The Royal Treatment

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Does “Core Stability” Need to be the Primary Focus in the Golfer?

During the past 10+ years one of the buzzwords within the health and fitness industry has been the “core.”

What exactly is the core?

Imagine your core is like a cylinder with each outside surface representing a muscle or group of muscles in your body.

The top of the cylinder is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that sits between our thoracic and abdominal cavity. If you have had a case of the hiccups (haven’t we all?), then you’re familiar with a feeling of a rapid contraction or spasm of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is primarily involved in breathing and helps create a negative pressure in the lungs, which assists in filling the lungs with air as we inhale.

The front and sides of the cylinder are formed by our abdominals. These aren’t just the “six-pack” muscles, as there are multiple layers of abdominal muscles which all play a unique role in this cylinder analogy.

The back of the cylinder is formed by the multiple layers of lower back muscles (multifidus and paraspinals).

The bottom of the cylinder is the pelvic floor. The concept of the pelvic floor may seem foreign to many of us, but if I told you to contract the muscles that would help you hold in gas while sitting in church, I bet you know what I’m talking about. These are some of the most neglected parts of the core, but without them, the entire system is dysfunctional.

This cylinder is very important when it comes to transferring power from your legs to your arms and into the club. If your core doesn’t stay compact during the swing, you lose a significant amount of power. I commonly see the front of the cylinder (abdominals) become elongated in the backswing, causing the individual to lose power, not just swinging the golf club, but in all aspects of physical performance.

One of the most common questions I get from my clients dealing with low back pain is, “Do I need to work on strengthening my core?”

The majority of the time my answer is, “it depends”.

Let me tell you why.

Imagine you are my client and you are experiencing low back pain when you swing the club. You tell me that you have been working with a trainer to help “strengthen your core” for 2 months but you are still having pain in your downswing.

That automatically sets off a light bulb in my head. Your trainer probably knows the right ways to strengthen your core – so maybe your core isn’t the problem!

I always start with a mobility assessment with all of my clients. In the case presented above, I commonly find limitations in thoracic spine and hip rotation mobility. This is important because if you lack mobility in your thoracic spine and hips, your body could be trying to create rotation in the lower back since the joints above (mid back) and below (hips) are limited in rotation. The lower back’s main function is to bend forward and backwards and isn’t made to rotate very much. The main function of the mid-back (thoracic spine) is to rotate. So, if your mid-back is not rotating very well during the golf swing, your body will still do anything it can to crush the ball. Thus, you do whatever it takes to create rotation during the swing, even if it means creating the rotation through your lower back. This pattern is especially common in clients who work behind a desk or computer for 8 hours a day, yet expect to be Tiger Woods when they step onto the tee box.

So do you need to work on core stability?

Maybe – but often times my answer is “not yet.”

Your first priority should be gaining mobility in your hips, mid back, and cervical spine before you start adding in some stability components to our core.

Be sure to check out “The Top 3 Culprits for Limiting Rotation in Your Golf Swing!” coming up next.