If you are looking for more stability in your body during the golf swing, which will lead to more consistency, then look no further than your glute muscle. Where are your glutes? They are the large muscle group that is known to most as the butt cheeks.
In our Golf Fitness Assessment we have the bridge with leg extension test. This test will show you how much strength you have in your glutes and if you can even get them to work. The test has you lie on your back with knees bent to start. Then you are asked to lift your hips as high as you can, while holding this position you extend one leg for 10 seconds. If your gluts are strong and you have good control over them this movement should not be very strenuous. If you feel this working in the back of the leg or the lower back, this means you have weakness in the glute or limited activation. If you feel a cramp in the back of leg it’s a good chance you have no control over the glutes and never use them.
Most everything we do is in front of us, therefore the muscles that make up the posterior (backside) chain in our body are seldom used. When we sit the glutes become inactive, when we walk (unless uphill) the glutes are inactive, and over time our mind literally forgets how to use them. When it comes time to do movements that should involve the glutes, the mind uses what it knows best, usually the lower back muscles or the hamstrings.
The glutes should be one of the most active muscles in the golf swing; they control lower body stability by fighting against the sway or slide and maintaining posture throughout. They are also used to control hip movement, if it’s more or less hip turn you want, more glute strength will help.
The second test we are covering today is the single leg balance. This simple test will give us a lot of feedback as to the amount of lower body stability you actually have. This test measures your proprioception (a big word for feel). The reason we have you close your eyes is to see how much “feel” you have in your feet. See, you have 3 types of proprioception in your eyes, ears, and feet. So we take one away and see how you do.
In order to stand on one leg you must be able to activate or depend on the glutes, remember they are very important in lower body stability. If you have a hard time maintaining your balance in your swing I guarantee a couple weeks of practicing standing on one leg with your eyes closed will help you tremendously. Working on your glute muscles will also make a big difference in your balance.
Here are 2 easy exercises to increase glute awareness as well as strength.
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• Deer in the Headlights – This drill is used to train the mind and the glutei muscle to work in unison. Typically we see a co-contraction of the glut along with the hamstring and/or lower back. It is the intent of the brain to fire the glutes, but for many reasons the hamstrings and/or lower back tends to either take over or help out too much! By establishing a direct pathway between the brain and the “correct” muscle you will be breaking a negative cycle that tends to lead to both injuries and poor play. This drill does not typically come with a standard number of sets and reps; rather it is something that can be practiced for a few seconds here and there during your entire day. The more you practice this drill in different settings (supine, seated, standing, golf posture, prone etc…) the more your glutes will become familiar with activating properly.
• Bridging Two Legs – 2 sets of 10 reps each. Hold each repetition for 10 seconds. This will give you approximately 200 seconds of gluteus contraction. During a normal round of golf the glutes become active for roughly 2 seconds per golf swing. Multiply this number by an average of 50 strokes per round, and 100 practice swings, and you get roughly 300 seconds of glut activation (based of an average score of 85, with 35 putts).
• Bridging One Leg – 2 sets of 3-5 reps each. Hold each repetition for approximately 3-5 seconds. This time period will increase as your glut strength increases. If you feel a cramp coming on in the hamstring or lower back region, discontinue the exercise immediately. This is a sign that the glute muscle is being shut off and the hamstring/lower back is taking over. It is our goal to work through this issue by reprogramming the mind’s control over specific muscle groups (glutes).