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The Top 9 Baseball Exercises MLB Players Actually Do

April 1, 2013

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There's a power shift underway in Major League Baseball, but it's not the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants or "dream team" Los Angeles Dodgers seeking to make hardball a West Coast-dominated sport. It's players becoming faster, stronger and, yes, more powerful through training techniques that grow more advanced every year.

STACK has sat in on hundreds of these training sessions, and we've seen every move the pros do to make themselves better athletes. Whether it's a kettlebell lift that improves stability at the plate, a ladder drill that requires players to field a medicine ball like it's a hard grounder, or simple warm-up moves that can make a big difference to a player's flexibility and range of motion on the field, Big Leaguers know how to train smart. And now, thanks to this slideshow, you can, too.

Here are 9 moves that MLB standouts actually perform in their workouts, and that you should add to yours. Think of it as an All-Star lineup of exercises that'll help you reach your true potential.

Forward Lunge Elbow-to-Instep

Carl Crawford

Performed by: Carl Crawford

Why he does it: For a speedster like Crawford, movement prep is crucial to improving core stability and range of motion in his muscles. Crawford performs exercises designed to increase his pillar strength and hip flexibility, which helps him generate more power when he sprints.

How to do it:


  • Step forward with right foot into lunge position
  • Lower hips until back knee is one to two inches off ground; contract glutes
  • Without letting front knee move past toes, bring right elbow to instep of foot
  • Repeat with opposite leg and elbow

Sets/Distance: 2×10-15 yards

 

Med Ball Speed Ladder Drill

Jimmy Rollins Med Ball Speed Ladder

Performed by: Jimmy Rollins

Why he does it: Gold Glove shortstop Rollins has made a career out of snaring sharply hit ground balls. To expand his range in all directions, he performs exercises that improve his body control and lateral speed while also mimicking the fundamentals of fielding.

How to do it:

  • Begin with left foot in first box of ladder and right foot outside box while holding med ball in front
  • Lower into fielding position, gently touching med ball to ground
  • Quickly shuffle feet, striking right foot in second box and left foot outside and to left
  • Immediately lower into fielding position, gently touching med ball to ground
  • Repeat pattern continuously for length of ladder
  • Perform backwards down length of ladder

Reps: 3 (down and back is one rep)

 

Overhead Med Ball Throw

Justin Verlander Overhead Med Ball Throw

Performed by: Justin Verlander

Why he does it: The source of Verlander’s heat-seeking fastballs—he’s regularly clocked in triple digits on the radar gun—are exercises such as the Overhead Med Ball Throw, which reinforces the concept of pushing through the ground to generate the force needed to increase the velocity of his pitches.

How to do it:

  • Assume athletic stance, holding med ball in front
  • Lower into squat, then explode through hips, knees and ankles to throw med ball as high as possible
  • Run to med ball, pick it up and repeat

Sets/Reps: 2×10

 

Backward Weighted Bear Crawl

Adrian Gonzalez Backwards Weighted Bear Crawl

Performed by: Adrian Gonzalez

Why he does it: By training his total body with exercises like the Backward Weighted Bear Crawl, Gonzalez is able to generate force from his legs up through his core and transfer that energy into bat speed and power.

How to do it:

  • Assume Bear Crawl position
  • Grab two weighted plates (beginners use one plate or no weight)
  • Keep back flat, hips low and core tight
  • Crawl backwards, pulling plates in alternating fashion

Sets/Distance: 3×10 yards for beginners, progress as appropriate

 

Chair Kettlebell Press

Joey Votto Chair Kettlebell Press

Performed by: Joey Votto

Why he does it: Votto incorporates an element of stability into nearly every aspect of his off-season workouts. These exercises help him transfer more energy from his feet throughout the rest of his body, enabling him to generate peak force to turn on a pitch and drive it out of the park, or explode laterally to field a hard-hit ground ball.

How to do it:

  • Hold kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands in front of shoulders
  • Sit hips back and lower into quarter squat
  • Holding squat position, drive weight forward and up
  • Return weight to start position and repeat

Sets/Reps: 2×8

 

Weighted Bulgarian Squat

Evan Longoria Weighted Bulgarian Squat

Performed by: Evan Longoria

Why he does it: Longoria doesn’t possess a typical power-hitter build, which makes his strength even more special. Longoria’s power comes from his core and legs, which is why he uses exercises that strengthen his abdominal muscles down through his lower body.

How to do it:

  • Assume split stance with rear foot elevated on bench or box
  • Keeping chest up and front knee behind toes, squat until front knee is bent at 90-degree angle
  • Drive through front heel to return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps; perform set with opposite foot forward

Sets/Reps: 2×10 each leg

 

Single-Arm DB Row

Justin Upton Single Arm Dumbbell Row

Performed by: Justin Upton

Why he does it: Upton has one of the best arms in baseball, because he performs exercises that strengthen his shoulders and the stabilizing muscles around the shoulder joint. He uses a full range of motion and controlled movement to increase flexibility and prevent injury.

How to do it:

  • Place right hand and right knee on bench and left leg on floor to side
  • Hold dumbbell in left hand with palm facing in
  • Bring dumbbell to chest while keeping elbow tight to body; hold for one count
  • Lower dumbbell to start position; repeat
  • Perform on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 2×10 each arm

 

Rotational Cable Row

Dustin Pedroia Rotational Cable Row

Performed by: Dustin Pedroia

Why he does it: Former AL MVP Pedroia is consistently among the league leaders in on-base percentage and pitches per plate appearance. His ability to extend at-bats is made possible by exercises that develop his upper-body strength and rotational movement.

How to do it:

  • With cable machine to right, assume athletic stance with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • Reach across body with left hand, turning hips and shoulders to cable machine, to hold handle set at low position
  • Explosively rotate hips left and bring handle across body until it’s above and outside left shoulder
  • Return to start position and repeat for specified reps
  • Perform set on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 2×10 each side

 

Alternating Lateral Lunge

Craig Kimbrel Lateral Lunge

Performed by: Craig Kimbrel

Why he does it: Kimbrel performs exercises in the off-season designed to correct muscular imbalances and eliminate energy leaks, either of which can disrupt his transfer of power when pitching. The Lateral Lunge replicates the mechanics of a pitcher’s delivery more closely other lower-body power lifts, such as the Back Squat.

How to do it: 

  • Assume athletic stance holding plate in front of chest
  • Step left and lower into lateral lunge position; drive back to start position
  • Step right and lower into lateral lunge position; drive back to start position
  • Repeat in alternating fashion for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3-4×8-10 each leg

Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
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