The Truth about Tiger’s 'Deactivated Glutes'
Tiger’s back is acting up again, but it may not be for the reason he thinks. Recently, at the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods explained to the press that his glutes “deactivated,” leaving his back to bear the brunt of his powerful swing.
“Glutes don’t just ‘shut off’ like there’s a switch,” says Men’s Health training adviser Bill Hartman, P.T., C.S.C.S., owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training.
Maybe it’s not what Woods said, just how he said it. When people claim their glutes won’t activate—some call this “gluteal amnesia”—it’s not that their glutes have actually forgotten how to fire.
“It’s likely that posture problems or acute duress have made it more difficult for him to recruit those muscles,” says Hartman. “They’re not deactivated. It's more like his brain isn’t asking them to fire in the way that he needs them to.”
How does this happen? Posture problems, for example, can alter the natural positions of bones, such as your pelvis. This can place strong, powerful muscles—like your glutes—in a weaker position. “The muscle loses leverage for certain movements,” says Hartman.
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When a significant physical challenge is imposed on the affected movements—such as trying to swing a golf club with tremendous speed—the brain creates a work-around, in order to accomplish the task. It calls upon on other muscles to generate the force the movement requires. This transfers the load from the muscles that would naturally be recruited—again, like the glutes—to other muscles, as well as ligaments and joints. All of which can put you at risk for serious injury.
This is known as faulty “patterning,” and it’s not just a result of posture issues. It can occur after an injury or when the body feels under threat.
And it doesn’t just affect professional athletes. “The average person often has developed patterning issues,” says Hartman, “which may put them at higher risk for injury.” This can be particularly true when your muscles fatigue during a workout, yet you keep pushing anyway, and compensate with poor exercise technique. So remember that there could be a price to pay the next time you try to finish a set at all costs, even if you're "in great shape."
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