Rory McIlroy’s Fitness Secrets

How Rory McIlroy Became the World’s Best Golfer

When the 25-year-old golfer changed his fitness, it changed his dominance on the golf course




The path to the title “best golfer in the world” took Rory McIlroy from the tee box to the gym and back again.

In the dark at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, McIlroy held off a charging Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler to win the PGA Championship on Sunday. It was McIlroy’s third straight tournament victory and second major of the year. The win puts him in rarified air, joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers in the modern era to win four majors before the age of 26.

The Northern Ireland golfer was always talented, but his rise to world’s best accelerated after he made some significant changes in his fitness practices. If Tiger Woods was the first golfer to put on muscle to rise to dominance, McIlroy has followed Tiger’s lead. We spoke with McIlroy in 2012 about how he upgraded his body.


In 2010, McIlroy was a classic skinny-soft golfer, with obvious natural ability and flexibility—but with a tiny bit of paunch and jiggle. To make the jump to superstar, he turned to trainer Steve McGregor, Ph.D., who saw in McIlroy “a huge talent, but with relatively little training history other than golfing.”McGregor’s first step was to balance the discrepancies between McIlroy’s strong right side and relatively weak left side.

Workouts included lots of single-arm and single-leg work, including dumbbell presses and split squats. Much focus was put on the lower body—the true source of power.“The lower-body work stabilized all the power that I had generated on the way down,” he says. “I could generate the power, but I needed the stability to hold onto it.”“I feel a lot more stable in my golf swing,” McIlroy said when asked about the benefits of his workout plan. “There’s a lot less moving parts.”

That newfound strength allowed McIlroy to swing powerfully yet stay balanced, with a finish that evokes the classic swings of Snead and Hogan. The result is a 5-foot-10, 160-pound 25-year-old who can slam the ball more than 300 yards with something resembling ease.  And McIlroy wasn’t interested in extra length—he’s been topping 300 yards for years. It’s just that now he can do it without coming out of his shoes.

Combined with healthy eating—lots of chicken and broccoli—McIlroy dropped his body fat from 22 percent to 16 percent.

“I’m the same weight as I was when I started, but I’ve gained muscle, I’ve gained mass,” he says.To keep it, he’s in the gym three or four times a week, working out to maintain the champion’s body that he and his trainer began building.

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