Driving Home the Need for Balance

The Asymmetry of Golf

By Chaz Hudd

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2000.

Golf is a unique physical activity in that it is all “one way.” That is, right-handed golfers are constantly rotating from left to right, and vice versa for lefties. This puts strain in certain muscles, such as the obliques, which can pull the spine out of alignment. Every swing creates torque on the spine, as well as shifting the sacrum.

According to certified massage therapist Scott Mathison, owner of Total Health Center in Elm Grove, Wis., the most common injuries incurred by golfers are to the back and knees. These are caused mainly by the twisting involved in swinging a golf club. Many long-time golfers complain that their games deteriorate over the years due to pain and stiffness. Mathison offers these tips for golfers to help avoid problems and possibly shave a few strokes off their scores.

A right-handed golfer, Carolyn Baker demonstrates her effort to swing the opposite direction. It might feel unnatural, but it will strengthen those underused muscles for greater balance. Balance: Warm up by swinging the opposite way (than what you normally do) to strengthen those muscles and better balance the body. It is also helpful to do this after completing a round.

Stretch: Strengthen the transverse oblique muscle by reaching as high as you can over your head and blow all the air out of your lungs. Also, be sure to stretch the legs. Focusing on the quadriceps and hamstrings also stretches the lower back. Another good stretch is the Quad Stretch – Holding a club for balance, grasp the foot and bring it toward the buttocks.

Proper Warm-Up: Begin swinging with the shortest irons and gradually work your way up to the driver. The driver is longer, thereby creating more torque to swing. This creates more stress on your back, arms and legs. Warming up is imperative.

Abdominal Crunches: When done properly, crunches will strengthen the oblique area. Compress the ribs without pulling your legs toward your head. Touch the right elbow to the left knee, the left elbow to the right knee.

Regular Weight Training: As in most athletic activities, weight training or resistance programs can help balance muscles in the body.

Drink Plenty of Water: The key is to drink water before you are thirsty. As the body ages, you lose some ability to know when you are thirsty. The body needs to be well-lubricated to function properly, as it is 70 percent water.