The Glutes, Electricity and Golf
Recently I’ve been delving into the work of Bret Contreras, the self-made ‘Glute Guy’. His area of focus is, of course, the glutes and how we can make them stronger, larger and more efficient. What I like about Bret’s work is that it is all evidence based; he doesn’t prescribe to ‘pseudoscience’.
I’ll save you a quick google search and define pseudoscience here: “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method”.
Kelly Starrett, a San Francisco based physical therapist, has become quickly known as a mobility and stability expert. One of his books, Becoming a Supple Leopard, dials in on key bracing techniques to develop a stable, powerful position. The first step in his bracing process is to squeeze the glutes, creating neutral hips during stance.
Next, let’s discuss electricity of the muscles: electromyography (EMG). EMG analysis, with respect to sport analysis, determines a peak amount of activity while the muscle length doesn’t change; this is referred to as maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). So if I put lock my arm into position and try to perform a bicep curl (it would look like I’m just maximally flexing), the amount of force I develop is that MVC.
If you quantify MVC, it is a ‘1’. Therefore, if I perform a low intensity bicep curl, I may exhibit 30% biceps activation, or 30% of that MVC. Make sense? Researchers can then take folks through various movement patterns to figure how aggressively a muscle group fires during the movement. It has allowed guys like Bret to make conclusions like “hip thrusts create more activation of the quads than squats do” (another blog, one day).
Recap: glutes, stability, power, muscle activation during movement.
I’ll put this in golf speak. “During the golf swing, your glutes are the key element in maintaining stability and creating hip drive for power.” Hopefully now you’ve made the right connections and my blog has gone from vague to pinpoint.
EMG analysis of the golf swing demonstrates that aside from the backswing, the glutes are the most highly activated lower body muscles. Once you begin the early forward swing, the glutes contract to squeeze the hips around and through which transfers energy up through your trunk, shoulders, arms and finally, the clubhead.
Take a look at these pictures of Rory during his swing:
During the backswing, his quads and hamstrings are creating stability at the knee joint, holding him in the bent position. After that point though, the data shows us that glutes stabilize the hips as they rotate and complete the swing with extension, allowing us to finish in a standing, upright position.
To summarize my point: the glutes need to be a focal point of any golf specific strengthening program. Tons of people emphasize the core but in the kinematic chain, the glutes come before the core and an exponential amount of power can be leaked out of the system if the glutes aren’t properly trained.
Bret has shown us (through EMG analysis) that the best exercises for glute activation are hip thrusts, cable pull throughs, high box step ups and low bar squats. Don’t know what any of that means? That’s where I come in. Give me a call or email to discuss Golf strength and conditioning with AllPro.
- Starrett K, Cordoza G. Becoming a Supple Leopard : the Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance. 2013.
- McHardy A, Pollard H. Muscle activity during the golf swing. Br J Sports Med. 2005;39(11):799-804; discussion 799-804.
- Hume PA, Keogh J, Reid D. The role of biomechanics in maximising distance and accuracy of golf shots. Sports Med. 2005;35(5):429-449.