Golf Star Rickie Fowler Talks Strength Training, the Presidents Cup, and Battling Gym Soreness

Rickie Fowler
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Even though he may not have major championships on his resume yet, Rickie Fowler could be the key to the United States’ continued dominance at the Presidents Cup.

Fowler has had a strong year on tour, winning at the Honda Classic and notching his seventh top-five major finish with a great showing at the PGA Championship.

The American side has won the last six trophies, making the team a heavy favorite over the international squad, but Fowler understands that the U.S. can’t take anything for granted.

“It’s not going to be easy for us,” Fowler told Men’s Fitness. “I know the International team’s ready to play. They obviously have a great team together. I feel like we do as well, so it’s going to be a great competition. We’re going to have to fight it out a little bit, and see who comes out on top.”

Like his fellow teammates Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka, Fowler keeps himself in shape with a strict training program, which includes powerlifting, isolation work, core workouts, and bodyweight workouts.

“As much as I don’t want to say it, sprints really help me stay fit and strong,” Fowler said. “There will be more of that for me this off-season coming up. I use a lot of trap bar deadlifts, isolation workouts, and a lot of single-leg exercises, plus work on sliders. I hate doing any kind of single-leg squat. I’d have to say the ones that I like most are the ones that I hate at the same time, since they really push me. Anything leg-related is probably my favorite.”

Fowler has plenty of excitement for the Presidents Cup, which gives the American side the chance to play team golf in the off year of the Ryder Cup.

“These are the best weeks,” Fowler said. “Having some new guys on the team that haven’t been a part of a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, it’ll be cool to see them experience their first time here. I know Phil [Mickelson] has talked about it. He’s been a part of 23. These are the best weeks of his career as far as getting to know guys on a completely different level, spending time with the families, wives and girlfriends, and some players that you don’t necessarily see a whole lot during the season.”

Fowler spoke with Men’s Fitness about his training routine, why he enjoys the Presidents Cup, and why soreness from the gym isn’t a bad thing.

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.)

MEN’S FITNESS: How does it feel to be back at the Presidents Cup? What do you enjoy most about these tournaments?

Rickie Fowler: These team events are great weeks. They’re kind of a celebration of the year in a way, being able to be here and represent your country. With the President’s Cup, especially being here in New York, getting to stay in the city and take the ferry over, it’s just going to be a fun week. It’ll be nice once everything gets going, settles down a little bit. It’s not going to be easy for us. I know the International team’s ready to play. They obviously have a great team together. Some of the most fun is back at the hotel, team room, hanging with the whole team, with the wives, girlfriends, families and just getting to spend that quality time with everyone that you may not see as much. You may get that time with a handful of people throughout the year, but not all those other guys being in the same spot.

How is it having everyone together after battling individually for most of the year?

I feel like it’s easy for us, being that with our team we have a lot of guys that we’re close, we spend a lot of time together, we all root for each other, but we want to beat them just as bad as they want to beat us. But it is cool. Outside of guys like Justin [Thomas], Jordan [Spieth], and a few others that I spend a decent amount of time with, it’s great getting to be around everyone. It’s unique in that way.

What do you think about the Liberty National course? How are you feeling about your game heading into the tournament?

I’m looking forward to it. We came, Justin [Thomas] and I came and played before the Northern Trust about a month ago. I hadn’t played it since ’13 when we had the tournament over there. I like it a lot. It’s in perfect shape, and it’s going to be a good setup for match play the way they’ve rerouted the course a little bit, starting on number 5, and 18 there by the clubhouse being I think number 14 now. It’ll play well. The drivable hole will be at 12, the short par 3 is now number 10 I believe, but obviously some great views there at Liberty. We’ll have the City in the backdrop for almost every hole. I think this will be a little glimpse of what the Ryder Cup will be like at Bethpage.

When it comes to match play and the team golf, is there anything you do mindset-wise after playing most of the season individually?

It’s kind of relaxing in a way, just because you don’t have to worry about an overall score. If you peel one in the water or hit one out, that’s one hole. It’s fine. It’s like ‘OK, I can deal with that’. You’re not having to struggle to make double or triple bogey. So that’s kind of the nice part about it. If you look at the downside of that, you get a couple down early it’s tough to fight back, but match play is fun, because what I was saying, in that way it is a little relaxing. You can make a mistake and that’s all right, that’s only one. It’s not going to be two, three, or four.

I love playing alternate shot. I feel like it kind of brings the best out of myself and hopefully whoever I’m playing with. It’s kind of nice, because you’re not thinking about the shot that was just hit because you didn’t hit it. And you don’t have to worry about the one after you hit, so you’re just really in on that one. And it’s fun I feel like to show off or hit a good shot for your partner.

What’s your training routine like? Do you change things up a lot during the season compared to the off-season?

For me, typically at an actual tournament week, I may only get one, maybe two days in the gym in, and those will be, if it’s earlier in the week, I’ll throw a little bit of weight around, later it might be just a movement day. Outside of that, myself and pretty much all the guys on the team, we’re getting treatment every day, just to make sure that the body’s moving and firing properly. Then my off weeks, if I get a full week off at home, I’ll get probably five days in the gym, and then it’ll be fun this off-season, because I’ll get a little bit more time at home or wherever I’m going to be, and not playing a whole lot. So I’ll be able to get after it a little bit more in the gym, and my girlfriend and I will kind of be pushing each other. But throughout the year, it’s more just maintaining and making sure that the body’s not fatiguing too much.

Plus, you don’t want to overdo it because golf is such a long season.

Yeah, exactly. I’m not trying to wear myself out in the gym, but at the same time you want to feel a little bit of that muscle fatigue. I don’t want to start to feel like Jell-O. A little bit of tightness is good. I’ve always been pretty mobile. I feel like if I get a good day in the gym early in the week it gives me just a little bit of that slight soreness, a little bit of tightness, and that almost helps me in a way because I don’t want to have too much movement. I’ve always moved pretty well. It’s definitely become a big part of our sport, but I think for me it’s not so much on getting bigger or trying to look a certain way.

I want my workouts to be efficient. I don’t necessarily have to be ripped or jacked. I think Tom Brady’s done a great job with staying healthy, doing what’s right for his body, and he does what he needs to do to perform with his profession. I feel like I’m not going to be doing the same stuff he is, so like I said I’m not trying to look amazing. If that comes from it, great, but I want to make sure that I do what is proper for me to go play good golf.

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