Following on from the importance of hip stability article I wrote last week, I thought it would be a good time to show you how we go about developing hip stability here at Stronger Golf.
We know we need to provide a strong stable lower body platform to create rotation around. In my mind, that always begins and ends with developing a butt of steel! The glutes are arguably the most important set of muscles in the human body for performance. Strong powerful glutes will not only help you stabilise the hip in your golf swing and therefore hit it further and with more control, they will help to improve your posture, increase athletic performance and injury proof your lower back, hips and knees.
Unfortunately, most people, including elite athletes, have pathetically weak and under performing glutes, so lets take a look at how to strengthen them!
The gluteal complex is comprised of three muscles; glute maximus, glute medius, and glute minimus.
The glute max is the largest muscle in the human body, and as such, is an extremely influential muscle. The glute max is very powerful hip extensor and also assists in the abduction and external rotation of the hips, and the stabilization of the knee. The medius and minimus are the main stabilizers of the pelvis and femur, and externally rotate and abduct the hips. Both of these muscles are integral to the alignment of the hips and maintaining that alignment, particularly in unilateral activities and exercises where individual legs have different motion and forces acting upon them.
The takeaway here is that these muscles work together to produce strong, powerful and stable hips, as such so we need to train them all. Happily, as you can see the functions of all these muscles are rather similar, so whilst some exercises hit certain muscles or certain functions better than others and we do need to have a well-rounded (no pun intended, but it’s a good one!) approach to training the glutes we don’t need to isolate each muscle individually, which simplifies training somewhat.
Getting the glutes to fire
Due to over-activation of the hamstrings and lower back muscles and inhibition of the glute max, many players are unable to simply contract the glute max by itself. You must break this neurological reflex before progressing to more advanced glute strengthening exercises or the athlete will simply continue to compensate for lack of glute activation by using the muscles of the hamstring and lower back, which whilst strengthening them isn’t going to help a great deal in our aim to develop more stable hips in the golf swing. For this reason, I use a variety of body weight exercises such as, glute bridges, since-leg glute bridges, side planks, bird dogs, lying abduction, clamshells, and fire hydrants in order for athletes to learn how to fully contract the glutes and build some low level strength and stability before adding weight. Two of these exercises performed for 2 sets of 6-8 usually works well.
An important note here: if you are a coach you must ask the athlete where they feel the contraction and also look to see if the spine is remaining neutral though out the exercise, if you are an athlete try to do the exercise in front of a mirror see you can see if you maintain neutral spine and be honest with yourself about where you feel the contraction. If the reply is ‘mainly in the hamstrings’ rather than the glutes then you or the the athlete are still not activating the glutes. If this is the I have my players get into a supine position and practice contracting their glutes eccentrically (no movement) without simultaneous contraction of the hamstring or lower back. Once they can feel glute contraction like this you can the progress back up to the activation exercises above.
Once competency has been established in these exercises the real fun can start!
We can start adding in appropriate deadlift, squat variations (appropriate meaning based on their movement screen results and current mobility level). The trap bar deadlift is my absolute favourite as it’s higher handles reduce the mobility requirements while the position you take inside the bar means the load on the lower back is reduced, as you are aligned with the bars centre of gravity.
As I said earlier the glute max especially is a powerful hip extensor so it makes sense to train hip extension. Hands down the best way to train max hip extension with load is the barbell glute hip thrust.
when I teach people how to bb glute bridge, I have them posterior pelvic tilt and flatten out their lumbar spine. This prevents anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar hyperextension, it also shuts down the spinal erectors (a.k.a. the lower back) and forces all of the burden onto the hip extensors (primarily glutes)
I also mentioned earlier the important role the glute medius and minimus play in single-leg exercises, so it makes sense to utilise them in our hip stability training too. My favourite is probably the reverse lunge or the Bulgarian split squat as these seem to be more knee friendly than the forward lunge variations in my opinion. Step-ups are also a great option. For any of these exercises a band can also be placed just below the knee on the working leg, with the force applied by the band attempting to pull the knee inwards, this will give an added component to the hip stability requirements.
As we are training for golf and golf is a lateral sport (not solely no, but there is still a heavily lateral component) it’s always good to include some lateral based movements. These movements also target the medius and minimus muscles, who’s primary role is abduction, to a greater extent.
Some exercises I like are lateral lunges, slideboard lateral lunges, x band walks, mini-band walks, lateral sled drags, monster walks, duck walks, lateral bear crawls, seated abduction with band resistance and side lying abduction with band resistance – yes there are lots of possibilities here!
A note on the side lying adduction: a lot of athletes want to drop their pelvis back and recruit their TFL and QL to make up for a lack of strength in the glute medius. Make sure to keep the hips perpendicular to the floor and the top leg from shifting anterior during the lift.
I haven’t left much out here, this is a pretty comprehensive program not just for hip stability but for strength and stability of the lower body in general. In return I just ask that you take this information, decide what applies to you and use it to improve your golf – well that and maybe like my Facebook page too! 😉