Glutes: The King of Swing

Clint Shum

Whether it’s a regular weekend warrior or an aspiring tour player, every golfer has their level of expectation at which they believe they should perform to. Not only do they set themselves high standards, but they want to meet these standards consistently. As we all know, this is easier said than done! My golfers come to me with one goal in mind, consistency. Often when one’s golf scores head north, the immediate tendency is to self-diagnose, or seek golf instruction.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are many technical factors that can attribute to a lack in consistency, which could be seen to by your local golf professional, however, often it is our physical weaknesses and restrictions that are the source of the problem.

Which brings me to the Glutes, aka the butt muscles. The Gluteal group of muscles are made up of Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus.

Together they make up the largest muscle group in the body. According to the Titleist Performance Institute, over 50% of the amateur golfing population have weak or inhibited glutes. This is a direct result of living the modern-day sedentary lifestyle.

When we spend a large portion of our day sitting, all the while developing poor posture, we develop tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings and inhibited, weak glutes. So how does this relate to your golf swing? Here is why strengthening the glutes will benefit you:
Decreased Risk of Injury: If your glutes are inhibited during the swing, this can cause your hamstrings and lower back to become overactive in an attempt to pick up the slack left behind by the inactive glutes.

Due to the rotational and repetitive nature of the golf swing, this places a great amount of unwanted pressure onto the lower back. As a result, one may become prone to lower back pain, especially after a sudden increase in time playing golf or hitting balls.

Often, lower back pain is the symptom, not the cause of the problem. By strengthening and reactivating the glutes, this will take a great load off your hamstrings and lower back especially.
Increased Power Production and Consistency: Contrary to popular belief, your source of power in the golf swing is derived from the ground up. This is referred to as Ground Reactive Forces (GRF).

Energy is transferred, via the kinetic chain through the lower body, into the upper body and eventually into the club, to produce club head speed. The glutes provide a stable base from which to base your swing off of. Now the link between the upper body and the lower body are the hips and the pelvis.

The glutes are responsible for stabilising the pelvis and rotating the hips. Stabilisation of the pelvis is vital for correct posture and a full transfer of power from the lower body through to the upper body. In order to create maximum power, the glutes must hold the pelvis stable to allow for the upper body to rotate whilst maintaining posture.

Should the glutes be unable to fully stabilise the pelvis throughout the swing, one would have to sacrifice his/her posture and in the process, reduce distance and consistency.

The glute maximus is the primary stabiliser of the pelvis whilst the glute medius is vital in lateral stabilisation. Should the glute medius be inactive or tight, you may be prone to excessive lateral moves in your swing, that is, a sway and a slide.

This movement makes it extremely difficult to control these excess moving parts on a consistent basis.
Here are two examples of exercises you can do at home to strengthen your glutes and build a stable foundation for your golf swing:

Bridge with Leg Extension:

This is a great exercise for developing glute strength, core stability and improving hip extension.

Bridge Figure 1
Figure 1

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (Figure 1).

Bridge Figure 2
Figure 2

Whilst keeping your arms by your side, push your hips up off the floor (Figure 2). As you raise your hips off the floor, be aware that it is your glutes that are contracting.

Bridge Figure 3
Figure 3

Whilst keeping your hips elevated, extend one leg (Figure 3). It is vital that you maintain a stable pelvis throughout the exercise. Try not to let your hips drop to either side, or closer to the ground. Hold for 15 seconds on each side and repeat for four sets. If your hamstrings start to cramp, that is a prime example of your glutes not firing and the hamstrings taking the load.

Clam Shells:

Clam Shell Figure 4
Figure 1

This is a great exercise for building strength in the glute medius and therefore improving your lateral stability.

Clam Shell Figure 5
Figure 2

Lie on your side, knees bent to around 45 degrees (Figure 1). Keep your feet and hips directly on top of one another. Whilst keeping your hips and feet on top of one another, lift your top knee as high as you can (Figure 2), opening the leg up to resemble a clam (hence the name Clamshells). Complete 12 reps on each side and repeat for four sets.

Clinton Shum
Cell: 072 784 8698
Twitter: @shum711
Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Expert
In Association with the Logical Golf Lab, Durban Country Club

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