"IT'S TAKEN A lot of years for me to understand what my body needs," says Evan Longoria, the Rays' 29-year-old third baseman who is entering his eighth MLB season. "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 pop with a focus on refining specific muscles while maintaining flexibility. His routine was divided into four segments—warmup, 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. The program includes core work, power and speed drills, and baseball-specific movements through plyometrics and medicine ball drills, such as rotational throwing.
"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 gassed."
The weightlifting segment concentrated on either arms or legs and was followed by conditioning work—sled pushes and kettlebell exercises. Longoria finished each session with a chocolate protein shake. 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."
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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. Here's how Longoria does it.
+ 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
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