Rory McIlroy

Criticize Rory McIlroy for being a gym rat all you want. The golfer isn't worried about ruining his career with too much strength training.

That's because McIlroy knows the weight room saved his career in the first place. After taking some heat for over-emphasizing weightlifting in his workout routine -- and drawing comparisons to Tiger Woods, whose powerful approach to the game is causing problems in his later career -- McIlroy cleared the air on why he works out as much as he does.

And he's got a heck of a reason. According to him, he was suffering from back problems as a teenager that threatened to end his golf career before he even got started.

Rory McIlroy

"I realized that this isn't going to get any better unless I start to take care of myself better," McIlroy told reporters this week, according to CBS Sports. "So getting in the gym, eating better, and I think from the start of 2011, the direct correlation between leading a healthier lifestyle and my performance on the course was the same.

"I won my first major in 2011. I got to the best world ranking I had ever been in 2011, and then it just continued from there."

Nowadays, he continues to do that strength training. But it has nothing to do with seeking additional power in his golf game. For him, it's a measure to avoid future injuries.

"Obviously I'm trying to be strong but the whole reason I started this is because I was injured," McIlroy says. "I had a degenerative disk in my back that sort of stayed the same. It has not got any worse, for example. It's always been there."

McIlroy's argument makes sense, and it's easy to dismiss criticisms that he's emphasizing strength too much. His physique still doesn't compare to Woods, and he isn't trying to max out his muscle or build strength in any aggressive ways. He's simply trying to keep his body fit and injury-free.

For some people -- especially individuals who suffered from back problems as early as their teens -- that sort of workout regimen is of vital importance, regardless of what is typical among other golfers.

This isn't the first time McIlroy has discussed his weight training regimen. Last March, Nike released an online video in which McIlroy discusses his physical weakness and the need to strengthen his body, even though he was finding success on the course:

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