Less than five years ago Rory McIlroy could barely balance on one leg. Imagine that. The No. 1 golfer in the world could not stand on one leg for the length of time it takes to drive a golf ball. His workout routine was limited to, as he put it, “not very much.” He simply didn’t have the muscle strength or stamina to sustain this simple move.
“I had huge amounts of mobility and flexibility — that’s never been my problem, but I couldn’t stand on one leg for more then 10 seconds. I couldn’t hold a plank for more than 30 seconds,” said the 25-year old McIlroy.
Four years, 14 tour wins — including four Majors — later, McIlroy has transformed his game and his body with the help of his team that includes instructor Michael Bannon, caddie JP Fitzgerald, and exercise physiologist Dr. Steve McGregor.
Learning stuff from the doctor
“Bringing Steve (McGregor) on board has been huge. The education that he’s given me about the body combined with his great background…I feel like I learn stuff off him every day,” added McIlroy. The training regime that began as a necessity to strengthen an ailing back has become an obsession for the young golfer from Northern Ireland.
McGregor has been working with McIlroy since late 2010, implementing a progressive program of stability, strength and power. That’s when the transformation began. Over the past four years the two have developed a close working relationship.
The pair related a story from the 2014 British Open that provides some context.
McIlroy was coming off of a rough practice round and wanted nothing more than to get into the gym to work off his frustration but he had already agreed with McGregor that he was going to limit training during the week of the tournament.
“So I made a deal with Steve that if I shot a 67 the next day I could work out,” said McIlroy.
On to the gym
His first-round score of 66 not only earned him entry to the gym, but set him up nicely for the rest of the week. He went on to win the Open Championship, his third Major tournament victory.
“Rory has come a long way for an individual who couldn’t stand on one leg,” said McGregor, whose background includes work in professional golf, soccer (football), and basketball. “He’s doing some really high-end functional work, and that’s all credit to him.”
McIlroy says his love for training is grounded in a few motivations.
“If this can help me get an extra two or three years out of my career or help me get one shot a round…whether it’s because I’m more mentally focused, more fit or more confident,” he said. “I feel like getting in here gives me the best possible chance to go out on the golf course and perform to the best of my ability.”
McIlroy and McGregor have established a training regimen that varies McIlroy’s routine throughout the annual golf season, but rarely does he go too long without getting in a workout.