How Jason Day’s powerlifting training prepared him to dominate the 2017 Presidents Cup

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Jason Day is ready to take back the Presidents Cup.

Although the United States has won the last six Presidents Cup titles, Day isn’t fazed. In fact, he thinks the international team is ready to surprise everyone.

“Obviously, the U.S. are the heavy favorites,” says Day. “They do have, statistically, a better team than us on paper, but I think we have a great shot at beating these guys. The whole team is excited about it. The new guys and old guys, we are very motivated to try and win. The international team hasn’t won since 1998, so this is kind of a big time for us to step up and try to beat the Americans on their home soil. They're heavy favorites, but we don't have any pressure.”

The former top-ranked golfer in the world didn’t win a tournament during the 2017 season, but he sees the Presidents Cup as a way to build momentum into next year.

“Having a good Presidents Cup run would be something that I could really draw on and hopefully take into the new season,” Day said. “I want to do what these other guys are doing, and be able to have a successful year, every year, and be consistent that way.”

One way Day hopes to do that is by putting an even stronger focus on his training. Like other players on tour, including Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, Day uses powerlifting and weight training in the gym to keep himself in shape.

The 29-year-old switched trainers this year, and that’s helped him get his body where he wants it to be when he’s on the course.

“I started out the year in quite good shape, but my upper body was almost too big,” Day said. “For golf you can't have a big upper body and a small lower one. You've got to have big strong legs and a strong core. I do a lot of squats, do a lot trap-bar deadlifts, and a lot of sumo deadlifts. You can't get too big. I started losing power when I got too big in the upper body, but now I’m on top of it.”

Now that the Presidents Cup is here, Day is hoping to show off that renewed power.

Day went on to talk about his training routine, playing a pro-am with Peyton Manning, and his ultimate cheat meal.

The Presidents Cup runs from Thursday, September 28 to Sunday, October 1, with coverage on the Golf Channel and NBC.

(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.)

What’s your mindset heading into the Presidents Cup, knowing it’s on American soil this year and that the U.S. team has won six in a row?

We know that it's tough, but the good thing about it is we don't have a lot of pressure on us. So we just have to go out there and try to be as aggressive as possible. We usually get down in the Thursday matches pretty early, just because that's not our strongest format. The team that we have now, we've been playing together—apart from a few rookies—at least the last three, four Presidents Cups. So we've kind of gotten used to each other.

How do you adjust to team events after playing most of the season with individual tournaments? Does having familiarity with your teammates help while making the adjustment?

Yeah, it definitely does. The Americans have it perfect where they have to play something every year. So they either play Ryders Cup or Presidents Cup. For us, it's every couple of years. Sometimes we don't see these guys. We have Japanese, Koreans, South Africans, Australians, an Argentinian—a cluster of guys brought together to play some golf. But we're starting to really get to know each other. You know, when I first came out, it seemed like there were little clusters of guys hanging out with their own people from their own country, and now it's totally different. Everyone is hanging out with everyone and everyone knows each other, and that tells me we are doing something good in the team room, which hopefully will correlate to better results on the course.

Does being the underdog help motivate you and the team even more? How do you use that for inspiration?

Yeah, it helps. No one likes to be on the losing end. Adam Scott’s been on seven Presidents Cups, and he hasn't won once. This is something hard for us. We obviously want to try and do our best to beat these guys, but they are just a good, solid team. I mean you can tell that they're a team and you know how hard they want this as well. Back in 2015, when we had it in Korea, it was very close. I mean we came down to the last match.

But we just want the competition to be good competition. I mean obviously we want to win, but we just want it to be exciting. And I think a lot of fans want that, too.

What’s your training and workout routine like?

I changed trainers this year, and it’s definitely been making a difference. I actually played a pro-am with Peyton Manning this year, and my trainer asked him: "If you wanted to throw the ball really, really far, what would you do?" And [Peyton] said, "I'd have big, big legs, a strong, stable core, and a smaller, loose, and flexible upper body." It works the same way in golf. You can't get too big. I started losing power when I got too big in the upper body, and now it’s evened out.

What are some of the foods you like to eat, and things you like to do to fuel your fitness?

We also need the healthy fats as well. I went through a stage where, when I was cutting, carbs were non-existent. Then I went through a stage where I was just tired on the golf course, and I can't afford that. So, even though I looked good, and I was cut, I had to start eating a lot more carbs.

I take in about 800 to 1,000 [calories] when I play. I at least have two or three bars and a protein shake as well, just so that I'm constantly eating and hydrating out on the golf course. If I'm typically cutting, like in the off-season, I'm usually having about five eggs and maybe two bits of toast, and then I have a protein shake mid-morning. Then I usually have chicken, or most likely chicken, broccoli and rice, another protein shake, and then probably something like steak and broccoli or something like that. That's really the only vegetable I can actually eat. I mean, I've got to take in 3,557 calories during a golf day, just so I don't lose weight.

What's your favorite cheat meal?

Wow, if I were on death row, and I needed to have my last meal, it would most likely be a Baconator from Wendy's, French fries from McDonald's, and a Coke. I'd probably go with the Mastro's butter cake, it’s just off the charts. And that is pretty much it.