Many golfers and recreational athletes fail to make this important distinction, which can inhibit your performance and make you more susceptible to injury. Basically, you never want to stretch a cold muscle, so elevating your body’s core temperature is an essential thing to do before stretching.
There are five basic types of stretching (watch the video), each of which will accomplish different things:
A muscle is taken to a point of stretch and held there for a period of time. The muscle is then relaxed and the process is repeated. This can improve range of motion, but does not really increase the body’s core temperature.
Similar to static stretching, but with a partner who slowly stretches you. It is important that your partner be careful and make sure not to overstretch you, which can cause injury.
This involves active motions during which you gradually increase their range and speed. Good examples of dynamic stretching are arm circles, leg swings and squats. I like this form of stretching as it often mimics the sport you play and takes you through a full variety of movements.
In this case, you take a muscle past its normal range of motion. This is a much more aggressive form of stretching that invokes something called the stretch reflex–the muscles contract to fight against the bouncing. It is often done by elite athletes once their body is fully warmed up. I would not recommend this without proper supervision from a trained professional as it can increase your risk of injury.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or “contract, relax stretching,” is usually done with a partner. The partner pushes the athlete to a stretched position, then the athlete pushes back and holds the contraction. This can be very effective for increased range of motion.
As mentioned above, stretching for golf is very different from warming up your body. At TPI, our philosophy is that you should always warm the body up before stretching any muscle. Believe it or not, this can be done simply by making a few slow-motion golf swings, walking some stairs, or just doing a few squats–anything to get the heart rate up and the body moving through a complete range of motion.
WHOOP can be quite useful here to monitor our increase in heart rate and strain. Once we see that HR spike we can then move into more of an active stretching routine to help distract the joints and stretch the fascia on top of the muscle.
My favorite form of stretching (after the body is warmed up) is relatively new, but is being used by many of today’s elite golfers. It is called ELDOA, which my friend Dan Hellman is an expert on. Incorporating some of these stretches into your program can do some amazing things for anyone’s range of motion.
More from TPI Co-Founder Dave Phillips:
4 Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Golf Game
Getting Back to Golf: A Great Form of Exercise Right Now