Train like a Tiger

The maturation of Tiger Woods is as much a tale of physical growth as it is of enduring life’s emotional twists. A talented high school athlete — he ran track (400 meters) and cross country — Woods decided long ago to “treat golf as a sport.” “I let other people treat it like a hobby,” he says. “It would be asinine for someone not to work out and go play football. It doesn’t make sense for golf, either

Now, through a mixture of a unique weight-training regimen, distance running, and late-blooming genes, Woods is about as fit as any athlete alive, and he’s as physically different today from his early pro years as a sumo wrestler is from Chuck Liddell. When he joined the tour out of Stanford in 1996, Woods carried only 158 pounds on his 6 foot, 2-inch frame. Today, he weighs between 182 and 185 — a gain of nearly 30 pounds. In 1996, his waist measured 29 inches; today, it’s 31.

The gains are evenly distributed. His upper body is clearly larger. “And my legs,” he says. “Definitely not my calves, though. They have never grown — at all. It’s just funny.”

Not surprisingly, Woods is as passionate about his fitness as he is about his swing. Ken Kleven calls Woods’ training sessions “two to three hours of focus.” “He loves to work out,” Kleven says. “A lot of athletes don’t like to train; he thrives on it.”

Woods gave Men’s Fitness unique insights into his regimen and exclusive access to Kleven, his Las Vegas-based trainer, who has a master’s degree in physical therapy and is certified as an athletic trainer. Almost everything about Woods’ training defies convention. For one, he works out as many as six days each week, including when he’s playing in a tournament. “Sometimes, he’ll take two days off,” says Kleven. “But we alternate between different [routines], which allows him to be active all the time. Where the philosophy that you can only work out hard two or three times a week came from I don’t know. I know we produce better athletes by working five or six days a week.”

Kleven’s philosophy begins and ends with posture and physical symmetry. “Posture is my number one concern,” Kleven says. “I’ve always tried to maintain a perfect state of posture for both his upper and lower quarters. Power with speed, combined with making sure both sides of his body are balanced and symmetrical.” 

The regimen Kleven developed for Woods uses different “systems” (free weights, machines, balls, and rollers), and it has two specific components:

• Manual Therapy: A system of extensive stretching (34 to 40 minutes before each workout) and manipulation/mobilization of Woods’ muscles and joints. “This involves everything from his cervical spine to his toes,” says Kleven, adding that this element is essential for allowing Woods to maintain the kind of flexibility throughout his body that allows him to release his trademark power. “We make sure to release the joints and at the same time strengthen the tissue and produce balance and freedom of movement.”

• High-Rep Weight Training: This program features higher reps (often 25 to 50) and submaximal weights, rather than the sets of 6-12 reps with heavier weights favored by bodybuilders and others trying to add size. “We’re working for balance, control, endurance, and speed,” says Kleven.

Woods lifts to enhance his entire body, with a specific emphasis on the back and shoulders (“Because we’re always hunched over and we need our back muscles to support our posture and our swing,” he says); legs (“That’s the platform for everything”); and chest (“Yes [I bench-press], but I don’t like it. I do it to change it up, to shock the muscles. I just do it to get that muscle group stronger. I’ll hit ’em from different angles with different types of machines or free weights. I do different things so the muscles don’t get accustomed to doing the same thing all the time.”)

Right now, Kleven says, Woods’ lifting level is “off the charts.” He wouldn’t talk specific weights but said Woods recently reached new highs. “His endurance and strength allows us to do more reps at high levels [of weight] than normally seen in a golfer. His resistance for high reps is extremely high.”



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