Talking to Andrew Fischer, Bubba Watson’s Former Fitness Coach and Founder of FishFit
First, thanks to all the TST readers and forum members who submitted questions over on the forum. Also, a big thanks to Andrew Fischer for the answers.
The Sand Trap: What are some simple training exercises that you would recommend for us non-pros that we can do on a daily or every other day basis to really address the major fitness priorities that we need to help us in the short and long term? Either golf or fitness related, but most importantly be simple, short and interesting?
I like to focus on muscle groups rather than a list of golf fitness exercises. This philosophy of Muscle Focus will be beneficial short and long term.
Any exercise that is focusing on these muscle groups is going to be advantageous to your power output.
Here are a few: Lunges, Wall Squats, Split Squats, Bird/Dogs, One-legged Squats, Exercise Ball Ab Rollouts, Plank Holds, etc.
TST: What would be a typical non-tournament week work-out routine with Bubba or your other players?
What would be a typical tournament week work-out routine (including time of day based on tournament tee time)?
Andrew: I had Bubba in the gym 6 days a week regardless if he is competing or not. We weren’t lifting weights everyday. One day was dedicated entirely to cardio. Another day to mobility and therapeutic work, next day to corrective exercises. Strength; stability training, and power and balance were incorporated within each session.
Occasionally, Bubba would have a warm up early in the morning before his round and then train after his round the same day. Two-a-days are not uncommon for the two-time champion.
Bubba also has some type of therapeutic modality treatment after each tournament round. His body is his business. It’s his company. It’s how he makes money. It must be treated as such. That goes for any golfer regardless of skill level.
TST: What’s Bubba’s “secret” to hitting it so dang far?
Andrew: If I only had a dollar for every time I get asked this question. I wouldn’t be able to retire, but I would be a thousandaire. It’s actually a really easy answer. He swings really hard and he doesn’t miss. Bubba can swing as hard as he wants and he never deviates off plane. If only amateurs could emulate this.
The analogy I often use relates to a carpenter, a hammer and a nail. Imagine a carpenter swinging a hammer as far back and hard as he can. Then picture him returning the hammer perfectly square to the nail with speed and precision. There aren’t not many people that have the eye-hand coordination to pull this off successfully. Bubba fortunately can, and pretty consistently too.
There are some other factors, of course, such as wide take away, hip speed, segmental stability, and ground force reaction (the ability to use a springing effect off the ground with your feet to create power.) These can be difficult concepts to understand, and perhaps can be addressed at another time.
TST: What is more important in a golf fitness workout, stability training or mobility training? Is there a certain split you would recommend between the two?
Andrew: Both training types are equally important. Motion is created from the relationship between stability and mobility. One cannot exist without the other. The swaying motion of a tree branch is dependent upon the stability provided by the tree trunk and root system. Without the tree’s stability a small breeze would blow the tree away.
Human motion depends on this relationship as well. Because of the stableness of the core, the hips can create motion. Because of the stability of the knee, the ankle can create mobility. The human body is a stack of joints that alternate between stable and mobile joints. This is important because the body is what hits the golf ball.
Often times a swing flaw can be directly link to a biomechanical deficiency.
TST: Does heavy lifting hurt the golf swing?
Andrew: If done properly and under the supervision of a professional, heavy lifting can be extremely advantageous to your golf swing. The golf swing is a high intensity motion for a very short duration. If we can implement a heavy lifting routine that compliments “high intensity/short duration” movements, we will promote overall physical improvement. Being stronger and faster is never a bad thing in the game of golf.
TST: What is your favorite tournament and/or city to go to?
Andrew: Without hesitation the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club is a premier stop for all PGA players and teams. We are treated like royalty by the event staff and the golf course is extremely challenging, producing a worthy champion each year.
TST: What are three exercises that immensely improve the strength of the body as it relates to golf power?
- Lateral Bounding with Trunk Rotation. This enhances leg stability and upper body mobility, improves balance, and promotes proper golf weight transfer.
- One-Leg Bridge. This specifically targets glute activation and builds overall glute power.
- Stability Ball Plank. This promotes abdominal activation and core strength.
All three of these exercises can be found in my new golf fitness smartphone app “FishFit.”
TST: How much do you attribute the lead foot coming off the ground (like Bubba’s does) and protecting his knee from taking on too much torque vs. Tiger’s old move where his knee snap would be subject to all the torque?
Andrew: Bubba’s longevity in the game of golf is predominantly dependent on his ability to protect his knee through out the swing. Bubba lifts his lead leg in the backswing to create a larger, fuller turn. Jack Nicklaus did the exact same thing. Uniquely, Bubba moves his lead leg yet again after impact to counteract the torque forces that his knee would be subjected to if left stationary.
I cannot assume that Tiger’s current knee issue stems from his powerful knee snap. I think it would be very hard to prove that with absolute certainty. I can only inform you about Bubba’s protective mechanism.
TST: What is the most common injury you see with golfers?
Andrew: Lower back pain is the most common complaint I receive from golfers. Often, this pain is symptomatically found in the lower back but its root cause is hip immobility. The golf swing is dependent on the hips for proper movement. The hips internally and externally rotate to initiate the backswing and through swing. Most amateurs misunderstand and misuse their lower back to create golf swing rotation.
This incorrect use of the body not only is detrimental to golf power efficiency but also puts tremendous stress on the muscles and the joints of the body. Consequentially, this leads to physical back pain.
TST: Bubba’s leg drive and firing of the hips are like no other. What fitness measures does Bubba do to increase strength and flexibility in these areas?
Andrew: Bubba and I constantly worked on exercises that strengthened and stabilized the glute muscle groups, while providing a complimenting therapeutic routine. This routine decreases tissue density and creates more hip flexibility and hip mobility.
TST: What are some great exercises/stretches for generating increased shoulder and hip flexibility, especially in older players?
Andrew: When prescribing exercises for my older generation clients, I attempt to focus on exercises that can be preformed standing. I recommend:
- Assisted Deep Squat, which provides a tremendous stretch through the lats and shoulders. Can be performed with a long club or golf cart.
- Exercise Ball Prayer Stretch, which promotes increased shoulder mobility and lengthens the lats. This will ultimately result is a larger, fuller turn in your backswing.
- Prone Glute Stretch, a stretch similar to a yoga pigeon pose. Improves “ROM” (range of motion) in the hip joint and flexibility in the hamstrings.
- Reverse Toe Touches, an exercise that affects hamstring tightness and indirectly leads to increased hip flexibility.
All exercises listed above can be located in “FishFit.”
TST: How did you get into the business and how did you get hooked up with Bubba?
Andrew: I’ve always had a burning passion for golf. Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be around golf and fitness. I was fortunate enough to be able to marry the two together.
I met Bubba early in his PGA Tour career, when fitness was the furthest thing from his mind. At the time I was working with Ryan Moore on movement functioning, strength and conditioning.
Shortly after our introduction Bubba made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I took the opportunity. The rest is history … golf history.
TST: How fast have you been in the General Lee?
Andrew: Bubba doesn’t really drive the General Lee very fast. Surprisingly, it’s a very heavy car. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to drive it once. I won’t disclose my personal speed, just in case Bubba reads this article.
Let’s just say, it doesn’t handle like the fiberglass cars built today.
TST: What advice would you give to high school students, or any young adult on goal setting, what traps to avoid?
Andrew: Goal Setting is imperative for success because goal setting stimulates Motivation. Motivation happens to be the most critical factor of success. I required Bubba to goal set every year before the golf touring season begins. When I joined Team Watson, I brought Goal Setting, Motivation, Nutrition Consultation, Fitness and Conditioning, and Injury Prevention Therapeutic Modalities.
Of all these skills, Goal Setting has proven to be the most beneficial.
The key to goal setting is to keep the goals small. Small is achievable. Large goals are overwhelming and therefore are rarely even started. Create your goals like you would a daily to-do list. Make them easy, fun, and achievable.
TST: What was the best part of working with someone like Bubba Watson?
Andrew: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, working with Bubba is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.
He has more fun than any person I’ve ever encountered. Basically he is a big kid.
But my favorite quality about working with Bubba is his stick-to-it-ness. He is the most “professionally disciplined” person I’ve ever met, with the exception of Tiger Woods. Once Bubba starts a plan, he never deviates from that plan and he sees it through to the end. Completion of a goal, task, plan or project is mandatory for him.
TST: Week to week what do you feel is the most important part of Bubba’s game?
Andrew: Confidence. That doesn’t just go for Bubba, but for all athletes. As a trainer, I focus on the physical outer improvement to effect the mental inner improvement. Rather than relying on easily-defeated positive thinking and mental sport psych, I encourage increased confidence by learning to run faster, be stronger than your peers, or lose that unwanted weight. Start with the precision of changing physical reality and a domino effect will often take care of the internal.
TST: Why does Bubba need a trainer? It does not really look like Bubba has good muscle tone or spends much time at all “working out”.
Andrew: Unfortunately, people can underestimate the worth of a trainer and the value of working out. Working out stimulates productivity first and foremost. Trainers provide motivation and goal setting, as well as countless other skills. Measurement of progress is another one of those helpful skills. Measurement and management of the data collected can assist the client with tangible results.
Most people incorrectly associate “working out” with muscle mass. A lot of what Bubba and I did improved his internal appearance versus his external. When Bubba was in the gym we work on Cardiovascular Improvement, Agility, Reaction Time, Resistance Training, Endurance, High Intensity Training, Muscle Activation, Balance (this is a big part of our training), Stability, Mobility, Postural Alignment, Coordination, Flexibility, Power Development, Segmental Stability, Stamina, Weight Transfer, Speed, Nutritional Advice, Therapeutic Soft Tissue Treatment, etc.
TST: What is the best fitness strategy to add some yards without spending a lot of money?
Andrew: The best fitness strategy is to MOVE. That’s it. Constantly using your body and moving around allows the human body to be actively awakened. And best of all, it’s FREE.
Being still and motionless is the greatest detriment to your body and ultimately to your golf game. The old adage, “use it or lose it,” applies here.
TST: Does Bubba curve the ball as much as writers/TV commentators say he does?
Andrew: Bubba actually curves the ball more than the writers and TV commentators are able to convey through written words or dialogue. It’s an uncanny thing to witness. I proclaim that nobody in the history of the game has ever been able to purposefully manipulate the golf ball more than Bubba Watson.
As a kid, Bubba hit wiffle golf balls around his house. Using wiffle golf balls taught Bubba how to really create and control golf ball spin.