10 more yards

This 10-minute routine is one of the best things you can do for your back

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Lower-back issues and golf go together like weight gain and the holidays. There’s no mistaking the cause-and-effect relationship. Assuming you’re in the midst of some down time between golf seasons, or at least playing a little less than you normally do, now is the time to improve the overall health of your spine’s lumbar (low back) region.

Ben Shear, one of Golf Digest’s 50 Best Fitness Trainers in America, has a quick workout that will go a long way to protecting your lower back when you play. Even better, doing this 10-minute workout a few times a week will help you make a more powerful swing. All you need for equipment is a physio ball.

A healthy back and 10 more yards off the tee in 10 minutes; how does that sound?

Exercise No. 1: Supine extensions (60-90 seconds)

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Lie on a physio ball so your back and spine flex toward the ground and extend your arms above and behind you as far as you can. Hold the position for the length of a decent breath, then relax for a few seconds before repeating. The goal: Negate the effects that prolonged sitting can have on the anterior trunk muscles. This exercise will make you feel taller and more athletic over the ball.

Exercise No. 2: Prone extensions (60-90 seconds)

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Lie face down a physio ball, folded over with your hands behind your head, elbows flared. Rise up until your spine feels straight. Rotate your torso to the left and to the right as far as you can. Return to start and repeat. The goal: Strengthen the erector spinae and other low-back muscles that protect the spine from torsion forces when you swing a golf club faster.

Exercise No. 3: Walk-out planks (60-90 seconds)

Get in a push-up position with the physio ball resting under your upper thighs. Keeping your spine flat, walk forward with your hands until the ball is under your feet. Return to start and repeat. The goal: The core muscles around your mid-section need to be strong to protect your spine and stabilize the body as you swing.

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Exercise No. 4: Reach-throughs (60 seconds each direction)

Start on all fours. Reach under and across your body to rest the back of your hand on the physio. Push the ball away from you as you rotate your trunk and head in the same direction. Return to start and repeat in each direction. The goal: Improve mid- and upper-back rotational mobility to lessen stress on the lumbar vertebrae.

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Exercise No. 5: Side-lying crunches (60 seconds each side)

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Lie on your side on the ball and flex toward the ground, extending your top arm over your head as far as you can. Hold for a few seconds and then put that hand behind your head and contract that side into a crunch. The goal: The muscles on the side of your trunk (obliques) improve lateral and rotational movement of your upper body, key to reducing stress on the lower back and generating more swing speed.