Nolan Ryan On Conditioning
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.
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.
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.
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.