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February 25, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Mariners completely overhauling their approach to fitness and training

Just got out of the Mariners weight room down here, which, I have to say, is almost completely devoid of weights. The Mariners, as we mentioned yesterday on the blog, have signed a three-year contract with Dr. Marcus Elliott of Santa Barbara, Calif., founder of the Peak Performance Project (P3). Elliott has been working with Mariners trainers the past couple of months to overhaul the team’s entire approach to fitness. In a nutshell, the idea is to focus on reducing injuries and making Seattle players more athletic through a series of workouts that have little to do with traditional weightlifting.
Instead, the team will focus on strengthening the movements used in baseball — things like the ability to generate force through a player’s hip rotation. The team now has players doing specific workouts designed to increase lower body strength and make that translate into an ability to hit a baseball and react more explosively to balls hit in their direction.
“If you’re going to build athletes, you have to do athletic things with them,” said Elliott, 44, who has trained many elite athletes on an individual basis, as well as worked with the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the Australian Institute of Sport and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.
This is pretty radical stuff the Mariners are trying. No other team in baseball is doing this. The Mariners have exclusivity to Elliot’s training regimen for the next three years.
Gone are the days when guys would come in to the team’s weightroom, do some bench pressing and shoulder presses and then go home. There just aren’t that many weights left in the room other than small dumbells.
The team isn’t forcing big league players to completely abandon their prior fitness regimens if they really don’t want to. They instead are working the new system in slowly at a base level to introduce players to it.
Most are said to have been receptive. Then again, with fewer weights around, it’s going to be tough for guys to come in and start benching 300 pounds. There just aren’t that many weights left. Smaller ones, yes.
Minor leaguers don’t have a choice. The team is making this system mandatory at every minor league level of the organization. Trainers are being taught the system and weight rooms adapted at the various minor league sites.
Rob Johnson was the first player to start training under the new system — hardly a surprise, given his double-hip surgery and the new emphasis on hip strength under the program. Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders also came in early to start working out under the new program.

To help implement the program, the Mariners have allowed Elliott to bring in a pair of trainers as full-time team employees. One of them is Danny Garcia, pictured above, who played 77 games for the New York Mets earlier this decade. In the photo, he’s demonstating one of the hip strengthening exercises the team has players doing as part of their training.

Each player received an extensive physical evaluation upon arriving at camp. The M’s have computer printouts of each player’s strengths and weaknesses in the areas that are going to be targetted by the new training regimen.
Like I said, this is some pretty new ground being broken. Elliott has worked with the New England Patriots and Utah Jazz, but this is his first MLB team. He’d been speaking with three clubs in order to launch a pilot project for baseball and says he felt the Mariners were the best fit.
“Baseball’s kind of a monolithic sport,” he said. “They keep doing the same thing.”
Not in Seattle. The team is already changing some workouts that have long been a part of baseball tradition. For instance, the 25 or 30-minute cardiovascular “flush run” that pitchers do after a start has been scaled back dramatically.
Elliott feels such runs are a waste of time. He says it’s like training a marathon runner when pitchers and ballplayers have to be worked like sprinters.
And so, the coaching staff agreed and have lessened the post-start distance running.
There are other things being changed as well. I can’t get into it all just yet as I have to go cover this morning’s workouts on the field. But I will get you more video and explanation a little later on.



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