Ask Rory McIlroy about golf fitness training and he will tell you: “It’s a necessity. It gives me the best possible chance to go out onto the golf course and perform to the best of my ability.”
When Rory first came on the professional scene about 6 years ago, he was relatively slight in stature and his musculature was more ‘soft’ than firmly toned. But since the end of 2010 when he began working on his fitness under the tutelage of British trainer Steve McGregor, the results have been dramatic.
Showing impeccable diplomacy, McGregor described McIlroy, back in 2010, as having "untapped" fitness potential.
I want to talk a little bit about what McGregor and McIlroy did to get him into shape to play the kind of golf that elevated him to the world number one spot, because it provides extremely useful information for any of you out there who want to improve your own game.
As always, the first step was to assess current levels of balance, flexibility, strength and, crucially important, muscular symmetry. McGregor recalls, "I measured his muscle strength and saw imbalances." "He had issues with his back in 2010. He was only 21 then, but there was evidence of overuse injury. He'd been swinging a club since the age of two without much focus on fitness. Rory, himself, recalls with an infectious smile, “I wasn’t really big into the gym… I couldn’t stand on one leg for more than ten seconds and couldn’t hold the plank for more than thirty seconds.”
McIlroy's left side, from his back through his legs, was weaker than his right. So balancing the right and left sides of his body was a top priority. Over time, the nature of the golf swing – a repetitive unilateral rotation – creates imbalances in your body. It’s vitally important that you prevent that imbalance from getting out of control. A better strength ratio between the two sides of your body provides more stability and reduces your risk of injury. McGregor still pays “special attention to keeping his back strong."
Rory himself freely admits, “I didn’t have a strong enough core or lower back and glutes to stabilise my pelvis. I’ve concentrated a lot on the core and my legs and being balanced from the ground up. I’m the same weight as I was when I started, around 164 lbs, but I’ve gained quite a lot of muscle or lean mass.” As a result, he will now tell you, “I feel like I can hit it harder without losing balance. I just feel I don’t have to go after it as much to get the length.”
After creating balance and stability, Rory progressed to more strength training, and eventually power training. Recognise that pattern? If you haven’t read my previous posts on Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, take a look. The important point here is that he was taken through a proper progression – (i) assessment (ii) flexibility/mobility (iii) balance/stability (iv) strength (v) power.
If you want to improve your own game, the Fitter Golfers self-assessment screening programme is a great place to start. [FREE to download from this website]
Our comprehensive modular programme of exercise videos means that you can design your own individual programme (ensuring that you follow the correct progression mentioned earlier) and choose only those modules that directly address your needs (as identified in the screening process), so there is no ‘dead time’. Also all our foundation level exercises can be done at home without the need for equipment, so there is no unnecessary expense.
To summarise the benefits of golf-specific conditioning: scientific research has linked a properly designed exercise programme with a significant increase in clubhead speed and a drop in handicap of up to 7 shots in a relatively short period of time; there's also a lot of scientific evidence that links being strong and physically fit with increased self-confidence and psychological well-being – not bad things to have out on the course! Game for improvement? Get conditioned to success.
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