Golfers are always looking for ways to improve their golf game. Is it the golf clubs, the golf balls, the shoes, or the training? Some may think if they get stronger in the gym, their distance will improve. Some may even get into stretching, but unfortunately, too many times the stretching is ineffective. All of these factors will improve your game, but understanding how stretching affects your game could be the most important one.
Let’s talk about the ankles, which I call the Rodney Dangerfield of the human body. I will include the calves in that assessment as the calves control how well the ankles move. We have all done the standard calf stretches, leaning against the wall with one foot back or standing on a slant board or curb, leaning forward trying to extend the Achilles tendon thinking we are stretching our calves. Once you understand how the calves work, you will quickly see how ineffective these stretches are for golf or any sport. There are actually 4 calf muscles in each calf. Some of you may have thought there was only one. There is an inside calf muscle which controls the inside part of the arch. When this muscle is short, or tight, the person will walk on the outside of their foot, supination. The outside calf muscle controls the outside of the arch and when it is tight, the person will walk on the inside of their foot, pronation. The two middle calf muscles run the length of your leg forming the Achilles tendon and continues into the arch. These control the up and down motion of the foot. Most healthcare people treat the foot with special insoles and shoes as if there is something wrong with your foot, but in reality, it is your calf. Why is this important to you?
As a golfer, your swing starts in your feet. Try swinging a club in your bare feet and feel how your feet move across the floor. How much movement you get is based on how flexible your calf muscles are to free your ankles. When these muscles are tight, there is a lot of torque on the knees, hips, and low back. When a golfer is stiff, they will tend to muscle through a swing using their upper body and that is where many injuries originate.
The best way to stretch these calf muscles is using a yoga strap or rope. Never use a stretchy band as they were designed for strength training. Sitting on the floor with your back against the wall, place the strap around the ball of your foot. Do not use your leg muscles and do not pull hard! Stretching is not about the pressure, but the releasing of the muscles. As you gradually pull the strap back, feel the middle calf muscles releasing. Do not lean back with your back, we are not wrestling a horse! Your ankle should be able to bend to 110 degrees. Do not force it, as the muscles will tighten and your stretch has stopped. There should be some pain. However, too much pain and your muscles will contract which will cause you to be in strength training mode. Hold each stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. Next, rotate your foot to the inside and repeat the stretch. You should feel this on the outside of the calf. Again, do not force, but allow the muscle to let go. Finally, rotate foot to the outside and repeat the 3-5 second hold and repeat 8-10 times. You should feel this on the inside of the calf. If your ankles are really tight, do these every morning and every night before you go to bed.if you suffering from night leg cramps, this will resolve the cramps. If you cannot sit on the floor, try a hardback chair with an ottoman.
During your day, place a golf ball on the floor and gently press down on the ball as you are sitting. Do not do this standing.No Pain, No Gain will not be your friend. Do not roll it around as I want you to pinpoint sore spots on the arch of your feet. Rolling around is fun, but it doesn’t solve your problem. The problem is hitting the ball farther with better movement. Keep that in mind! Check out my website at www.MuscleRepairShop.com