The most common golf swing fault is the loss of posture. Loss of posture can be a variety of issues but essentially loss of posture is defined by the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) as “any significant alternation from the body’s original setup angles during the golf swing”.
Of the many areas of the swing where posture can be lost, research shows early extension occurs most often in amateur golfers. Early extension happens when the hips/spine begin to straighten out too early in the downswing.
This can result in the arms getting “caught” behind the body which alters the swing plane. This alteration can cause fat shots or a topping off of the ball. If your told you pull your head in your swing, this can be a result of early extension as well.
proper form early extension
photo credit: TPI Titleist Performance Institute
Although extension is important and a source of power, according to Todd Kolb, director of instruction at U.S. Golf TV, it needs to be done with right timing. Extension of the hips should be occurring right before impact of the ball and not before.
To prevent early extension in the swing, maintaining proper stance and load is key. However, to maintain proper load, strong glutes are needed.
This is because the ability to properly hip hinge is critical to maintain and manage a proper load. In order to properly hip hinge, you need strong glutes!
One of the most common things that I see when I work with amateur golfers is a weakness of the glutes and this translates to several faults that arise in the swing. This weakness can contribute to:
Over the top
Reverse spine angle
Having strong glutes helps the body transfer the forces of the swing to generate power in the backswing. As the swing progresses, they also contribute (along with the deep core muscles) to transfer these same forces into the arms and legs rather than through the low back. If these forces are not transferred into the limbs, not only does the power of your swing suffer, but your back will as well.
These muscles do this by keeping the pelvis stable as a base of support while the upper body rotates in the turn. Without this strong, solid base, much of the power generated in the back swing is lost and the spine can then become torqued due to lack of muscular support and stability.
So, needless to say, having strong glutes is critical for an effective (and healthy) golf swing!
Gluteus Medius Gluteus Maximus
Nearly all the golfers I work with require some degree of glute strengthening. There are specific exercises I use, as research shows these most effectively activate the glute muscles. You can get more information about the glutes themselves here and for the specific exercises I use, visit my Resources page.
In addition, working on proper hip hinge technique is also important during/after you improve your glute strength. Having the ability to properly get into (AND STAY INTO) a hip hinge is key to a good set up when the ball is addressed.
A proper hip hinge is important to getting your body in the best position to generate an efficient swing, however, if you are unable to maintain the hip hinge in the backswing, then its benefit is completely lost. That is where the glutes come in - they get you and keep you there.
I find people try to work on hinging or set up drills, however are not successful because they just do not have the glute strength to maintain the positioning. So it is important to first strengthen the muscles, then plug the gained strength into the hip hinging drills.
Here are some tips on how to properly hip hinge once you have increased your glute strength.
After you gain some more strength in your glutes and you can properly hip hinge, it can be very helpful to schedule a visit with your local golf pro so that he or she can give you some swing-specific drills to incorporate your newfound strength and hip hinge technique into your swing.
Your golf lessons will be that much more effective because now your body has the (anatomical) tools to make the changes your pro suggests. In addition to a better swing, your spine will be much happier as well. Happy (and healthy) Golfing!
Stay Well & Feel Good,
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
Hi! I am Dr. Kim MacDonald. I am a physical therapist who specializes in empowering my patients to optimize how they move their bodies and improve their ability to do the things they love regardless of age, experience, or capabilities.
My experience in the health care field allows me to teach the tools you need to ensure that you are working safely to improve your pain and maximize your physical potential.
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