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Core Training: Are We Missing Something Here?



The majority of core work is performed either horizontally (prone and supine), sitting or kneeling. After speaking with some people much smarter than me, namely Mark Bull (UK based Bio Mechanist), I have been wondering whether we are missing a key opportunity to get some really important work done by not performing more core exercises in a standing position.

I mentioned in a previous GolfWRX article that I think we in the golf fitness world should resist the temptation of grabbing the low-hanging fruit of loaded rotational training before taking care of the fundamentals of quality movement and strength in the sagittal and frontal planes (front to back and side to side). So I’m not advocating throwing out the fundamental exercises that make up a solid training program, more so, I’m searching for opportunities in the supplementary exercises where we can train the core in a manner that has more effective transfer to our golf swing.

After reading an article by Mark Bull, and being very fortunate to be able to catch up in person for a chat, he got me thinking about the way I program core training especially. In the article, Bull talked about some analysis work he did on a long-drive champion that caused him to question to the X-Factor Stretch Theory of hitting the long ball. 

“The interaction between the pelvis and thorax has been researched for years, and for many, it is seen as having a significant influence on driving distance,” Bull said. “However, on recently testing a world long drive champion, the values he returned started to question my own understanding and value of this interaction. For years, we have been led to believe that high levels of stretch at the start of downswing between the pelvis/thorax is required to help generate maximum club head speed. However, the long-drive champion failed to produce more than 1 degree for any shot during the test. However, what was of great interest was the levels of separation/stretch achieved across other segments. Let’s define separation/stretch as elastic recoil; the levels of elastic recoil that he produced across the lead scapula/shoulder/ribcage were staggeringly high. The amount of stretch, the speed of the stretch and the rate of recoil were huge. Therefore, perhaps the interaction between thorax and arm is of more value than pelvis/thorax?”

Lead Arm Stretch

“Typically, long hitters exhibit a reduction in the angle between the lead arm and thorax (ribcage) in transition towards impact” Bull said. 

This is a really interesting thought, and it contradicts the traditional wisdom that more X Factor Stretch equals more club head speed. In fact, Bull had previously tested another elite player who had the one of the largest X-Factor Stretches of anyone he had seen, yet one of the lowest club head speeds. Given his findings, Bull suggested that training could be adapted to include more focus on elastic recoil for the whole body, as opposed to focusing solely on the the pelvis and thorax.

As is my tendency when listening to very bright people, I took this info and sought to simplify it down to my level of understanding, then apply to a relevant practical setting (the gym). I started to experiment with a Stroops Shorty Stick and a resistance band tied to one end, in my opinion this gives you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of stability challenge. Whilst not quite as effective, you can use any kind of stretchy band or cable machines with a handle.

Stick Core - Equip

Stroops Shorty Stick with resistance band attached

I am going to show you a selection of the exercises that I have been using that I feel tick the boxes of quality connection to the ground, pelvic stability, spinal stability and scapula stability under rotational load to work on this “all-body elastic recoil” that Bull was talking about. Importantly, I feel that these exercises give an appropriate swing-specific stimulus, while avoiding the potential detrimental impact on sequencing/motor patterns that can occur by simply loading an imitated golf swing.

My advice is to try including these exercises at the end of your workout, after you have completed your strength work, in place of your usual core work. This will ensure you are both warmed up and not at risk of tiring out your core before doing exercises that require you to use your core to perform the movement safely (back squats, for example).

As always, gain consent from your relevant medical professional first and be careful to start with a light resistance band or cable load and work your way up gradually. Two-to-three sets of 6-8 repetitions on each side using a slow tempo is ideal to start. Work up to faster speeds and heavier loads once confident with the technique. You should feel these exercises working predominantly your glutes/hip complex, core and shoulders/arms, as well as challenging your ability to maintain solid connection with the ground. If you are feeling more strain in your lower back and less in the targeted areas stop immediately and seek out the advice of a good fitness professional.

Stick/Band Press: Neutral Stance

Stick 5

Positioning: Upright stance, core and glutes engaged.

Form: Press stick out in front of body, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae (shoulder blades) and shoulders as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

Stick/Band Pallof Press

Stick 4

Positioning: Upright split stance, core and glutes engaged, facing at 90 degrees to band/cable anchor point.

Form: Press the stick/band out in front of the chest, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae, shoulders and torso as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

Stick/Band Turn: Split Stance

stick 2

Positioning: Upright split stance, core and glutes engaged, torso rotated 90 degrees to band/cable anchor point.

Form: Rotate to right until chest and shoulders are facing forward, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae and shoulders as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

Stick/Band Turn: 90-90 Stance (less strain on back, more opportunity to turn through hips)

Stick 1

Positioning: Upright 90-90 stance (open hips, feet pointing at 90 degrees), core and glutes engaged, torso rotated 90 degrees to band/cable anchor point.

Form: Rotate to right until chest and shoulders are facing the same direction as lead foot, fight the resistance pulling you to the left. Keep scapulae and shoulders as stable as possible. Hold for 2 seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

Stick / Cable Pull Across

Stick 8

Positioning: Upright stance, side on to anchor point. Lead arm pulled across torso.

Form: Rotate torso and pull arm to the left, away from anchor point. Keep scapula as stable as possible, return to start position and repeat. Perform equal reps on both sides.

For more information on Mark Bull and his services click here. For more on Nick Randall and his range of golf specific training programs and equipment click here

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings.



  1. Al Czervik

    Jun 1, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    This is one of the best articles I have read on the subject. Thanks for taking the time to share. It would be nice to see what recommendations you would make for the strength training portion of the workout.

    • Nick Randall

      Jun 7, 2016 at 5:35 am

      Hi Al,

      Sorry for the delayed response. Strength work is focused on stability first, then basic strength, then max strength, then power. Variations of squat, lunge, push and pull make up the majority of the exercise selection.

      Hope this helps Al

  2. Mark Odenthal

    May 31, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Love this!

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

More from the Wedge Guy



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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things



As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.

For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.

All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.

This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.

So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.

  • Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
  • Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
  • Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
  • Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
  • This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
  • A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
  • And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.

So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…

  • Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
  • You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.

If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.

More from the Wedge Guy

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Clement: Don’t overlook this if you want to find the center of the face




It is just crazy how golfers are literally beside themselves when they are placed in a properly aligned set up! They feel they can’t swing or function! We take a dive into why this is and it has to do with how the eyes are set up in the human skull!

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