The Golf Swing and the Role of Core Stability
What is the elastic effect in the golf swing? The elastic effect is also known as the stretch-shortening cycle. The stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) is an action of stretching then contracting (shortening) a muscle/muscle group within a short time to increase elastic energy to enhance the power of the shortening action.
To enhance the actions of the SSC in the golf swing it is suggested to coil the upper body against the resistance of the lower body creating what Jim McLean calls the “X” Factor Stretch. This allows for the muscles of the core (hips, trunk and shoulders) to be stretched in the backswing and to create a more powerful contraction on the downswing. To maximize the SSC in the golf swing the stabilizing muscles of the core (hips, trunk and shoulders) must be working efficiently. These stabilizing muscles allow for controlled motion that can handle various loads.
How can we maximize core stability?
To maximize core stability, we must understand that it’s not just the abdominal muscles, but the muscles of the shoulders all the way down to the hips. If one of these joints is not working efficiently in the golf swing, the swing itself will not be as efficient.
The hip joint is a mobile, ball and socket joint that is essential to creating and transferring power in the golf swing. Exercises that focus on the deep muscles in the hip such as glute medius will help to stabilize the hip and allow for greater power transfer. The glute bridge is a great exercise to work on hip stability as well as proper muscle activation of the lower body.
The glute bridge
When performing the glute bridge, it is essential to engage the deeper abdominals while maintaining a neutral spine, see the next section for a better understanding. Once abdominals are engaged, push your heels into the floor and lift your buttocks off the floor a couple of inches to start.
You should feel this exercise in your glutes (buttocks), if you feel it in your hamstrings (back of the legs) or lower back, this means that your glutes are not firing properly and other muscles are compensating to allow for the movement. If this happens, you can put a band around the thighs to help activate the glutes and allow for proper firing and activation. This exercise can be done each day for 10-12 reps.
The spine (abdominals and back muscles)
The spine when standing in proper posture should trace the shape of an “S”, with the lumbar spine or lower back ending the “S” shape. This is what is called neutral spine position. When exercising, it is recommended to maintain a neutral spine to decrease extra pressure on the low back. To maintain a neutral spine during exercise, we need to learn how to contract the deeper abdominal and back stabilizers.
From a flat lying position, keep the knees on the floor and come up onto your forearms, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders. To contract the deep muscle of the abdominals, it starts with the pelvic floor, these are the muscles that allow for the termination of urine flow and then works into a brace of the abdominal muscles.
You should feel this exercise in your abdominals and not in your lower back. If you feel this in your lower back ensure that you have adequately braced your abdominals. Hold this plank for 8 seconds max and repeat 4-8 times. This exercise can also be done each day.
The shoulder is also a mobile, ball and socket joint that transfers the power generated from the hips and trunk to the golf club. Control and stabilization of the scapula is extremely important not only for power but also for injury prevention. To set your shoulder in the correct postural position, the chest should be high with the shoulder in a back and down position. In this position, the tension in the neck and upper back should decrease, and the correct stabilizers of the mid back can keep the shoulder blade in the correct position.
The shoulder “Y”
When in position, once the muscles of the hip and spine are activated, set your shoulders into the correct postural position. Once in the correct position, picture your shoulder blade staying still as you move your arms up into a “Y” position.
This exercise should be felt between the shoulder blades and slightly lower. It should not be felt in the lower back or neck. If this happens, reset all positions and make sure abdominals and mid back muscles stay engaged. This exercise can also be done each day for 10-12 repetitions.
There should now be a good understanding that the core is not just a couple of muscles in the stomach, but a combination of muscles from the shoulders down to the hips. Keeping all of these joints healthy with good mobility and stability will help you to maximize your everyday health and your golf swing.