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Muscle Sport Magazine

Mariano Rivera: 19-Year HOF Career Possible By Proper Training

When he retired last fall after an amazing 19-year career, Mariano Rivera probably could have continued for at least another season or two. Even though he was 43 at the time, the New York Yankees closer had only suffered one major injury throughout that period – and he hurt his knee in 2012 shagging batting practice fly balls, not pitching. But he rehabbed and came back to save 44 games with a 2.21 ERA before hanging it up. And none of that would have been possible unless the relief pitcher stayed in top condition with an effective workout to maximize his potential.

 

“He’s a very explosive athlete [and] has a lot of fast-twitch muscle fiber in his body,” said Director of 3P Sports Jeff Mangold in one of the company’s videos filmed during Rivera’s playing days. “He has a 32-inch vertical jump, which is very explosive. A lot of that is natural, but also is enhanced by his training. And he realizes that his lower body is essential for his success.”

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Mangold has over 30 years experience as a conditioning coach at both the professional and college levels and was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2006, which included some of the team’s most successful seasons.

 

“When [Mariano] does falter [on the field], he will hike up his training program,” continued Mangold. “His favorite exercise is barbell squats.”

 

Rivera, 44, was the most prolific closer in MLB history and had 652 career saves. “Mo” has been a lifelong Yankee and first broke into the bigs back in 1995 and logged well over 1,000 innings pitched. Endurance has been the key for him and Mangold is a firm believer that a movement like the squat— usually more connected to strength and power— is essential for a pitcher, as well.

“Pitching is a ground-based activity [like the squat] and most pitchers realize that you have to be able to generate force through the ground,” he said. “When they drive from that [pitching] rubber, lifting the lead leg and that knee comes up, they have to explode and generate force towards home plate from the power from the quads, hamstrings and glutes.” All three muscles are worked with the squat movement, clarifying why it should be a major part of a pitcher’s workout regimen.

 

When it comes to the upper body of a pitcher, Mangold is not concerned with size, but rather muscular strength and has Rivera perform a circuit workout three times per week that incorporates both upper and lower body movements. “Muscle hypertrophy [enlargement] can really become a negative when it comes time for range of motion and utilization of your extension when you throw. So we’re just trying to keep the connective tissue of the upper body strong.”

 

Brady Anderson, the former outfielder and current Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Baltimore Orioles, agrees wholeheartedly with the thought process of Mangold and feels that working the lower body is essential for pitchers, albeit with different methods, if necessary. “It’s vital; you can’t underestimate it,” the 15-year major league veteran says. “I would love to have every player squat, but some are ready to jump right into heavy weights while others have to take it slow. So a combination of squatting and sprinting was something that I couldn’t do without [while playing].”

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According to former MLB outfielder and present day hitting coach for the Jackson Generals (Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners) Cory Snyder, “Across the board, pitchers and position players do similar routines, but the pitchers need to be a little more fluid. They’ll run more and do a lot of stretching and band work because so much is on the lower half of their body.”

 

Willie Upshaw was a 10-year veteran of MLB and is now the manager of the Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish. When he retired following the 1988 season, his experience was that the average pitcher threw in the high 80s to low 90s miles per hour. But that number has climbed in today’s game and it is something that he attributes to the weight training.

 

“They all throw in the 90s now,” he comments. “So pitchers can absolutely benefit more [from working out].”

 

When Rivera is a unanimous first ballot Hall of Famer, that will be even clearer.

 

Photo by Bill Menzel

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