This article appeared in the Spring 2012 Issue of LINKS.
THE GOLF SWING takes a real toll on the back, so it’s important to keep it strong and flexible if you want to keep playing for as long as possible. PGA Tour pros know this perhaps better than anybody, which is why they spend a lot of time in the Allegheny Sports Medicine’s fitness and injury trailers doing exercises and stretches like the ones that follow.“All the twisting exerts a lot of force on the spine, particularly because of all the repetition in one direction,” says Allegheny General Hospital’s supervisor of sports medicine Craig C. Castor. “The key is to prevent injuries before they happen.”
Setting the Core
It’s important to learn to set the core since it’s part of all the exercises that follow. Lie on the floor with knees bent and hands behind head. Flatten your back and tighten your abs so that your belly button is drawn in and up. Hold for one minute; repeat three times. “I also recommend that you do this when you address the ball and throughout the swing,” says Castor. “It helps protect your back by creating a natural girdle of your 29 core muscles and creates a better and safer quality of motion.”
Opposite Arm/Opposite Leg
Get on all fours with hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Keep your back flat and head in line with spine; set core. Raise one arm to shoulder height and opposite leg to height of hips. Hold for two to three seconds, return, and alternate side. Do four one-minute sets resting in between each one. “This helps increase your sense of balance while strengthening your back,” says Castor. “Bad balance can lead to back injuries.”
Cable Column Twist
“This is a great exercise that mimics the golf swing and makes the whole lower back work as a unit for functional strengthening,” says Castor. Starting with a light setting of weights, set the handle about bellybutton height, and stand perpendicular to the machine with feet a little wider than shoulder width. Keeping knees slightly bent, set core, and grab handle with both hands. Twist away from the machine by rotating your hips like the finish of a golf swing while keeping the handle close to the body. Slowly unwind back to starting position with the cable taut at all times. Begin with three sets of eight. Face the other way and do another three sets of eight. Increase reps until 12 become easy then add more weight.
Double Knees to Chest
It’s important to loosen up the lower-back muscles since they’re stretched so much during the swing. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Clasp hands around both knees, set core, and gently bring knees to chest until you feel a stretch in your low back. Hold for 10 seconds and return slowly to the starting position; repeat 5–10 times.
Prone and Side Planks
These dynamic positions strengthen your lower-back stabilizing muscles—the ones that bear the brunt of all the twisting and are the most commonly injured. Lie face down with elbows below shoulders and hands turned inward while keeping your back flat and head in line with spine; set core. Raise body off the floor and hold for as long as possible (up to one minute), rest, and repeat three times. The goal is to increase hold times rather than repetitions. For side planks, lie on side with elbow below shoulder, forearm perpendicular to body, and one leg on top of the other; set core. Raise body off floor, keeping back flat and