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Why should Golfers follow a conditioning program?

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With the Masters on this weekend I thought this would be an ideal time to answer a question that I get on a regular basis when Sam and I get injured Golfers come into the clinic for treatement.  Why condition golfers?  It's an easy sport that people play in their leisure time to unwind and relax isn't it.  You hit a ball, take a walk, hit a ball again, easy right?

Wrong!  The forces generated in long game shots are easily as high as any of those required for sports that are commonly regarded as far more physically demanding.  Studies of electrical activity in the muscles of golfers driving the ball have shown that this shot takes as much muscle activation (effort) as lifting a load in the gym that is so heavy you can't lift it more than four times!  That is an incredibly heavy lift!  Your gym instructor would have a heart attack if a novice lifter came into the gym and proceeded to try that lift!  Yet that's exactly what most golfers do.Add to the incredible level of effort needed to drive the ball the fact that you are also trying to drive the ball to a specific space on the green you are now combining a huge amount of force generation with a level of accuracy similar to target shooting and all the fine control that that brings with it.  Your margin for error is now very, very small.  To make a successful drive you'll need to generate all that power whilst simultaneously maintaining optimal angle of attack, club-face alignment and strike with the sweet spot.  All of this requires a tremendous level of neuromuscular conditioning, flexibility and muscle balance to reproduce time and time again.

The majority of players will score around 85 for an 18 hole round of golf, and try though they might they'll never break through the 80 mark.  This is because they don't have the appropriate muscle balance, static stability and dynamic stability to maintain their swing path.  De-conditioned muscles fatigue quickly and as they do so the body recruits different muscles to try and spare the fatigued fibres from injury.  This means your brain has an tremendous calculation to make trying to maintain club-face alignment, angle of attack etc etc through differing swing paths.  All of which tanks your ability to consistently produce good shots and your score gets worse and worse.

So that's score taken care of but what if I don't really care about my score, what if I just like to play for fun with my friends?  Why should I be interested in golf conditioning?

Well, all those same physical factors that control your ability to reproduce consistently good shots also make you less likely to develop injuries.  A lack of muscle balance and flexibility in the shoulder will quickly overwork the muscles that are compensating for the imbalance.  As they fatigue the joint will start to loose it's ability to decelerate the massive forces acting on the shoulder during the swing.  as the shoulder looses it's ability to decelerate those forces it will start to rely on connective tissue support to stop the swing.  That's going to irritate that shoulder something fierce (it's exactly what causes tendinitis and golfers elbow) and you're going to be playing around 80 odd shots if you're an average golfer.  That's a lot of irritation and you will at some point get injured.  Is that fun?  Conditioning for you is a means to enjoying your golf pain free, the bonus is that you'll start playing better too and beating friends is always fun! ;)

So there you have it.  Should you condition yourself for Golf?  If you want to play better Golf, or if you want to play injury free then yes.  Otherwise no, carry on and I'll help you rehab your injured back, shoulder or elbow when it does give out.

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