Evan Longoria stood in an Arizona gym this winter as Olympic shot-putters pressed hundreds of pounds above their heads and sinewy football players worked on speed drills. The 29-year-old Rays third baseman took inspiration from the efforts and exercises of those around him, but as he enters his eighth MLB season, he knows that these other athletes’ workouts won’t help him on the diamond.
“It’s taken a lot of years for me to understand what my body needs,” says Longoria. “I don’t want to put 500 pounds on my back and squat because it doesn’t translate for me on the field. My workout program is tailored to being baseball strong.”
Before reporting to camp in Port Charlotte, Fla., the 6’ 2”, 210-pound Longoria hit the gym four days a week for three to four hours at a time, with a focus on refining specific muscles while maintaining flexibility. His routine was divided into four segments—warm-up, movement skills, weight training and conditioning—and led by John Stemmerman, a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and performance manager at EXOS in Phoenix, where Longoria has spent his winters since 2008.
To prime his body, the pair started with exercises such as planks or glute bridges, which activate and stabilize the hips, torso and shoulders. Stemmerman then shifted the focus to power and speed, using hurdles and ladders to do various jumps and footwork. Next he brought in baseball specific movements through plyometrics and medicine ball drills, such as a rotational throwing exercise.
“I was sucking wind 10 minutes into it the first week,” says Longoria, Tampa Bay’s career leader in home runs (193) and RBIs (656). “We hit on multiple areas within the same workout—like circuit training—and by the time we’re supposed to go lift weights, I’m completely gassed.”
The weightlifting segment concentrated on either the lower- or upper-body and is followed by conditioning work—exercises that build fitness using kettlebells or heavy sleds, Longoria’s favorite challenge.
“For me, the sled pushes were always tough, but I always looked forward to them and wanted to do more,” says Longoria. “It’s like eating an avocado or an egg—it’s the perfect food. Sled pushes are the perfect exercise that hit all of your muscles and you feel accomplished and stronger after you push it all the way across the field.”
Longoria typically finished the session with a chocolate protein shake and some soft tissue and mobility work—also known as self myofascial release—to maximize recovery and help get rid of muscle tightness. As part of his partnership with the company, Longoria utilizes SKLZ’s products such as foam rollers, trigger point massage balls and bands to ease any aches and pains after a workout.
“Evan will use the barrel roller on his lat (latissimus dorsi) and roll that out for his shoulder health,” says Stemmerman. “He uses the massage balls on his glutes and pecs, and the bands for mobility and stretching in conjunction with the soft tissue management.”
After nearly two months of training, he hopes his preparation will pay off during the 162-game season.
“You have to trust in the work you’ve put in,” says Longoria. “I still have this passion for the game, this little bit of insecurity that somebody is going to take my job—that keeps me going.”
Longoria's baseball workout
Because Longoria has suffered hamstring and foot injuries, Stemmerman avoids heavy squats, instead using step-ups and lunges, which isolate each leg while maximizing strength. The step-up exercise mimics acceleration mechanics, which can help with fielding a ground ball or stealing a base.
+ Four sets of three reps on each leg
+ Dumbbells or kettlebells (Longoria uses 80 or 90 pounds)
1. Stand holding dumbbells, with one foot on a 12" box and torso leaning slightly forward
2. Explode off the raised leg and push up to a standing position
3. Switch legs and repeat
Variation: Explosive step-ups
Start using the same form. Explode and jump off one leg, switch legs while in the air and land on the opposite foot.
Stemmerman says the rotational power exercises are reminiscent of a baseball swing but they aren't meant to mimic the movement. With these exercises, Stemmerman monitors power output and Longoria and the other players usually like to compete to see who can generate the most force.
+ Three sets of six reps
1. Tie in the force through the body and trunk.
2. Record the load and use that as a marker to see how much effort is being put in.
Variation: Rotational throw
+ Three sets of six reps
+ Medicine ball
1. Hold a medicine ball at the waist.
2. Rotate trunk away from ball, take ball behind hip and throw ball against the wall.
3. Catch the ball with arms straight, return to starting position and repeat.
Dumbbell bench press
+ Four sets of three reps, followed by 10 reps of medicine ball throw
+ Dumbbells and medicine ball
1. Focus on power during the bench press.
2. Immediately after, grab a medicine ball and throw it against the wall 10 times. Stemmerman says the heavy weight facilitates the nervous system and makes Longoria have same focus at a higher speed and lower load.
Variation: Push-ups with resistance band
+ Resistance band
Instead of a heavy dumbbell bench press, Stemmerman says Longoria can do a push-up based variation with band around shoulder, to modify the movement and get rid of any shoulder pain.