Spinal Stiffness is a term you’ve probably not heard of. I mean what commercial gym is going to offer a “spinal stiffness” class?
No one is really talking about spinal stiffness, but that’s really what the job of your core is. You core is not just your abs; it’s everything around your midsection, and that even includes down to your hips and up to your shoulder blades. Basically, spinal stiffness is your ability to coordinate all that musculature to maintain a stable spine throughout a motion.
For example, in the golf swing, the spine has to bend, twist and extend and flex slightly throughout the swing, but you don’t want it moving haphazardly or too much, otherwise you lose energy and risk injury. You want your spine itself to move as little as necessary, with as much movement as possible coming from your hips and shoulders.
Another example is deadlifting. If your back arches or flexes dynamically during the lift, you’re not using correct form because you’re not maintaining spinal stiffness with the movement originating at the hips. This is a case where it’s a big problem because your spine is bearing most of the weight. If your spine is loaded and you don’t maintain spinal stiffness, this can cause injuries such as blown discs. In contrast, if you generate power with your arms and legs rather than your back, you’ll see far fewer injuries and much improved performance.
There are three areas we focus on training toward the for spinal stiffness in golf. First is Anti-Extension. This means preventing your back from extending too far, making a concave arc in your low back. Planks are a simple anti-extension exercise.
Second is Anti-Side Bend, which means preventing your upper body from sagging to one side or the other. Suitcase carries and side planks are common ways of training this.
Finally, and very importantly with golf, is Anti-Rotation. This is your ability to keep your upper body from rotating toward your left or right side. To train this we’ll often tie a resistance band to a stationary object and have you resist its pull to the side with your arms outstretched. All of these work together in the golf swing not to produce movement, but to inhibit movement of the spine and transfer power up from the legs to the club. If you can’t maintain spinal stiffness, you lose most of the power you generate with your legs and instead have to start over and generate it with your upper body leading to lost consistency and power and increased injury.