By Evan Rothman
PGA TOUR pro Gary Woodland took a new approach to offseason training, and it is already paying dividends.
Gary Woodland is widely regarded as one of the best athletes in professional golf. The 32-year-old PGA TOUR pro was an All-State high school basketball player in his native Kansas, and began his college days on a hoops scholarship to Washburn University, living out a childhood dream when he took the court against the University of Kansas in its famous Allen Fieldhouse. Unfortunately, Woodland’s lengthy injury list during his seven seasons on Tour wouldn’t look out of place in the NBA, never mind the PGA TOUR.
With his desire to constantly improve bumping up against recurring physical issues, Woodland chose a different, innovative route this past offseason. At the suggestion of his friend, basketball star Ray Allen, he met with trainer David Alexander of dbc Fitness in Miami, who works with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and other big-name athletes. Woodland, encouraged by his early interactions with Alexander, planned to spend a month in the city getting healthier. He stayed for five months.
“I’ve dealt with countless injuries, and almost every one was on the left side of my body — there was a pattern,” Woodland says. “The key was getting to know my body better and getting to a more body-specific workout rather than a typical golf workout.”
Alexander’s team, including biomechanics experts, began their work with a detailed body assessment of Woodland to uncover the underlying issues. Chief among them: The player’s upper body was much stronger than his lower body, and he had insufficient flexibility. These led to swing compensations that in turn led to injuries.
Woodland’s workouts now focus on evening out his body — in particular, making his left side as flexible as his right side (including a series of stretches done before and after every round) and his lower body as powerful as his upper body. He lifts more weights than ever before, but only when he has a few days to recuperate, and limits those involving rotation, as the golf swing itself provides enough of that. There is, according to the player, another concept, new to him, that has been equally important in keeping him healthy in 2016. It relates to recovery from the day’s strain, which, for the Tour pro, generally involves hitting hundreds and hundreds of balls on top of miles and miles of walking.
“I’ve now got a program I stick to that gets me as close as possible ‘back to zero’ each night,” Woodland says. “On top of stretching, this will sometimes include electric stimulation therapy, and maybe ice on certain parts of my body, as well as other things to recover. It’s been huge for me.”
“Huge” likewise describes Woodland’s drives this season. At press time, he was #1 on the PGA TOUR in Driving Distance, averaging 313.1 yards, fueled by a return of top-end clubhead speed the player hasn’t seen in many years. Some of this, he says, owes to the 15 pounds lost on a new diet that limits sugar — a struggle for many road warriors — and eliminates white flour, to keep down the inflammation that’s another common problem among people who travel as much as pro golfers—or other pro athletes like the ones Woodland saw in action in Miami.
“I thought I worked pretty hard, but then you train near guys like Dwyane Wade and you see the effort and the energy they put it in to ensure that everything is on point,” Woodland says. “To be surrounded by those kinds of people, that positive energy rubs off and keeps you moving in the right direction.”
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