How the MLB’s Top Players Got in Shape for The 2018 Season
The 2018 MLB season is officially here, and that means players are fresh and in top shape for the grueling 162-game season ahead. But don’t let their finesse on the field fool you; it takes a lot of consistent work to prepare your body for professional athletics.
For most MLB players, the goal is to achieve a number of fitness feats: speed, arm strength, flexibility and overall conditioning. If you’ve ever watched Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr. or the other greats, you know how exciting it is to see someone who’s agile on the field, quick around the bases and a slugger at the plate. (For the record, though, Griffey Jr. wasn’t much for weight training and focused on his flexibility instead.)
But real results require real work, whether you’re a pro athlete or simply want to break through your fitness plateau. Dr. Christopher S. Ahmad, the head physician for the New York Yankees, put it this way. “It’s not technology that makes them better athletes; it’s that they’re more disciplined at the principles that make them better athletically.”
You may not be able to hit like the league’s sluggers or break 100 mph on the radar gun, but you can follow the workouts that the top players use to get in great shape. To kick off the 2018 baseball season, explore these fitness essentials from the MLB’s top players—and their trainers.
Get to the Core
One of the most important areas that MLB players work on during the off-season is their core. Balance is key in baseball, especially for a batter at the plate and a pitcher on the mound—and core workouts for the abs, glutes and back are key for achieving that coveted balance.
The former team physician for the L.A. Dodgers and L.A. Angels talks a lot about the importance of a strong core. “Your core is your foundation that all your other muscles are based on. The core’s important for everyone. It maintains stability in your trunk, which allows your body to remain more balanced and perform more efficiently.”
But a strong core isn’t just for MLB players. To work your core, try throwing and chasing after a medicine ball, which is great for the core and the muscle groups in your upper body. If you’re ready to really up your game, try this 20-minute core workout from Muscle & Fitness.
Speed things up
There’s nothing like the excitement of watching your favorite player steal a base—except for actually sprinting yourself. But speed is equally important as a fielder, and can help players lunge, slide and sprint to make that unbelievable play.
To develop those quick, powerful bursts of speed, combine lower body training with resistance running. Men’s Fitness suggests this mix of one-legged squats, split jumps and treadmill sprints.
What does San Francisco Giants hitter Evan Longoria use to stay in top hitting shape? Yoga. Says Longoria, “When you’re hitting, you want to be as stable as you can and use the three-dimensional aspect—the rotation in your core—to actually translate to power.”
And Longoria isn’t the only one. Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who showed off his Downward-Facing Dog in a recent interview, said he uses the pose to open up his shoulders and hammies.
Yoga and Pilates are great for improving flexibility, but they can also help reduce back pain, improve balance and correct poor posture. They’re also helpful for breathing and mastering the art of being Zen. Although that’s not the first thing that comes to mind in competitive sports, research shows that hitting the yoga mat can help you reduce stress and better combat anxiety—both crucial to performing at a high level during high-pressure situations.
Be a power hitter
You might not be facing off against a 110 mph fastball any time soon, but you can still benefit from the arm and lower body strength that MLB players use to knock the ball out of the park. To get started, try doing a combination of squats, medicine ball squat jumps and medicine ball throws.
Whether you’re a baseball fan who wants to tap into the routines of your favorite players or a fitness-minded person who’s ready to mix up your routine, the MLB off-season workout is an ideal mix of flexibility, strength and endurance. And because players need to be conditioned—not injured—when they start the new season, these workouts are designed to get the pros in shape without causing the body too much stress.