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How Pirates Catcher Russell Martin Uses MMA to Train for Pro Baseball

Back in the National League, Russell Martin tells us how mixed martial arts boosts his performance behind the plate. His new opponents better watch out.

MF: How has your MMA training made you a better catcher?

RM: What I’ve gained the most from MMA that applies to baseball is balance—using both sides of my body more. Baseball can be so one-dimensional, unless you’re a switch hitter; for me, it was always right-handed repetition—throwing the ball right-handed, hitting the ball from the right side. I felt like there was an imbalance in my body, and MMA training, with the [bilateral] kicking and punching, counteracts that. I’ve always been pretty agile and quick—my best assets as a catcher. I have more control and my core is so much stronger. It has helped me defensively as a catcher, no question. My hips are looser, I’m more flexible, and it’s easier to move side-to-side.

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This past offseason, what did you do in the gym to prep for your first season with the Pirates?

I started with a good 30 to 40 minutes of warm-up: a lot of stretching and range of motion exercises for my hips, core, shoulders and arms. I did hip drills with resistance bands mixed in with regular stretches and glute-firing exercises. Then I’d get into a powerlifting phase and would circuit that in with other movements—one day focus on pushing, the next on pulling.




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