What is one thing that separates the top golfers form the rest of us? Its their ability to perform in balance. Increasing strength won’t help enhance performance if you are out of balance and can’t activate the right part of the body at the right time and in the correct order. This makes balance an essential part of performance. Training balance doesn’t require a high amount of work, but is best when performed daily. The first step to improving balance is to stabilize the spine and train the abdominal muscles to properly brace the spine.
Traditional exercises like sit-ups and leg raises can inhibit your swing by causing the hip flexors to do most the work, tightening the hips and create a lot of compression on the discs in the spine. There are three basic exercises that ensure the spine is stabilized with minimal loading, to help protect against injury. The three exercises are the curl-up, side bridge and the birddog. These exercises will stabilize the spine without putting excess load on the spine to help prevent injury and make your low back feel stronger and play without pain.
The curl-up, despite its name, is not really a curl-up as there is little movement involved. To perform the curl-up start by laying on your back with your hands under your low back (to help make sure you maintain a neutral spine), one leg is bent at 90 degrees and the other is flat on the floor. The focus of the rotation is in the thoracic spine, picture the head and neck as a single unit. Keep the elbows on the floor and you elevate the head and shoulders a short distance off the floor, no motion should occur at the neck.
To begin the side bridge lay on your side supported by the elbow and hip, the knees bent at 90 degrees. The free hand is opened and over the opposite shoulder. The body is straightened until the body is supported on the elbow and the knee, there should be no bending of the torso or hips. There should be a straight line from the ears through the shoulders, hips and knees. This position should be held as long as you can maintain everything in proper alignment.
The goal of the birddog is to strengthen the muscle in the low back without overloading the spine. To begin the birddog, start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. From this position raise one arm until it is parallel to the floor and hold it for 6-8 seconds, repeat with the other arm and each leg. The goal is raise the limb until it is parallel to the floor, or as high as you can while maintaining a neutral spine. After it becomes easy to raise one limb at a time your can make it harder by raising opposite arm and leg.
Building the program
Many professional and high-performance athletes begin their training sessions with a stabilization routine. Doing this helps teach the body learn how to properly brace and stabilize the spine during the workout. This will help prevent injury or recover from injury.
Here is an example of how to begin your workout:
Reverse lunge 2×6 each leg (make sure to keep the body upright and abs braced)
Side bridge 2×10 seconds each side
Birddog 2×6 each arm and leg