For many years the elusive ‘six pack’ and ‘chiseled abs’ have been talked about and identified as the focus of millions of people’s training goals, body dreams and gym sessions.
However with regards to golf training this is not the aim or focus of ‘core stability’, ‘abdominal training’, ‘core strength’, or any similar terms in popular use.
While it might end up being a secondary benefit of this type of training (and importantly a healthy diet), it is not the aim of it. Let’s get down to what is really important when we talk about core stability. The importance of having good ‘mobility’ in the body is something that is discussed a lot, but that ‘mobility’ must be controlled. This is fundamentally important for golfers and this control of movement enables them to create a safe, effective and repeatable golf swing. Without good control of movement (especially when high speeds and forces are involved) there may be limitations in the capacity of joints and tissues to tolerate loads, especially in repetitive, complex movements like the golf swing. This can make those joints and tissues susceptible to injury.
What is the ‘core’? Often people think the core is simply the abdominal muscles and the lower back muscles. However the ‘core’ incorporates the entire torso minus the legs and arms. It involves the muscles & structures that control and move the head, neck, ribs, spine and pelvis.
Getting strong and stable from the centre of your body outwards has the benefit of helping you create a platform from which your body can both create, transfer and resist the large forces that occur during the golf swing. Connecting your core/trunk and it‘s function to the movements and kinematics of your upper and lower limbs is a big part of golf training. This should be the aim of core stability/strength training for golfers. Having a six pack does not mean you have good core stability or the dynamic core control that’s required for complex athletic movements like the golf swing and vice versa in that you don’t need a six pack to have good core stability and strength.
Remember there are many ways to train your core and there are large numbers of muscles within the core that will benefit from a variety of exercises. It is as important to train its ability to resist movement, as it is to train its ability to move in a certain direction. The golf swing involves large amounts of rotation and explosive movements/speed and therefore this is an important direction of movement and type of training that your core exercises should address to maximize the benefits for the golf swing.
So what should I do to improve my core stability and strength I hear you say? Firstly this is something that won’t happen over night. It will take time and will require work. But you will be glad to hear that you do not need to be doing hundreds of crunches and hours of planks !! The core works hard in lots of exercises, activities and positions (and often during exercises you wouldn’t think it would). The key here is variety and looking at movements that challenge the core while linking the upper and lower body. Remember only try these if you are fit and well and are doing so under the instruction and supervision of a suitably qualified person when you are beginning.
Here are 5 of our favourite core exercises for golf:
1) Pallof presses
There are many variations of these but as a general type of exercise these are fantastic at developing your trunk and body’s ability to both create power and resist movement, importantly in rotation and side flexion. The golf swing places huge lateral and rotational forces on the trunk and having strength and control of these movements is fundamental to performing the golf swing and reducing injury potential from it.
2) Medicine ball throws
Medicine ball throws are a fantastic group of exercises for building strength and stability through your core/torso as well as your shoulders and hips. They help to develop explosive, quick and powerful movements that have a great carry over to athletic actions like the golf swing. Medicine ball throws also have the added benefits of improving the development of ground reaction forces, the ability to weight shift laterally & during rotational movements and development of the rotational speed required for the golf swing. There are loads of medicine ball exercises out there to try. The video below contains a few examples and progressions that you can try in your training.
It may surprise many of you to know that the squat has been shown to require and elicit a huge amount of trunk/core activation. It develops the posterior chain (the muscles on the back of the trunk) in particular. The squat has the added benefit of being a great compound whole body movement that develops power and strength in the legs while promoting the development of ground reaction forces (that are key in higher level golfers).
4) V-sit exercises (and variations)
The V sit and variations of it are great at developing a strong core that is linked and working well with the upper and lower limbs. In addition, development of eccentric trunk strength creates the ‘braking system’ to absorb the deceleration forces that occur in the golf swing. Remember, it is important that your body must be able to resist and control the forces that you produce.
5) Ab wheel (gym ball) roll outs
This a fantastic dynamic core exercise and offers much better carry over to athletic movements like the golf swing than with a static plank type exercise. Control of the trunk is required whilst there is movement in the lower and upper limbs. Although an intermediate to advanced core exercise, the equipment used, length of roll out and speed of roll out can be modified to match someone’s ability.
Remember control and stability need to be trained locally at specific joints but more importantly globally as part of the whole kinetic chain. Having a strong and stable central pillar that can resist and create forces in multiple planes of movement gives us a platform from which the entire body and limbs can perform these complex athletic actions effectively and safely.
We would always recommend that you use these type of exercises and equipment only if you are fit and well and under the instruction and guidance of a suitably qualified professional.
- Martuscello JM, et al. “Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises” J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jun;27(6):1684-98.
- Nuzzo JL, et al. “Trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises” J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):95-102.
- Escamilla, R.F, et al. “Core muscle activation during Swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises” J Orthop Sports Physical Ther, 40: 265-276, 2010.
- Kibler WB et al. The role of core stability in athletic function. Sports medicine, 2006 36 (3), p. 189-198
- Leetun DT et al. Core stability measures as risk factors for lower extremity injury in athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2004, 36 (6), p. 926-934
- Willardson JM. Core stability training: applications to sports conditioning programs. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2007, 21 (3), p. 979-985