Everything starts with the core. Many people think that our outer extremities control our daily tasks and the core is simply along for the ride. When in reality the outer extremities rely on the core for stabilization and force production. In any given movement, the core is activated milliseconds before the arms and legs even move. Consider the complexity of the movements involved during the golf swing. Trying to strike a golf ball consistently without an efficient and well-developed core would be like trying to fire a cannon from a canoe. Every golfer has a core, but only a small percentage have it working correctly.
The core is divided into two functional units – the inner and outer units. While the system as a whole is extremely convoluted, there’s enough common knowledge that can be shared to help us better understand the complexity of it all.
The inner unit consists of four major muscle groups that work cohesively. The deep muscles running along the spine, the muscles of the pelvic floor, the diaphragm and the most important of them all, the Transversus Abdominis (TVA). The inner unit muscles are unique because they function in unison like a well-oiled gear system or a crew of synchronized rowers. Their primary job relative to movement is to stiffen the spine, rib cage and pelvic girdle so that the head, arms and legs have a stable working foundation for all forms of movement.
The outer unit is comprised of the muscles that are best suited to move the body. These muscles are usually larger than those of the inner unit, cross multiple joints and are much more visible on the body – the main reason why body builders will focus on that 6-pack (or 12-pack). However, consider the outer muscles like the engine in your car and the inner unit muscles like the frame and the bolts that keep the car together. It doesn’t quite matter how big or fast your engine is if your wheels are falling off!
The golf swing requires synergistic function of the inner and outer units. Failure of the inner unit will predispose the spine to forces produced in the swing that cannot be stabilized and dissipated efficiently. A recipe for disastrous injury such as fractured vertebrae or disc damage.
The first and most important step toward reducing back pain and risk of injury is to stop crunch and/or sit-up type exercises all together until you become proficient at activating your inner unit. These exercises should be the focus of any core training regime as improving the stability of the spine and extremities is dependent on the activation of the TVA.
FOUR POINT TVA TRAINER
- Assume the starting position as seen in the diagram. With the spine in neutral alignment, take a deep inhale and allow your belly to drop toward the floor. This may feel weird at first but stick with it.
- As you exhale, draw the belly button in toward the spine as far as you possibly can. Once the air is completely expelled, hold this final position for 10 seconds or as long as possible.
- Throughout the breathing pattern, be sure to keep the spine motionless with minimal activation of the lower back muscles. Complete this exercise 10 times for one set and work your way to three sets total.
- Lay on your back with your hand placed underneath your lumbar spine. If you’re looking for the exact location, follow an imaginary line coming from the belly button all the way around to the spine. Place your hand there.
- Bend your legs to 90 degrees or more until the feet lay completely flat on the floor. Begin to roll the pelvis posteriorly (roll the top of the pelvis backward toward the floor) and remove the space between your lower back and the floor, intentionally crushing the hand with pressure.
- Elevate one leg over a span of 3 seconds while maintaining constant pressure on the hand underneath. Keep the leg in the final position for 3 seconds then take another 3 to lower the leg back to the ground. Be sure to keep pressure on the hand at all times, this part is crucial!
- Complete the exercise for 12-15 reps on each side. If you have difficulty keeping constant pressure on the hand, try using smaller leg movements.
Work these into your daily workout routines and stop the crunches! Your golf game will thank you come Spring. For more exclusive content or for professional support, subscribe to our web list or give us a shout.
Swing healthy folks.