By: Mark McClusky
Oct. 07, 2015 (MENLO PARK, CA) IN AN ANONYMOUS stretch of office buildings off Highway 101 in Menlo Park, California, just miles from tech giants like Facebook and Google, sits a laboratory dedicated to the perfection of athletic training. On this Bay Area day, the large rolling door of the warehouse-like space is thrown open to let in the sunshine, filling the room with light as a dozen professional baseball players embark on their ninety-minute workout.
They begin by rolling out their muscles to loosen them and increase blood flow before starting the actual work. Rather than using the more typical foam rollers, each player employs a four-foot length of PVC pipe to help free up the tightness in his quads and hamstrings. No traditional static stretching here, no toe-touches. Research shows that doing those activities before exercise can actually decrease an athlete’s strength and explosiveness. After the rolling, the players start to move around the gym, gradually ramping up their activity level (this prevents injury, and is a better method for all of us, not just professional athletes, to warm up).
After 15 minutes, they move on to the next part of their warm-up, although to an observer, it sure looks like they’re going all out. The position players take turns working on their sprint technique on an indoor forty-meter track. They take the wide-leg crouch of a runner leading off of first base, and on a coach’s prompt, they pivot and sprint toward an imaginary second. As they do, the coach gives them cues on their form, urging them to maintain the correct body lean as they run, so that all of the force they create propels them forward as quickly as possible. Each repetition is timed by an electronic system; the coach enters the time into software on his iPad, where it goes into the player’s data file, which tracks everything he does at the gym. A plasma screen TV shows a delayed video feed of the start zone, which players can stop and look at after their sprint to get visual feedback on their performance.