About three hours before every home game at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Terry Francona emerges from a door and enters the park’s media room to address reporters. At times, there is loud hard rock or rap music pumping from the other side of the door, making it look quite comically as if Francona has his own entrance music.
But the skipper is merely passing by the weight room, which is often abuzz with activity in the middle of the afternoon.
Weight lifting is an integral part of every player’s preparation, particularly the position players, who require strength for a variety of activities depending on where they play. Contrary to popular opinion, however, it is not an everyday activity for muscle-bound men who subscribe to the belief that chicks dig the long ball.
“During the season, you’re not looking to gain strength unless you are hurting, so you just want to maintain what you got, what you worked on in the offseason,” said infielder/outfielder Bill Hall, who visits the weight room once or twice a week. “That’s what most guys do.”
To Hall, who has played six different positions in his first year with the Red Sox, pumping iron too much can create soreness, but not enough can set a player back.
It is a delicate balance that requires the assistance of strength and conditioning coach David Page and a staff that monitors when enough is enough.
“The main thing is you want your body feeling good at all times, and obviously, working out helps with that,” said Hall, who has slugged 109 home runs in his nine-year career. “But over-working out hurts with that.”
The medical community has made strides in determining how much is too much. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends two to three nonconsecutive days per week of strength training.
“The goal of strength training is to overload the muscles. When you do so, you get microscopic tears,” said Carine Corsaro, exercise physiologist at the Tanger Be Well Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “When the tears repair themselves, the muscles grow larger, and that process takes 48 hours. That’s why it’s important to skip a day between weight training a muscle group.”
Doing too much, she said, could increase the chance of injury.
“Plus, exercise is supposed to increase your energy, and your energy levels will drop if you overdo it,” she added.
But what’s the right amount to lift? For most of us, Corsaro says you should be able to do at least eight repetitions with the weight, with good form. If you struggle, it’s too heavy.
For the pros, the grind of a 162-game schedule can create ebbs and flows to the lifting regimen. When shortstop Marco Scutaro began to suffer the effects of tennis elbow, an ailment that caused him to miss two games, he had to completely shut down his lifting program.
“You have to lift weights to stay strong,” Scutaro told reporters in the days after he received a cortisone shot to treat the injury. “It’s been a while. It was real weird. I couldn’t even get a grip on a dumbbell.”
For a pitcher, that would not be as “weird.” For years, they were not even allowed to touch a weight, confining their workouts to throwing and jogging, but that has changed a bit over time. Teams often have their pitchers do light lifting in targeted areas to help prevent against injury. For instance, the muscles around the rotator cuff are often put through their paces.
Still, the weight room remains the territory for the position players, their routines and Francona’s entrance music — just not every single day.
“You don’t want to wear yourself out,” Hall said. “You just want to maintain.”