Fitness Friday: Ben Shear strengthens your core

*Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. This week he discusses how the core muscles affect the golf swing, and what fitness expert Ben Shear prescribes to strengthen the core. Look for Weekend Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman**.

Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest*

Here's Ron: Golf is a rotational sport. It's no different from baseball, hockey, shot put--anything that requires the trunk to twist from one direction to another in ballistic fashion. For that to happen effectively, the muscles that allow you to walk upright and maintain various postures have to be strong. Even the simplest tasks such as reaching out and lifting an object require assistance from the muscles that are located in the mid-section of the body.

By now, you've probably heard these muscles referred to as "the core." Many people mistakenly think the core are the six abdomen muscles, including the rectus abdominus (six-pack muscle). The abs are only part of the core. The gluteal muscles (butt), hip muscles, latissimus dorsi and erector spinae muscles (back) also are considered part of the group.

OK, enough with the anatomy lesson. The point is, without a strong core, which provides stability for the rotational power needed to swing a golf club effectively, you might as well take up chess.

Top fitness trainer Ben Shear (@ben_shear) is an expert on diagnosing swing flaws based on physical deficiencies, and he says a lack of core stability is a major issue with amateur golfers. Shear, who works with Luke Donald, Jason Day and Webb Simpson on the PGA Tour, says the amateurs he sees who have weak cores can't make an adequate turn off the ball and/or stop their swing just past impact. Many of them easily lose their balance when they swing. A great analogy would be to think of trying to swing your driver on a hockey rink versus a basketball court. Without stability, an aggressive swing is going to get out of control in a hurry.

There are dozens of muscles that will improve core stability. One of Shear's favorites is the plank, which engages and strengthens much of the core. The problem with planking, however, is that the shoulders often fatigue before the core muscles do. So unless you "spice it up," Shear says you will gain only so much benefit. With that in mind, Shear shows you an advanced plank that will really make those core muscles work long before the shoulders tire. Click on the video below to see his demonstration.

*Ron Kaspriske

Fitness Editor

Golf Digest