[Michael Giovanni Rivera, aka GIO, is a strength and conditioning coach based out of Los Angeles, CA, owner of GIOTRAINING and contributor to the HUMANFITPROJECT network. With a robust list of celebrity clientele including models, Playmates, personalities, and professional athletes, GIO gives us a firsthand look at the training of a Major League Baseball player.]
In order to prepare Justin Sellers of the Los Angeles Dodgers for spring training and the upcoming 2014 MLB season, I based his strength and conditioning program off a periodization cycle. The first cycle was implemented to increase strength and power. As time progressed and we got closer to spring training, we transitioned his program to more sports-specific things such as short bursts of explosiveness, footwork, and hand-eye coordination—all while maintaining his strength and power gains from the previous months of training.
Training an athlete like Sellers becomes very complex and requires proper program design. And due to the fact he's working multiple areas simultaneously, it's important to keep him injury-free and recovering strong, all while pushing him in the gym and keeping him on top of his nutrition.
In this video, I chose four baseball-specific exercises that I did with Justin in his training program in order to prepare him for spring training and the 2014 MLB season. Each exercise has a specific purpose and works all the major areas needed.
Exercise 1: Sandbag Push Press
The sandbag push press is a full-body compound movement with a functional twist to it, because it involves the use of a sandbag, which is more unstable than a traditional barbell or dumbbell. The major areas worked are the legs, core, shoulders, and grip. It is an explosive movement, as well, because of the fast speed used on the ascending portion of the movement. Balance, coordination, and the grip are involved because of the unstable use of the sand shifting as the movement is being done.
Grasp sandbag up to shoulder height just as you would a barbell. Keep palms up. Proceed to squat position, keeping feet shoulder-width apart. As you squat, make sure you keep all the weight on your heels and they remain flat during the entire movement. Squat to 90 degrees, keeping the sandbag as stable as possible in a slow and controlled movement. Proceed up in an explosive fashion or as quickly as you can. Press sandbag up above your head with your full body and shoulders as you are proceeding up from the squat. Try using a lighter sandbag (perhaps 30 pounds) to get used to the movement. Then move up on weight when you progress or feel comfortable with it. Try it in sets of 4-5 with a rep range of 12-15.
Exercise 2: Agility Ladder Lateral Movement with Burpee Ball Toss
The agility ladder lateral movement with burpee ball toss is a complex exercise that involves the full body. It's a sport-specific and functional movement that works on lateral agility, footwork, explosiveness, hand-eye coordination, balance, stability, and all major muscles in the body.
This exercise will require a partner to toss the ball. Start at the end of the ladder. Proceed through the ladder laterally in an in-and-out motion, moving as quickly as you can. When you get to the end of the ladder, proceed into a burpee movement: quickly get down into pushup position, do one pushup, pop up, and expect a ball to be tossed to you. Catch it in your glove hand, just as you would in baseball, toss the ball back to your partner, and proceed back through the ladder laterally again. Try this 3 times through without stopping. When you feel comfortable, increase it to 5—or even 10.
Exercise 3: Battle Rope Alternating to Simultaneously
The battle rope exercise is an extremely explosive movement that is a full-body movement. While most think it's an upper-body movement, it actually involves more of your legs and core. This exercise involves muscular endurance and total-body explosiveness. Of course, the move does still work your upper body, core, and grip strength, as well.
Grasp the rope, keeping feet shoulder-width apart. Now move the ropes up and down in an alternating fashion for 20 seconds as explosively and fast as you can. Then proceed to move the rope simultaneously for 10 seconds without stopping. Create waves with the rope, keep it smooth, and make sure you involve your legs and core to activate the full-body movement. Keep the grip tight, as well. Try doing this for 30 seconds, with 1 minute's rest, or mix it into a circuit. If you want to test your muscular endurance, do it for 1 minute with 30 seconds' rest.
Exercise 4: Low Pulley Cable Twist
The low pulley cable twist is a sport-specific movement that mimics your swing in baseball. The reason we do this is to add resistance to the movement to increase strength, power, and explosiveness in the swing. It is a full-body movement, as well, involving the back, shoulders, arms, grip, core, and legs.
Adjust pulley to desired height, where your swing is most likely to start. Grasp the cable, stand in the same stance as you would to swing a bat. Proceed to swing the cable as fast as you can. Control the cable and proceed slowly on the negative portion of the movement. Try doing 3 sets of 10 reps, then progress and increase to 4 sets of 15 reps. If you feel comfortable, try doing it the opposite way you swing.