The driving range is a great place to practice your swing but is limited in what it can do to prepare you for an actual game.
If you think about it, the driving range sets you up in a controlled environment but golf courses add character and chaos. This is what makes golf so painfully aggravating at times! During a round of golf, it is more than likely that your feet will be on a non-level surface, the ball will lie higher or lower than your feet, and all the beautiful scenery will distract and block your line of sight. All of these different variables affect your center of gravity.
Your center of gravity (COG) starts somewhere in your midsection. In the Pilates world, we refer to this center as your powerhouse. That is why your core plays a major part in helping maintain balance. Your core/powerhouse is more than just your abs, it includes your: pelvic floor, psoas, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, glutes, hamstrings, and more.
Throughout my years of practicing Pilates, teaching Pilates, and helping golfers, I have seen many of these core muscles hibernate like a bear in winter. As a result, we overwork our arms and legs to compensate for our lack of core strength and stability. This way of moving limits your game and often results in injury.
So, how do we wake up those core muscles to get them to start working for you rather than against you?
The answer is simple, start a regular Pilates practice. The hardest part is showing up and getting the right kind of support. We are all different, so it takes an experienced eye to provide feedback that will tap into the appropriate muscles to help you move and feel better both on and off the golf course. I highly recommend starting your practice at a Club Pilates studio so that you can begin activating and strengthening your powerhouse properly. Just be patient, if your core muscles have been dormant for a while it could take time for your body to learn the movement patterns that are so critical to your golf game. A word of caution, your game could get worse before it gets better while your body adjusts to the recruitment of new muscles. Don’t give up.
Below are some Pilates exercises to help stretch and strengthen that ever-so-important powerhouse that we all have:
Sit on the sits bones with legs spread to about double shoulder width. Get tall through your torso with a neutral spine. Twist to the right and reach your left hand past the outside of your right foot by hinging at the hips while your right arm internally rotates so the palm faces up towards the sky. The entire time your hands are reaching away from each other; your heels are pressing away from the hips; you are keeping consistent pressure on the sits bones to stay centered in the hips; always keeping tall through your torso with a neutral spine. Sit back up tall and perform the same motion to the other side. Repeat for 8-10 reps per side.
FOUR POINT TVA (Transversus Abdominus)
Start in a four-point stance (on hands and knees with hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.). While rounding your spine up towards the sky, draw the abdominals up towards the spine trying to also bring them together towards the belly button and hold for 5 seconds. Slowly release this position back to neutral before repeating. Repeat for 8-10 reps.
HORSE STANCE HORIZONTAL
Start in a four-point stance (on hands and knees with hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.). Making sure to keep abdominals drawn in to keep a neutral spine, extend your left arm up by your left ear as your right leg lifts up and straightens to body height. Once the arm and leg are lifted and straight, reach them strongly away from each other without bending to either side, keep your spine neutral and long. Hold proper form for a good 2-3 seconds and then bring arm and leg back down before switching sides. Repeat for 8-10 reps on each side. This move will help with balance, realigning the spine, as well as neuromuscular integration!
Lay prone (face down) on the floor with your hands by your hips with straight arms and palms on the floor. While pulling the ribs and hips away from each other, draw deep into the abdominals to lift the spine into extension while pressing the arms up and in with shoulders rolled back and reaching towards the feet. Slowly reverse the direction to come back down and then repeat for 8-10 reps.