Core Training: Are We Missing Something Here?

Core Training: Are We Missing Something Here?

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Nick is a strength and conditioning coach contracted by PGA Tour Players and national teams to deliver his unique brand of golf fitness services. Nick offers the opportunity to access his knowledge and services to the rest of the golfing world through the following avenues:
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The majority of core work is performed either horizontally (prone and supine), sitting or kneeling. After speaking with some people much smarter than me, namely Mark Bull (UK based Bio Mechanist), I have been wondering whether we are missing a key opportunity to get some really important work done by not performing more core exercises in a standing position.

I mentioned in a previous article that I think we in the golf fitness world should resist the temptation of grabbing the low-hanging fruit of loaded rotational training before taking care of the fundamentals of quality movement and strength in the sagittal and frontal planes (front to back and side to side). So I’m not advocating throwing out the fundamental exercises that make up a solid training program, more so, I’m searching for opportunities in the supplementary exercises where we can train the core in a manner that has more effective transfer to our golf swing.

After reading an article by Mark Bull, and being very fortunate to be able to catch up in person for a chat, he got me thinking about the way I program core training especially. In the article, Bull talked about some analysis work he did on a long-drive champion that caused him to question to the X-Factor Stretch Theory of hitting the long ball. 

“The interaction between the pelvis and thorax has been researched for years, and for many, it is seen as having a significant influence on driving distance,” Bull said. “However, on recently testing a world long drive champion, the values he returned started to question my own understanding and value of this interaction. For years, we have been led to believe that high levels of stretch at the start of downswing between the pelvis/thorax is required to help generate maximum club head speed. However, the long-drive champion failed to produce more than 1 degree for any shot during the test. However, what was of great interest was the levels of separation/stretch achieved across other segments. Let’s define separation/stretch as elastic recoil; the levels of elastic recoil that he produced across the lead scapula/shoulder/ribcage were staggeringly high. The amount of stretch, the speed of the stretch and the rate of recoil were huge. Therefore, perhaps the interaction between thorax and arm is of more value than pelvis/thorax?”

“Typically, long hitters exhibit a reduction in the angle between the lead arm and thorax (ribcage) in transition towards impact” Bull said. 

This is a really interesting thought, and it contradicts the traditional wisdom that more X Factor Stretch equals more club head speed. In fact, Bull had previously tested another elite player who had the one of the largest X-Factor Stretches of anyone he had seen, yet one of the lowest club head speeds. Given his findings, Bull suggested that training could be adapted to include more focus on elastic recoil for the whole body, as opposed to focusing solely on the the pelvis and thorax.

As is my tendency when listening to very bright people, I took this info and sought to simplify it down to my level of understanding, then apply to a relevant practical setting (the gym). I started to experiment with a Stroops Shorty Stick and a resistance band tied to one end, in my opinion this gives you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of stability challenge. Whilst not quite as effective, you can use any kind of stretchy band or cable machines with a handle.

Stroops Shorty Stick with resistance band attached

I am going to show you a selection of the exercises that I have been using that I feel tick the boxes of quality connection to the ground, pelvic stability, spinal stability and scapula stability under rotational load to work on this “all-body elastic recoil” that Bull was talking about. Importantly, I feel that these exercises give an appropriate swing-specific stimulus, while avoiding the potential detrimental impact on sequencing/motor patterns that can occur by simply loading an imitated golf swing.

My advice is to try including these exercises at the end of your workout, after you have completed your strength work, in place of your usual core work. This will ensure you are both warmed up and not at risk of tiring out your core before doing exercises that require you to use your core to perform the movement safely (back squats, for example). Click here for more on customised training program design.

As always, gain consent from your relevant medical professional first and be careful to start with a light resistance band or cable load and work your way up gradually. Two-to-three sets of 6-8 repetitions on each side using a slow tempo is ideal to start. Work up to faster speeds and heavier loads once confident with the technique. You should feel these exercises working predominantly your glutes/hip complex, core and shoulders/arms, as well as challenging your ability to maintain solid connection with the ground. If you are feeling more strain in your lower back and less in the targeted areas stop immediately and seek out the advice of a good fitness professional.

1 - Stick/Band Press: Neutral Stance

 

Positioning: Upright stance, core and glutes engaged.

Form: Press stick out in front of body, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae (shoulder blades) and shoulders as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

2 - Stick/Band Pallof Press

Positioning: Upright split stance, core and glutes engaged, facing at 90 degrees to band/cable anchor point.

Form: Press the stick/band out in front of the chest, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae, shoulders and torso as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

3 - Stick/Band Turn: Split Stance

 

Positioning: Upright split stance, core and glutes engaged, torso rotated 90 degrees to band/cable anchor point.

Form: Rotate to right until chest and shoulders are facing forward, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae and shoulders as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

4 - Stick/Band Turn: 90-90 Stance (less strain on back, more opportunity to turn through hips)

 

Positioning: Upright 90-90 stance (open hips, feet pointing at 90 degrees), core and glutes engaged, torso rotated 90 degrees to band/cable anchor point.

Form: Rotate to right until chest and shoulders are facing the same direction as lead foot, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae and shoulders as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

5 - Stick / Cable Pull Across

 

Positioning: Upright stance, side on to anchor point. Lead arm pulled across torso.

Form: Rotate torso and pull arm to the left, away from anchor point. Keep scapula as stable as possible, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

For more information on Mark Bull and his services click here.

If you would like to access training programs that incorporate the exercises detailed here, then check out the following products and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Targeted Training Programs (PDF)
Individually Customised Training Programs
Online Personal Training

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