The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body, and it's supposed to be the strongest. Yet, ask any fitness trainer where they see the biggest deficiencies with their golfers, and they'll almost always name the glutes as a weak link in the chain.
Why are strong butt muscles important in a golf swing?
"The gluteus maximus is the main creator of hip extension, which allows you to drive your legs into the ground, in essence supplying your swing with energy," says Craig Davies, a certified chiropractor and fitness trainer. He works with several PGA Tour pros, including Hunter Mahan, Sean O'Hair and Justin Rose.
"In addition, the gluteus medius and minimus help stabilize the leg to the pelvis when making a lateral move toward the target. This allows energy to be transferred from your legs to your core."
And that's not all, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Randy Myers,
"Strong glutes allow the torso and shoulders to turn properly. Without them, the tendency is to sway or slide, making it harder to hit the ball solidly."
In other words, any fitness routine for golfers must include glute-strengthening exercises. One of the best is the glute bridge.
To do one properly, lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Now contract your glute muscles and then thrust your pelvis toward the sky. You should be able to hold this position for 60 seconds without feeling cramping in your hamstrings. If you feel cramping, stop and rest. This is a telltale sign you've got weak glute muscles because your hamstrings are taking over and trying to compensate. Repeat the exercise for a shorter duration with the goal of eventually building up to a minute. If you can do that, you've mastered the par version of the glute bridge and are ready for the birdie and, eventually, the eagle.
One more key, make sure before you contract your glute muscles that your spine is in a neutral position. To get your spine into neutral, lie back and then arch your back. Now reverse that by pushing your spine into the ground. Then relax. Now you know where neutral is. Davies also notes that stretching your hip-flexor muscles before performing glute bridges can get the muscles to perform better.
To see me demonstrate the par, birdie and eagle versions, just click on the video.
-- Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor