Stretch your muscles, stretch your game.
Working with athletes of all ages and abilities, Colorado Golf Fitness Club owner DEE TIDWELL stresses the primacy of flexibility and mobility.
By Jon Rizzi, photographs by Ehren Joseph
Below, two of Tidwell’s clients—63-year-old senior player Robert Polk (below) and 31-year-old World Long-Drive competitor Mike Synek—demonstrate the myofascial stretches that keep them in the game and free of pain.
- Lay on your side and place your lower leg on a foam roller or something like it.
- Make a 90-degree knee angle with both bottom and top leg.
- Place both hands on top of each other.
- Keeping your legs stationary, open your chest and reach as far as you can with your top arm.
- Repeat 6-12 times and switch sides.
“Most amateur golfers lose the ability to turn their hips and torso because they bring their hunched desk posture to the golf course,” says Tidwell, who’s coached golfers in Colorado for 20 years. “And if you can’t turn, you hit it shorter and you get hurt.” Consistently doing these exercises, which are based on famed French osteopath Guy Voyer’s Soma Golf method, will result in a more efficient and effective swing.
A hip muscle originating deep within the pelvis, the obturator internus (OI) rotates the leg externally and has a major role in stabilizing the head of the femur into the hip socket.
- Sit on the floor in a 90-degree hip and knee angle. Grab your knee and shin and pull yourself upright, keeping your spine as vertical as possible.
- Turn your upper body toward your back leg with the goal of having your chest be perpendicular to your thigh.
- Now, if you can, reach forward with both arms turning your pinkies to the ground as far as you can, then push arms forward. Then sit up tall and push your arms forward again.
- Repeat for up to 45 seconds
- Slowly unwind and switch sides.
Located deep in the buttock, the piriformis runs from the lower spine to the upper surface of the femur. The piriformis muscle helps the hip rotate, turning the leg and foot outward.
- Sit with both legs forward, hands on the floor behind you.
- Bend one knee so it’s 90 degrees from the other.
- At this point either your same side butt cheek or knee is up, or both are up if you are really tight. The goal is to lower either the hip or knee to the floor while keeping chest up and as straight a spine as possible.
- Hold for up to 45 seconds, then come out slow and switch.
Among Colorado Golf Fitness Club owner Dee Tidwell’s numerous credentials are Level Three Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certifications. A Top 50 Golf Digest Golf Fitness Pro and Soma Golf Trainer, he is certified as an ELDOA Trainer and uses Osteopath Guy Voyer’s ELDOA method and Myofascial Stretching to prevent and relieve pain.
An orthopedist’s recommendation brought long-driver Mike Synek to Tidwell to rid himself of the back and shoulder pain medical professionals couldn’t relieve. Within six months, he could swing pain-free.
“From when I started to where I am now, it’s a night-and-day difference,” he says. “My flexibility is up, my swing speed is up to 145 from 135 miles per hour, and my ball speed is above 200, when last year at this time I wasn’t even touching 185.”
More than 30 years Synek’s senior, Robert Polk didn’t arrive with pain, just a simple desire: “I didn’t want to hit it longer, I just didn’t want to hit it shorter.” He’s the anomaly, Tidwell says. “99 percent of 63-year-old dudes are saying I want to hit it longer—and not hurt.”
Polk, whom Tidwell calls “Spider-Man” because of his client’s preternatural flexibility, says he “wanted someone to give me some good ideas, refine my stretching and work on the areas where I was weak, like my legs, and strengthen them.”
“Because they’re so mobile, Robert and Mike just really need to make sure they’re strong so they don’t get injured,” Tidwell says.
Thanks to Tidwell’s regimens, both players are hypermobile and strong. Polk’s age means his muscle tissue requires more recovery time than Synek’s. “Playing every day and getting no rest, which is very common for amateur golfers, is stupid as an older golfer,” Tidwell says.
At any age, the key is to “have hips and a torso that move well.” When it just becomes an arm swing, he says, you get elbow, wrist and back issues.
“Once you set that rotary movement on the backswing, it makes it easier to rotate from the pelvis, then the torso drags behind, then the lead arm and then the clubhead contacts the ball right after that,” Tidwell explains. “That sequence is really important and dependent upon your ability to use your pelvis and your torso.”
He says people who think a new driver is going to revolutionize their game are delusional. “Any golf club is only going to be as good as the person moving it,” he says. “Most amateurs can’t utilize the full potential of their golf clubs because they don’t move right.”
The thoracic spine attaches to the ribs, rendering it less mobile than the cervical or lumbar spines. Of the 12 thoracic vertebrae, numbers 8 and 9 take the most stress from the golf swing.
- Sit on the floor and grab your knees.
- Knee angle should be about 90-110 degrees and about a fist width apart.
- Keep feet grounded with toes down.
- Now pull yourself up so you are sitting on the front part of your sit bones, which will straighten your spine.
- Push your head to the ceiling and push the back of your head to an object behind you. Think about being as tall as you can in this position.
- Now the hard part! Put both arms out in front of you and turn your pinkies to the floor while spreading your fingers and extending your wrists. Then raise both arms overhead.
- Try to get your spine and arms to be as straight as possible. Now hold for up to one minute, working on everything you just read. When done, unwind slowly, grab your knees and relax all.
- Do one to two times per day and especially in the evening after golf.
Golf Posture Chop
- Place a band or cable machine on a high position.
- Get into your normal 5-iron golf posture. Now grab the handle with the toward-target hand and put the otheron top of it.
- Form a triangle with your arms and work on a chop move from the top of the backswing.
- Your pelvis moves first, torso (chest) second, lead arm third and hands (club) last. Do this slowly. Speed is not important. Sequence and timing are. They are the DNA of an efficient swing.
- Do this in front of a mirror to make sure you aren’t losing posture, swaying, sliding or making any other kind of swing fault. Perform up to 20- 30 reps slowly and do 2-3 sets.
One-Legged Back Swing Chop
- Place a band or cable machine on low position. Get into golf posture, then lift the leg away from the target without changing any ofyour posture, especially your pelvis.
- Make a triangle with your arms by grabbing the handle with your target-away hand first, then place the other on top of it.
- Turn your torso into your backswing keeping your elbows straight.
- Emphasize the torso turn without the posture changing and with minimal pelvis movement. You will probably only be able to turn your torso a maximum of 50 degrees. Perform up to 15 reps and do 2-3 sets.
- Try lifting the opposite leg, focusing on your weaker balance leg.
Golf-fitness professional and soft-tissue therapist Dee Tidwell owns Colorado Golf Fitness Club in Greenwood Village. Reach him at [email protected] or (303) 883-0435.
This article appeared in the 2019 May Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer
Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.