When most people think of the core, they think of those mighty rectus abdominus muscles responsible for a six-pack stomach and a stable golf swing. But when it comes to the rotational aspects of your swing, the obliques play a key role, too. In fact, if these muscles on the sides of your stomach are weak, you'll really struggle to make solid contact with the ball.
Dave Phillips and Greg Rose, who head up the impressive Titleist Performance Institute (@mytpi), explain how weak oblique and glute muscles combine to produce one of golf's most common swing flaws--reverse spine angle.
"Reverse spine angle is not to be confused with a reverse pivot, which looks similar but is a problem of poor weight shift," says Rose. "Reverse spine angle occurs when weak oblique and glute muscles force you to lose all of your flexion as you swing to the top. If you are bent at the hips 30 degrees at address, but that shifts to minus-5 degrees at the top, you have reversed your spine angle. Your torso will lean toward the target. This is a major cause of lower-back pain and poor contact."
Phillips, on Golf Digest's list of America's 50 Greatest Teachers, says a way you can check to see if your obliques and glutes are active when you swing is by doing this drill: "At address, drop your left foot back almost behind your right (left). Now swing to the top. If you begin to fall over, you've decreased the angle that you bent forward at the hips way too far. Focus on keeping some flexion as you swing to the top, and you won't lose your balance."
And when you are back in the gym, a great way to correct the problem of reverse spine angle is by doing this drill, Rose says: "Using a narrow stance, get into a half-kneeling position and take a wide grip on a club with your arms extended. Keeping the lower body still, rotate the torso toward the bent knee as the arms move up and across the body. The rotation will strengthen the obliques, and the kneeling helps the glutes. Do a set of 10 in each direction, switching the leg positions."
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest.
(Photos by Joey Terrill )