Sophia Popov Shares Her Fitness Tips for Getting Back into Golf Post-Pregnancy

By Adam Stanley
Published on

Sophia Popov knows what it takes to win on the biggest stage in women’s golf. And after becoming a first-time mom last June, she’s back to work.
While Popov’s a professional athlete, she’s still got a few tips for those looking to get back to playing golf – whatever that may look like – after giving birth.
The 2020 AIG Women’s Open Champion (a major championship on the LPGA Tour), and her husband Max welcomed Maya Mae Mehles to the world on June 8. Last month Popov teed it up at a Ladies European Tour in Tampa before returning to full-time action on the LPGA Tour at the end of the same month.
The tournaments last month were her first back since the CPKC Women’s Open in August 2022. She took a medical leave for the balance of 2022 after having an MRI and getting diagnosed with supraspinatus tendinopathy. She found out she was pregnant in October of that year.
Popov was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis when she was younger, and doctors frequently told her not to wait that long to have children, with both conditions impacting fertility.
“We kind of said, ‘we don’t want to wait too long.’ I (didn’t) want to get into a situation where I’m under pressure,” Popov told GolfWeek when her pregnancy was made public.
Popov is certainly not alone as a mother on the LPGA Tour. Multi-time winner and fellow major champion Jessica Korda just had her first child in early February and is also planning for a comeback at some point. U.S. Solheim Cup Captain Stacy Lewis won on tour after giving birth to daughter Chesnee.
Popov told she had a particular plan in her head as she plotted out her return to the LPGA Tour, but, with a laugh, said most of that was thrown out the window as the recovery from her delivery took longer than expected.
“(Delivery) comes with a lot of changes in the body. I think the first three months was just all about getting back to enjoying regular, every-day life,” Popov said. “I said I was going to wait like four months and then get back to practice and now, looking back, I can just laugh at that.

“I think the most important thing is to give yourself and your body the most time.”

Sophia Popov
“The first three months were set aside to get the body back to enjoying everyday activities and after that mark, a lot of the (exercising) was for my core. I thought I didn’t have a core anymore. I was trying to do the most basic exercises. I was in really good shape before so that’s why it was so tough for me to accept that I was quite far behind what I was at before I got pregnant.”
Popov with daughter, Maya.
Popov with daughter, Maya.
Popov said she was mentally freed after she realized she should be giving herself as much time as her body needed to get back to playing golf. She ended up taking nearly six months post-partum before she started “actual golf practice” again she said. Now, with a youngster at home, her practice is more focused on quality. The focus on each session, she said, has more intent – only wedges or short irons or drills – and when she’s done, she’s done.
For a professional athlete who has had done just one thing for most of their life, it was difficult to stop playing the game she loves. But she realized the special time she was having with her daughter was even better than grinding over flighted 6-irons.
“I think the most important thing,” Popov said, “is to give yourself and your body the most time.”
Popov's post-pregnancy pointers
“It’s really apparent to me how much time the body really needs to get back to where it needs to be to swing a club. Everyone underestimates the torque and the speed of the swing and the rotational strength that you need. You need to be ready for that and your muscles need to be ready.”
“In general, your average golfer wants to go on the range and hits drivers because it’s super fun. Post-partum – just hit wedges for 50 yards and under. And then 70 yards and under. And then 90 yards and under. Just slowly building up your rounds. I walked the course with my wedges a good 20 times before I even hit longer shots.”
“I was surprised at the distance I had lost. It took me probably three months of continuous practice to (now) get closer to where I swung it before. The last time I was getting after it (after having a baby) my highest swing speed was 97.5 miles per hour. When I stopped playing it was around 100. I couldn’t break 94 (miles per hour at first) and I thought it was so slow even though I felt like I was going after it. You might not hit it that far and it’s totally OK. Take one extra club and take it easy.”