Golf and a sore back go together like country music and a broken heart. You can’t have one without the other. Bending, twisting and pivoting will eventually tighten your lower-back muscles to the point where they feel ready to snap. A trip to the chiropractor will help, but proper conditioning that focuses on the transverse abdominis muscle can also help save on a truckload of aspirin.
The Transverse Abdominis
The transverse abdominis is a large muscle that lines the abdominal wall and helps stabilize the pelvis and spine. In the golf swing, the transverse abdominis helps you retain an athletic posture from address to follow through. If you leave the golf course or driving range with an aching back, chances are good your transverse abdominis isn’t strong enough to do its job. Crunches and leg lifts aren’t enough to strengthen this muscle. The transverse abdominis requires some special attention all its own.
The plank is one of the most effective exercises to build core strength and relieve back strain. Assume a pushup position with your body in a straight line from your feet to your head with your hands beneath your shoulders as you look straight down. Lower to your forearms and elbows. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat the move one more time. For tougher variations, hold the plank at the top of the pushup position for two 30-second reps or alternate lifting and lowering from the elbow plank to the full pushup position for two 20-reps sets.
This exercise works the transverse abdominis and spinal stabilizers and stretches all of the muscles in the back of your body. As a bonus, it develops arm, shoulder and chest strength. Stand up straight. Bend from your hips until your fingertips touch the floor. Walk yourself out on your hands until you reach the top of a pushup position, and walk your feet up to meet your hands. Stand up. Turn and repeat the exercise in the other direction. Perform one set of five reps.
The cat-cow stretch will release the muscles that tighten and produce back pain from golf and everyday activities. Get down to the floor on your hands and knees with your back straight and your head and neck neutral. Arch your spine like a cat. Feel like you are sucking in your abdomen. Let your head drop. Hold this position for one count. Release your spine, pushing your stomach toward the ground while lifting your head and shoulders toward the ceiling. Hold this position for one count. That is one rep. Perform two sets of 10 reps.
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Before a round of golf, warm up the muscles in your midsection including the transverse abdominis to avoid injury. Place a golf club across your lower back and loop your arms over the shaft to hold it in place. Flex your knees slightly and bend from your hips until you are in a golf-swing pose. Pivot your body 90 degrees like a backswing turn. Pause and then unwind as you would do in a forward swing. Finish with your weight on your front foot with your torso facing an imaginary target and your rear foot perpendicular to the ground. Retain your golf posture throughout the exercise. Repeat the swing 10 times.
- Golf Anatomy: Your Illustrated Guide to More Distance and Accuracy; Craig Davies et al.
- Exercise for Weightloss: Transverse Abdominis Exercises
- Stack.com: A Complete Golf Workout
- ACE Fitness: Ab Exercises
David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.