Adam Jones' No. 1 tip for taking his workout to the next level is simple:
"Me and B-Rob, we push each other lifting weights," the Orioles centerfielder says of second baseman Brian Roberts, "and it gets to be an overall better workout."
When the Orioles take the field Friday at Camden Yards, they will look tan, firm and fit. While we, their fans, might not have such major league workout buddies, we can still learn something from some of their fitness routines.
Even without B-Rob at your side, the principle still translates: Pick a friend, engage in a little friendly competition, and you might find yourself burning a few extra calories along the way — and showing up to the gym more regularly.
Nick Markakis sets aside a particular time of day, early in the morning, to work out. "My body feels better working out in the morning; then I have the whole day to recover," the outfielder said.
Jones says his regular-season weightlifting routine of "a couple of sets of three different things" is designed to "keep myself strong without getting huge."
Orioles strength and conditioning coach Joe Hogarty explained that in baseball, most of the heavy lifting, or, as he called it, the "big body gains," occur in the off-season. Some players, he said, begin building their bodies for the next season as early as November. When the regular season starts, the player's workouts are designed to maintain a level of fitness rather than build mass.
But everyday athletes can learn some lessons from the moves the pros do to maintain their fitness.
Ben Dubin, a performance specialist at the Athletes Performance Institute in Phoenix, Ariz., where major leaguers including Jones, Roberts and Brian Matusz worked out this winter, described some exercises people can do to improve their acceleration and strength.
Weekend exercisers might not end up running as fast as Jones or throwing a ball as accurately as Markakis, Dubin said, but they will improve their fitness.
To build acceleration like the pros do, try the pillar bridge to strengthen the core and increase stability, the glute bridge to improve the glutes and increase running power, and the running push up to strengthen legs without compromising the core. (See box for more details on these moves.)
To build strength, perhaps even home-run power, Dubin suggested trying these three exercises: a twisting move to build "resistance rotation" (the ability a hitter has to stop a swing), the medicine ball toss to build "rotational power," and a "T" exercise to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder and protect it during throwing motions.
Major league workouts can be a drain on the body's resources. One way Markakis deals with this is making a point to eat three meals at approximately the same time each day.
"After the workout in the morning, I like to eat a nice big breakfast. Around noon, I will eat a big lunch that will take me into the game. After the game, I will have a nice dinner," he said.
Orioles team nutritionist Sue James noted that while some sports nutritionists recommend eating five or six small meals scattered evenly throughout the day, the rigors of travel and baseball's 162-game schedule make the multiple-small-meal approach almost impossible for baseball players. Moreover, she said, the three-meal-a-day plan has a lot going for it.
"People who manage their weight well, eat regular portions every four to five hours, never going longer than six hours between meals," James said. A regular dining schedule like the one Markakis employs prevents overeating.
Another big part of good nutrition for athletes at all levels is shopping for groceries, James said. Working with Hogarty and Jay Shiner of the Orioles, James contributed nutritional information to a password-protected Web site where players can download meal plans and shopping lists.
"We want to make it easy for them when they go to the store to get groceries that go along with these simple meals," James said. "A lot of these guys are bachelors, or their wives or significant others may not be in town."
James said she recognizes that people don't follow meal plans exactly. But they can be a good place to start when you're trying to improve your fitness level, regardless of whether you're a major-leaguer
Ben Dubin, a performance specialist at the Athletes Performance Institute in Phoenix, Ariz., gave us the rundown on some moves you can to try to get fast like Adam Jones or strong like Nick Markakis. Or at least move your fitness in that direction.
To improve acceleration
Pillar bridge: Lie face-down on the ground. Lift yourself onto your elbows and toes, then squeeze your midsection, holding for 30-45 seconds. Repeat up to three times. This exercise strengthens the core of the body, Dubin said, and keeps it stable when a runner accelerates.
Glute bridge: To strengthen the rear end, the source of power for a runner, lie on your back, bend your knees, lift your hips up and — keeping your body from knees to shoulder in a straight line — squeeze your rear end for 30 to 45 seconds, repeating up to three times.
Running push-up: Assume the push-up position. Slide one foot forward until the knee is near the chest while keeping the back straight. Then slides that leg back and do the same maneuver with his other leg. This strengthens the legs without compromising the muscles of the body's core, Dubin said
To build strength
One-arm plank: To strengthen your arms, lie face-down on the floor, lifting yourself on your toes and hands. Lift one hand off the floor and hold your arm straight out as you support your body with the other arm. Repeat several times, rotating arms. This builds what Dubin called "resistance rotation," the ability a hitter has to stop a swing.
Medicine ball toss: Hold a 6-10 pound medicine ball, then, swinging the hips, throw the ball up against a wall, catch it and repeat the motion about 10 times on each side. This builds "rotational power," Dubin said.
To strengthen the back of your shoulders, lie face-down on the ground, your arms stretching out from your sides so your body forms a "T." Then, with your thumbs up, you pinch your shoulder blades, imagining you are pinching a peanut between them. Hold the "pinch" for several seconds, then repeat eight to 10 times. This stabilizes muscles at the back of the shoulder, lessening the chance that the rotator cuff, in the front of the shoulder, will be injured in a throwing motion, Dubin said.