Stanton say, "Yoga is great for strengthening your quads and opening up your hips. It stretches and strengthens all the important muscles in your legs."
Baseball is unique among sports for having so much down time, even for players on the field during live action. An outfielder like the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton can stand around for 20 minutes or more without a ball being hit in his direction. But as soon as an opposing batter sends a line drive screaming toward the gap, Stanton has to be able to spring into action and make the play.
Periods of inactivity followed by sudden explosive movements put an athlete's body to the test. Because of the start-stop nature of his sport, and because of his size (6-foot-6, 240 pounds), Stanton has experienced issues with his hamstrings. That's why he spends so much time working on his hamstrings—along with other muscles important for speed—with yoga trainer Kent Katich.
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"Keeping those hamstrings loose is the main thing. Because when you've got to do those sudden explosive movements, that's when hamstring pulls can happen," Katich says. "You've got to be ready for when that sprint comes."
Stanton began working with Katich shortly after he left high school, and he found that the practice improved his lower-body strength, speed and durability. "Yoga is great for strengthening your quads and opening up your hips," Stanton says. "It stretches and strengthens all the important muscles in your legs."
To help keep those muscles ready to perform at a moment's notice, Katich asks Stanton to work in some light stretching throughout the game. He also recommends the following short yoga sequence to keep his lower body flexible and powerful.
Begin in a kneeling position with your knees together. Curl your toes underneath you and point your heels up. Move your hips back and sit on top of your heels, pushing your ankles toward the ground. "This is a great one for the quads and the knees," Katich says. "Having those toes curled under works on the arches and helps prevent plantar fasciitis."
RELATED: Learn More Yoga Poses From Stanton and Katich HERE
Downward Facing Dog
From Hero Pose, lean forward, place your hands on the mat and straighten your legs. Pull your hips back and up toward the ceiling. Keep your hands planted firmly on the floor and tuck your head. "This is a whole body pose that helps the spine," Katich says. "Down Dogs are critical."
From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right leg forward, bend your right knee and place your leg on the ground in front of your chest. Try to position your right shin parallel to the top of your mat. Keeping your back leg extended, flex your right foot and point your toes toward your knee. Repeat with your left leg forward. "This is going to get the piriformis, the gluteus medius and your hip flexors," says Katich, "three important muscles for running."
Forward Fold with Bent Knees
From Pigeon, return to Downward Facing Dog, then stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent and your butt back. Hinge at the hips to lean forward until your back is parallel to the ground. You should feel a stretch in your hips and hamstrings. "You're trying to get a little closer to the ground, like you would be if you were leading off a base," Katich says.
RELATED: Want More Yoga Moves? See Stanton Perform His Entire Routine