Professional Baseball Training in the MLB: A Player's Perspective

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Last modified on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 09:40

     We were lucky enough to catch up with the very busy Chris Swauger before he had to leave for baseball spring training.  Chris will be going over his training workout and compare that to how he trained in college to how he trains now as a pro.  Chris goes over dynamic effort, lifting for speed and power, and crosstraining.  Chris also explains how to deal with life on the road and your training schedule.   Coming out of highschool, Chris was the 16th overall rated first baseman in the nation by Team One Baseball.  In college he was moved to outfield, where he was only the second player in school history to record 300-plus hits. He also leaves with the school record in triples with 16.   His ten triples in the 2006 season had him placed second in the nation as he trailed the leader by only two.  Chris was second in doubles with 71 and third in home runs with 38. 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball Video Transcription:  That's the thing it's a continuous process, I'm still learning things now about my body and getting new ideas from guys that have played and guys that train athletes. It's really just a continuous process because I started training with weights when I got in high school but I really didn't know what I was doing. I had my dad and my stepdad there to show me how to work out, but they didn't know anything about functional training and dynamic effort, all these big-time strength and conditioning terms. So I just started going in there and moving weight around, it helped, I got a little bit stronger but once I got to college that was when the big emphasis was on training, getting stronger, getting more functional, getting more explosive.

 

 

I tell everybody I talk to, like kids at camps that I work at, I tell their parents and, it's really more for the older kids, the guys that are in high school, the guys that are in college that might not have the privilege that I did going to the Citadel where strength and conditioning is of paramount importance. And even guys I play with now, I tell them it's not how much weight you can move, if I can squat 500 or 600 pounds, great for me that I can do that, what is I going to do to help me hit a baseball. Yeah it's going to make my legs stronger, but how many times am I going to move that slowly through a motion in baseball, it's really not going to happen. What I've learned more recently is that you have to train smart, you have to train for what you're doing. So for a baseball player it's really 1 rep, explosive movement and then I rest for 10 to 15 seconds, then I get back in the box and then I swing again. So if I learn to train like that to repeatedly do stuff quickly and fast and explosively then I can become a better athlete. The things that I've been really into right now is getting into some of the CrossFit stuff it's basically like circuit training. You do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds or you do one rep a minute it for 30 min. so you're basically trying to recruit as much muscle fiber as you can in a short period of time and then you rest, you have time to catch your breath and then you do it all over again.

 

 

I realize I'm not that talented where I can just show up and not do anything in the weight room, not train a specific way and I know what works for me. That may work for them, this works for me. It's something that you learn in pro ball when you're playing all the time, it's a cutthroat business where you can’t worry about anybody else, you have to worry about yourself, and that’s not to say you have to be a selfish player and you don’t do the right things on the field but you can only control what you do. You can’t deal with somebody else, you can’t worry about what they do, you have to figure out what works for you and do what's best for you. That's how I've developed my routine, pay attention, and try to keep it simple. It's hard when you get to pro ball because you're playing 140 games a year and with all the winter ball that I played in South America, I calculated out, for the last couple of years, I've played 270 games in 365 days, so I really had 90 days where I didn't have a game. And to do that you have to train, you have to get into the weight room, the problem is sometimes you not going to be able to get on as consistent of program as you want to be. Optimally, like when we were at the Citadel we lifted Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays in season. In the off-season we lifted 5 days a week, which was great.

 

 

We were all in peak physical performance, but when you're playing every day and the game times change, and then you have to go to a different city, and then you have a hotel we may not have the gym to do what your routine is, you have to be able to make adjustments on the fly. It's the same thing as in the game, if a guy is doing something to you to get you out, well you have to be able to adjust to that. If you're playing a game at 7 o'clock and then you’re leaving that night to get to a different city and you're supposed to get your lift in the next day, while you might have to adjust because you might be tired, so you maybe take that day off and you change it to the next day even though you're not going be able to get in your Monday, Wednesday, Friday split, maybe you get a Monday, Thursday, Friday split but you still get your work in. As far as the Cardinals go, we're supposed to get 2 lifts in a week, and upper body emphasis with a lower body aspect to it, and then a lower body of this is with an upper body aspect to it.

 

 

They understand that a lot of guys are different, the thing is when you're in pro ball, you're in control of your own career, so basically you're in charge of your own weightlifting program. There are some guys who go in there and say “I'm not lifting, I'm just not doing it, I need to perform on the field, I'm not lifting.” And that's fine, that doesn't work for me, that works for them. And there's nothing that they can say about it, ultimately we’re professionals, and we have to dictate our own career. Now it may not look good in the eyes of the coaches and it might be a hindrance to their career but it is still their career, and if they think that's going to make them perform better on the field, so be it. But in college, usually we would do a similar type of thing but in season it would be a total body emphasis.

 

 

So on Tuesdays we would squat, then Thursdays would be the bench day and then you would have a bunch of intermediate lifts and other dynamic effort, and when I say dynamic effort I mean repetition, moving weight quickly, and moving heavy weight quickly. If somebody says we're going to do a dynamic effort work out, it would be something like setting up a squat bar with chains on it and weights, you're on the clock, and every minute and a half you'd be doing 3 reps. So you're straining, you're going through 3 reps, and then you're racking it and then you're giving your muscles a break to recharge, and then you go back in and hit it at a heavier weight. And so what you're doing is teaching your body how to recruit muscle fiber for short period of time and then relax, which is basically what you do in baseball and in a lot of sports, basketball not so much because you're basically running the entire time. In baseball, I take a swing, say I foul it off or miss it, I step out, I have a little bit of time to regather my muscles, to recharge, then I step in and then I do it again. That's my basic understanding of dynamic effort, is doing an exercise and then letting your muscles recover, and then getting back in and hitting it again. And I love stuff like that because I feel like I trained my body to do what I'm going to do on the field.

 

 

A lot of times, now that I’ve gotten into pro ball, sometimes I'll be the only one in there training, and it's nice because we do have strength coaches and they’re willing to do whatever I want to do. So I'll come in there and tell them I want to work out with some upper body emphasis but I don't want to be tight. Basically we have our set work out but we adjust based on how we are feeling because this game really makes your body take a pounding and you have to listen to your body and I've learned that as I've gone on in pro ball. At the Citadel, we didn't really have a choice, we had to do what we were told but as I've gotten to know my body more and see what works for me, I've developed my own little routine. And it's inconsistently consistent, I have what I want to do and accomplish for each week but I may not be able to do it exactly how I want because of game times, doubleheaders, travels, lack of facilities but there's always something, I have a full body weight routine that I've been given that I can maintain my muscle until I do get back into the gym

 

 

 

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