Even though the terms “core” and “core strength training” are popular buzz words, the true definition of “core” remains somewhat ambiguous. The term is used quite loosely in the fitness industry because the definition often varies based on the area of focus and background of the fitness professional or enthusiast you are talking with. Athletes and coaches tend to look at core exercises as a method of improving athletic performance while general fitness enthusiasts often refer to it as the “mid-section” and body building oriented people tend to think of the core as a means to develop the look of six pack abs.
While these definitions are all somewhat correct, none of them is specific and the general nature of these overlapping definitions can cause confusion when it comes to choosing the right exercises to strengthen your core for golf.
To say the general fitness enthusiast is “wrong” isn’t totally accurate because the core is located in the “mid section” of the body; and for the bodybuilder…the core does include rectus abdominus (six pack ab area) so ‘working the abs’ is a part of core strength training. As we dive further into what core strength training means to the athlete and for golfers, you will learn what it means to utilize the core during athletic movement and see these definitions from a different perspective.
Core Strength for the Golfer
When training your core for improved athletic performance in golf, your goal is to choose exercises that activate the core muscles similar to those used during the swing. As we have learned in previous emails this includes muscles used to stabilize the spine, hips, and pelvis and those used to rotate the trunk. Training your core to stabilize the spine and hold it in the neutral position during rotation is the crucial part for golfers. Having this type core training and strength provides a strong link in the kinetic chain and allows the power created by moving the lower body to be transferred to the upper body.
Abdominals: Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Internal and External Oblique’s
Spine: Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum, Iliopsoas, Psoas Major, Trapezius
Similar to the various definitions of “the core”, if you have done any reading on the subject of core strength, you will likely find each author lists slightly different muscles as being important to the core. The muscles I’ve listed above are not the “only” muscles referred to in core strength training but they are the main muscles that work together to stabilize the spine. For those of you not so anatomically inclined, another even more general reference I’ve seen used is to consider the core: “anything below the ribs and above the hips”.
General Benefits of Core Strength Training
- Effective transfer of power between the lower and upper body
- Improved proprioception (body awareness)
- Improved balance & stability
- Increased total power output
- Reduced risk of injury
Benefits of Core Strength for Golfers
During the golf swing, the whole body works as one unit to complete its intended task of contacting the ball with speed and power. Golf specific core strength trains the muscles to hold their position and utilize the core to maintain a neutral spine during rotation. A golf specific routine will differ from traditional weight training routines because it emphases functional, rotational and stability oriented movements that teach the lower back, abdominals, and spinal stabilizers to work in proper combination during strength movements of the upper and/or lower body instead of focusing on moving heavier and heavier weight.The benefits of a solid core strength program include:
- Hold posture during the swing
- Transfer power from the lower to upper body
- Protect the lower back from injury
- Increase rotational power
Core Strength Training Exercises for Golfers
If you would like to use core strength training to improve your performance for golf, I recommend the following:
- Golf Requires:
- Rotational power
- Maintaining neutral spine
- Transfer of power from lower to upper body
- Exercises recommended:
- Hip rotations
- Side Plank
- Cable wood chop
- Push ups and squats on the BOSU ball (moderate difficulty)
- Rotational med ball throw (advanced)
Productive core strength training begins by first teaching your nervous system to properly engage the muscles during movement. Once the nervous system understands which muscles to activate to maintain position throughout the swing, you can focus on the progressive strengthening of these muscle groups through core focused exercises and coordinated movements. By replicating rotational movements in the gym, the athlete trains his/her nervous system and musculature to fire the appropriate muscles in the appropriate sequence, with more strength and power than before.
- Create your own core strength training program
- Sign up for a golf fitness class
- Set up a TPI screen