The Marlins Go CrossFit

By Paul Fournier

In Reference, Sports Applications

March 01, 2010

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Florida Marlins strength and conditioning coach Paul Fournier brings CrossFit to Major League Baseball players.

CrossFit’s three fitness standards provide general physical preparedness for everyday athletes, but they also prepare professional baseball players for the demands of their sport.

We can all see how the 10 physical skills apply. In short, the list comprises everything athletic. In a highly skilled sport such as baseball, not all are athletes, but the good players are certainly athletic, and most were multi-sport athletes prior to being professional baseball players. Baseball players also utilize all three metabolic pathways, though a player’s position will affect which energy system is dominant and when. The game, of course, is ever-changing and presents infinite scenarios.

My role is to improve Florida Marlins baseball players athletically or enhance performance, but it’s also one of injury prevention. You can certainly understand the importance of keeping healthy players on the field, and isn’t a “fit” player a healthier player? I feel the answer is yes, especially if we are using the definition of fitness that CrossFit has provided.

A general physical preparedness type of program will equip the player for whatever he may in encounter on the field of play, and if a baseball player is adequate in all three of CrossFit’s fitness standards, he will have a better chance to be injury-free and perform to his best ability throughout the long 162-game regular season—plus playoffs, hopefully!

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24 Comments on “The Marlins Go CrossFit”


Frank DiMeo wrote …

Great to see this happen!


Zach Even - Esh wrote …

This is awesome, Paul, congrats bruddah!!



wrote …

crossfit baseball!

brings a tear to my eyes.


wrote …

This is interesting because I had a discussion with one of my globo-gym-personal-trainer friends about overhead lifts and baseball. He was a former starting shortstop for a top-25 Divison 1 baseball team, and claimed overhead lifts were too much stress on the shoulders and thus bad for the players. I rode the bench in high school baseball and blamed baseball and its unnatural stress on shoulders (in defense of overhead lifts). The bottom line is we were saying the same thing but from different directions. My friend didn't support CrossFit for baseball players for this reason. However, I still believe that CrossFit has enormous applicability to baseball players. The necessity of hitters and pitchers to have enormous core strength, control, and balance is something that baseball has always udnerstood. I think CrossFit can help cure the imbalances as Fournier points out and create a less injury-prone athlete. Great article on the applicability (and limitation of CF) to a specific sport.


wrote …

Paul! This is awsome! Way to lead the way!


wrote …

I must agree with Juan Crossfit Baseball - HELL YEAH. Can't wait to see that WOD...hmmm that gives me an idea for a spring training workout for our box at the ball field.


Josh Courage wrote …

Pretty excited to read that CrossFit is spreading nicely. As an ex-pro ball player and trainer/crossfit coach, I have introduced crossfit into the programming of all my ball players and have seen some very impressive gains. I understand the argument of avoiding overhead movements with baseball players and I want to share my two cents: I think there is a place for structured OH moves for baseball players. To avoid specific movements is to create imbalances, and imbalances take away from athleticism. So, perhaps Heavy Fran after 6 rounds of strict press would not be the most intelligent choice for these guys; but, utilizing dynamic moves like cleans, jerks, wall balls, slams, and thrusters will be productive. Also, I like Paul's focus on mobility and stability of the shoulder girdle, AND that he's such a fan of Grey Cooks FMS, I have every athlete of mine go through FMS before getting into more serious training.

I must point out however, that crossfit geared towards specific sports automatically contradicts the base theory of crossfit. but I think this will allow the broadening of "hardcore" crossfitters minds. The fact is, using the base ideas to perfect a specialized collection of skills, will inevitably produce a better athlete in that particular sport.

I plan to continue implementing the crossfit ideals into all my clients programming (hopefully my affilate application goes through!!), and perhaps Paul, myself, and other baseball strength coaches can keep spreading this around!

Way to go Paul!

Josh Courage


wrote …

It is great to see the professional sports start to take notice of the unparalleled benefits of CrossFit. I have had discussions with strength and conditioning coaches of some of our professional AFL and Rugby League teams here in Australia and they have been slow to embrace CrossFit (or don't know about at all)- the sooner they do, the better for their athletes - just like our professional codes have now embraced grappling and BJJ coaches. Also correct me if I am wrong but I would have thought that doing overhead presses and in particular snatches with the correct technique would actually strengthen the shoulder complex and in particular the external rotators. The main problem with a lot of past professional sports people and you still see it here in Australia is too much emphasis on internal rotation ie; bench press and too little emphasis on external rotation exercises - this is what causes real shoulder problems. Mick CFCC.


wrote …

Great stuff, Paul! I'm glad to hear of more strength coaches out there using CrossFit methodology in their training. i believe this is just the beginning. I appreciate the information on adapting to sport-specific needs. This is just another way we can scale our program....I have found the same thing at the collegiate level. Keep up the great work!


wrote …

I've played tournament softball for years and have switched to CF training and have not had an issue with the overhead movements. Great article, Paul. I work at the 24 Hour Fitness in Greenacres and have just recently started spending more time at BGI in West Palm Beach, and one of the other trainers I work with at 24 is an Indie-ball player telling me I need to learn something about sports and training because CF can't work for baseball players. I think that's just narrow-minded and I'm glad to see someone pushing forward into our National past-time. Hopefully, I'll run into you at BGI. I used to coach high school baseball in Orlando and love to be around it and talk about it. Your perspective would be interesting to hear.


wrote …

Overhead will not hamper your ability to throw in baseball, but like anything else if your doing it the wrong way of course you'll have a tendency to have injuries.

The only thing about baseball is that pulling movements help a lot more than pushing, so you have to keep this in mind when programming. You also need to have different training for different positions. A starting pitcher and a first baseman work in different modalities and time domains, and their programming needs to address this.


Alex Europa wrote …

Not to speak for Paul, but it seems to me that the lack of overhead work IN SEASON is to avoid overuse injuries. Playing 160+ games is alot of wear and tear on the body, especially when we're talking about an unnatural movement like overhand throwing. When an athlete is in an overreaching state, even proper movement can cause injury. And when we're talking about multi-million dollar athletes, it's probably best to err on the side of caution. I commend him for implementing CrossFit into the pro ranks though-something that many fitness "experts" say can't be done safely.

Now, a question for Paul (or others in the know), why a VO2Max test for pitchers? What correlation does that have to what they do on the field?

And thanks for the article! Keep blazing that trail!

- Alex Europa
CrossFit Barbarian Fitness


wrote …

Great stuff!

It was great to meet you in West Palm. I wish you all the best in showing the players what we learned.

Tom Rowland
SE Multimedia


wrote …

Paul, thanks for the information. It's nice to see how Crossfit is adapted for different applications, there is some nice food for thought there. Although my clients/athletes applications do not include baseball, they do require adaptations for age, fitness level, health/injuries, chronic issues, etc. It's a process we all need to practice as trainers, as all clients/athletes are not built equal.

These are the types of articles that I really like.

Dave Ristau
Victoria, British Columbia


wrote …

Great article. I'm sure there are many more professional athletes doing CF than we could imagine. This is great stuff and it makes perfect sense.

And Paul got his start at BGI, that is just cool. They are a solid CF box.


wrote …

Finally CF to the MLB. Freaking awesome.


wrote …

Very cool!


Jake Di Vita wrote …

Don't we view the press and pressing motion as rehabilitative to the shoulder and surrounding musculature?

I'm not sure I understand the reason for losing it entirely.


wrote …

Here are more than a few words on the safety and efficacy of overhead lifting from rip, kilgore, and kelly starrett:

As a former D1 baseball player, and a current coach and trainer, I am baffled by the prevailing notions regarding OH lifting and its presumed adverse effect on the throwing motion. I fail to see how strengthening and stabalizing the shoulder joint, while moving it through a maximum range of motion has any negative effects on throwing, whatsoever.

Matter of fact, the activity that poses the greatest risk to a ballplayers throwing ability is...THROWING! Much like weightlifting, poor mechanics and improper rest/maintanance is bound to catch up with you sooner or later. At least do some lite presses and some hangs, holds, and dynamic ROM drills on the rings/pullup bar (how about low-rep strict pull-ups?). OHSqts with the PVC pipe (with some shoulder passes) are an excellent in-season option as well, particularly for recovery purposes. I would go so far as to say that a coach/trainer owes it to their players to have them practice these regularly.

Also, whoever it was that started perpetuating the idea that the throwing motion is "unnatural" was never shown how to throw a ball (or anything else for that matter). The only thing unnatural about throwing is sucking at it. For quite a substantial period in our evolution, man was dependent on his ability to throw things IN ORDER TO GET A MEAL (ask the spear/stone/club toting caveman how unnatural it is to throw things). Anyone who has ever had a toddler in the house can also attest to the fact that throwing shit seems to come pretty naturally to those little suckers as well (particularly when they have food or something breakable in their hands).

To take an example from my own personal experience, I managed to shred my throwing shoulder through a combination of poor recovery management and following along with this conventional rubbish that deems lifting overhead to be detrimental to my arm's health. After an ill-advised surgery and rehab (designed by medical professionals) I was even worse off than before, and at one point was convinced that I would never be able to really throw normally again. That is until someone introduced me to OVERHEAD LIFTING, OVERHEAD SQUATS, and PULL-UPS!!! I am now (at 28) throwing as freely (with restored velocity) as I did when I was 18. Too bad this came 5 years post-graduation, but better late than never. And now my mission has become deispelling these dangerous fallacies and guiding young playeres to a position in which they are empowered to control and maintain their arm's health for a lifetime!

Thank you, CrossFit!


wrote …

Nice to have some high level evidence of what everyone doing CrossFit knows and can now refer to.

It would be a "wicked pissa" if I became a closet marlins fan since I have lived in new England all my life.

Sincere question- I get the no kipping pull ups - could strict pull ups while wearing batting gloves be implemented as a suplement to ring rows?


wrote …

Cool, now I've got a reason to follow a baseball team. It'll be interesting to see how they perform compared to the rest of the league.


Erik Miller wrote …

I began working with the baseball players at the school I teach at this winter and we did a combo of Max Effort work and short (5-10 min)met cons. The players would just laugh when they saw the workouts I wrote up for them and claim that we are the only baseball team that trains this way. They enjoyed the contrarian approach and improved a lot! Now I can tell them that they aren't the only ones!!
Even though I am a Phillies fan and want to destroy the Marlins every time we play them, I hope they do well this year to prove the programs legitimacy, once again.


replied to comment from Josh Courage

Hey, awesome to hear that you've blended Crossfit and Cook's FMS. I have had so many powerful (in the context of (FxD)/T ) that lack athleticism. Even some firebreathers who BONK some of the Functional Movement Screens. Guess what happens to those guys when they get on the field: either they can't put their raw physical prowess to use, or they get hurt.

Cheers to combining GPP and a quantifiable measure of functional movement


wrote …

Were these pictures taken at the Marlins spring training facility in Jupiter,FL?

Just curious.

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