The Key to Better Golf
By Renee Reinecke, Sports Scientist
The core is a complex series of muscles which extend far beyond your abs. The core includes the abdominal, back and glute muscles. Your core is a dynamic stabilizer in all three planes of movement, it allows for transfers of force from one muscle to another as well as a ‘shock absorber’ for injury.
Stability refers to the body’s ability to control movement. When we look at the golf swing for instance and the importance of effective functional movement, it is imperative so learn how to maintain a good spine angle, thorax to pelvis separation, generate power from the hips and stabilise the spine and pelvis respectively. Core stability reduces the risk of injury commonly found in golf and improves sporting performance. Lower back pain and injury are often a result of movement restrictions in the upper spine and hips. Once movement is limited in these regions, the lower spine is forced to produce rotation in the golf swing. The result is at best reduced distance, accuracy and consistency in shots and at worst, injury. A more effective approach is to train stability in the lumbar spine and mobility in the hips and upper spine.
A progression in terms of exercises is best to develop the core correctly and provide the golfer with the greatest benefit from their training. It is important to focus on teaching the glutes to fire (glute maximus and glute medius). The main function of the glutes during a golf swing is to stabilize the pelvis. Stability in this case encompasses strength, balance, and muscle endurance. When we allow the glutes to fire correctly, it has an immediate effect on improved hip mobility and rotation of the hips during the downswing. It is important to learn to activate deep core muscles first, training specific movement tweaks that stabilize from the spine and pelvis and thus allowing bigger muscle groups to support such movements. When this is done incorrectly, we see compensatory patterns (like a sway or a slide) and muscles fatiguing prematurely as well as limitations in range of motion in a movement plane.
Try these two exercises to improve your core for golf:
1. A. The bird dog
(3 sets – 10 reps each side)
Start: Knee’s underneath hips and hands underneath shoulders. Movement: Straighten one arm above your head and at the same time straighten the opposite leg. (i.e., Left arm, right leg)
B. Bird dog progression
Add weight in one hand and elevate on a bench. Keep one leg extended behind you as you perform a row with one arm.
2. The Clam
(2 sets – 15 reps each side. Only begin counting reps once burn is felt in the glutes)
Lie on your side with your hips and shoulders in a straight line.
• Bend your knees so that your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to your body.
Rest your head on your top arm as it is stretched out overhead, or bent, whichever is more comfortable.
• Make sure your neck is long so that your head is not tipped back or tucked forward.
Bend your top arm and place your hand on the floor in front of your chest for extra stability.
Stack your hips directly on top of each other vertically. Do the same with your shoulders.
• Use your deep abdominal muscles to keep this alignment throughout the exercise.
Keep your big toes together as you slowly rotate your leg in the hip socket so that the top knee opens.
• Open the knee only as far as you can go without disturbing the alignment of your hips.
Slowly bring your knee back to the start position.
3. The Dead Bug
(3 sets – 10 reps each side)
Start: Knee’s above hips and feet off the floor with hands resisting a band from a stable object above the shoulders. Movement: Glue lower back to the floor and draw belly button into spine. Extend one leg towards the floor at a time resisting the band above your shoulders. Alternate legs.