For golfers, a stable core is paramount as it helps to increase the speed–and therefore power–of your swing. Having a stable core leads to better mobility in the hips and thoracic spine as well as offering greater control over maintaining the desired spine angle while rotating the torso. This results in the ability to better segment the lower body from the upper body during your swing.
Despite popular belief, core training goes far beyond just training the abdominals (AKA: the six-pack). The neck, abdominals, spinal erectors, hip flexors, glutes and pelvic floor make up our core – basically everything but our limbs and head. The core’s main function is to stabilize our spine, not flex or bend it.
Any flexion or over extension in the spine creates an energy leak, reducing the force that is generated from the ground and then transferred into the core and out to the arms and hands as they hold the club.
The best way to train the core is to incorporate anti-flexion, anti-lateral flexion, anti-rotation and anti-extension exercises. Before I provide a few of my most-prescribed exercises for these purposes, I want to draw attention to another important aspect of reaching adequate core strength and stability – lower back pain.
Is a Weak Core Irritating Your Back?
Photo © pgatour.com
When the core is weak and unstable, the body often compensates by calling on the joint above and/or below for additional support. Golfers often complain of low back pain and much of the time it’s due to the hips lending a hand to the core to create stability, sacrificing their own mobility in the process.
This robbing-Peter-to-Pay-Paul scenario is probable with all joints throughout the body. In the diagram below, note that each joint alternates between stability and mobility, starting from the ground up. This is precisely why a movement assessment is so important.
Image courtesy of fitnesspainfree.com
What to Do
First things first – ditch the crunches and sit-ups and give the following core strengthening exercises a go! I’ve included video demonstrations for each.
- Anti-flexion: Helps to prevent the “C” shaped posture by creating stability in the scapulothoracic region.
- Anti-lateral flexion: The golf swing occurs in the frontal (meaning side-to-side) and transverse (rotational) planes and this exercise helps you maintain a neutral spine, avoiding any lateral bending also known as the Reverse Spine Angle (RSA).
- Anti-rotation: Given the golf swing is all about rotation this will sound counterintuitive, but it’s necessary because that rotation needs to come from the thoracic spine, not from the lumbar spine or scapulae.
- Anti-extension: This drill helps to avoid the dreaded “S” shape posture by creating stability in the lumbopelvic area.
I hope you find these core strengthening exercises helpful. There are a number of ways to incorporate them into your golf fitness routine such as performing one or two at the beginning of your training session or by pairing them with the bigger lifts like squats and deadlifts – both options help provide activation and stabilization. They could also be done near the end of the training session or on non-training days.