Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

How Rory McIlroy is muscling his way to glory

The World No1 is now hitting the gym and it's starting to pay off with major success, writes Joanne Sweeney

Rory McIlroy
Fitness drive: Rory McIlroy looking a bit leaner in 2006 in South Africa
Gym expert: Neil McTeggart (right) with Jonny Neeson

He's become a sleek, toned winning machine – and Rory McIlroy looks set to further capitalise on the best physical form of his life. The world number one golfer has reportedly acquired 6lb in muscle over the last few weeks, claiming two major championships under his belt as a result.

The Holywood golfer last week won the US PGA championship just weeks after winning The Open, silencing critics who described him as a 'hot and cold' player.

Veteran Jack Nicklaus has noted that his young friend has got "a little bit of swagger" while fellow Northern Irish golfer Graeme McDowell now refers to him as 'BMW', in reference to his new status as the 'ultimate driving machine'.

The 26-year-old apparently hit the gym after ending his engagement to tennis player Caroline Wozniacki recently ended. "I just immersed myself in my game," he said.

"I get up in the morning, I go to the golf course, I go to the gym. It obviously works pretty well, so I'm going to keep doing it."

So how does the average Joe get buffed up like Rory McIlroy? We asked one personal trainer to give us his expert opinion for the golfers and non-golfers alike.

Get ripped like Rory: Neil McTeggart's 10 simple exercises to try in the gym and at home

Strength exercises

  • Ring dip

The conventional dip is done on parallel bars but the addition of rings adds greater shoulder instability.

Starting at the top, you lower the body down and slightly forward until the elbow is higher than the shoulder. Push back up to a lock-out position. Keep the repetitions low to develop strength and progress difficulty by going slower on the lowering phase.

The dip works the chest, shoulders, triceps and core musculature.

  • Weighted pull up

With an overhand grip, simply hang from a bar. Keep the body straight and, using the arms and large back muscles, pull the chin up and over the bar. If you find this easy, apply weight to a belt and work on five sets of five repetitions.

At the start of each rep the arms should be straight.

The weighted pull-up not only develops the grip, back and biceps but introduces a serious grip and abdominal workout.

Golfers benefit greatly from the hanging position as it helps stretch the latissimus muscles, which can become tight through repetitive golf swings.

  • Overhead split squat

The demands placed on the shoulders, core and legs force the body to work as one unit which is ideal for anyone getting stronger for sport.

Hold a bar overhead using a wide overhand grip. The stance is split, so one leg is in front of the other which creates additional hip flexor stretch. When at the bottom of the movement the back foot will be up on toes, the front foot stays flat and the front leg should be at right angles to the floor.

Again for strength, low reps work best so we would opt for five or six sets of three to five reps.

Core exercises

  • Face down handstand

This exercise looks super-easy but is brilliant for those with a weak core and/or poor shoulder mobility.

Lie face flat with your nose touching the floor.

Bring the legs and feet together.

Reach your hands out straight and keep the arms parallel. Lift your abs off the floor very slightly without sticking the bum up high.

Now keep the abs up and squeeze your bum.

Maintain this and try to lift the arms off the floor.

Hold for 30 seconds and remember to breathe.

Attempt three times or until you lose the technique.

This is a full body static strength exercise and an introduction to the full handstand.

  • Pallof press

Golfing requires rotation and therefore training should also include rotation movements and those which control rotation.

Stand side-on to a pole and, using a band or cable, aim to press the arms out in front.

Fight rotation and continue pressing for 20 reps.

Switch sides and continue. Attempt this for three sets of 15-20 repetitions.

  • Grappler

The grappler brings in plenty of rotation as a full body movement and gives golfers in particular a chance to address imbalances.

Standing square to a bar, take a grip of the bar end and rotate to the side. Return to centre explosively and try the other side.

If you have a weaker side, perform more repetitions on that side with the goal as 6-10 reps.

Easier exercises to try at home

  • Press-ups

For those who cannot do the standard press-up, try pressing off a wall or off a windowsill edge.

Make sure your lower back is not bowed and keep abs tight, squeezing your bottom.

Hands should face up, not out.

Try for three sets of 12-15 reps each time and aim to press off a bench or box lower down until you are able to do the full press-up from ground level.

  • Hanging

Suitable for those who can't manage a weighted pull-up, simply by hanging off a bar and holding your own body weight for as long as you can manage is a great way to stretch out your back and shoulder muscles to improve your swing, while improving strength.

  • Plank

Start off by lying on the floor on your forearms, up on your toes and adopting the typical tight plank shape, looking at the floor and maintain for several minutes each time. To progress, use the left hand to touch the right shoulder, then return to the floor, alternate and aim to build up for to 50-100 reps to improve your core.

  • Body weight squat

Feet should be placed hip-width apart with toes out slightly, drop into the deepest squat you can manage and hold it as long as you can.

Although basic, this exercise can challenge anyone with tightness in the ankles or calves.

'Golfers need to train like a gymnast, not a bodybuilder'

Neil McTeggart (34) is a personal trainer at the Iron Fit Park in the Titanic Quarter, Belfast and is a former online fitness editor for Men's Health magazine. He says:

In my opinion, Rory seems to be ticking all of the boxes which have led to his impressive form of late.

He's an adult male in the prime of physical health and fitness. His testosterone will be much higher than many of his competitors who have breached the 30s and 40s age bracket.

However, any athlete needs to combine physical health and mental health. If you add in strong nutrition foundations, then you become seriously hard to beat.

Golfers want to limit as many changing variables as possible. They aim to use the same stance, clubs and swing, and massive changes in physique may have a detrimental knock-on effect.

There is a saying in fitness that you cannot fire a cannon from a canoe. To generate large amounts of force, you need a solid base and strong core. If you lack a strong base, then you risk a loss of energy and in turn, a decrease in club head speed.

General gym routines focus heavily on chest and shoulder development.

This can be detrimental to a golfer as a large chest can impede shoulder mobility and, in turn, range of movement. For upper body development, a golfer needs to train less like a bodybuilder and more like a gymnast."

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