Health & FitnessJanuary 6, 2015

Phil Mickelson is (still) taking his off-season training really seriously

When a five-time major winner has one of the worst seasons of his career, you know he wants to come back strong. Literally.

You may have already heard how Phil Mickelson has been putting in work at the gym this off-season. Absent from competition since the Ryder Cup, he has made his goals clear: to lose 20 pounds and to increase his balls speed by 10 mph.

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"He's putting a large amount of due diligence and focus into this routine," says Sean Cochran, Mickelson's strength and conditioning coach. "He's about halfway to his goals."

Cochran, founder of Sean Cochran Sports Performance, has an extensive background in conditioning Major League Baseball players. He and Lefty met during his time working with the San Diego Padres, when Phil moved back to San Diego from Scottsdale. An orthopedic surgeon who knew Cochran had referred Mickelson to see him. At that point, Cochran says, "I sat down with [Phil] and his wife. After an interview and a couple weeks of training, I decided to make the shift from baseball to golf." The rest is history.

So what does Cochran see as the main factors behind Mickelson's progress? One part is nutrition. "Phil's basically following a paleo diet, which is gluten-free, no sugars and no processed foods," says Cochran. Sounds harsh, but Lefty's coach believes any golfer would be more athletic and perform better if they followed these guidelines. "I think it's how we were designed to eat. You have to wonder how a Twinkie can have a five year shelf life. That can't be good for your performance."

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The other part? Phil's fitness regimen. Cochran broke down the exercise component into six basic categories that make up Mickelson's 75-minute routine, which they do together four days a week. This type of "training density" allows the two to get more work done in a shorter amount of time:

-- Myofascial release (foam rolling): 5 minutes-- Static stretching: 5-10 minutes-- Dynamic warmup (bodyweight movements like lunges, pushups, etc.): 5-10 minutes-- Power sequence: 10-15 minutes-- Core sequence: 10-15 minutes-- Total body strength sequence: 10-15 minutes

Ever thought you'd hear "training density" when it comes to Phil Mickelson? Neither did we. But what exactly goes down with each of these phases? It's simpler than it looks. After the three warmup phases, the power sequence focuses on strength and speed. This can include (but is not limited to) plyometrics, throwing med balls at walls really hard (sounds fun, especially if you're mad) and burpees (sounds really not fun).

The core sequence has endless moves, but follows a general guideline. Cochran says, "performance coaches don't train muscle groups, we train movements. Phil (and every golfer) is a rotary athlete, and needs to train the core in three ways. One, stabilization with extremity movements. Two, anti-rotational capacities, where golfers need to not rotate (similar to coiling during your backswing). Three, the need to rotate at high speeds (downswing rotation)."

So much for your basic sit-ups.

Total body sequences really get the job done quickly because they allow half the body to rest while the other half is activated. An example would be combining dumbbell squats and shoulder presses. You work both your upper and lower halves in a full-body movement, just not at the same time.

Related: Organizing your workout

How does Lefty feel about all this exercise? "Everyone has moves they like more than others, but Phil is a very smart guy. As long as he knows why he's doing a move, he'll do it, even if it's not his favorite," says his coach.

Like many athletes in off-season training, Mickelson is following a "periodization" schedule, which basically prevents athletes from hitting a performance plateau. Doing the same thing over and over can get boring, but Cochran says "there are plenty of workout moves we can do in each section to mix it up." When he and Mickelson see the progress they're looking for, they also change it up by increasing weight, reps or speed of a certain movement.

As far as Phil's biggest improvements so far, Cochran says it's in both his swing and ball speed generation. "Power equals strength plus speed. In Phil's off-season, we look to develop the parameters of him as an athlete. The basic components for monitoring his progress are the speed numbers he produces, and he's gone up in both."

With this kind of routine, we expect big things from you this year, Phil.

No pressure.

Follow @corybradburn