Detroit Tigers Strength Training Progression

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After a less-than remarkable 2005 season, the Detroit Tigers dedicated themselves to an off-season training plan centered around developing the basics. In less than year, the plan's effectiveness took hold and an improved team was born.

On Sept. 27, 2005, the Detroit Tigers recorded their 71st and final victory of the season. They lost their last five games to finish 71-91—a whopping 28 games behind their Central Division rivals and eventual World Series Champions, the Chicago White Sox.

Fortunately for the Detroit faithful, 2006 didn't start the way 2005 ended. The new edition Tigers came roaring out of the gate, taking the AL Central lead in mid-May and equaling their 2005 win total by Aug. 1. Detroit held onto the top spot for most of the season, but the Minnesota Twins made an impressive late-season run to steal their lead. Still, with a 95-67 record, Detroit got the AL Wild Card, made it to the playoffs for the first time in 19 years and played their way into World Series for the first time in 22 years.

Fueling the team's astonishing transformation is a training plan founded on a single word—BASES. According to Javair Gillett, head strength coach for the Tigers, "You have to sell your philosophy and get the players to buy into your program. If you don't, the team is in trouble. To sell my philosophy, I came up with BASES, which stands for Balance, Agility, Strength, Explosiveness and Speed. This year, the players bought into this and are working hard and staying motivated to win."

Gillett's training plan features every component of BASES. "In one way or another, in the weight room and on the field, we're always working all five areas," he says.

Each athlete begins BASES with balance and agility work, first to teach his muscles to fire properly, and then to help him learn coordination and find his center of gravity. Once he's established a strong base in those areas, Gillett adds resistance to introduce the strength element, and finally explosiveness and speed to improve speed of movement.

Gillett uses progressions, starting with body-weight exercises that prepare the players for more advanced movements in the later stages. Some athletes spend only a couple days on the beginner movements, while others spend a few weeks developing the necessary balance, coordination and strength to move on to the next phase. "It's all based on how long it takes an athlete to stabilize the proper position," Gillett says. "If something isn't working for a guy, I'll find something else that does. The key is teaching the body to be efficient."

Following are Gillett's progressions for three important exercises: the Kneeling Medicine Ball Throw, Squat and Physioball Leg Curl. For the first exercise in each progression, he suggests 2 sets of 8-10 reps. Gradually increase reps each week until you can perform 2 sets of 15 reps. When you're comfortable at 15, move back down to 8-10 reps, but add a third set. Then, work your way back to 15 reps per set.

Once you can easily perform 3 sets of 15 reps, move on to the next exercise in the progression and repeat the rep-set pattern. The exception is when the next stage involves the use of weights, such as barbells or dumbbells. For those exercises (e.g., the final stage of the Squat progression), Gillett prescribes only 6-10 reps. Start with 2 sets, and build up to 3.

Gillett explains the importance of each element of BASES.


"Balance is coordination, getting the muscles to fire properly and the foundation of a strong base."


"Agility is not how quickly something can be done, but how efficiently it can be done. Like balance, agility is the ability of your muscles to fire properly. But now, instead of standing in one spot, your center of gravity changes as you move."


"The strength stage is when you start adding weight, using resistance and loading your body. But, if you aren't stable or able to find your center of gravity, don't add weight."


"Explosiveness is working change of direction and first-step quickness. The agility component gives your body the ability to break itself down, with control. Strength gives you the ability to support and decelerate the body under heavy stress. Combined, you're able to respond and move much quicker."


"Speed is a combination and result of the above. If your body can't coordinate movement efficiently, it will be difficult to move faster without putting yourself at risk for injury. That's why we focus on sprint technique."

"If you do not develop stronger, more explosive muscle firing patterns, you won't be able to cut the time it takes you to get to your destination!"

1. Progression: Kneeling Medicine Ball Throw

The Payoff: "This is a really good movement for working a lot of the body," Gillett says. "Kneeling makes it a plyometric exercise for your torso; it works the transverse abs, back and obliques. You also work shoulder stability by holding the ball in line with the center of your chest. In the beginning phase, you learn to rotate without the ball and throw, which teaches your body to adapt to the movement of the drill."

Kneeling Twist

• Start in lunge position with right knee forward and left knee back and resting on ground
• Extend arms at chest level. Don't lock elbows
• Rotate left keeping arms in line with shoulders
• Rotate right keeping arms in line with shoulders
• Repeat with left knee forward and right knee back

Kneeling Med Ball Twist

• Same as Kneeling Twist, but perform holding med ball

Kneeling Med Ball Throw

• Same as Kneeling Med Ball Twist, but throw ball at wall when twisting to right
• Catch ball as it bounces back; repeat
• Repeat with left knee forward and right knee back. Throw ball to left

2. Progression: Squat

The Payoff: "Starting with the balance squat helps you learn the different positions of the movement. Also, getting your shoulders to handle the position they're in with the bar is really hard. Using the stick at first gets you used to this position, so when you do add weight, you remain stable."

Balance Squat

• Start in athletic position with arms extended at chest level
• Lower hips into squat position
• Keep back flat and knees behind toes
• Extend at ankles, knees and hips to return to starting position

Balance Squat with Stick

• Same as Balance Squat but hold broom stick across back


• Same as Balance Squat with Stick but hold weighted barbell across back

3. Progression: Physioball Leg Curl

The Payoff: "Your hamstring is a two-joint muscle; it connects at your hip and at your knee. Physioball Leg Curls work the higher part of your hamstring and glute and the lower tendon behind your knee, which keeps the muscle long and strong. The other movements, like hip thrusts, teach your glutes to fire before your hamstrings. If your glutes don't fire first, you'll have hamstring problems."

Hip Thrust

• Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on ground
• Squeeze glutes, then raise hips off ground
• Extend hips until your shoulders, hips and knees form straight line

Physioball Superman

• Lie face down with physioball underneath hips
• Keep left foot and right hand on ground
• Raise right foot and left hand until they form straight line

Physioball Hip Thrust

• Same as Hip Thrust, but place feet on physioball, then raise hips

Physioball Plank

• Lie on back with legs extended and feet on physioball
• Raise hips until straight line is formed from shoulders to feet
• Hold position for 10-15 seconds

Single-Leg Physioball Plank

• Same as Physioball Plank, but raise one foot off ball and hold
• Lower foot and raise opposite foot off ball and hold

Physioball Leg Curl

• Lie on back with legs extended and feet on physioball
• Raise hips until straight line is formed from shoulders to feet
• Roll ball toward butt
• Keep hips raised to maintain straight line from shoulders to knees

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