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Mickelson's trainer: Hard work pays off with PGA victory

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

When you look at Phil Mickelson, the term "personal trainer" doesn't exactly spring to mind. Doughnuts, maybe. Or vanilla fudge. Yet, he has one and credits him for much of the success he's had on the PGA Tour.

"He helped me strengthen stabilizers in my hips and legs, improve my overall, core body strength and increase my stamina," Mickelson has said about Sean Cochran, his San Diego-based golf fitness guru.

Cochran is a little hesitant to pat himself on the back, even after Mickelson's win at the PGA Championship this past weekend.

"I can't take credit for what Phil's done," Cochran said. "He's one of the most talented players on the tour."

Cochran was reluctant to get deeply into the specific program Mickelson follows, but he did answer some questions from TravelGolf.com concerning his star client.

Q: To look at Phil Mickelson, not many people would believe he had a personal trainer. Does that bother you?

A: Here's what I say regarding any athlete in any professional sport: We're concerned about their performance on the field of competition, and that's how these guys are measured. Everything I do with an athlete is geared toward how successful they perform in competition. That's the bottom line. No professional athlete is measured by anything else. End of story.

Q: Phil isn't exactly a greyhound. How is his endurance?

A: Phenomenal. I think this weekend showed that. I haven't been that hot in years. The heat index was 105 over the weekend (at Baltusrol in New Jersey) and the humidity was 80 percent-plus. You take that environment, in a major, swinging a club, staying mentally focused, you have to have endurance. If you don't, it's going to show up. I don't know if the amateur realizes how grueling a four-day tournament can be. It's huge.

Q: How did you hook up with Mickelson?

A: Phil hired me out of the (San Diego) Padres organization. We had finished the season, and Phil was looking for someone to assist him in his preparation process with golf. I had an interview with him and we took it from there. He seemed very intrigued with my martial arts background. I have a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He felt martial arts could be utilized into his training program, which we have done.

Q: What were his goals?

A: I think we all know the world of golf changed when Tiger Woods was introduced to the sport. He blew everybody away. Part of that, he was pretty much one of the first guys, other than Gary Player, that believed fitness, working out and conditioning, were beneficial to the golf swing. I think Phil saw that, for him to compete at a high level, it was something he needed to do on a daily and weekly basis.

Q: How did you start him off?

A: With any athlete - golfer, pitcher, football player - I do an individual assessment. We're essentially looking at their flexibility parameters. Every athletic movement, be it golf swing, baseball swing, etc., the best of the best know where their bodies are in space, to make the adjustments when they're making their movement.

Q: What kind of shape was he in?

A: He's a big guy. I think he's about 6-4 or 6-5. Phil was a very successful golfer at his current level of fitness three years ago. So pretty much what I did, I said "I'm going to take you to the next level in all these areas." I would say the biggest areas he felt his improvements were in, he's much more flexible, he's got greater stabilization and more power in his core area. That has led to improvement in his swing.

Q: What are some examples of Mickelson's workouts?

A: We do a lot of high-repetition movements involved around the swing. In terms of exercises, we do a lot of rotational exercises. Golf is a rotation-based sport. It's a rotational movement. You set up your body with a fixed spine angle, you rotate around that fixed spine angle trying to generate the maximum amount of power. The more power you have, the more club-head speed, if you have sufficient mechanics in your swing.

Q: Treadmill?

A: He does aerobic activity every day.

Q: Weighted clubs?

A: I don't and Phil doesn't. I see no problem with them.

Q: Weight lifting?

A: Traditional weight lifting isolates a muscle, say a bicep curl. When we look at sports, what you use is your whole body, a total, integrated body movement. So we don't isolate and do just shoulder presses or bicep curls, etc. Our activities pretty much use the whole body.

He doesn't do a lot of weight training. We use medicine balls, we use physio balls, which are the big round balls, we use a lot of tubing (elastic bands), which is really nice when you do rotational movements. How many body builders do you see swinging a club? Most golfers use some free weights, it might be 10 percent of their total training program.

Q: How often do you work with Mickelson?

A: Well, it pretty much depends if it's the offseason or in season. During the offseason, November and December, I'll probably work with him six times a week, for about an hour and a half a session. During the season, on a non-competitive week, I'll work with him maybe six time a week for about an hour. If it's a competitive week, it's going to drop to about five times a week.

Q: Do you travel with him?

A: Yes, I travel. I didn't go to the British Open this year, but otherwise, we travel. I carry a bag of equipment with me. The majority of the hotels where we stay have a fitness center. If not, we seek out a local health club.

Q: How is he to work with? Does he take a lot of coaxing?

A: He has done a phenomenal job with me. I mean, I tip my hat to him. He's done what I've asked and he's worked extremely hard. He's a great guy to work with - friendly, down to earth, fun, so it's a pleasure working with him. He's a very, very very self-motivated individual.

Q: Did you do anything special with him before the PGA Championship?

A: No, it was just a result of all the hard work. It's well documented how he's prepared for the majors. His preparation process has been the same this year and last year, and it's shown. There is no magic. He did his preparation and it shows up.

Q: How much improvement has he made in the three years with you?

A: Off the charts. Physically, what he's done with me, I'm very impressed.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Please

    Eon wrote on: Aug 20, 2005

    Phil has a trainer.... lol
    ...if so then would he please buy him a bra, especially on a rainy day, it looks like Phil should be in a wet t-shirt contest down at the local bar.


  • PHil: Krispy Kreme Golfer

    Ernie wrote on: Aug 19, 2005

    Sorry, looks pouchy and out of breath to me. He might be more flexible, but he is still inconsistent Phil and he won because the field faultered, not because he was in really good shape. What's next a video from this guy? It's all about marketing.


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