Baseball Training: Addison Russell’s 7 Essential Exercises for Building Strength and Power

Addison Russell
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Baseball players get their power from the ground up.

Sure, you can work out your arms until they’re Schwarzenegger-sized, but without working your legs too, you won’t be able to transfer that power from your body to the field.

Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell knows this all too well.

Even though he plays a position that isn’t always known for bashing home runs, Russell has started to re-define what a shortstop is in Major League Baseball. Whether he’s borrowing his teammates underwear to break out of a slump or setting records for the Cubs at his position, Russell has proven that he’s anything but typical.

Russell’s performance in the 2016 World Series only solidified that fact.

The Florida native helped the Cubs force a Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians after hitting a grand slam—the first ever by a shortstop in the World Series—and driving in six runs in Chicago’s 9-3 victory, tying names like Albert Pujols (2011), Hideki Matsui (2009) and Bobby Richardson (1960) for the most in a single World Series game. Russell prepared himself to perform on baseball’s biggest stage with the training he does off the field.

“I try to get in the gym as much as I can in the offseason,” Russell says. “I’ve had people my whole entire life tell me I can’t do things, and I’ve used that to my advantage. Your workout regimen has to be on-key and you have to be willing to sacrifice and commit yourself to whatever thing you want to pursue your life in.”

The shortstop uses a range of different exercises to build power in his lower-body and to increase his explosiveness. We’ve told you how Russell uses his 6’0″, 200-pound frame to make acrobatic catches and hit home runs—and here, he tells us all the workouts that help make that possible.

1. Hamstring Dumbbell Curls

What to do: Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Use a weight that’s comfortable for you.

How to do it: Lay face down on a bench and put your legs straight back. Place the dumbbell you plan to use on the ground near your feet. Keep your knees near the edge of the bench and pick up the dumbbell with your feet, making sure it’s secure between the arches of your feet. Bending your legs at the knees, curl the dumbbell up and go just past the 90-degree angle you make with your legs. Hold the position for a second, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Why Russell does it: The move helps strengthen the hamstrings and thighs, both extremely important for baseball players. Adding strength to the hamstrings helps decrease the risk of injury, giving Russell more flexibility when he’s in the field and in the batters box. “During the offseason I focus most on where my body needs to improve, and after my [2015 season] hamstring injury, it was my legs,” Russell said. “I wanted to focus on my legs and I did that with hamstring curls and the hamstring dumbbell curls—it strengthened them and helped me feel great to start the season.”

2. Box Jumps

What to do: Using a box high enough to challenge you, do 4 sets of 6-8 reps. Increase or decrease the height as you see fit.

How to do it: Standing in front of the box, bend your knees and take an athletic stance. With your feet about hip-width apart, bend down with your knees and hips in a quick movement and jump up onto the nox. Swing your arms as you jump up, hold the landing on top of the box, then slowly step off the box back onto the floor. Repeat for the number of reps.

Why Russell does it: The shortstop position is one of the most active and difficult defensive positions in baseball, demanding explosive movements and, therefore, quickness and agility to play it well. The move also helps with leg balance and stability.

Alternate move: Russell does long jumps to help build power in his lower body and help with explosive movements.

3. “Dead Bugs”

What to do: Do 3-4 reps of 8-10 reps.

How to do it: Lay flat on your back on the ground with your arms pointed straight up. Bend your knees and raise them up so that your legs form a 90-degree angle with your thighs (your calves should be parallel to the floor). Tighten your abs, then take a deep breath, as you exhale, extend your right leg straight towards the floor and bring your left arm parallel to the floor. Keep your back and abs tight as your do the movement, then bring your limbs back to starting position. Alternate with opposite legs and arms for each movement for the amount of reps.

Why Russell does it: “I love to do dead bugs,” Russell said. “I’ll probably do about 4 sets of around 10 reps once every three days to make sure that my core is strong.”

This move will help strengthen your core, abdominals, obliques, and hip flexors. Even though this exercise has a funny name, it can help decrease injuries by making your core and hips more flexible while also strengthening your lower back and shoulders.

4. Barbell Front Squat

What to do: 3 sets of 5-7 reps. Use a weight that is comfortable for you and add more if it becomes too easy.

How to do it: Stand with your hand and legs shoulder-width apart and grab the barbell in front of you with an overhand grip. Raise your elbows up until your upper arms are parallel with the floor, then rest the bar on the front part of your shoulders. Step away from the rack and let the bar rest on your fingertips. Squat down slowly, with your knees pointing slightly outwards. When you reach the bottom of the lift, drive upwards back into starting position. Repeat for the number of reps. For more help on the front squat, check out expert tips from Men’s Fitness on the move.

Why Russell does it: “The more squats, the better,” Russell says. “I don’t like to stack a lot of weight but I like to do a lot of repetition stuff when it comes to squats. I like the front squat a lot.”

The front squat helps Russell build strength in his quads, calves, glutes, and hamstrings, giving him extra power throughout his legs and lower body. Russell’s power is driven through his legs and that allows him to get some extra strength on his swing after building his lower body.

Alternate moves: Russell uses different squat variations in his workouts, including lunge squats and reverse lunge squats.

5. Lateral Band Squat Walks

What to do: Using a resistance band around your ankles, do 3 sets going about 10 to 15 feet in each direction. Going one way and back counts as one rep.

How to do it: Standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, get into a squat position and walk sideways, making sure the band keeps its resistance as you move. Hold your arms straight in front of you and move side to side for the required distance.

Why Russell does it: “I like to do band work for my legs,” Russell says. “Squat walks, mini-bands are definitely some of my favorites to hit my legs and activate my glutes.” The move helps engage the muscles in your lower body, including your glutes, pelvis, and hips. It can help decrease the risk of injury by strengthening and increasing stability your knees, hips, and ankles.

6. Single-Leg Bridges

What to do: Do 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps on each leg.

How to do it: Lay down on the floor on your back and bend both of your knees so that your feet are flat on the ground, not far from your butt. Your arms should be at your sides, while your torso should be thrust up towards the ceiling. Engage your abs and raise one leg up, bringing your knee towards your chest. As you do this, press with your opposite heel on the floor, extending your hips so your upper leg and torso make a straight line. Hold the position, them lower back to the starting position. Repeat for the number of reps, then switch legs. Check out our list of the 30 best leg exercises for help perfecting this move.

Why Russell does it: “Single-leg bridges are awesome,” Russell says. The move helps strengthen your glutes and leg muscles, both vitally important for any baseball player looking to increase his power. Stronger glutes means being able to push harder, run faster, and make more explosive movements, things that Russell needs to do on a daily basis at shortstop. The move also helps engage your core and ab muscles.

7. Cable Tricep Extension with Rope

What to do: Russell does 3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use a weight that’s comfortable for you.

How to do it: Attach a rope to the cable machine and stand in front, grabbing the rope with both hands in an overhand grip. Start with your elbows pinned at your side, your forearms extended forward holding the grip. Bring the rope down, keeping your elbows at your side and moving your forearms down towards your groin area, then come back up to the starting position. Repeat for the number of reps.

Alternate move: You can do this workout move overhead with the cable rope to work your tricep muscles—Vin Diesel likes to do them, and you can check out his intense arm workout and get jacked like the Fast 8 star.

Why Russell does it: This movement helps strengthen your triceps and your forearms. The exercise provides increased flexibility and range of motion of your arms, which is big for Russell when he’s on the field trying to extend his body to get to the baseball. For more arm workouts and cable exercises, check out the 30 best arm exercises of all time from Men’s Fitness.

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