Are all core exercises created equally?

It is well documented that core strength is critical to prevent injury, back pain, and improve the golf swing. When I evaluate a golfer new to golf fitness I often hear that he or she does “core strengthening” in their current exercise routine. My first question is always, “what do you mean, core strengthening?” Too often the response is, “Oh well you know, crunches, the ab machine where you press your chest down, things like that.” After full evaluation, 9 times out of 10 this individual has weak core muscles, poor posture, and swing flaws that will create pain and injuries

Is your "core" work promoting bad swing habits?

Is your “core” work promoting bad swing habits?

Pick the right exercises for the most bang for your buck!

When picking exercises for core strength make sure you pick exercises that will improve function and ability in whatever activity you partake in. Crunches and stationary abdominal machines (and resistance machines in general) are likely to be the wrong choice for golfers. The crunch and ab machines usually promote upper spine flexion (bending). This rounds the shoulders and puts the back into a humped position. As a golfer, this is not a position you want to be training in. Excessive upper spine flexion and shoulder rounding promotes poor posture, bad rotation and flaws in the golf swing. In addition, crunches and other ab exercises that require you flex from the shoulders down to the hips can put a lot of stress down the neck and low (lumbar) spine. If you’re looking to improve your golf swing, look for alternatives to this type of core training.

In this exercise the spine forms the shape of a C. This is counterproductive when trying to improve your golf.

In this crunch/sit-up exercise the spine forms the shape of a C.  This looks like the posture in the picture above, doesn’t it? 

Exercises to get you started:

Dead Bugs

For beginners, core strengthening should focus on holding positions that promote anti-extension (arching) of the low back. One simple yet effective exercise that does this is called the dead-bug exercise (click link to view the exercise and instructions). With this exercise make sure you keep your abs braced and your low back flat and pressed into the floor. The dead-bug exercise will help you maintain neutral posture and avoid swing flaws. Perform 2-4 sets x 20 reps before your workouts or golf as a great way to activate the core.

Dead Bugs: A great exercise to learn how to control your spine as your limbs move.

Prone Plank

For intermediates, the classic exercise called plank is a great way you can challenge yourself. To execute a proper plank, start by laying face down on the floor. Position your elbows directly under your shoulders and make sure your toes and feet are flexed and curled up toward the shins. Before you lift into the plank position, contract both your abs and glutes, and make sure your knees are locked out. From here, lift your body off the floor and hold as long as possible. It is very important that you can maintain contraction of both the abs and glutes throughout the set. If you are unable to keep the abs and glutes contracted, lower yourself and take a rest before your next set. Perform 2-4 sets to the point of fatigue (but not to failure), during your workouts or before golf.

Plank: A great exercise to improve spine stability and core strength.

I must stress that golf fitness usually does not look like traditional fitness. If you are unsure whether or not your current fitness routine is helping your golf game, I suggest you find a TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified Golf Fitness Professional in your area for an assessment. If you have any questions about golf fitness please feel free to email me at [email protected]

Jason Rivkin

BS Athletic Training, CGFI-FP1

TPI Certified

Golf Fitness Coach

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