Pilates and Active Glutes
When Tiger Woods withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open in 2015, he gave a reason that had most people shaking their heads. He attributed his errant swing to not being able to activate his glutes.
So many fans had a collective laugh over it. But for pilates and golf fitness instructor Nika Eshetu, it was a glorious moment that makes her smile just thinking about it.
“When Tiger made that comment, it made me so happy,” Eshetu said. “All my clients said, ‘So that’s what you’ve been talking about all these years!’”
The 31-year-old Eshetu owns her own business, Atomic Pilates & Fitness, in North Hollywood. She opened her studio about four years ago, but something unexpected and cool happened that wasn’t in her original business plan: about 50 percent of her clients hire her as a golf fitness instructor.
Eshetu analyzes a person’s golf swing with high-tech equipment, then tailors a pilates workout to help improve their swing. Clients take swings wearing a K-Vest, which uses sensors and imaging to provide biofeedback and analysis.
I tried her personalized intro to golf and fitness class, and after using the K-Vest – which is like wearing a small backpack – she figured out I was swaying and sliding and that my posture wasn’t up to par. She tailored a pilates workout on the reformer machine and added some stretching to suit my game. I had a recent back injury, too, and so do many golfers – from Woods to Joe Citizens. Eshetu was able to incorporate stretches and moves that helped with my injury.
Eshetu also works one day a week as a TPI Level 3-certified golf fitness instructor at El Caballero CC. She started there as a fitness instructor, but when the golf fitness instructors there left, she decided to add golf fitness training on her resume and that’s become a big part of her job.
The TPI program she uses shows 16 physical screens of how the body functions, and that data is used to determine faulty functional movement patterns that can often be corrected with pilates. Eshetu said she is continually participating in certification conferences across the country and often is one of few female instructors.
“As far as being a female trainer in the golf fitness world, what’s interesting about the club is that it’s not like it has hindered me. People are very accepting,” Eshetu said. “It’s created a fun dynamic to see the differences and see how pilates has helped people in their golf game.”
She trains men and women of all ages, but most of her clients are male. She’s worked with golfers ages 14-75.
“I train more men than women, which is unusual for pilates in general,” Eshetu said. “I love it. That’s one of my focuses. People have the misconception that pilates is for women. It was created by a man for men. It’s fun when you get men in, because they’re so surprised at how tough it is from even the most basic movements. They’re the most shocked. In general, women seem to intuitively realize it’s going to be tough.”
One of the marked ways Eshetu has seen fitness help the golf game is in the form of increased distance, and what golfer doesn’t want that? She said some of her clients have increased distance off the tee by up to 15 yards. And that’s usually attributed to correcting poor posture.
“For every golfer young and old, posture is a huge thing,” Eshetu said. “It’s a huge cause of loss of distance. Posture is the first thing and then stability and core strength. That’s pilates going directly to golf, as well as breathing and learning how to use your whole body and being connected to your body from a proprioceptive standpoint.
“Golf is a very proprioceptive game, like where you are in space. Pilates and the way we tailor it is so much about knowing what internally is happening. That’s important for your golf swing. A lot of times you’ll ask a golfer, ‘Do you know what you just did on that swing that worked or didn’t?’ They won’t know. It’s that self-awareness. That will help you with your swing.”
Many golfers don’t even stretch much before playing a round. They might warm up on the driving range, and that’s about it. And when many golfers think of working out to help their golf swing, they think of hitting the weights at the gym. That can help, too, when done correctly.
“Pilates on its own is going to focus on your core and your glutes and your ability overall,” Eshetu said. “You’re looking for such a specific movement pattern. You’re looking for rotational patterns and flexion or extension and that’s so specific to the individual. You’ll have a higher rate of success in a shorter period of time when it’s tailored to you.
“… It’s about safe, effective movements. You should be able to go play after a workout. I should be able to activate the muscles and say, ‘Hey I feel good.’ I should be able to go play.”
And about making sure those glutes are activated.