Its really something how one’s training can evolve over the years as an athletic competitor. You always try to seek out the best ways to become better at the given time, and when you take a look back on many years of different styles of physical preparation, it’s really cool to see how far you’ve come, how strong you’ve gotten, and how much smarter you are now compared to then.
For me, serious training started a tad bit before I wanted. My father, tired of seeing me get continually banged up by bigger, less talented players in basketball, really pissed him when I was a youngin.
I can vividly recall a speech he gave me in our basement when I was probably 12 or so. He dragged me down to where our home gym was while I was probably playing Nintendo 64 and eating Doritos. I was trying to avoid him because I put out a less than desirable effort on the basketball floor that day.
He didn’t care if I played bad, he cared that I put out my best effort, which I did not. He clearly was about to call me out as soft, and weak, which would probably make me terribly upset. I couldn’t deal with him being upset, which wasn’t that often, so it would always catch me off guard.
When I was finally summoned down stairs, I remember the seeing him crush pushups and sit-ups like a white Bo Jackson. He was unbelievably strong and I was embarrassingly weak. I hated feeling weak around my friends who had went through puberty already, but I never really did anything about it. I remember my dad standing up and saying, “I’m gonna make you the strongest guy on the court next year whether you like it or not. I’m tired of seeing you leaving talent on the table. Come on let me show you a place.”
This is when my journey into the training world came at me like a freight train. My dad took me to the most badass gym I could ever imagine, and it was only 15 min away. I had no real testosterone flowing yet, so I didn’t realize the impact a facility like this could have on me, but I would be taught some serious lessons about how to work hard, show respect, and show up to give your best.
The gym was called “Bodybuilders Inc” in Akron, Ohio. It had loud, heavy music (shit I love now, but hated then), big guys working extremely hard, and the noise of weights banging and clanking across a couple rooms of really intimidating looking equipment.
My dad would make it mandatory that I come with him 3 days a week until basketball season started a few months later. We would lift, I’d have a huge protein shake, and we’d go eat 4 dollar breakfasts at a place down the road that had the best eggs ever. While I didn’t have a ton of interest yet, I learned the basics. Work hard, show up every day, put your shit away, and don’t fuck around. These are the principles I’ve carried with me for years, and always will.
Of course, throughout my teenager years in junior high and high school, Dad would take me there often, hammering home in me the culture of hard work, sacrifice, and difficult training. He probably had more foresight into what my future would hold as an athlete and a competitor. That was something I didn’t see yet, however, I would never really stop working out from that point onward.
As I started showing great promise as an athlete, I would attend the best sports performance facilities in the area and take long drives with my family to obscure gyms that might have a trainer who would help me. I did all of these things from that point forward because I was on board in respect to hard training. It became a place where my dad and I would bond, and where I could see his incredible work ethic first hand.
Eventually you all know that I would end up at Cressey Sports Performance in Boston to train with the best baseball strength coach in the world, Eric Cressey, someone who my father also found. I would work with him for the majority of my professional career, learning invaluable lessons in proper training.
Every step along the way, I soaked up more and more information. My workouts changed, my body changed, and my priorities changed, yet I was all in. This had become a lifestyle for me, and it didn’t happen overnight. It takes time for something big to become big in your life.
From a skinny, goofy kid in a hardcore bodybuliders gym, to a high schooler getting more athletic at the Sports Performance Institute in Ohio, to a professional baseball player working with the best in the world in Boston, and currently a retired athlete looking to get bigger, stronger, and better looking naked. The same principles apply. The training evolves, but the principles still hold true. Work hard, show up every day, put your shit away, and don’t fuck around.
That’s where I am now. I’m now on the other side of the bar, coaching, and teaching what I’ve learned. I’ve begun writing about my interests and journey outside and inside the game here at Showmestrength.com. Where I’ll be several years from now remains to be seen, but I can guarantee just like eating, breathing, and sleeping, hard training will always be a part of my life.
My workouts have been surprisingly awesome since retirement. I was worried the fire would burn out, and I wouldn’t be very motivated, but I’ve gotten to try things I never would have done when competing in baseball. Exercises once thought of as “no-go’s” have now become staples in my programming.
Most recently I completed 6 months of Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 training variations. I would change up some things every month, but my priorities have changed and now I’m just interested in moving really heavy weight and becoming more of a silverback.
So enough rambling. I just wanted to paint a picture to show you how I’ve arrived at this point in my training journey.
Since retiring here are 6 exercises I wouldn’t have done preparing for a baseball season, but find enjoyment in now.
1.) Barbell Back Squat-
I know. Realllllly interesting right? Well for me, yes. I learned there are more optimal ways to load the bar for squats in baseball training (front squat, giant cambered bar, safety squat bar) so I never really got to do any back squats until retirement. As some baseball training experts know, back squats can put your arm into unnecessary external rotation, so I stayed away. However, I love them now. I am thankful for years of learning proper squatting patterns, and years of mobility and stability work to allow me now to squat deep and heavy.
2) Overhead Barbell Press
Here’s another one that isn’t too big a deal for most people, but pushing something heavy overhead repeatedly doesn’t really treat the old pitching shoulder too favorably, but it does feel pretty fucking awesome now. It’s been fun to see how much stronger I can get in certain areas because they have gone basically untrained for my entire life. I was embarrassingly weak at this to start, so it was a fun challenge to see how well I could progress. I started learning different strategies from more experienced powerlifters, and people who were stronger overhead than me. Again, even with an experienced training background, you can open a whole new can of worms, and grow a ton with new programming and brand new exercises.
3) Bench Press –
Again, another real staple for most people, but for baseball players, the risk isn’t worth the reward from a conventional bench point of view. I did do a ton of pushup, cable pressing, and dumbbell pressing in my career, and even a little bit of multi purpose bar benching, but never any conventional bench pressing. And even though I considered myself to at least have decent upper body strength, I wanted to not look like I had a chest of a teenage boy like in my playing days. I started embarrassingly weak here also, but at least now I am pushing more than my body weight. I still have a lot of growing, and lot of strength to gain in these upper body moves, but I consider them a challenge and opportunity to learn.
4) Kroc Rows –
Popularized by powerlifter Matt Kroczaleski, this exercise can allow you to crank heavy weight, build a bulletproof back, and make your deadlift and other posterior chain moves super powerful. I think more than any mid/upper back exercise this has to be my favorite. You can just get primal with the weight and explode it up, not worrying about super strict form. I like exercises I can take aggression out on, and as far as the upper body goes, this does the trick for me.
5-6) Rope Chinups and Thick Grip Bicep Work –
In baseball, it was all about getting strong, safely. I understand some exercises would probably be great, but there were other ways to get the results I needed. Now, instead of minimal lat work over the last several years, I’ve been crushing chin-ups and pull-ups of all sorts. My favorite being rope chins. This exercise destroys the grip, giving it an insane pump if you do the full reps and lower slowly. It feels cool to grab ahold of something and pull yourself up over. As far as biceps go, it’s also something that had no place in my baseball training, but now it’s fair game. I prefer to add Fat-Gripz to the barbell or dumbbells for a better test of grip and forearm strength. How do they say it? It takes out two stones with one bird? Something like that..