The golf swing is a complex movement that uses the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems in a coordinated fashion. Optimal swing performance is hindered if there is stiffness or limitations in range of motion. Finding ways to decrease the occurrence or severity of muscle/joint stiffness is an important aspect in the field of exercise science and health promotion.
Getting ready for any competition, such as golf, requires a proper warm-up. Golf injuries are common because of the link between the fast moving golf club and power-generating torsion (8). There is basic scientific evidence that suggests that an active warm-up may be protective against muscle strain injury (14). Also, the relationship of flexibility to athletic performance is likely to be sport specific (5). Various symptoms of an improper warm-up may be felt before or at the beginning of a round of golf. Those symptoms include muscle or joint stiffness or pain, which can result in a decrease in explosiveness and alterations in swing mechanics.
The use of a general warm-up may be used to enhance physical performance and prevent sports-related injuries among golfers. Warm-up techniques are primarily used to increase body temperature and are classified into 3 major categories: (1) passive warm-up, which increases temperature by some external means; (2) general warm-up, which increases temperature by nonspecific body movements; and (3) specific warm-up, which increases temperature using similar body parts that will be used in the subsequent, more strenuous activity (17). The majority of the benefits of a warm-up are related to the temperature-dependent physiologic processes. An elevation in body temperature produces an increase in the dissociation of oxygen from hemoglobin and myoglobin, a lowering of the activation energy rates of metabolic chemical reactions, an increase in muscle blood flow, a reduction in muscle viscosity, an increase in the sensitivity of nerve receptors, and an increase in the speed of nervous impulses (17). Warm-up may also reduce the incidence and likelihood of sports-related musculoskeletal injuries. Improving flexibility through stretching is another important preparatory activity that has been advocated to improve physical performance. Maintaining good flexibility aids in the prevention of injuries to the musculoskeletal system (17).
A general warm-up that can accomplish all that has been listed above may require 20 to 30 minutes of light aerobic exercise and stretching. An active warm-up on the iTonic whole-body vibration (WBV, Logan, UT, USA) system may facilitate an effective, quick warm-up among golfers. During the last decade, several controlled studies suggest the positive effects of WBV in strength or power development (3,13), flexibility (4,18), and bone mass (12). This WBV training has also been shown to have a positive effect on range of motion of the hamstrings (18). This same response among golfers could have valuable outcomes.
During the golf swing, it is also important to create as much power, or explosiveness, as possible. There are data indicating that vibration may enhance measures of explosiveness (11). Explosive strength is defined as the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce dynamic force rapidly in an open kinetic-chain movement, such as jumping, in which rate of force development is at or near maximum (16). Several studies and reviews have indicated that performance enhancement, including force production, may be achieved by the effects of acute local vibration (7,9). Therefore, it may be advantageous to use a combination of vibration and stretching as part of the warm-up, thus enhancing range of motion and preserving or enhancing explosive performance (15). The improvement in muscular power after acute exposure to WBV results in performance gains that would otherwise require weeks of training (2). The purpose of this research was to examine the efficacy of WBV during an active warm-up to increase flexibility and power, along with subsequent golf performance.
Experimental Approach to the Problem
To examine the influence of WBV on the extent of a general warm-up for golf, recreational golfers were subjected to a dynamic WBV warm-up in between 2 sessions of hitting. Each individual performed their personal pregolf warm-up, performed a functional movement squat test, and performed a sit and reach test before hitting 7 shots with the driver and having their performance recorded. Next, with proper instruction, each of the golfers was taken through a bout of WBV stretching exercises. The functional movement squat test and the sit and reach were performed again with the results recorded. After the WBV warm-up, subjects rested for 3 minutes and then performed 7 more swings with their driver, again with the results being recorded. Changes in performance on the fitness and the shot performance were evaluated to determine the effect of WBV.
Ten adult men (age: 45 ± 15 yr; handicap: 10 ± 7) volunteered to participate in this case-series study. All subjects reported participation in aerobic exercise at least 2 days per week for 3 months before beginning the study; however, none reported participation in resistance training sessions during that time. None reported any physical conditions that would impair their ability to perform WBV exercise. Participants provided informed consent to participate in this study, which was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by a review board for research with human subjects.
The subjects arrived at their scheduled times. Each subject began performing his individual warm-up that he routinely did before beginning a round of golf. After the warm-up was complete, he performed the overhead squat (a functional movement screen test). Performance was evaluated and recorded. He then performed a standard sit and reach test. These results were evaluated and recorded. After these tests were completed, the participants actively rested for 3 minutes. After the rest period, the subjects stepped onto the tee box, where the high-speed cameras were set up, and hit 7 golf balls with their drivers. The data from their 7 drives was recorded.
Next, the subjects performed an active warm-up on the WBV platform. The settings for the iTonic WBV machine were set to a frequency of 50 Hz, with a 2 mm amplitude, and each exercise was timed for 30 seconds. Eight different stretches were used for this warm-up:
- Forearm stretch. Subjects knelt facing the WBV machine, placed their hands on the WBV platform, straightened their arms, and leaned forward over their hands and fingers, causing their forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers to be stretched (Figure 1A).
- Half pushup. While the subjects knelt in front of and facing the WBV machine, they grabbed both sides of the WBV platform and held the position of a half pushup for the entire exercise. While in this position, the subjects shifted their weight and moved to the left and the right to stretch the muscles of the pectoral girdle (Figure 1B).
- Cross-over. Subjects knelt in front of and facing the WBV machine. They then crossed their arms, 1 over the other, and grabbed hold of the far side of the WBV platform. The subjects then sat back on their heels while pulling on the platform to stretch their shoulders and the muscles of the upper back (Figure 1C).
- Cat and dog. Subjects knelt in the same position as the above 3 stretches, grabbed the far side of the platform, and arched their backs as much as possible, like a cat. Then, from that position, they then sat back on their heels and flattened their backs, like a dog. The subjects went back and forth between the 2 back positions for the 30-second exercise (Figure 1D, E).
- Toe touch. Subjects stood on the WBV platform and faced away from the controls. They placed their feet about shoulder width apart with their knees slightly bent. They then tried to touch their toes during the entire exercise (Figure 1F).
- Sumo squat. Subjects stood on the WBV platform and faced the controls and handles. They placed their feet near the sides of the platform and slightly pointed their toes outward. Holding onto the handles, subjects squatted down below parallel and shifted their weight from 1 foot to the other, rocking to the left and to the right (Figure 1G).
- Lunge and reach. Subjects placed a Bosu ball in front of the WBV platform. They placed 1 foot on the WBV platform and the knee of the other leg on the Bosu ball (lunge position). While in the lunge position, subjects extended their arms to the ceiling, twisted their torso in the direction of the foot on the platform, and leaned back as well. They did 1 30-second exercise per foot (Figure 1H).
- Golf stance and rotate. Subjects stood on the WBV platform with their feet shoulder width apart and their backs toward the controls. They bent their knees and flexed their backs as in preparing to swing a golf club. Instead of a club, the subjects held a medicine ball and slowly moved the ball in the same path of their golf swing. They rotated their torso, hips, arms, and shoulders to mimic their golf swing (Figure 1I, J).
Once subjects finished this active warm-up on the WBV platform, they then proceeded with the same overhead squat (functional movement screen) and sit and reach tests that were performed after their personal golf warm-ups. These results were evaluated and recorded. The participants actively rested for 3 minutes. When the rest period was complete, the participants stepped onto the tee box, where the high-speed cameras were situated, and hit 7 golf balls with their driver. The data from these 7 swings were recorded.
Golf Performance Measures
The golf performance measures that were recorded were golf ball spin, golf ball launch angle, distance the golf ball carried during flight, total distance the golf ball traveled, and the accuracy of the golf ball. The system to record these measures consisted of high-speed cameras and computer analysis software. The Jack Nicklaus Coaching Studio Video and Data Analysis System of the Nicklaus Golf Academy were used to measure and evaluate golf performance.
Descriptive statistics were calculated for each measurement time. Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was used to test for normality of the data and demonstrated that the data were normally distributed. Therefore, a paired samples t-test was used to compare pre- and post-WBV golf performance variables. Because of the wide range of subject ages, 2 age groups were created: less than 45 years and more than 45 years. After the main analysis, subsequent paired samples t-tests were completed with the data set separated according to age group. SPSS statistical software package v.14.0 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) was used for all calculations, with the level of statistical significance set at p ≤ 0.05. Mean statistical power for all analyses was found to be 0.89. Data are expressed as mean ± SDs.
Significant changes (p < 0.05) were measured after the WBV warm-up in the following variables: sit and reach, ball speed, carry distance, and total distance. Sit and reach measures improved 8.00 ± 3.37 cm, representing a significant improvement in hamstring and low back flexibility (Figure 2). All other significant changes related to improvements in power: ball speed (+1.53 ± 1.82 m·s−1), carry distance (+9.72 ± 11.86m), and total distance (+10.05 ± 11.59 m) (Figures 3 and 4).
In subgroup of subjects less than 45 years (36.6 ± 4.7 yr; n = 5), results mimicked those reported for the entire group in that both flexibility and power measures improved significantly; however, the average improvement was greater in power (ball speed: +2.84 ± 1.36 m·s−1; carry distance: +19.11 ± 0.68 m; total distance: +19.68 ± 6.62m). Subjects older than 45 years (54 ± 4.6; n = 5) did not significantly (p < 0.05) improve in power measures but did improve in sit and reach similarly to the younger group (Figure 5).
These data demonstrate a significant and profound benefit of executing an active warm-up on a WBV platform. There is an increase in the flexibility and power output of recreational golfers when a WBV warm-up bout is performed. Such an effect could prove valuable in the warming-up process of golf and the effectiveness of play during the round. Although further research is needed to identify physiologic mechanisms by which WBV may result in increased flexibility and power, the current data clearly demonstrate a positive effect on the golf performance.
These effects on flexibility and power could be dependent on vascular and neurophysiologic mechanisms. The WBV can enhance the vibratory stimulus of the proprioceptive loop and may also replicate a warm-up effect by increasing pain threshold, blood flow, and muscle elasticity (2). It was also found that the addition of vibration to a stretching routine can increase flexibility while maintaining explosive strength (5). The enhanced muscle power observed after acute vibration is suggested to occur by way of potentiation of the neuromuscular system, whereby stimulation of muscles spindles (Ia afferents) results in reflex activation of motor neurons with increased spatial recruitment (2).
The lack of improvement in power in the older than 45 year group may require further research evaluations to validate and explain. The frequency or the duration of the WBV systems setting that was used may play a critical role in the amount of flexibility and power individuals can achieve after performing the specified exercises. The exercise bout may have been too intense, although there may not have been enough recovery time between the 8 exercises or between the completion of the warm-up and when subjects began hitting golf balls. With a lack of recovery time, their muscles may not have recovered completely from the fatigue generated during the WBV warm-up. Cochrane et al. (1), studying the acute physiologic effects of acute WBV exercise in younger versus and older people, found an interaction effect of vibration and group, in which the WBV related to a VO2 increase was less in an older aged group compared with a younger aged group.
Another consideration when attempting to apply the findings of this study to recreational golfers is the lasting effect that a WBV warm-up might have on the human body. These effects may be individualized and may only last for a brief time. Identifying the optimal warm-up routine, as well as the length of lasting beneficial effects, must be determined to enable recreational golfers to most effectively take advantage of possible benefits.
The WBV warm-up exercises, which are quick and efficient, can help improve the flexibility and power output of recreational golfers, considering that increased flexibility during the golf swing and longer drive distances is beneficial to all recreational golfers. Exercise professionals can implement this active WBV warm-up with any recreational golfer. These professionals need only to adhere to the recommended prescription contained within this article. The inclusion of WBV in a warm-up is expected to enhance golf performance by increasing flexibility and power.
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