By Chad Zimmerman
Although Carl Crawford faced some of the typical and exciting decisions most high school seniors make-like what classes to schedule and who to take to prom-his life-after-high school choice was quite different. In fact, it was one of the biggest decisions of his life thus far.
In 1999-his graduating year-Crawford posted one of the most successful seasons for an option quarterback in high school football history. For that, he earned himself a full ride to play at Nebraska. That same year, after an amazing basketball season in which he averaged more than 25 points a game, Crawford had the opportunity to pursue the sport for UCLA-one of the most storied college basketball programs in the country. Crawford closed out his high school athletic career with a stellar baseball season, which resulted in the chance to pursue the game professionally. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays snatched him in the second round of the 1999 draft.
He turned down football at Nebraska and declined a basketball career with the Bruins. Crawford chose baseball. And just five years later, he was selected as a member of the 2004 American League All-Star team.
In 2002, Crawford made another decision that he now thinks of as one of his best. He started training with Athletes' Performance (AP). "I would rate my decision to train at Athletes' Performance as one of the best decisions I have ever made," says Crawford.
AP, an elite training facility in Tempe, Ariz., trains top professional, collegiate and high school athletes including NFL veteran Kevin Hardy, world-renown soccer player Mia Hamm and Boston Red Sox Curt Schilling. Each one of these athletes has testified to the improved strength and conditioning that AP has facilitated. Crawford is no exception. "I'm more flexible, my running form is better and the workouts make me mentally tough," he says.
Craig Friedman, the performance specialist who heads the facility's baseball program development and implementation, explains the progress Crawford has made as an AP athlete. "Carl has made huge strides in learning more about his body, specifically in regards to improving his stabilizing strength, which has allowed him to truly start to harness his ability. Over the years, he has continued to focus his energies into incredible speed, elasticity and strength that would athletically rate him in the very top of Major League Baseball, especially as it pertains to his style of play."
As a testament to his dedication for improvement, Crawford bought a home in Arizona. He now trains at AP for the majority of the off-season with two workouts a day, five days a week. AP tailors the workouts for Crawford's body as a baseball player.
"It is essential to train baseball athletes rotationally. Rotational medicine ball throws and rotational lifts such as cable rows, chops and lifts help the athlete engage the back hip as the 'trigger' to developing proper linking for rotational movements. Improving this firing pattern has a huge carryover to hitting and throwing," explains Friedman.
To produce a program that accomplishes these results, AP incorporates eight key elements into a two-part training routine--prehab, movement prep, movement skills, plyos, medicine ball, strength, regeneration and Energy System Development (ESD). The morning session integrates prehab, movement prep, movement skills and plyos. A regeneration segment completes the session. Medicine ball, strength and ESD are part of the afternoon session, which also wraps up with a regeneration unit.
Each of the eight elements has different drills, which should be performed on different days. The workout as a whole also should evolve throughout the off-season. The following drills comprise one day of Crawford's elemental training. Each drill is defined under its respective training element.
Miniband Walk - Lateral Bent
Using a miniband wrapped around each ankle, shuffle laterally to the left 15 steps and then right 15 steps. Because the band forces resistance, make each step slow and controlled. Throughout the drill, keep a bend in the knees and a contracted low back and abs.
Prone Hip Internal Rotation
Lying on your stomach on the ground, bend your legs at the knees so the bottoms of your feet are facing the ceiling. Next, have a partner grab your feet and push your feet apart so each leg rotates out. Resisting your partner, push your feet together. Keep your legs in the same 90-degree bend throughout the drill.
Diagonal Arm Lift - Knees
Start on the ground on your hands and knees. Then, lift either hand off the ground and extend it to a slight diagonal from your body. For balance, keep your low back and abs tight. The key to this drill is to avoid any pronounced weight shift, so always keep three points of contact with the ground, each knee and one hand.
Four-way Hip Cable
Attach an ankle wrap from a low pulley around your right ankle. Face away from the pulley and lift your foot and knee in front of you. Next, face the pulley and, with a straight leg in front of you, kick your leg back behind you. Position yourself with the pulley to your left and then kick your leg to the right away from your left leg. Lastly, stand so the pulley is to your right. Then, kick your right leg to the left across the front of your body and left leg. Make sure to prop-erly position yourself for each movement so the pulley resists in the direction of the kick. Repeat the routine with your left leg.
Stand on one leg on a swivel board, thick foam pad or any other unstable surface. While balancing on the one leg, go through the four-way hip movements from the above drill. Switch legs and repeat the movements balancing on the other leg. Begin the drill with no resistance. As your balance improves, use a four-way hip cable to increase the drill's difficulty.
Pillar Bridge Front
Start the drill on the ground lying on your stomach. Raise your chest off the ground by placing your forearms on the ground under your body. Point your toes similar to how they would be for a push-up. Then, flexing your abs and low back, raise your hips off the ground with only your forearms and toes on the floor. Keep your body in a flat plane from head to toes.
Pillar Bridge Lateral
Start this exercise on the ground lying on your side. Put your forearm on the ground under your shoulder to raise your upper body off the ground. Your legs should be one on top of the other. Lift your hips off the ground as far as possible with only your forearm and one foot on the ground. Hold the position for the prescribed amount of time keeping your abs and low back contracted.
*Note: Spend 20 minutes on movement prep. These are only a few of the drills that Carl Crawford performs on a given day.
Forward Lunge Elbow to Instep
Standing on both legs, step forward with one foot into a lunge position. Lower your hips until your back knee is 1 to 2 inches off the ground and contract your back glute. Making sure your front knee does not move past your toes, bring the same arm as the forward leg in front of your body and touch your elbow to the instep of that foot. Repeat same motion with the opposite leg.
Backward Lunge and Twist
Standing on both legs, step backward with one foot into a lunge position. Lower your hips until your back knee is 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Making sure your front knee does not move past your toes, twist your upper body over your front leg. Bring the same arm as the back leg forward and the arm of the front leg back when twisting.
Standing on both legs, take one step forward. Take the foot of the opposite leg in one hand and the knee in the other and pull the leg as one unit toward your stomach while contracting the glute of the standing leg. For the leg you're working, keep the foot centered with the hips and point your knee to the side. The line from your foot to knee should be parallel with the ground. Repeat the motion with the opposite foot.
Start standing on both legs. Step forward with one foot and bring the knee of the opposite foot toward your chest. Grab the raised knee with both hands and pull it as close to your chest as possible. As you hug your knee, raise up on to the toes of the foot on which you are standing and tighten the glute of that leg. Then, step forward with the raised leg and repeat the motion for the opposite leg.
Speed/Foot Ladder Skiers
Start with your right foot in the first square and your left foot outside and left of the first square. Jump forward and to the right so your left foot lands in the second square and your right foot lands outside and right of the second square. Next, jump forward and left so your right foot lands in the third square and your left foot lands outside and left of the third square. Repeat this pattern for the length of the ladder.
Move forward through the ladder using a two-steps-in, one-step-out pattern. Step into the first square with your left foot and then step into the same square with your right foot. Next, step to the left of the ladder with your left foot and step forward into the second square with your right foot. Step into that same square with your left foot. Then, step to the right of the ladder with your right foot. Finally, step into the third square with your left foot as you did in the first square and continue to repeat the pattern.
Jump laterally down the length of the ladder. Start the drill with your right foot in the first square and your left foot out. Then jump one square to your right and rotate your hips so your left foot lands in the second square and your right foot lands outside it. Move down the length of the ladder performing lateral jumps with a rotation of the hips. Make sure it's the rotation of your hips moving one foot from inside to outside of each square and not the kicking of your feet.
Medial Lateral Hurdle Hop with Double Contact
Set up four mini hurdles 2 to 3 feet apart. Standing on your right foot with the hurdles to your right, laterally hop over the first hurdle. Then, hop in place and then instantly hop over the second hurdle. Again quickly hop in place and then immediately hop over the third hurdle. Contact the ground twice between each hurdle. Once you've completed moving over each hurdle, hop back using the same foot facing the same direction. Perform four passes to the left on the right foot and four passes to the right on the right foot. Do the same for the left foot.
45-degree Bound - Quick
Bound off your left foot forward and to the right at a 45-degree angle. Land on your right foot. Immediately bound off your right foot forward and left at a 45-degree angle. Spend as little time as possible on the ground and bound as high and far as possible with each leap.
45-degree Bound - Hold
Bound off your left foot forward and right at a 45-degree angle. Land on your right foot and hold the position for three seconds. Then, bound forward and left off your right foot at a 45-degree angle. Land on your left foot and hold the position for three seconds. Again, bound as high and far as possible with each leap. When holding the position, have a firm, stable stance.
Three-hurdle Drill - Continuous
Set up three 6-inch hurdles or obstacles 1 yard apart. Standing next to the hurdles, sprint laterally over the hurdles to your right. Run back and forth laterally over the hurdles. Place only one foot outside the last hurdle before laterally sprinting the opposite direction.
Crossover - Plant
Take a crossover step with your left foot in front of your right. Next, take another step with your right foot to straighten your hips and hold this position. Take quick steps while simultaneously lifting your feet high enough to step over a 6-inch hurdle. Repeat the same motion back to the left, but taking the crossover step with your right leg rather than the left. Hold the position.
Crossover - Quick Stab
Perform this drill the same as the above drill, but move quickly on one side and then hold in place on the other. For example, start the drill by moving right. Take a crossover step with the left foot and then the final step with your right foot. Rather than holding the position, immediately crossover step with your right foot, take a final step with your left and then hold the position. Repeat by starting to the left, moving quickly back right and holding the final position.
*Note: This drill can also be done with resistance on both sides simultaneously.
Perform this drill with two partners. One partner holds an elastic cord that is attached around your waist. The other partner throws you a ball to different locations that you must field. While you run to field the ball, the partner holding the cord moves in various directions to apply varying degrees of resistance.
Four-cone Random Agility
Set up 4 cones in the shape of a square with each side five yards long. Standing in the center of the square, have a partner randomly point to different corners of the square. Move to the chosen corner as fast as possible. Move from designated corner to corner for six to 10 seconds.
Foam Roll Massage
Place a tightly packed roll of foam about 5 inches in diameter and 18 inches wide under a given muscle group. Roll the muscle back and forth over the roll for a soothing massage. For example, sit on the ground and place the roll under your hamstrings. Then, slowly roll your legs back and forth over the roll. This same type of procedure can be followed for the quads, IT band and lats. The massage helps reduce muscle soreness and aids faster recovery from intense workouts.
Active-isolated Stretching (AIS)
Wrap an 8- to 10-foot rope around one foot at a time. Use the rope to assist you to stretch a muscle beyond what you could without it. For example, sit on the ground and wrap the rope around your right foot. Then, lie back and bring your right leg up to stretch your hamstring. Continue pulling the rope to draw your foot closer to your head. Pause for a moment and then return your leg to starting position. This same procedure can be done for every type of stretch. You do not have to hold the stretch for more than 10 seconds.
Drink a high protein, high carbohydrate meal replacement shake following the workout. AP staff typically recommends EAS Myoplex Deluxe to athletes.
For a few minutes, throw a baseball with a partner.
Take a soak in a tub filled with cold water post workout. This aids in the reduction of soreness and inflammation as well as a faster recovery from workouts.
Parallel One Leg Rotational Throw
Stand 3 to 4 feet away from a wall with your hips parallel to the wall. Standing on one leg, rotate your hips back and then quickly forward. On the forward motion, throw a medicine ball against the wall. Complete this motion for the prescribed reps and then repeat the throw on the other side of your body. Switch legs and repeat the drill standing on the opposite leg.
Perpendicular One Leg Rotational Throw
Stand 3 to 4 feet away from a wall with your hips perpendicular to the wall. Standing on one leg, rotate your hips back and then quickly forward. On the forward motion, throw a medicine ball against the wall. Complete this motion for the prescribed reps and then repeat the throw on the other side of your body. Switch legs and repeat the drill standing on the opposite leg.
Parallel Rotational Contrast Throw
Stand 3 to 4 feet away from a wall with your hips parallel to the wall. Standing on both feet, rotate back with your hips. Then, using a large range of motion, rotate your hips forward and throw a heavy medicine ball against the wall as hard as you can. Complete for the prescribed reps and then repeat with a lighter medicine ball. When throwing the lighter medicine ball, use a tighter, more compact throwing motion. Switch sides and repeat the drill.
Perpendicular Rotational Contrast Throw
Stand 3 to 4 feet away from a wall with your hips perpendicular to the wall. Standing on both feet, rotate back with your hips. Then, using a large range of motion, rotate your hips forward and throw a heavy medicine ball against the wall as hard as you can. Complete for the prescribed reps and then repeat with a lighter medicine ball. When throwing the lighter medicine ball, use a tighter, more compact throwing motion. Switch sides and repeat the drill.
Stand 3 to 4 feet away from a wall with your back to the wall. Standing on both feet, rotate to one side with your hips and then rapidly rotate your hips in the opposite direction and throw the ball at the wall.
Stand 15 to 20 feet away from a wall with your hips perpendicular to the wall. Standing on both feet in hitting position, hold the medicine ball like a bat. Then, swing the ball through your hitting motion and throw it at the wall at the end of the swing.
Stand and hold a medicine ball in front of you. Rotating your trunk to the right, take the ball up to the right and behind your head with both hands. Then, throw the ball into the ground in front of you as hard as possible. Make sure it does not bounce up into your face. Repeat to the other side.
Physioball Hanging Knee-Up
Lie on your back on top of a physioball with your hips hanging off. Reach behind your head and hold onto a squat rack or another piece of equipment to hold yourself in place. Then, extend your legs out and bring your knees toward your chest. Use your lower abs to pull your knees to your chest and roll your pelvis off the ball.
Barbell Romanian Dead Lift (RDL)
At thigh level, hold a barbell with your palms facing your body, slightly wider than shoulder width and keep a slight bend in the knees. Then, bend only at the hips and lower the weight. Drag the bar down the front of your legs and continue to push your hips back to keep the bar close to your body. Lower the bar to mid-shin keeping your low back tight and arched. Do not round your lower back forward in order to lower the weight further.
Straight Leg Skip
Swing the right leg forward while keeping it straight. Then, actively pull it to the ground with enough force to generate a skip. Immediately, swing the left leg forward and continue with the skip for the prescribed distance.
Kneeling Quad Hip Flexor
Step forward into a half-kneeling position with the back knee on the ground. Then, slightly lean back and contract the glute of the back leg until you feel a stretch in the back leg hip flexor. Hold the stretch for one to two seconds, relax the glute and then repeat for the prescribed number of reps. Switch legs and repeat.
Split Squat-Foot Up
Start standing on both legs with a dumbbell in each hand. Then, bend one leg at the knee and place that foot on a bench behind you, so now you are standing on one leg. Hop away from the bench another one to two feet to provide enough space to squat. Then, keeping your core tight, squat straight down. Do not let your knee move over your toes and keep your entire foot in contact with the floor. Finish the drill by driving back to the starting position pushing through your heel. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps and switch sides.
Start standing next to a 6 to 10-inch high box. Place one foot flat on the box and the other on the ground next to the box-as if you were going to go up a flight of stairs. Next, push down through the box and jump up using only the leg on the box. Drive your arms up as you jump for more height. Switch legs in mid-air and land on the opposite foot. Without pausing, immediately repeat for prescribed number of reps.
Physioball Russian Twist
Position yourself on a physioball with shoulder blades on top of the ball and hips off. Place your feet flat on the ground and keep your knees bent. The surface from your shoulders to knees should create a flat plane. Holding a plate, stretch out your arms. Then, rotate your upper body to your left and then right always keeping your back in contact with the ball.
One-arm Rotational Cable Row
Stand perpendicular to a low pulley machine. Hold the pulley attachment in your right hand so the cord comes across your body. Squat down and then rotate toward the machine with your right arm stretched across your body in front of you. Simultaneously, stand up and rotate your hips and upper body away from the machine as you pull your right hand across your body. Finish facing away from the machine with your right arm tucked under your ribcage and the cord of the pulley wrapped around the front of your hips.
Sumo Squat to Hamstring Stretch
Stand in a comfortable squat stance. Bend at the waist and grab your toes with a slight bend in your knees if necessary. Squat straight down and sink your hips as far as possible with your knees slightly pushing out. Maintaining hold of your toes, raise your hips and try to straighten your legs while keeping your back flat. Then, lower your hips back into the Sumo squat position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.
Slideboard Bridge to Curl
Lie on a slideboard on your back or with your hips at the end of a slideboard top. Bridge your hips off the ground while keeping your legs straight and then slowly bend at the knees and slide your feet toward your butt. While your feet come in, continue lifting your hips off the board-keeping a straight line from your shoulders through your hips to your knees. Continue curling your feet toward your body until your legs reach a 90-degree angle. Then, slide your feet away toward the starting position. Do not let your hips touch the ground until you have completed all the reps.
Stand on one leg and extend the opposite leg and both arms straight in front. Keeping your abs and low back tight, lower your hips down and back into squat position. At first, only squat down until you can touch your butt to a box placed on a bench and then stand back up into starting position. As your balance and strength improve, remove the box and squat down until you can touch the bench.
Slideboard Lateral Lunge to Hip Crossover
Stand on a slideboard. Slide one foot to the side and perform a side lunge. Then, slide that same foot back toward the other foot. As you stand up, bring the sliding leg up and across the body.
Sit in a hot tub for two to three minutes. Then, move to a cold plunge for 30 seconds. The hot and cold contrast forces blood to flow to and from your vital organs throughout your body. This increased blood flow helps diminish post-workout soreness and aids in a faster recovery.
ENERGY SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT (ESD)
ESD is AP's way to develop cardiovascular endurance and conditioning. The method utilizes an athlete's heart rate as a guideline for intensity rather than a set amount of time or distance. Speed is the major consideration of this element of training.
AP uses three heart rate zones based on the maximum heart rate of an athlete. Zone one is 60 to 70 percent of the maximum heart rate; zone two is 71-80 percent; zone three is 81 to 90 percent. To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. To determine your zones, multiply your maximum rate by each zone percentage range.
A given ESD workout operates on intervals of 30 seconds to several minutes in each of the given zones. This aids in development of your cardiovascular condition.
Originally published in STACK Magazine and on STACKMAG.com, April, 2005.