In The Gym With I.K. Kim
Wed Aug 9, 2017 by Robert Yang
For any golf fan, I.K.’s missed putt at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship will go down as the most heartbreaking loss at a major championship (not involving a Frenchman, at least). The difficult loss was compounded by a nagging wrist injury which prompted several WD's, resulting in a tumble down the world rankings. Her climb back to the upper echelon of the LPGA is one of the best stories in golf in 2017.
At 5’3”, IK isn’t one of the longest on the LPGA, but she's an absolute striper, ranking inside the top 20 in GIR despite being outside the top 100 in driving distance. While some of the strongest in golf are also the longest, I.K. is an example that there is a suitable workout for everyone, especially those who strive to improve durability.
As with a number of women in professional golf, I.K.’s gym IQ is off the charts. This is a testament to her consistency and commitment, but also to her coach, TPI instructor Robert Yang. Yang teaches Olympic lift variations in our advanced Power and Fitness courses and is a big advocate of weightlifting for golfers (assuming they have proper technique and mobility, etc).
We don’t do enough to feature I.K.'s program, despite the fact that her game and training are probably more relatable to elite amateurs - male or female - than a PGA TOUR star's. We asked Robert to share a few highlights of his work with I.K. Here a few things you can learn from watching I.K. train, courtesy of Robert Yang.
Mastering The Basics
Judging by what we post on social media, someone could assume that big, explosive lifts occupy 90% of training time. KB swings are fun. Box jumps are fun. Pulling a PR off the floor is fun. What doesn’t get shared, however, is the foundational work that precedes the sexy lifts. A good strength coach should require you to earn the right.
Here are four clips demonstrating the technical progression of I.K.’s push-up which I posted on Instagram over the last year.
Almost every athlete can perform a push up, but most athletes don’t do them correctly. Watching I.K. grind over the fundamentals of one of the most elementary movements in fitness offers insight into why she’s had such a successful golf career. Approach every session with focus and intention. Be diligent about improving technique. Sweat the small stuff.
Power From The Ground Up
Speaking of earning the right, here’s a perfect example. A newcomer to the gym would be foolish to try to copy this exercise before mastering appropriate progressions (military press, push press, split stances lunges, etc). That said, watching I.K. perform these exercises (at her PR weight, no less) is evidence of her athletic prowess.
These exercises are incredibly dynamic, requiring coordination, proper sequencing, transferring power from lower body to upper limb, lower body stability, shoulder stability, etc. This is a HIGHLY technical move, but I.K. kills it. Her form compares favorably to her coach's (below). Really good work by her.
If you're relying on crunches to strengthen your core, you're missing an opportunity. Golfers should spend more time improving their ability to resist rotation than create flexion.
While some golfers might turn to Russian Twists for rotational training, anti-rotational training is probably more effective for golf. After all, a sound golf swing should create rotation from the thoracic spine and hips, not the lower back.
As Mike Boyle said in at 2015 article for TPI, “the ability to resist or to prevent rotation may in fact be more important than the ability to create it.”
Training In Multiple Planes
Multi-plane patterns are really critical for all athletes, but especially golfers. Most exercises are sagittal plane dominant, but golf is a sport requires all 3 planes that include the frontal plane (side bend) and transverse plane (rotation). Regardless of what phase of training that I.K. is in, we constantly work all 3 planes of motion.
One of the benefits of our position at TPI is that we get a glimpse into the work that precedes the success. More often than not, when a golfer lifts a trophy, it’s not a huge surprise to the people around them. I.K. has a terrific team, including Robert, TPI instructor Liam Mucklow (to optimize equipment), a terrific instructor in Chris Mayson and consultation from Dr. Greg Rose. They see the data, the progress and, most importantly, the sweat. I.K. is no exception. Of the thousands of elite golfers we see at TPI in a given year, few match the commitment, enthusiasm and perseverance of I.K. We couldn't be more happy for her.