion), leads to a faulty set up posture, swing pattern and loss of balance during the swing.

How to improve mobility in the ankles: Use a golf club and stand in a split stance where the back leg is stretched out. Keeping the back foot as flat as possible, bend the back knee until you feel a stretch in your lower calf. Ensure you keep the weight on the back leg and heel firmly placed on the ground. Hold this for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat for 10 reps.

Hips: The mobility of the hip swing is considered one of the defining features that set apart lower and higher handicappers. Having the ability to rotate fully through the hips (internally and externally) has been shown to produce a more effective swing, which produces more power and speed. Lack of hip rotation has also been strongly linked with lower back compensations and golf related lower back pain.

How to increase mobility in the hips: Get down on the floor on all fours with your hips over your knees and shoulders over the hands. Begin a hip circle by creating an imaginary circle with your knee. Keep your knee flexed and your body rigid to create greater stability. One way to ensure this to is imagine that there is a glass of water placed on your back that you cannot knock over. Once you complete 10 hip circles in one direction, repeat it in the other direction. Next, move to the opposite leg and repeat the process.

Shoulders: Shoulders and rotator cuffs are susceptible to injuries with the range of motion deteriorating over time, especially in golfers. However, mobility of the shoulders helps generate increased clubhead speed and control. Lack of shoulder mobility will lead to shoulder, elbow and thoracic spine injuries.

How to increase mobility in the shoulders: Stand up straight and make arm circles as wide as you can. After one arm circle, change the direction with control and without losing momentum. Repeat this 10 times to build strength and mobility in the shoulders.

Thoracic Spine (upper back): Have you ever heard a golfer say, “I’ve lost my turn?” This is usually associated with the turn of their shoulder or rotation of the thoracic spine. Mobility of the thoracic spine allows adequate rotation for the swing and increases clubhead speed. Decreased mobility in the thoracic spine leads to compensations with the lower back and an increase in lower back pain and injury.

How to increase mobility in the upper back: Kneel in a 90-degree position on the floor with your fingertips touching either side of your head. Spread your elbows out. It is important that the knee of the rear leg and the foot of the front leg are positioned directly below the hips. From this position, rotate your torso in the direction of the lead leg as much as possible. Ensure your lower body remains stable and does not move with the torso. After 10 twists, switch legs and repeat on the other side.

Neck – During your backswing, you will need a certain amount of neck rotation. If your neck mobility is restricted, you will have a faulty swing pattern with a limited backswing.

How to increase mobility in the neck: The upper trapezius stretch helps the large muscle from the skull to the upper back. Touch your back with your left arm and move your right ear towards your right shoulder. Use your right hand to place your head in such a position that your nose points towards the left side of the hip. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds for 3 reps. Repeat this on the opposite side as well.

If you want to know if you’re restricted in any particular body part, try doing the overhead squat test, which is a great way to look at the shoulder, thoracic spine, hip and ankle mobility.

Want more guidance on the benefits of mobility? Get assessed at Sheddon Physiotherapy Oakville, where Erin Shapcott has completed her golf-specific rehabilitation courses and can help answer any of your questions.

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