It is well documented that core strength is imperative to prevent injury, back pain, and improve the golf swing. When I am evaluating a new golfer 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 exhibits weak core musculature, poor posture, flawed movement, and swing faults that will leave them prone to injury and pain. It turns out that they are not doing work to prevent injury and pain, but they are actually doing things to PROMOTE injury and pain.

When picking exercises for core strengthening make sure you pick exercises that will improve function in whatever activity you partake in. Crunches and stationary abdominal machines are highly likely to be the wrong choice for golfers and athletes in general. The crunch and ab machines usually promote upper (thoracic) spine flexion. 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 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. Let’s keep it simple, if you’re looking to improve your golf swing, avoid this type of core training.

For beginners, abdominal 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.

For intermediates, a classic exercise called plank is a great way you can challenge yourself. With the plank make sure you start with your belly 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 legs are locked out and as long as possible. It is very important that you can maintain contraction of BOTH the abs and glutes throughout the set. If you lose the glute contraction, lower yourself and take a rest before your next set.

For advanced golf fitness enthusiasts, these exercises should be used for warm-up and activation techniques before larger and more dynamic lifts and movements.

If you have any questions about core strengthening strategies and techniques for golf, please contact me directly by email at [email protected].

Jason Rivkin, ATC, CGFI-FP1 Head Golf Fitness Coach at FitGolf Performance Centers of the Delaware Valley

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