Insights Into the Workout Programs of Major League Players, 
Part 2: Nolan Ryan





     NOTE: New readers, please refer to my disclaimer regarding these articles from Part 1 regarding Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

     Rather than simply reviewing Nolan Ryan's well-known book, Nolan Ryan's Pitcher's Bible (part of my reference library) I thought I'd refer to this short but instructive interview Dr. Maro Di Pasquale did with Ryan, “Nolan Ryan On Conditioning,” as published on in September 2002.

Nolan Ryan talks about how a weight training program was critical to his success.

     “Although I came into pro ball with a lot of talent, it took me almost four years to approach my potential as a power pitcher. In my first season with the Angels, I was 19-16 with 39 starts, 20 complete games, an ERA of 2.28, 9 shutouts and 329 strikeouts in 284 innings. I had 17 games in which I struck out 10 or more batters. 

     But something more important happened that year that would affect my performance for the next 23 years - I discovered the weight room in Anaheim . It hadn't been installed for the Angels, because back then it was believed that weight training made you muscle bound. I started slipping in there and working out, being careful not to overdo it and letting my body tell me how it was responding.”

BF - Ryan's idea of "letting my body tell me how it was responding” is very important. While there are a number of general training principles ballplayers should follow, they must also be willing to experiment to find out what works best for them as an individual.

     “I learned how to work different areas of my body for balance and flexibility, taking a day off now and then to recover. I also discovered that even if I was somewhat stiff from lifting, it really had no effect on my ability to pitch. And after I began using the weights consistently, my arm would bounce back more quickly from one start to the next.”

BF – Ryan was a pretty smart guy. With little or no outside assistance, and, doubtless, some trial and error, he developed his program for “balance and flexibility.” These are two key components of a properly designed resistance program for ball players.

     He also states, “my arm would bounce back more quickly from one start to the next.” So, he attributes his quicker recovery between starts to his weight training. Strong, flexible muscles, such as those used during the act of pitching, will recover more quickly than untrained ones.

     “A key to my success with the Angels was that my velocity increased in the later innings. Now, this could be attributed to establishing a rhythm, finding a good groove and improving my mechanics as the game went on. But the conditioning program made this possible by increasing my stamina.”

     BF – Ryan credits his increased velocity late in games, as well as his ability to maintain his mechanics, to his conditioning regimen. This is another important reason for pitchers to lift weights – strong and flexible muscles enable the body to more effectively make the repetitive movements required in the act of pitching.

     Note as well what he does not say: that his weight lifting program was responsible for his legendary velocity. 

     “Once you fatigue, it affects your mechanics and you can't pitch with the precise timing required for a smooth, compact motion. I was so pleased with my results that I bought a Universal Gym for my home, and it paid dividends. During my first 3 years in the AL , I pitched more than 900 innings. There's no way I could have recovered quickly, or been as durable, without a firm base of strength from lifting. Lifting helped me be more consistent."

BF – If a manager now were to impose such a workload on a young pitcher, he'd be accused of abuse. Then again, how many managers are advising their young pitchers to train like Ryan? Ryan logged a lot of innings throughout his career, lifting weights all the way. In the process, he performed at a level few pitchers will ever attain, setting 52 MLB records. Most of these will never be broken:

  • Elected to the MLB Hall of Fame with the second highest percentage of the vote ever, 98.8%, behind only Tom Seaver, and ahead of every other man to play the game

  • 324 Wins

  • 5,714 Strikeouts in 5,387 innings pitched

  • 7 No-Hitters

  • Setting a Guiness World Record by throwing the fastest pitch ever recorded at 100.9 mph

  • And perhaps the most amazing record of all - 27 MLB seasons played, more than any player at any position

So, pitchers, appropriate weight lifting helped one of the greatest pitchers ever to a long, prosperous and record-setting career. Bottom line: This type of training can help you as well.

*Dr. Di Pasquale is a licensed physician in Ontario , Canada . He is also a world-class athlete and a prolific author, having written a number of diet, nutritional supplement, and sports medicine books, including the Anabolic Diet, Beyond Anabolic Steroids, and Anabolic Steroid Side Effects, Fact, Fiction and Treatment. His web site can be found at

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