Bryson DeChambeau never fails to create headlines: the clothes, his scientific approach to each shot, his pace of play – and now with his gym routine.
Exactly how much muscle mass the 26-year-old put on during the off-season… well, reports vary – but he’s certainly hitting a longer ball. Last season he averaged a paltry 302.5 yards off the tee; so far this season he’s hitting it approximately 13 yards further.
He’s made his intentions clear: Happy Gilmore-like distance is the way forward. The golf world has taken note – and so too has ‘Sports Illustrated’. The 6ft 1in, 225-pound American was among 25 male athletes to feature on its 2020 Most Fit Athletes list.
So, what has he been doing in the gym? What is it that’s been helping him, and what can we mere mortals learn from ‘The Golfing Scientist’? RSNG speaks to golf fitness guru Jamie Greaves to get the answers…
RSNG Bryson’s gym routine… what’s all the fuss about?
JAMIE GREAVES, STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING COACH ‘He’s done everything over the course of a year to 18 months, yet it seems sudden and it’s attracted a lot of criticism. He’s quite a divisive character anyway with how he approaches golf, and he gets quite a lot of stick for slow play. I think people are looking for a reason to stick the knife into him.’
‘But what he’s done has worked. He’s averaging about 13 yards longer per drive than he was last season. You can’t argue with that.’
‘He was already a pretty reasonable hitter; it’s not like he was short, but he’s now one of the longest hitters in the game. If you look at Strokes Gained, he should save himself 0.5-0.7 shots a round by his increase in distance, which at pro level is absolutely massive.’
RSNG Has it all been about gaining more muscle?
JG ‘He’s apparently put on 20-30lbs of body weight. I don’t think that’s all going to be muscle. If you think about it in terms of the off-season, it’s physically impossible to put on 30lbs of muscle in three or four months.’
'It’s been his long-term plan, I think, and in the off-season he stepped it up. That’s one of the big misconceptions – that at the end of the Tour Championship he just decided he was going to get massive.’
RSNG Let’s say he put on 20lbs of muscle. How does that translate to greater distance?
JG ‘Mass is quite a high correlator of speed – so the heavier someone is, the more power potential they have. Force is mass times acceleration. If you’ve got more mass and you still accelerate the same, you’ll produce more power – which is what he’s doing.’
‘Also, in theory, if your muscles are bigger, they should be stronger. Strength work in the gym with movements like squats and deadlifts have quite a high carryover to clubhead speed; the theory behind it is actually quite solid.’
‘I like what Bryson says about strength training through the full range of motion, and getting stronger end ranges of motion’
RSNG Is there is a risk that too much muscle mass could restrict his golf swing?
JG ‘It depends how it’s done. That notion comes more from the body building type stuff. If you do lots of small ranges of motion where the goal is to look a certain way, then yes, that could reduce range of motion.’
‘I like what Bryson says about strength training through the full range of motion, and getting stronger end ranges of motion. If you do this, it will actually improve flexibility – which blows people’s minds, because they think it’s going to make you as stiff as a board.’
RSNG He’s added several inches to his chest, too. How does that help produce more power?
JG ‘The upper body muscles play a huge part in generating clubhead speed. One of the power tests I do is like a basketball pass, a medicine ball throw in a chest-pushing movement.’
‘By getting bigger around the chest – if the muscles are bigger – in theory they should have more ability to produce force. Bryson has done it properly. He’s prioritising strength and range of motion at the same time.’
RSNG If you went out onto the course and tried to hit a ball as hard as Bryson, for example, would there be an injury risk?
JG ‘You’ve got to do the gym work first. Eighty per cent of golf injuries are overuse related. We do the same motion over and over again – and it’s quite high force. If you were applying more force to that by swinging faster, but your body is at the same level, then you’re increasing your injury risk.’
‘When I’m working with Tour pros, obviously distance is important, but I call it ‘robustness’. The body needs to be able to cope with swinging quite violently; it needs to be strong enough to withstand that kind of constant use.’
RSNG Why does Bryson work so much on his hips?
JG ‘Hip rotation is vital. If you can be good at internally rotating the hips, not just the range of motion, but being able to control range of motion as well, that’s linked in to swing mechanics and power.’
‘Then there’s this up and down motion in the golf swing, which is where the hips are flexing and extending. This is the same way they go in a deadlift or a squat – they flex and extend. If you can strengthen them in those kinds of motions, you should in theory be able to produce more power.’
‘Most of the power starts from the lower body. These guys on Tour aren’t trying to whack it with their upper body. They realise that the ground is the key source of power and it gets translated up from the ground through the rest of the body. The hips are an early link in that chain.’
‘Strength is just one piece of the puzzle – golf is a skill-based game’
RSNG How do less muscular players still hit a very long ball?
JG ‘Strength is just one piece of the puzzle. Golf is a skill-based game. I say this to people when I train them. Just because I get them stronger, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to hit it further.’
‘Rather, it gives them more potential to hit it further. You can have a very efficient golf swing and your launch conditions might be good, for example. Then there’s using the right equipment.’
‘One of the big things is how you push into the ground. I’ve done quite a lot of work with biomechanics coaches. If you can ‘spike’ – that is push into the ground at the right time – you can gain clubhead speed quite easily. If you were stronger and spiked it at the right time, then you’d get even more clubhead speed.’
WHAT NEXT? Golf fitness has got everyone talking. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson hopes his fitness can power him through 2020.
Jamie Greaves has worked as a golf strength and conditioning coach for the past three years. He is one of only ten people in the UK with active TPI Level 3 fitness status.
Find out more about his work and all-new Fitness App at jggolffitness.co.uk.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.