The man who made Westwood swap chocolates for chin-ups

Fitness guru taught Briton to work on certain muscles and to eat and drink sensibly. By James Corrigan

While Lee Westwood – aka "the best golfer on the planet" – may truly believe his lucky number is one he will clearly not be the only member of his team to benefit from his ascension to the top of the world rankings. The Englishman's fitness coach is also seeing his stock rise still further as the reports continue to emerge of the expert with the power to rebuild the multi-million dollar man.

Except labelling Steve McGregor a mere "fitness coach" is a bit like calling Ross Brawn "a mechanic". As Westwood himself points out, what McGregor preaches has "a lot more to do with science than sweat". Since his moment of self-realisation on a range four years ago – "I looked at Tiger, Ernie, Phil and Retief and said 'I am way too heavy'," – Westwood has been transformed, shedding almost three stones and seven inches off his waist. The scientist judges it in different terms.

"In the four years we've been working together he's probably lost more than 50 per cent in body fat, which is a big mass," McGregor told The Independent yesterday. "But more importantly is the muscle he has replaced it with. People always said you didn't want too much muscle in golf as it reduces the flexibility, but that was wrong. Some of the most muscular athletes are gymnasts and they are also the most flexible. The thing is to make sure you are working on the right muscles."

So what were the right muscles? McGregor began working closely with Westwood and his swing coach, Pete Cowen, to discover what needed strengthening. "He knew everything about bio-mechanics but not about the golf swing," said Westwood. Yet McGregor soon understood and when he first put Westwood through his tests he found out his maximum point of velocity was occurring short of the ball. "The key for Lee was generating power in both the upper and lower body," said McGregor. "So he embarked on a lot of Olympic-type lifting. He is 'power-cleaning' more than 180 pounds and he is 'power-squatting' maybe twice that much. It's all about replicating the explosive effort Lee wants to make in his swing."

Although McGregor is constantly updating the training schedule, there are some ever-present exercises which included rotational squatting on "wobble cushions". The typical three-hour session sees Westwood start off with 30 minutes of cardiovascular, warm-up exercises; then an hour or so of the heavy stuff, then work on whichever specific issues he might have. This might involve dumbbell work to strengthen his wrists or more recently work to the ruptured calf muscle which has blighted the middle of his season. Rather incredibly, on his "weeks off" Westwood will complete this arduous schedule daily.

"Yes, in those weeks at home he probably will be spending an average of two and a half to three hours a day in the gym," said McGregor. "But then when he's at a regular tour event, like say this week in Shanghai [for the WGC HSBC Champions], he will be doing light maintenance work which might consist of two one-and-a-half hour sessions in the gym. Then at the majors he will do no gym work. That's because we base his work around peaking for these four tournaments. It's all mapped out when we look at his schedule in the year. I change his plan approximately every eight weeks."

Westwood has taken it upon himself to follow the plans, just as he has listened to McGregor's nutritional advice. While it will be misleading to claim this once burger muncher is now a health fanatic, he has "cut out crisps, biscuits, chocolate and doesn't drink much alcohol". Under McGregor's tutelage he knows all about carbohydrates and protein, as does his wife Laurae. The couple's enthusiasm for the new lifestyle has made McGregor's job so much easier.

"The hard thing about working with a golfer is that they are their own boss," said McGregor. "With a football club you can set out a training plan and say to them, 'This is what you will be doing and this is when you will be doing it'. Obviously with a golfer it is not like that. They set out their own schedules. So all I could do with Lee is advise him and it is all to his credit that he has made such a change.

"With his eating habits all I could do is tell Lee what a 100 per cent dedicated and obsessed professional who was leading a monk's lifestyle would do. They would never drink and would eat the most appropriate meal at the most appropriate time. Now Lee has been quoted as saying that he doesn't want to spend four weeks playing in the FedEx Cup play-off series in America because it would mean missing his family holiday and he would miss spending the time with the kids. The same applies to certain meal times. It might not be perfect to eat say at 6pm, but he wants to have tea with the kids. Lee has had to take my advice and apply it as he sees fit. But he is very structured and dedicated and you can tell that from the changes to his physique."

The evidence that the partnership has been a success is not only written on the inside of his belt strap but also high up in those world rankings. For McGregor the alliance came at the ideal time as after five years working full-time in football he was looking to broaden out and use the experience he had gained as one of the Premier League's first sports scientists.

After leaving the academic life at the turn of the century – he completed a PhD in Exercise Physiology at Loughborough University and also earned a Masters in Physiotherapy and attained chartered physiotherapist status – the Liverpudlian was persuaded by Brian Kidd, David O'Leary's assistant, to become the sports science manager at Leeds United. It was an unprecedented appointment which was greeted with some cynicism but now, a decade on, each and every club has sports science departments.

As the pioneer, McGregor is in demand and has recently began consultancy work with Manchester City. No doubt they were impressed not only by his work with Westwood but also with the two years he spent overhauling the fitness regime at Birmingham City. So much of sports science is about avoiding injury and the fact Alex McLeish was able to select the same starting XI for a record nine games in succession, became the talk of English football and beyond. "He did a tremendous job. He has great expertise and is the leader in his field as well as being an extremely likeable fellow," said McLeish yesterday.

McGregor has only just returned from a stint with the New York Knicks basketball team. His CV is beginning to creak – rather like Westwood's trousers once did.

Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own