Mobility and Flexibility: Myths, Truths, and Why It’s Important in Golf
Mobility is hot on the streets right now!
As a Physical Therapist and Performance Coach, I talk to a lot of golfers. I talk to clients, followers on social media, and just random people at the golf course.
The #1 thing I hear from golfers when I ask what will help them improve their game is: “I just need to work on my [insert body part] mobility and stretch.” It is true, working on your mobility will likely help your golf swing. But more importantly, how you are doing that will truly dictate whether your mobility actually changes or stays the same.
Mobility vs Flexibility
First, let’s define mobility and flexibility. These two words are often used interchangeably, but they are two different things. Mobility is the ability to move. Simple as that. How far can you move your body at a certain joint. How far can you bend your knee? Bend your elbow? Turn your shoulders? That is mobility.
Flexibility is how much range of motion you have available. This is different from mobility because flexibility is not about how far you can actively move your own body. It’s just about how far your body can move, so if your friend can push your leg straight up but you can’t lift it yourself the same amount, you are flexible but not mobile.
Your body usually feels tight for one of two reasons. One, you haven’t moved through your full range of motion in a while. Two, your muscles are tight because they are trying to protect you from potential injury. This is why using foam rollers, lacrosse balls, or massage guns can help you feel better for a little while but don’t give you lasting effects. Unless you move through that newly gained range of motion after you loosen things up by sitting on a lacrosse ball or torturing yourself with a massage gun, you won’t improve your mobility.
Why is Mobility Important in the Golf Swing?
Many times movement is labeled as “good” or “bad”. The movement research clearly shows that there is no such thing as “bad” movement, there are high level professional runners or power lifters that have “bad form” but do not get injured and are at the top of their game. You see the same thing with golfers. Would you call Jim Furyk’s swing “good”? He just won the U.S. Senior Open so I would say his swing is pretty damn good. Is it pretty or visually appealing? Well that’s a different conversation.
This is why we have to be careful labeling movement as “bad”. Movement is subjective. My definition of poor movement or mobility is movement that is painful or movement that limits the ability to produce force. In the golf swing, there are certain body movements that efficiently and effectively use biomechanics and physics to produce as much force and speed as possible. This is why mobility is important. If it is painful for you to move your hip into rotation, then your swing speed will suffer unless you compensate with another body area like the lower back or trunk. This is potentially (and I emphasize POTENTIALLY) where movement can be labeled as “bad” if it leads to pain and injury.
So let’s make sure that we are clear: small changes in technique on each swing are totally normal. You will never, I repeat never, swing the golf club exactly the same way. No matter how much you practice. This is actually a good thing, you want your movements to be variable. It gives you more options. When a particular movement or swing pattern becomes painful, this is when we should change something to take stress off of the painful area temporarily. This is not the time to make a complete overhaul of your swing. Simply add a few things to improve your mobility or ability to move in the areas that are lacking and voila, you will be good to go. I’ll write another blog on this topic in much greater detail soon, but that is good for now.
If you think your mobility needs to get better, email me at email@example.com and let's chat about it.
Check out my FREE mobility tests you can do on your own: bit.ly/3wOtoMX
Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 on common Mobility Myths coming next Wednesday!