A guest blog post contributed by Matt Rutledge, strength and conditioning coach for the Vermont Lake Monsters. Strength and conditioning refers to the practice of developing exercise prescription plans that specifically modulate aerobic, resistance, and/or flexibility training to suit the metabolic and physical demands of the sport in question. Here, Matt shares with us how we can all amp up our fitness routine with some ideas from the Lake Monsters’ training regimen.

When most of us think about strength and conditioning in professional athletics, we think bigger, stronger, and faster. Not so with the Lake Monsters. Our training model is different.

For us, a player’s number one job is to perform well on the field – and be healthy enough to do so at a high level. Our strength and conditioning program prioritizes quality and efficiency above all else. That’s something you can do in your own physical activity regimen. More on that later in this post.

First, what does our program look like? Well, instead of asking the players to hit the weights hard and often, we subscribe to the “maintain and fix” approach. That means we work on proper body alignment, lifting technique, running technique, myofascial release techniques, and doing exercises in both anaerobic and aerobic capacities. The difference between anaerobic and aerobic exercises is the presence and use of oxygen. For example, a bicep curl is an anaerobic exercise: the muscle does not need oxygen to contract and lift the weight being held. On the other hand, running a sprint or performing ten burpees requires oxygen from the body for completion; this would be an example of an aerobic exercise. Being conditioned in all phases promotes balanced strength and overall health.

A Typical Lake Monster Day

Our day begins with getting to the ballpark about five hours before game time. Each player starts with a daily warm-up routine consisting of 5-10 minutes of cardio, foam rolling, and a corrective exercise. A corrective exercise is an exercise that helps with body imbalances. Whether this is posture misalignment, muscle tightness, or even muscle misfiring. Corrective exercises help keep the body in balance. This helps the players wake up their bodies and recover from the previous day’s game and activities.

After warm-up, the players work on their individual crafts. Pitchers with the pitching coach, and hitters with the hitting coach, then go through their routines before coming together for a team stretch. Team stretch lasts about 20 minutes. Extensive and proper stretching is a necessity for athletes playing every day of the season.

Conditioning follows the team stretch. Players are again separated into pitchers and position players depending on the day. Following this, the players go to on-the-field batting practice and team fundamentals.

After all of this, the players then get a break before heading out to pre-game stretch and throw. The typical day starts well before game time; however, everything that happens before prepares them mentally and physically for the game.

So, how can you bring this approach into your own fitness regimen? Here’s how.

5 Must-Haves To Install In Your Fitness Program

You can train like a Like Monster, too. Here are five exercises and techniques you can add starting today:

  • Foam Rolling (Self-myofascial release technique). This helps with the releasing and relaxing of tight or overactive muscles. Try foam rolling the side of the leg where the hip flexor and TFL muscles connect.

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  • Corrective Exercises (Exercises that help with skeletal alignment, muscle firing patterns, and muscle imbalances). A great example of a corrective exercise is the overhead squat. Do it without weight at first. As you become more comfortable at performing the exercise correctly, you may add in weight.
  • The Single Leg Cable RDL Exercise (This exercise is tough at first, but once mastered is a great exercise for hamstring strength and synergistic stability. Synergistic stability means the muscles around the target muscle of the exercise also have to work to help stabilize/balance the exercise being performed). Start the exercise in a standing position balanced on one leg. To begin the exercise, kick back the opposite leg by pushing the standing leg-hip back which will collapse the chest and create a stretched feeling in the hamstring. Pull that same back through the previous motion to beginning posture to complete one rep. An example of this is below.

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  • Core Stability Exercises (These aren’t your six-pack ab exercises. Core stability exercises are designed to support and protect the spine and rib cage of the human body). One of my favorites, the three-way plank, is shown below.

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  • Mini-Band Extravaganza (The mini-band is an exercise band with endless creative opportunities for your workouts). The Lake Monsters use mini-bands in almost every workout in some way. My three favorite mini-band exercises are: in-outs, straight-leg side-to-side walks, and reverse walks. Pictured below is a mini-band example.

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  • BONUS: Stretch Routine (Having a solid and repeatable stretch routine is very important in keeping muscles from being too tight and increasing flexibility). Three of the best stretches for the human body are the front side hip-flexor/psoas stretch, quad stretch, and calf stretch. See the first stretch below.

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