Inside the gym of the stars with Joey D

Published:

Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson work with fitness guru Joey D at his state-of-the-art Palm Beach gym. We paid him a visit...

If there's one thing that Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson have in common – besides the money and Majors – it's Joey Diovisalvi.

Joey D, as he's affectionately known, is a biomechanics expert who has revolutionised their training, earning them the nickname 'The Bash Brothers' on Tour. Working behind the scenes, he's taken them from casual gym goers into the lean, mean, muscle machines you see today. His golf-specific fitness training is now so sought-after that three of the world's top 10 in the men's game all work under the same roof at his academy in Jupiter, Florida.

It's not uncommon to see Michelle Wie and Justin Thomas working out one day; and then Koepka and DJ the next. Reminders of their wins hang from the ceiling above, and make a mockery of people who say golfers are not true athletes.

It's a tag Joey D has fought hard to dispel. He's spent the last two decades working with Tour pros, trying to convince them about the virtues of fitness and looking after their bodies. Few cared to listen at first, but they did when he signed on as Vijay Singh's personal trainer and helped him win 22 times on Tour in his 40s.

"That's when technology and my methodology became a true fit," admits Joey D, who was thanked in Singh's acceptance speech when the Fijian was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2005.

"Before then, it was hard to get people's head around the importance of golf fitness. But as my players started to get better – and Vijay replaced Tiger as World No.1 in 2004 – that's when I became more respected in golf."

When we visited, DJ was pushing weighted sleds along the artificial track and doing dead lifts. He can lift up to 250lbs – nearly 1.5 times his bodyweight!

As Joey D's stable grew through word of mouth, so did his reputation. He co-authored his first book, Fix Your Body, Fix Your Swing to critical acclaim (a second is coming out later this year), and opened what he calls the ultimate indoor sports performance centre.

Unlike other gyms, the Joey D Golf Sports Training Centre boasts two workout spaces which let recreational golfers, regardless of age, gender or ability, train alongside superstar sportsmen and women.

But that's not even the biggest attraction. You can also get a sweat on in the indoor golf studio, which comes equipped with a putting green and two hitting bays with built-in TrackMan monitors, 3D cameras and BodiTrak pressure mats. There's even a club making and repair service on site, meaning you can smash medicine balls and golf balls while you wait.

"People come from all over the world to use our facility because it is one of a kind," says Joey D. "Keith Sbarbaro, who is a friend and the executive senior vice-president of tour operations at TaylorMade, came in just recently and said it was the most unique place. And I think he's right. I mean, you don't see places like this anywhere else."

A roll call of PGA Tour and LPGA Tour stars now frequent the 10,000 sq ft industrial unit, which sits hidden in a crowded business park. A lack of road signs mean you need to know the unit number, or catch sight of the two branded flag poles to make sure you don't bypass it altogether. Only a few "locals" seem to know about the place, and even then they'd probably mistake it for being closed. The blacked-out windows do little to help appearances, but they do allow clients to workout in peace.

Since everything that goes on in the gym is private, you can't just stroll in off the street, through the modest reception room, and start lifting dumbbells. First, you must invest in a one-on-one training plan and undergo a physical assessment to check your mobility, strength, balance, and rotation. The tests will then be used to diagnose physical limitations and prescribe personalised exercises based on your strengths and weaknesses.

The TRX platform backs onto the hitting bays, where players have access to TrackMan and can swing weighted clubs while standing on balance boards.

"What we do is scientific to the point where we build workouts based on the metrics of BodiTrak and TrackMan," explains Joey D. "People think it's just a session in the gym, but it's the furthest thing from that. We blend science with what's happening in the golf swing. We can find out how your femur internally and externally rotates; what your spinal rotation looks like; how you get to 90 degrees in the backswing. We can quantify this information to get your body moving in the right way, and use TrackMan to spec out your equipment correctly. We take a lot of the guesswork out for people."

The level of detail is one of the many reasons why so many people – NFL stars included – are buying into fitness science and flocking to work with Joey and his team. There are now 10 coaches operating from Joey D's HQ in Florida, though you can sometimes go weeks without seeing the main man or director of performance, Kolby "K-Wayne" Tullier.

While Joey D follows Koepka and DJ to tournaments on the PGA Tour, K-Wayne splits his time between the world of golf, baseball and the NFL. Joey D's workload might seem tame by comparison, but the reality is anything but. He makes a point of training with both players – either together or on their own – for 90 minutes a day, six days a week. On top of that, he'll add six hours of cardio every week, ranging from biking, running, swimming and even paddle boarding.

"You don't become No.1 in the world by accident," says Joey D. "Every single day we're grinding, either on the move or at home in Jupiter. I've been with Dustin for nine years now, and Brooks for three years, and that kind of work ethic hasn't changed. Even when Koepka won the US Open in 2017, he was in the gym on the Sunday morning because it made him feel so much better." It's a ritual they've followed in every Major since, and the results speak for themselves. It might sound unconventional, but that's what Joey D's methodology is all about. His mantra, blazed on the walls of his gym, is quite simply 'We Build Champions' and in Koepka and DJ, he's got the two best golfers in the world as clients to prove it.

What does a training day look like? 

"Brooks and DJ start with a warm up, which is 20 minutes on the spin bike or treadmill," says Joey D. "We then do an hour session, working on balance, stability, mobility, speed and power, and finish with post cable work.

"When they're working out together, it can be hard to manage because they're beyond competitive, and always try to outdo each other. They have competitions to see who can run faster, bench press more, hit it further, chip it closer – it's amazing really."

How do Koepka and DJ stay fit on tour?

They workout on a truck – or rather two of them which the PGA Tour refers to as a mobile fitness centre. Comprising two sets of semi-trailers, they form part of the PGA Tour's new Player Performance Centre where players can warm up, work out or cool down whenever they want, without having to hunt for an off-site gym. The state-of-the-art performance and training hub was unveiled for the first time earlier this year, and is larger than their previous facility by 200sq ft.

The equipment is provided by Technogym, the official supplier of the Olympic Games, and includes free weights, exercise machines, resistance bands, foam rollers, medicine balls and other smart-connected fitness kit and tools which are focused on body mobility and stability. Cardio needs are also catered with one cross trainer, a set of exercise bikes, and two treadmills which deliver real-time feedback on your running efficiency. Players even have access to refrigerators, smart TVs and a wardrobe full of training kit, as well as two wellness centres dedicated to therapy and recovery. A team of personal trainers, physiotherapists and chiropractors are also on hand at every tournament, just in case DJ slips on the stairs again!

Joey D's tips for you... 

+ Stretch bands are the greatest tool we've ever used on the PGA Tour because they're a safe, progressive way to get stronger and keep feel in the swing.

+ Ten minutes before hitting balls, a dynamic warm up is one of the best things you can do. Your body is not used to moving up to 100mph, so things like body squats and leg swing kicks will let the nerves re properly and mobilise the shoulders, hamstrings and spinal rotators. Static stretching, on the other hand, is a waste of time.

• Joey D Drill #1How to engage your core in the golf swing

• Joe D Drill #2Improve Your Dynamic Sequencing 

Can't make it to the gym?

Sign up to the Hit It Great online academy. The subscription service features FaceTime and Skype capabilities and lets you experience a virtual workout wherever you are. The training includes easy-to-follow workouts with Joey and various professional coaches, plus diet and nutritional advice. joeydgolf.com