For golf, like many other sports, the core is a critical component. It’s the connector of the upper body to the lower body.
A strong core can help to generate force resulting in greater distance off the tee. A weak core could be seen as a power leak. A strong core will also help you to stay healthier longer.
Rotation is obviously a major component in golf, and with that can come a lot of stress on the spine. We need not only strong abdominals, but also strong obliques, serratus, low back, and spinal erectors.
So here are our top 4 core exercises for golf:
1. Single-Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press
First, please be sure you have proper range of motion for a shoulder press. To perform this exercise, begin by holding a dumbbell at shoulder level. Grip the dumbbell the same way you would a hammer. Next, slightly stagger your feet. When the dumbbell is in your right hand put your left foot in front by about six inches, and vice versa.
The next part is key: brace yourself like you’re going to be punched. You have to keep that tension throughout your midsection for the entire duration of the set. Now you’re going to press the dumbbell straight overhead.
A common mistake is to let the dumbbell drift out in front of you. At the top of the rep the dumbbell should be overhead and your arm straight and perpendicular to the floor. Slowly (3-4 seconds) lower the dumbbell back to shoulder level. Your torso must remain rigid throughout all reps. No rotating or side bending. When you complete all reps immediately repeat these steps with the opposite arm.
Because the main work in this exercise is done by the shoulders, not many people would consider it a core exercise for golf. Once you try it you’ll understand why it made the list. Expect your entire midsection, including your low back, to be worked very hard with this exercise.
2. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
Hip hinge exercises are a critical piece in any weight training program and one of the best family of core exercises for golf. They are great for strengthening the hamstrings, glutes, and also the low back. The DB RDL is my go to hip hinge exercise.
Start with your feet at hip width and your toes turned just slightly outward. Stand tall with your chest out and hold the dumbbells at your sides. You’re going to initiate movement by pushing your hips backwards. This is the most important part of the exercise. It’s NOT a forward bend toe touch with weights. The hips must move backwards first before anything else happens.
As your hips move back maintain a small degree of knee bend, just be careful not to turn this into a squat. Keep pushing your hips back while maintaining a flat back and keep the dumbbells at your sides. As your torso gets closer to parallel to the floor you should expect to feel a stretch in your hamstrings and the dumbbells may come forward slightly to counter balance your body weight moving backwards.
Once you reach the bottom reverse the motion by driving your hips forward, keeping your back flat throughout the entire rep.
Range of motion on this exercise is individual. An experienced lifter in good health may be able to get the dumbbells to mid-shin or lower. But many won’t have the ability to get quite as low. Only go as low as you are able to maintain a flat back. It’s also common for hamstrings tightness to be the limiting factor in range for this exercise, especially for older golfers that are new to weight training. Don’t force the issue. Work in the range you have and gradually increase it over time.
Another thing, if you’re new to this exercise, be conservative with weight selection. Better to start too light than too heavy. There will be plenty of time to increase the weights as you get stronger and more comfortable with the exercise. The dumbbell Romanian deadlift definitely takes time to master technique wise. But it’s worth it. The strength you’ll gain in the low back is why it’s a top core exercise for golf.
3. The Ab Rollout
There are a lot of great abdominals exercises, but the ab rollout is hard to top for golfers. It requires both strength and stability through a long range of motion. And also works the serratus anterior.
To perform this exercise you’ll need either an ab roller, a piece of equipment designed specifically for this exercise, or a barbell loaded with plates. If you’re using a barbell just know that loading the bar with heavier plates makes the exercise more challenging. At first glance it may not seem like the weight doesn’t matter because the bar is rolling, but the heavier plates cause more friction, making the exercise harder.
You start by kneeling on the floor. A pad, towel, or yoga mat is recommended for your knees. Then take a shoulder grip width on your piece of equipment. Keep your arms straight. Just like with the shoulder press, you’re going to brace yourself like you’re going to be punched. Next, you begin rolling the bar away from your thighs. You’re going to extend your hips, bringing your chest closer to the floor. You want to avoid excessive back arch with this exercise. Maintain your brace and keep your arms straight.
Range of motion with ab rollouts is individual. Longer range is harder. And just a few inches can take the exercise from easy to undoable. Only go as far as you can maintain your brace. Once you get to the end of your range the reverse motion is the same, but you’ll get the feeling of pulling yourself back to the starting position. If you can master the ab rollout getting your arms fully extended in front of you, rest assured you’ll have a core strong enough for the course.
4. High Pulley Woodchop
No list of core exercises for golf would be complete without a rotational exercise. This exercise is just like it sounds. You simulate a wood chopping motion using a pulley system for resistance. This rotational movement does a great job at strengthening the abdominals and obliques.
To get started attach a standard handle to a pulley system set above head height. Clasp your hands around the handle. Walk the pulley out a few feet to give yourself room. Take a shoulder width stance with a slight knee bend. Begin with straight arms. You’re going to rotate your torso bringing the handle from head height down towards your opposite hip. The key is to maintain straight arms and use your midsection to move the weight. You don’t want to bend or pull with your arms. Maintain tension through the abs on the way down and back up.
**Just another quick word on rotation exercises for golf. This is a case where more is not necessarily better. These types of exercises are often favorites of golfers. But it’s important that they not be done at the exclusion of other exercises. Rotation is obviously a major component of the game. But when weight training for golf we aren’t just trying simulate the game. We are trying to strengthen the total body for health, longevity, and performance. Rotational exercises are a piece of the puzzle. They should definitely be included when training your core for golf. Just don’t over do them or gloss over the other exercises.
There you have it. The top four core exercises for golf. It was difficult to choose just four. There are many other exercises that can help improve a golfers performance and reduce injury risk, but these are some of our favorites. Give us your feedback. Let us know what you think.