The reason for incorporating a warmup into a golfer’s routine is to physically prepare the body for the stresses it is about to endure. Even weekend players typically hit balls on the range as a warm up before a round so the body is somewhat ready to play the course ahead. On the PGA Tour, I typically break warm-ups down into three categories: cardio, mobility and dynamic warm-up activities. That allows a golfer to get their body warm, get it moving, get the blood flowing and to raise the heart rate. Let’s have a look at all three in detail:
The types of cardio we do vary from one PGA Tour event to the next, and depend on the equipment we have at a host course. The cardio is usually low impact, around about 50 per cent of your max heart rate. Looking at the old formulas for determining the maximum impact (intensity) of the workout one wants to do, that’s usually 220 minus your age and divide by the percentage. But before a round, a PGA Tour athlete will want to do about 50 per cent of that or at most, 75 per cent, to get the blood flowing. Getting the blood flowing opens the body up. At events where we have a gym and good equipment, I’ll have my athletes do 5 to 10 minutes on a on a treadmill at 55 per cent max heart rate. It can be an elliptical trainer, depending on how you want to warm up that system. Occasionally I’ll get them to jump on the bike for its low-impact benefits for 5 to 10 minutes.
If we don’t have the equipment at a certain tournament, the workout can be a little circuit involving some step-ups - slow and low. Nothing too strenuous. It can also be a light jog around a player’s rented house or on the range.
2. Mobility The goal of the mobility segment it is to improve ranges of motion within the joins and improve muscle lengths that are short when stationary. For example, if you're a person who sits in a seat for work, you're going to have some pelvic restrictions. With the guys on the PGA Tour, they have postural issues in relation to what they do every day which is swing a golf club over and over. We're trying to reduce the tension or issues PGA Tour athletes have in their bodies. If they've got a flexed thoracic position, the mobility exercise I’ll have them do is using a foam roller to roll out your their mid-back area to try and get extension so that when they’re in a upright position during the golf swing, they’ll be able to rotate without locking out through their vertebral segments.
I’ll also get the athletes to do a 90-90’s, an exercise that goes through internal and external rotation of the hips. We go through hip tractions and that's done with a band. It's a nice big solid green band which you put around one of the legs of a of a squat rack and then on the inside of the thigh and you step out a couple of feet. You want some traction pulling and distracting to the hip joint. Sometimes our joints get a little bit sticky if a muscle is shut down or ligaments are a little bit tight. Over a period of 2 minutes, we’re trying to open up that joint so that it's going to allow a greater range of motion.
Next up would be foam-rolling the athletes’ thighs and hamstrings and trying to get the ankle ranges of motion working. If they don't have good dorsiflexion in their ankles, that can impact on their ability to transition the weight and speed during the swing. We’re then working through mobility exercises for the knees and we focus a little bit on the neck as well.
3. Dynamic warm-up
The dynamic warmup is a category to prepare the body for the high intensity stuff. Specifically, that’s looking at stimulating the athlete’s neuromuscular systems to the point where if you wanted a maximal contraction, your body would have movement solutions available for it.
The exercises that we're looking at here are more correlated and explosive. We're looking at some ballistic movements, we're looking at pushing the body a little bit faster into those uncertain ranges of motions. We want to get a feel for how our body is going to have that mind-body connection. So, we’ll do some skipping, vertical jumps, bear crawling exercises to try and recruit our deep abdominal core systems, some throwing activities, some rotational work and some powerband work.
The bottom line for warming up is this: a golfer should always warm up before a round to both prevent injury and to swing it to the best of your ability. PGA Tour athletes have complex warm-up routines but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick some exercises from each of the three categories I’ve mentioned and perform those before your next game. Consult a physiotherapist or trainer about golf-specific warm-ups and put them in play before your next trip to the course!
Cheers, Nic Catterall
About Nic Catterall/Peak Power Golf
Nic Catterall is an Australian high-performance coach, specializing in strength and conditioning, musculoskeletal therapy and sports science, for professional golfers on the PGA Tour in the U.S.A. Nic works with Cam Smith, Luke List, Matt Jones, Dylan Frittelli and Hank Lebioda. Nic created the Peak Power Golf company to educate about the athleticism of golfers and what they are capable of. Peak Power Golf provides online training, athlete mentoring and athlete assessments.