Golf Health – Misbehaving muscles – a guide to warming up

Tight muscles are short and unhealthy, making them prone to injury. Muscles work as a team in a group for any given movement – so, if there is a tight muscle, restricted in movement somewhere, another muscle will be affected and could become weak. This will destabilise a whole limb (or other body part) and will affect your swing as well as putting you at risk of injury.

The golf swing is one-sided and will create tight or weak muscles, while imbalances in the muscular system will affect the swing. This becomes a vicious cycle, which needs breaking to prevent these muscular problems causing, or being caused by misalignments in the joints in the spine and pelvis, which will need chiropractic attention.

So how do you know exactly where your muscular problems are?

You may already be aware of some areas of tightness –As a rough guide;

Do you have a stiff, aching lower back in the mornings? Is it difficult to bend down to tie your shoelaces? Do you have difficulty reaching back to put your arm into your coat? Can you reach higher up the back with one arm than the other? Can you look further to the right or the left when rotating the head? If this is the case then you probably have tight low back, hamstring, pectoral, shoulder and neck muscles.

How is your posture?

Get your partner to look at you standing in your normal relaxed pose, from the side. A healthy posture – free of tight major postural muscles – will show a straight vertical line down from the ear, through the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip and knee to the ankle.

Classic postural problems include ‘anterior head carriage’, where the neck points forward at almost 45 degrees from vertical, the chin juts forward and the shoulders are rounded.

If this is the case with you, then you will have tight pectoral muscles, tight upper trapezius muscles and tight upper neck muscles (you will also have weak shoulder stabilizer muscles and lower trapezius and you may be prone to tension and pain around the lower neck and upper back).

If your knees are forward of the vertical line, then you will have tight hamstring, gluteal and hip flexor muscles, making you prone to lower back weakness. Both of these conditions will affect your fluidity of swing – and, alas, they are very common for us in the western world.

Everyone has their own set of particular problems and a qualified professional should assess them so that a specific remedy can be implemented. However, if you follow the generalised pre-game warm-up routine in this article and do the stretches in the series – you will target all the main problem areas in the body and start to improve your all round game. The main change to your golfing routine should be to turn up at the course half an hour before tee time – give yourself time to warm-up and loosen off. Top-level golfers allow a good one and a half hours for this! Try this routine:


Start with a brisk walk (or jog if you feel that way inclined!). A few minutes of this will increase your heart rate and body temperature, increase the blood supply to the muscles and prepare you for stretching and the forthcoming activity levels. Take advantage of this time to concentrate on how your body feels. If you get a sense that a certain muscle group is particularly tight you can increase the time spent on it during the stretching routine.


This routine is not set in stone, so you can add or remove individual exercises as you wish, according to what suits you.

When stretching any area except the legs, try to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Remember, stretching is not a competition, just stretch as far as you feel comfortable and hold at that point. Take care to breathe normally and if you start to hurt either ease up or stop.

1. Cross your ankles with your legs straight. Bend forward from the waist and let your body and arms hang forward. (two full breaths – in and out, each leg).

2. Support yourself against an immovable object such as a wall or tree trunk. Put one leg forward and bend the front knee so that it is over the front foot. The back leg is kept in line with the body, with the knee straight and the heel pressed against the floor. (two breaths each leg) Caution: Don’t arch your back.

3. Stretch your arms out straight above your head, with your fingers interlocked and palms upwards. (two breaths).

4. Stretch one arm up and grasp the bent elbow, behind the head, with the opposite hand. Increase the stretch by pulling the elbow towards the opposite side. (two breaths each side).

5. Move one arm across your body so that the elbow is at the same level as the opposite shoulder. Then pull the elbow towards the shoulder with the opposite hand or forearm. (two breaths each side)

6. Looking slightly down, straighten your arms behind you and interlock your fingers with the palms towards your back. Raise your arms as far as you can behind you and hold. (two breaths).

7. Put the palm of your hand behind an immovable object such as a tree or doorframe with the arm straight and held at shoulder height. Then turn your body away from your hand keeping your arm straight and making sure to keep your shoulders in line with your hips. (two breaths each side) Note: Try this stretch with the hand at different heights above the horizontal. If you find a particularly tight position it may be useful to add this to your routine.

8. Pull your head to one side with your hand stretched over the head to apply pressure. Turn your head slightly towards the side of stretch (two breaths each side).

9. Interlock your fingers and keep your elbows and wrists together. Rotate your wrists ten times each direction.

10. Put your arm straight out in front of you with the palm down. Grasp the back of the hand gently and pull the palm towards the body. (two breaths each side).

11. Support yourself against something steady and raise your foot off the ground in front of you. Simply rotate the ankle ten times in each direction.

12. Grab one of your ankles behind you the hand on the same side. Pull the foot towards the buttock and slowly extend your hip, moving your knee behind you. (two breaths each side) Caution: Don’t arch your back.

13. Kneel on one knee with the other (front) knee above the front foot. You can rest your hands on your front thigh if you feel more comfortable. You are stretching the muscles at the front of the back leg and bending the front knee increases the effect. (two breaths each side).

14. Put a club behind your back and hold it with your elbows. Twist to each side alternately and do 10 times each side. Note: Don’t do this one too vigorously – a slow, steady stretch will suffice.

15. Hold a club above your head with your arms out straight and your hands a shoulder-width apart. Bend from the waist alternately 10 times to each side. Again a slow, steady stretch is what is needed.


Firstly loosen up with a couple of long, slow swings with a couple of woods held together. Having warmed and stretched now is the time to have a few practice swings. Don’t do too many, you really don’t need to. Try a few shots with five or six clubs, such as four irons and two woods. Then a couple of chips and a few putts to get the roll of the greens… and that’s about it.

Improved body performance equals improved golf performance – guaranteed! Contact Dr. Christopher Ford, PGA Golf Health Clinician and UK Registered Chiropractor, at Algarve Golf Health, Pinheiros Altos. Telephone 289 359 997.