Can Side Bends Ruin your Golf Swing?

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Training for golf is still a new topic but it will become more and more prevalent in the near future.

The guys that are winning most of the golf tournaments- Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth- all work with strength coaches. I am not sure about Rory but the other 3 all work with a TPI certified team. This means that their medical, golf, and fitness professionals are all speaking the same language and communicating to get them the best results.

I would say that they are doing a pretty good job since they have all combined for close to 15 wins the last two years.

If I were to ask a random person how to train for golf they would probably mention core strength to some extent. The good news is that this person is right. The bad news is that those words do not hold their meaning to the general person.

Go into a commercial gym and you will see a lot of ab work. This will consist of crunches, situps, and side bends. Side bends are a particular favorite (sarcasm) of mine.

I do not like the use of side bends for athletes two reasons. One is that it forces bad habits. The spine is supposed to stay stable in a column. Columns do not bend. Without a strong, stable column it is harder to perform well in sport. We should not train to reduce stability.

Side bends also do not target the muscles that people think they target. Most people will perform side bends to train the obliques. The obliques are on the front of the body and run lateral. The problem with this exercise is that the prime mover in lateral flexion is the quadratus lumborum- QL. The obliques laterally flex but they are an assisting muscle. We have a QL on either side of the spine, right above the hip on the back of the body.

When I look at exercises I want them to be safe and effective. Well, I question the safety of the side bend and I do not think it is effective for training the lateral core.

It also had negative effects for the golf swing. A major swing fault is reverse spine angle. Reverse spine angle happens when the front shoulder drops toward the ground when we are rotating into the back swing.


The compensation in the down swing becomes to drop the back shoulder to the ground and nothing good happens. This is a swing fault I have personally struggled with and the results are pretty bad. This usually means a club that gets dug right into the ground and ball that trickles down the fairway/rough in front of you.

Side bends are the exact motion that we are trying to avoid in a golf swing. Training in the weight room to promote lateral flexion will probably negatively transfer to the course.

Instead, we should be training to resist lateral flexion. If lateral flexion is bending side to side then resisting it requires force to come in from that direction.

Side Planks

Side planks are the easiest to perform because they do not require any equipment. When performing side planks, you should not feel the stress in the back. The best spot to feel it is in the obliques. Hold a side plank for up to 8 seconds and repeat on each side 5 times. That is one set. Perform 2-4.


Overhead Pallof Press

OH Pallofs are a little bit less user friendly and also require decent shoulder mobility. Face perpendicular to a band and press it out in front of you. Then reach both arms overhead without leaning the torso one way or the other. 3 sets of 8 on each side should do the trick.

Single Arm Carries

The key to single arm carries is to make sure that the weight is heavy enough and that the weight is not resting on the leg. From there, keep the torso straight and upright. Walk for as much space as you can and then switch arms and walk back. Repeat 3-4 times.


Use these alternatives to side bends to improve your golf performance. They will improve core stability. promote good posture, and transfer to the golf course to save strokes.