*Editor's note: Hope you're enjoying the Instruction Blog, only at golfdigest.com. Every week my colleague Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, will present Fitness Friday. He'll give you health and fitness tips or an exercise or stretch to get your body warmed up for the weekend. We want you to be in shape to play your best golf ever.
If you're looking to start a fitness regimen with the goal of improving your golf game, there's no better place to start than core-strengthening exercises. An informal poll of top golf-fitness experts such as Ralph Simpson, Randy Myers, Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook and Alwyn Cosgrove confirmed that the plank should be a staple of your core workout.
The plank is a long-hold stabilizing exercise in which you get down and face the ground and support your body weight only with your forearms and toes. You have to recruit several muscle groups -- most notably the abs and obliques -- to maintain this position for any substantial length of time.
The best part? Not only will it turn your core into a stable platform to improve your golf swing, the plank also is a lot less taxing on your spine when compared with traditional sit-ups and crunches. In fact, it improves spinal stability by strengthening the muscles around it.
"It's way better, especially for someone who already has had bouts with lower-back pain," says Simpson. "The plank registers a much higher EMG (electromyogram) in the tranversus abdominus and doesn't put nearly the load on the lumbar spine that the crunch does."
In other words, more muscle activity is registered, and you won't crush your spine while doing the plank. Two pretty darn good reasons to say good-bye to sit-ups and crunches.
To see me demonstrate a par (beginner), birdie (intermediate) and eagle (advanced) version of this exercise, just click on the video. Make sure to keep your back straight and concentrate on tightening your abs. Your goal is to be able to do the par version for 60 seconds with relative ease before graduating to the birdie and then to the eagle. The challenge also will make it more fun.
If you have any questions or comments about this exercise, or golf fitness in general, let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@ronkaspriske).
Golf Digest Fitness Editor