Yankees Star Aaron Judge Talks Training, Hitting Home Runs, and Why Core Is So Important

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees follows through on a first inning two run home run against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium on June 21, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Mariners 4-3.
 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

With just one big-league season under his belt, New York Yankees star Aaron Judge has already established himself as one of the most powerful hitters in the game.

The towering outfielder smashed an American League-leading 52 home runs in 2017, finishing second in MVP voting while leading the Yankees to within one game of the World Series. Not a bad way to start off a career.

This season, Judge has continued flaunting that power. Better yet, he now has a partner in his home run-hitting adventures: The Yankees added fellow musclebound masher Giancarlo Stanton to the lineup, giving the team the most explosive 1-2 punch in baseball.

So far, it’s been working: The Yankees have been one of the best teams in baseball in 2018.

Judge now will take another step to superstardom in his career, as the 6’7”, 280-pound stud continues to partner with some of the biggest brands in the world. Already on the Adidas roster, Judge has joined Oakley on a three-year deal and will wear the brand’s eyewear when he’s playing on the field. Judge has previously worn Oakley’s Radar EV Path sunglasses and will continue to do so. Judge was excited about joining the team.

“I have relied on Oakley products and innovations to get me to where I am today, making this partnership a natural fit,” said Judge. “I am excited to collaborate with such a forward-thinking brand and see where we can take baseball performance.”

Judge spoke with Men’s Journal about his go-to core workouts, why he likes high-intensity boxing classes, and his favorite cheat meal.

MJ: What would you say to your younger self if you could tell him that you’re here playing for the Yankees? 

Aaron Judge: Just enjoy the ride. All those struggles in the minor leagues, it’ll all be worth it in the end. And: You’re only going to make it up to this level with all the work. I know it’s still the beginning, but I’m still trying to get better. I’m excited about where things are now for me.

The baseball season can be a serious daily grind. What’s your workout routine like between games?

During the season, I usually work out two or three times a week. I’ll do a full-body workout after games. I plan it out the day of. So if we have a day game and we’re going into a night game, I try to plan a full-body workout so I can get in a full lift, and then have that whole rest of the day plus the rest of the day before the night game to recover. The biggest thing for me is maintaining everything I did in the offseason. I really don’t like splitting my workouts into lower body one day, upper body the next day—that makes me I feel like I’m working out every day, and I feel like I’m more tired during the season than I need to be.

You just had a huge year in your first full season in the majors. Did you change anything in your training this offseason compared to what you did the previous year?

It was mostly the same routine for me. I kind of got set back a little bit with the shoulder surgery that I had in November. That was probably the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome during my offseason. I had to push all my training back a little bit and then really hit it hard in early March, into spring training. The biggest thing for me that kind of changed was a little more shoulder rehab and shoulder exercises and making sure I got the strength back in my shoulder. I felt like I had a good routine that worked over the past couple years, I’ve had the same routine since I got drafted in 2013, so I kind of decided to keep it the same. Just added a couple things here and there, I worked on some quickness and mobility stuff with my trainer. I felt like I needed to work on my first step a little bit, you know, stealing bases and good reads in the outfield.

What’s a typical workout day like for you just when you’re in the gym in the offseason?

The offseason is where I build my base and I build my strength. I run through a lot of stuff, and I’m already a pretty big guy naturally, so I don’t really need to get too big in the offseason. When I’m lifting heavy, doing squats, and doing upper-body workouts, it’s mostly about core and stability. But I’ll still do deadlifts. I also do tire workouts with these big 600-pound tires, flipping them and stuff like that. I’m trying to maintain that strength in my core, and if I can maintain that I feel like it’ll help my body and help me play a little extra.

Core is important for baseball players, and especially for someone as built as you. How do you train your core?

I do a lot of planks. I feel like the plank is the most underrated core workout, that’s one of my go-to moves. I’ve got to work on the obliques and lower abs for my core and that’s where you need to get strength and stability. If you have stability in your core than everything else will kind of progress. The biggest thing for me is a lot of planks and different types of situps. I just kind of mess around and try to get to a couple sets of twenty for each thing and call it a day, but it really helps me build that strength.

What are some of the workouts you do that people might not expect that you think help you on the field the most? 

Pilates—that’s something really that activates a lot of core. With the Yankees we have a couple Pilates machines at our training facility, so it just fits in. The biggest thing is just being able to stay flexible. If I’m flexible, loose, and I’ve got a strong core, I’ll usually be able to stay healthy and on the field. That’s the most important thing. Hitting is such an explosive movement. For me, if my muscles are too tight, too bound up, then my core is not strong. You’ve got to keep my core strong and flexible and loose to have that explosive movement. I’ll be able to be free and get even more violent swings. Being able to find that is just getting everything loose and flexible and prevent injury and being able to stay on the field longer.

What’s some of the workout gear you use in your training? 

The biggest thing for me is the shoes. We’ve got the Ultra Boosts, which are the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn. Getting the chance to wear those shoes every day to train in those, it’s absolutely amazing.

Do you ever use any boxing or mixed martial arts workouts in your training? 

Yes, at the gym I work out in down in Los Angeles, they actually do have high-intensity boxing classes. I’ve taken it in the past, it’s kind of early in the morning, around 6 a.m., so I don’t do it too often. But it’s a lot of fun and it has a lot of everything—quick movements, and a lot of core work. And you also have to think, too, so you work that coordination and concentration. That’s the thing I like about it too, is you finish the workout by coming up with different combinations so you’ve got to be at a fast pace, you’ve got to be thinking on the fly. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed doing that.

Nutrition and diet play such a big part in your success. What are some of the things you stick to eating to fuel and stay healthy? 

The biggest thing is veggies for me—”eating your greens.” I focus on getting a large portion of greens with every meal, no matter what it is. In the morning, if I’m eating an omelet, I like to get some spinach and other vegetables in it. Salads are big for me, and I always like to have chicken and rice.

The meals differ every day, but the idea of eating clean and healthy is the same. I’m a big smoothie guy. Before a game I don’t like to load up on a big pasta dinner like some guys do. That kind of weighs on me, so I like to get a bunch of different fruits and some spinach, some protein, and almond butter, and I’ll put it all in a smoothie and drink a big one, because it’ll fill me up, but it won’t sit in my stomach too heavy. That’s something I do every day before the game. It helps me maintain that energy and feel full, but without making me feel heavy and slow throughout the game.

What’s your favorite cheat meal when you’re looking to pig out?  

I like pizza. Especially being in New York, you can find some good pizza spots. If it’s not pizza, it’s chicken parm or something like that. That’s my go-to.