Strength Training for Golfers: Building a Strong and Stable Core
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Strength Training for Golfers: Building a Strong and Stable Core

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Strength Training for Golfers: Building a Strong and Stable Core

Our body’s core, composed of our torso below the shoulders to the tops of our hips, plays a vital role not only in golf but in day-to-day life. The muscles that make up our core provide stabilization to the spine and pelvis and keep us upright. Strengthening these muscles not only improves how we feel overall but helps provide more power to the golf swing while reducing the likelihood of injury.

In this article, we will briefly review the muscles that make up our core, why core strength is important for the golf swing and some exercises you can implement into your training regimen to improve strength, stability and rotational power.

Anatomy 101: Major Core Muscles

The major core muscles consist of these five:

  • Erector Spinae
    • A group of muscles that runs up the back from the hips. These allow us to manipulate our posture through bending forward, backward and side to side. They also play a major role in standing up straight.
  • Multifidus
    • The multifidus are a group of thick muscles that runs along the spine. Divided into three sections (cervical, thoracic, lumbar), these muscles keep the spine stable through movement.
  • Obliques
    • There are two types of oblique muscles: internal and external. The external obliques begin about halfway down your ribcage and stretch to the hips on both sides of your body. The internal obliques are situated underneath them. These muscles allow for twisting and rotation of the core as well as assisting in bending to the side.
  • Rectus Abdominis
    • These are the muscles typically referred to when people mention their “abs.” This muscle is responsible for forming the coveted “six pack” at the front of your core, and assists with bending forward and curling up.
  • Transverse Abdominis
    • A sheet-like muscle that covers the front of the body, the transverse abdominis runs from the ribcage to the pelvis. This muscle allows for sucking your belly button in towards your spine.

Anatomy 101: Minor Core Muscles

The minor core muscles are as follows and also play a role in a core strength and stability:

  • Lats
    • A large, flat muscle on the back that stretches to the sides, behind the arm, and is partly covered by the trapezius on the back near the midline.
  • Traps
    • The primary role of the traps is to support the shoulder blades and assist with moving our arms. It is a large, triangular, paired muscle of the back and neck.
  • Gluteal Muscles
    • The gluteals are made up of three muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus) that fill out our backside. The maximus is what gives it its shape while the medius and minimus are smaller and deeper, assisting with rotation of the legs and support of the pelvis.

Why Core Strength and Stability Matters in the Golf Swing

Core strength and stability are crucial aspects to a powerful and repeatable golf swing. Improved stability will lead to more consistent ball striking as you’ll be in a better position to maintain a proper spine angle throughout the swing. You’ll also benefit from increased power development. The golf swing starts from the ground up and a strong core will allow you to optimize energy transfer, leading to increased swing speed and distance.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, strong core muscles will help reduce the risk of overuse injuries, particularly in the lower back. Proper posture and correct movement patterns will be bolstered by a stronger core.

With this information in hand, it’s time to dive into some exercises you can add to your training plan to help you develop a strong, stable core that will help you generate more speed and consistency within your golf swing.

The Exercises

The exercises below will help with developing both core strength and stability. Some will emphasize power development and explosiveness while others will focus more on control. These should be added into an exercise routine, not just performed on their own. Add two to four of the movements to your workout and the remainder on another day. Exercises that are performed on one side of the body at a time must be performed on each side. Aim to perform anywhere from two (beginner) to four (more advanced) sets of 10 to 12 repetitions per exercise.

Bird Dog

The Bird Dog is a fantastic core stability exercise for strengthening the muscles of the core, hips, lower back and glutes. It is performed in a slow, controlled manner and is great for novices to advanced individuals. Focus on keeping your hips parallel to the floor, extending your leg and arm instead of lifting it towards the ceiling and keeping your neck in line with your spine.

How to Perform It

  • Set up on the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  • Brace your core as if you were about to take a punch to the stomach and slowly extend one arm and the opposite leg, keeping your toes pulled towards your shin,
  • Hold extension for two seconds, then return to starting position.

Dead Bug

Another great exercise for anyone to improve core stability and strength, the Dead Bug is performed lying on your back. This exercise also targets the muscles of the core and back and can help prevent and relieve lower back pain. While performing the exercise, think about pressing your belly button down towards your spine. This will help you maintain low back contact with the floor and prevent arching of the lumbar spine.

How to Perform It

  • Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and arms resting at your side.
  • Engage your core and move your legs into a “table-top” position, with the knees bent at 90 degrees. Extend your arms towards the ceiling directly over your shoulders, with palms facing each other.
  • Slowly extend one leg, keeping your toes pulled towards your shin, and the opposite arm until just above the floor.
  • Hold for two seconds, return to the starting position.

Pallof Press

Stop me if you’ve heard this before (just kidding, don’t stop me), the Pallof Press is yet another exercise that targets maintaining core stability under an external load. Performed with a resistance band or cable machine, the Pallof Press is an anti-rotation exercise that targets the abs and obliques and can be performed whether you’re a novice or advanced. This exercise should be performed in a slow and controlled pattern. Make sure you’re not twisting away from the point of resistance (anchor point) as it can move tension away from the core and into other muscle groups. The hips and shoulders should stay square.

How to Perform It

  • Set your resistance band or cable pulley to chest height.
  • Stand sideways to the anchor point (where your band or cable is attached) and grip the handle with both hands.
  • Brace your core and extend your arms away from your chest, then bring your hands back to your chest to complete the rep.

Rotational Med Ball Wall Slam

This exercise helps develop rotational power throughout the core, which translates directly to the golf swing. Your arms and legs will also benefit, as energy will be loaded through the legs and transferred through the core and into the arms.

How to Perform It

  • Grab a light to medium weight medicine ball and stand perpendicular to a wall.
  • Holding the ball in front of your waist, rotate your torso and load your weight into your trail hip and leg.
  • Transfer your weight to your front side, rotating through your core and throwing the ball into the wall.

Half-Kneeling Med Ball Wood Chop

The Half-Kneeling Med Ball Wood Chop is another rotational core exercise to help develop power that will translate into rotational forces of the golf swing. Instead of a horizontal focus on rotation like the wall slam, the wood chop focuses on a diagonal pattern. Be sure to focus on keeping the core muscles engaged throughout the exercise.

How to Perform It

  • Once again, grab a light to medium weight medicine ball and take a half-kneeling stance parallel to a wall with the inside leg down and outside leg up.
  • Lift the ball up and above your outside shoulder.
  • Forcefully rotate your arms and torso across your body, slamming the ball into the floor.

Plank Pull Through

The Plank Pull Through adds increased stabilization and muscle activation to a relative staple in core training: the plank. This anti-rotation exercise will challenge not only your core but your shoulders. Focus on maintaining level hips by pressing into the floor hard with the foot opposite your hand when performing this exercise.

How to Perform It

  • Place a kettlebell or dumbbell behind one hand.
    • NOTE: The further outside of your hand you place the weight, the more challenging the exercise will be.
  • Set up in a high plank (push-up) position with your feet about shoulder width apart and hands directly under your shoulders.
    • NOTE: To increase stability, widen your foot stance if necessary.
  • Brace your core as you reach across your body to grab the KB or DB, pulling it to the other side.

Closing Thoughts

Keep in mind that strengthening your core is only one facet of strength training and should be implemented into a workout that trains the entire body. A number of exercises can be performed that improve core strength as a complementary bonus to the primary muscles being targeted.

A strong and stable core is vital to adding power and generating more speed in your golf swing. As we’ve stated before, more speed=more distance, and who doesn’t want to hit the ball farther? Give these exercises a try the next time you hit the gym.

For You

For You

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Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason is a mid-handicap golfer chasing single digits who calls Wisconsin home. When not on the course, you can find him at the lake spending time with his wife and two children or in the woods chasing whitetails.

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble

Jason Noble





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      Jason S

      4 weeks ago

      Excellent article Jason.
      Core is one of my most important and difficult area to focus. Since my lower back surgery, I need to focus on it more. So I’ll use your suggestions and get back to work.

      Reply

      Richard Litwinczuk

      4 weeks ago

      These exercises are great. I have been doing a few of them already, but I will definitely add the rest to my rotation. As you get older, you need every edge you can get. Add that I just had major surgery a few months back….I need to get into golf shape soon. :-)

      Reply

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