Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger didn’t waste any time making an impression at the start of his MLB career.
Consider this: The rookie first baseman had two multi-home run performances in his first 10 games. He finished May by tying a Dodgers rookie record with nine home runs and winning National League Rookie of the Month. By July, he was named to the 2017 All-Star game as a reserve, while also becoming the first Dodgers rookie to hit for the cycle.
By the end of the season, Bellinger, who is the son of former MLB utility player Clay Bellinger, set the National League rookie record for home runs and helped the Dodgers earn home field advantage through the playoffs.
What fueled Bellinger’s early success in the majors? As someone who scouts once described as a “skinny dude,” it may have been Bellinger’s intense focus on his training in the gym during the off-season that made it happen.
As a high school player, Bellinger weighed in at around 175lbs, but by the time he got to the majors, he had bulked up to 213. Bellinger’s workout routine includes a wide range of methods, including squats, hex bar deadlifts, sled pulls, medicine ball throws, hurdle drills, battle rope workouts, landmines, and push-pull workouts.
“I work on my legs a lot—that’s where my power comes from,” Bellinger told Men’s Fitness. “Playing every day, your legs can get tired and you have to get your strength back under you. I usually start with squats and then go into Romanian deadlifts. My favorite training to do is when I’m working out my lower body.”
Bellinger avoided any serious health issues during the 2017 season, enabling him to play in 132 games and help the Dodgers get through injuries to players like Andre Ethier and Andrew Toles.
“Core strength is so important—that, and working on your hamstrings,” Bellinger said. “You don't want to have a pulled hamstring, so you've got to work them out as much as you can, even though they're going to be sore the next day. Being a left-handed hitter, I'm normally twisting to the right, and so in the gym I try to counteract it. I do that by throwing the medicine ball against the wall, and twisting the other way just so I can even out my back, my spine, and my core.”
Bellinger had a great performance in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, hitting a home run and making an incredible catch to lead the Dodgers into the NLCS.
See the catch:
— MLB (@MLB) October 10, 2017
Bellinger had a record-setting rookie season. Now, he hopes to lead the Dodgers to a World Series title.
Bellinger spoke with Men’s Fitness about getting to the playoffs as a rookie, his training routine, his new partnership with MET-Rx, and why he loves grabbing a Big Mac from McDonald's.
(Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity)
MEN’S FITNESS: What’s your training routine like during the off-season? What are your favorite ways to stay in shape?
Cody Bellinger: In the off-season, I'll use the bench press, dumbbells, or a bar for my upper-body workouts. You can’t go as heavy during the season, just because you don't want to stiffen up. I'll usually start with some pushups, then get in some TRX rows, and some normal rows, too. It's more of a push/pull kind of workout. With legs I’ll use RDLs, squats, leg curls, and some med ball throws to get things going. This year I’ve also been doing a lot of core stretching, and laying-down stretches. It’s kind of like yoga, and it helps keep me flexible and loose.
You’ve played all three outfield positions this year, along with first base. Do you train to help you adjust to each position?
I think the hardest part of switching from first to the outfield is your arm, since you have a different "arm slot" throwing the ball. I do a lot on my shoulders just to make sure they stay healthy, because of the different arm slots. You don't want to pull your arm out of your socket, or your shoulder out of your socket. I do a lot of footwork drills to stay ready in case I do have to go to the outfield and be able to run some balls down without any issues.
What are some of your favorite foods that you use in your training?
With the Dodgers organization, everything is organic, so that’s great. Even when we're on the road, our home chef cooks all organic, so it’s lots of organic chicken, rice, and salmon. We get pretty lucky over here. I really like the MET-Rx Cookie Crunch and the Apple Pie flavors. I think the Apple Pie tastes like a real apple pie, so I usually pop one of those in and get my workout going. The milkshakes are great for fueling up and recovering. It keeps the body healthy, and being an athlete that's the biggest thing for me.
I partnered with MET-Rx this year because it really helped me take my training and nutrition to the next level. It was the first year that I incorporated their products into my everyday routine, and it’s made a big impact. Now, before I even work out, I eat one of those MET-Rx Big 100 Protein bars. After the workout, I'll use one of their high-protein milkshakes. It just really helps you complete your workout.
What’s your favorite cheat day meal?
I love McDonald's. I'll usually eat a Big Mac whenever I can. For whatever reason, I still think they taste really good [laughs]. If I'm going to cheat, I'm just going to eat at McDonald's. It really hits the spot for me.
What are some of your biggest memories from this season? What’s it been like to have had so much success so early on?
It's been unbelievable. I actually looked back after the season ended because the Wild Card games come first, and really reflected on what kind of year it was, and I couldn't imagine it to be any better, so I'm just enjoying it. I’m glad I was healthy throughout it all, and I just had fun with it. There were so many memories. I think the biggest one for me was All-Star weekend, being in the home run derby with my dad, and talking to all the other All-Stars, and learning from them. That was definitely the coolest experience I've had in a long while.
What advice do you have for guys working out in the gym and working their overall fitness?
I think the biggest thing, for me at least, is staying on top of what you put in your body. You don't want to put any junk in your body.
How are you feeling heading into the playoffs? What are your expectations for the Dodgers?
It's definitely awesome being in the playoffs my first year. It’s been a great regular season, and it's been fun. I know that we're all looking forward to it. But the regular season is in the past, so we're preparing for the playoffs and it should be a fun time. We've got a good team, so we'll see how far we can go, hopefully all the way to the end.