The golf swing is often described by coaches as a pendulum. The pivot point for this pendulum is somewhere on the spine, depending on your height, build and swing plane. The club, hands, arms and shoulders should rotate around the relatively fixed point of the spine. Studies have shown, as a result of this rotation, the spine is exposed to considerable and sudden load, force and angle changes. The role of the abdominal muscles, as well as the posterior chain and hip musculature that makes up the ‘core’ in everyday life as well as your golf swing, is to resist these loads and protect the spine. So stop doing those sit ups on a swiss ball (this is actively putting your spine into flexion and could actually do more harm than good to the typical golfers already beat up spine) and lets get your abdominals strong at what they’re supposed to be doing…protecting your spine! Get it right and you will feel better, move better, be physically able to play and practice more, experience less pain, and be less injury and prone.
The plank exercise has become incredibly popular in gyms everywhere and its a great place to start. Its a simple exercise that teaches the abs and core musculature to brace to keep the spine in a neutral position and act against extension (gravity is trying to pull you down, pulling your spine into to extension or hyperextension, thats why your hips sack when you tire doing a plank, your abdominals can’t adequately brace to resist extension anymore). However the plank has a couple of major drawbacks for golf. Firstly, it is static in nature whilst the golf swing is a highly dynamic movement. Secondly it only teaches muscles to oppose extension forces, whereas the golf swing is a complex movement involving resisting forces from multiple planes simultaneously.
Once proficiency in static stabilisation exercises such as the plank, side plank, etc, has been achieved golfers must develop dynamic stabilisation across a range of movements developing anti-lateral flexion, anti-rotation, anti-extension and anti-flexion. The chart below represents a comprehensive ab training protocol that develops these qualities at different levels of ability, simply start at level 1 and continue up the levels as progress allows.
*adapted from New Rules Of Lifting Supercharged, by Alwyn Cosgrove and Lou Schuler.
AE = anti-extension
ALF = anti-lateral flexion
HF= hip flexion
AR = anti- rotation
**the quality trained will be altered by which position you choose to carry in.
The exercises here are definitely a case of the more you put in the more you get out, the further you progress the more the movements develop the complex dynamic stabilisation required in the golf swing. The higher level exercises are also done more often from standing which is advantageous, as we don’t swing a golf club lying on the ground (the problem with a lot of ab training for sports in my opinion). Don’t be tempted, however, to start with level 5 exercises as you need competence in the lower level exercises that come before to execute them properly. Get at it and improve your gold and your spinal health.