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GOLF INSIDER: Controlling gluteus medius can help game

Published: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 11:35 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, July 10, 2014 9:44 a.m. CST
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(Photo provided)
Roger Steele (center) works with physical therapist Jeremy Smith on his golf swing. Golf instructor Jake Thrum (right) looks on.

Despite a physically fit body and analytical mind, one move escaped Roger Steele in his golf swing.

Steele has a muscular 6-foot, 215-pound frame and eight percent body fat. He has a 135 mph club-head speed when swinging his driver and can hit the golf ball 375 yards. 

But, four months after he hired Jake Thurm, the assistant general manager and lead instructor at Fresh Meadow Golf Course in Hillside, Steele discovered a muscular imbalance that changed his career.

Physical therapist Jeremy Smith determined Steele had an underdeleoped gluteus medius. Steele combined training with Smith and instruction from Thurm to win the 86th Midwest Amateur at Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Club in Chicago in August.

“My lower body was active in my golf swing,” Steele said. “But it was a crazy thing. I had no concept what was going on. Jake helped me to understand how my anatomy is supposed to work in the golf swing. I’ve been able to conceptualize what I am supposed to do.” 

After four months of working with Thurm and Smith, Steele was able to stabilize his lower body and get his hips to rotate through his swing. 

“Roger left his dynamic posture in his down swing,” Thurm said. “He always hit the ball a long way, but he didn’t know where it was going.”

While Steele was the captain of his prep golf team as a senior in 2005 at Oak Park Fenwick and was part of the team that went to the IHSA Class 2A state tournament as a junior, he figured his career was over when he enrolled at the University of Illinois to study engineering. He didn’t bring his golf clubs to college and didn’t even touch a club for seven years.  

Weight training had been his focus in college and post graduation. He gained strength but limited flexibility. When he started to play golf again, Smith armed him with the biomechanical information on what muscles he used during a golf swing, then went to work in the gym. 

“Roger Steele is a unique golfer,” Smith said. “He has a lot of body control. He could pretty much do whatever he wants athletically. I had to teach him what muscle needed to work and what was it’s proper function.” 

As an engineer, Steele said he has “a very detail oriented mind.”

At 26 years old, and now armed with the proper instruction and training techniques, he has a desire to play professionally.

“With traditional lifts, I didn’t put my body in positions were the small muscles were getting worked,” Steele said. “I never paid attention to the flexibility part when training.”

To activate his gluteus medius, Smith used a Thera-Band and two drills.  

“With a Thera-Band placed above his knee Roger’s knee was pulled into adduction,” Smith said. “He resisted the band with his body, and the gluteus medius was then able to fire. He also walked with the band side-to-side around his ankles.” 

The gluteus medius allows for external rotation of the femur. Smith hasn’t done a comprehensive study, but guessed between 90 percent of his clients, both golfers and patients, have a weakness in the gluteus medius. 

Further development of the muscle can easily be done at home and can lead to a more powerful, consistent golf swing. 

“Any golfer can use a Thera-Band to improve their gluteus medius,” Smith said. “It will help for easier rotation of your hips and less lateral swing.”

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