Fitness Friday: When to stretch to avoid injury
*Editor's note: Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. This week he shows some excellent long-hold stretches that are great for your golf swing and can help prevent injury, especially if you know when to do them. Look for Saturday Morning Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.
Golf Digest *
Here's Ron: There's a growing belief among experts in the fitness community that long-hold stretching, known as "static" stretching, should be done after an athletic activity instead of before it. The reason they give, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ralph Simpson, is that long-hold stretches can actually hinder a muscle from firing correctly.
An amusing analogy to understand this concept is to think about your underwear. If you grab a pair of your BVDs and pull them apart for a second, they will snap back. If you pull them apart for an extended period of time, they won't snap back as much and might be too stretched out to wear. "Muscles are elastic and meant to expand and contract to move the body," says Simpson. "If they are held in an expanded position for too long, then you might struggle to get them to contract, which can really impact your coordination."
When you consider the sophisticated, well-timed movements required to swing a golf club, the last thing you want is for your muscles to be too loose to do what you need them to do. To be clear, stretching is terrific for the body. Things such as yoga and Pilates are great to help improve your hip and shoulder rotation, not to mention help avoid a trip to a back doctor. But if you're going to do long-hold stretches, it's best to wait until the end of your workout or round of golf. Simpson's recommendation is to hold each position for 20 seconds. You can repeat the stretch as many times as you like, and you should notice with each attempt that your flexibility improves. To see a demonstration of a half-dozen stretches golfers can do after a round or at home at night, click on the video below.