How to Create a Winning Routine for Baseball Pitchers

Written by VersusTue Nov 08 2022
How to Create a Winning Routine for Baseball Pitchers

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Success in any sport depends on the ability to repeatedly perform at a high level of competition. To achieve this, athletes must pay meticulous attention to every aspect of training, recovery, and game preparation.

Adam Wainwright shares his personalized routine for optimizing training, recovery, and in-game performance.

If you struggle to consistently perform at your best, have trouble staying healthy all season, or have been trying to break through a plateau without success, this article is for you.  

Success in any sport depends on the ability to repeatedly perform at a high level of competition. To achieve this, athletes must pay meticulous attention to every aspect of training, recovery, and game preparation.  

Particularly for sports like baseball—where players in the MLB aim to make all 162 games of the year—staying healthy and competitive requires a strict in-season routine. 

Athletes who don’t have a detailed plan, frequently have their goals derailed by inconsistent performance, injury, or any number of other setbacks.

But the problem with routines is—you can’t just copy another athlete’s and expect the same results. 

To be effective, an in-season routine for baseball must be specifically tailored to the needs of the individual player. It also has to be based on the fundamental principles of optimizing performance. 

Clearly, developing a winning routine is going to take some inside knowledge. And we’ve got just the person to help you out.

A Lesson in Success and Longevity

There are two interesting facts about Major League Baseball when it comes to routines, success, and longevity.

First, MLB players tend to live longer than the general population. That might not be all that surprising, considering the overwhelming evidence that physical activity improves all areas of health and well being.

But it’s the second fact—that this longevity effect almost doubles (from 4.1 years longer life expectancy to 7.4 years) in players with longer careers—that’s most relevant to our discussion today.

Obviously, there is something unique we can learn from the MLB players with longer careers. So they’re who we should get our advice from. 

That's why we asked Adam “Waino” Wainwright to help out with this training session.

With over two decades of experience as one of the top pitchers in the MLB (and still counting)—there aren’t many other players who can come close to Adam’s level of expertise about in-season routines for baseball.

In his highly-decorated career, Waino has won almost 200 games. Plus led the league multiple times in wins, games started, and innings pitched. 

He clearly knows how to stay healthy and competitive year-round. And not just because of luck or great genetics. Wainwright has dealt with his fair share of injury and adversity.

What we’ll do in a moment, is cover some of the main points from an exclusive video training session Adam produced with Versus about routines.

While we’re confident you’ll get value from the article–-athletes who are serious about leveling up their routines should sign up for one of our plans and download the app to start learning.

Our free plan gives you access to one video session of your choice. While the standard and premium options include the full library of video content from our star-studded roster

With all Versus plans, you can utilize our advanced AI-powered technology to ask interactive questions from our team. Just imagine, being able to ask Waino himself for mindset tips before a big game. Or getting advice on routines for hitters from Albert Pujols.

Versus has everything you need to get better—all on an easy to use digital platform you can access anywhere.

But for now, let's dive into Adam Wainwright’s advice on creating a winning routine for baseball.     

In-Season Routines for Baseball

Waino describes an in-season routine as,

“Those intentional things that you do between starts to have more success.”

In his words, following a solid routine means,

“When you stand on the mound during your starts—you feel like you’ve done everything you could possibly do to be prepared.”

No matter the position you play, that’s going to involve a combination of:

  • Spending time training
  • Attending to recovery
  • Eating right
  • Watching film
  • Mindset work

To give you an idea of what a baseball player’s routine might look like, we’re going to outline Adam’s plan below. 

Keep in mind that this is a 5-day cycle because Wainwright’s process needs to line up with the playing schedule in the MLB. You will need to adjust according to your situation.

Also, this is obviously a routine for a pitcher. But as you’ll soon see—most of the principles we’ll cover apply to any position in baseball. 

Finally, Wainwright mentions his age (he’s 41 years old) at several points throughout the video. He stresses that while this is the routine he follows now, he’s changed things up a lot over the years. In fact, it’s clear that age and injuries have been among the most influential factors in his current routine.    

We’ll outline Adam’s routine now, then cover how to adapt it for yourself.    

Waino’s Routine

Below is Waino’s 5-day in-season routine. 

Day 1 is the day after he’s pitched. And day 5 is game day.

Note: every day includes “have a good meal”. We’ll get into diet in the next section.

Day 1 - Pitcher’s Recovery 

The day after pitching Wainwright takes a full day of recovery.

“Earlier in my career, that first day after I pitched would have been a big lift day,” he explains. “But as I got older, my body stopped recovering the same way, so I had to back off a little bit.”

Now, day 1 for Adam looks like hot/cold baths, dry needling, massage, and even time in a hyperbaric chamber.

He acknowledges that everyone won’t have access to the same resources. But it’s important to do whatever is necessary to maximize recovery.


Day 2 - Bullpen and Throwing Session

After his day of recovery, Wainwright heads to the field to throw a bullpen session, then hits the gym.

He still works on strength, but also incorporates specific stretching and arm care exercises.

If you’re looking for a solid practice routine to substitute here for hitting, check out these articles from Albert Pujols:

Day 3

“Day 3 is a total body movement for me,” states Waino. 

He’ll head to the field and the weight room again to get his arm moving. Today, he’s focused on making sure he’s recovered from his bullpen and the workout the day before.

Then, Adam spends time in the film room and starts looking at box scores. “I like knowing who had the hits and who had four strikeouts,” he explains.    

Day 4

Waino’s still keeping an eye on box scores on day 4. 

Then he does some light running and throwing—like playing catch and a flat-ground pitching session.

All four days in-between starts, Wainwright focuses on being a good teammate, “By making sure I’m staying engaged in the game and letting these guys know that I’m there for them.”

He works in with the Cardinals’ system of the pitchers watching each other's bullpens, “so we can keep each other accountable.” 

Day 5

Game day,

“I’m a little different,” states Adam. “I don’t try to be, but my mind is in a different place than it normally is.”

A key on day 5 for Waino is to eat in a similar way for all his starts. “I want to eat stuff in the realm of what I ate the last time—because I want to know how I feel out on the mound.”

So what does that look like for Waino?

“Lunch with some grilled chicken, vegetables, and good clean carbs. Then an hour before I go out and pitch—I always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” he reveals.

“However many starts I’ve made in professional baseball, that’s how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’ve had,” states Wainwright, smiling.

We could speculate about the magic nutritional profile of PB&J sandwiches. But Waino explains that for him, the magic is in the fact that

“before every start, I know how that’s going to make me feel.”  

Ingredients of a Winning Routine

Now that we’ve been through Adam’s routine, let’s pull out the key ingredients so you can start building your own plan.

Individual and Adaptable

For an in-season baseball routine to be successful, it must be tailored to your individual needs.

We’ve used Waino’s routine as an example only. There’s a lot that can be learned from it. But unless you’re a pitcher in the MLB who’s been at the top of their game for 20 years,you are going to have to adapt the routine to your specific needs.

Also, remember that for many,, baseball isn’t a full-time job. Improving your game might be a top priority in life. But you’ll likely have to balance your routine with work, school, and family commitments.

By all means, look to the best in the world for inspiration and advice. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got to work from. But make sure to adapt any routine to your situation. 

Balance Stress and Recovery

Adam is big on recovery. So much so, that when he’s asked what advice he would give to his younger self his reply is, “spend more time in recovery.”

Now, does that mean you have to spend the whole day 1 of your routine in recovery like Waino? Maybe. But maybe not.

At this current point in Wainwright’s career, his focus is on staying healthy and continuing to pitch like a badass. He doesn’t need to fit more training in to get another 5 mph on his fastball—but you might.

Waino’s point isn’t just to do more recovery for the sake of it. It’s to look at the amount of accumulated training and playing stress in your routine, then allocate an appropriate amount of time to recovery.   

There are two classic signs you need to focus more on recovery: Stiffness and soreness interfering with your bullpen or batting practice. And accumulated fatigue preventing you from giving your all on game day.    

Eat for Performance

In the video, Adam gives the impression that another bit of advice to his younger self, would be, “improve your diet.”

Young athletes might have a bit more leeway with diet. But neglecting this aspect of your routine could be leaving big performance gains on the table.

In Wainwright’s situation, he explained that he got with a dietician a few years ago after battling  recurring injuries.

“The team sat me down and said you’ve got to change the way you eat,” he reported.

The result:

“For six straight months I didn’t eat one single gram of sugar. No gluten. No dairy. No processed food.” 

Sounds extreme. But Waino reported,

“All the inflammation that had become riddled in my body just went away. And I was finally able to move and build my strength back up.” 

Considering that Adam had one of the best statistical seasons of his career in 2021—it seems the sacrifice was worth it. 

And he’s not alone in crediting diet with improving performance. Back in 2016, both Mark Melacon and Trevor May reported improved performance after paying more attention to nutrition.

The common theme for all three pitchers, however, is that the changes to diet were individualized. This doesn’t mean you have to consult a nutritionist. Just make sure any dietary changes you make are for a specific purpose, and that you are evaluating the results in some way, even if only how you feel.       

Have a Purpose for Everything

The biggest problem any serious athlete has with their routine is time. Look at where you are now. Explore where you need to get to. And given available time and resources at your disposal, almost never seem to all add up.

Fitting in enough training, recovery, skills work, and game prep around the rest of life’s obligations is always a balancing act. And while there’s no easy solution, Wainwright does suggest a principle that can help:

“Have a plan and purpose behind everything.”

In the video, he illustrates how this principle applies to his bullpens. 

Before the session, Adam asks himself the following questions:

  • What did I do really well last game that I need to keep building on?
  • What did I not do so well that I need to spend some time figuring out?

“Maybe my fastball command was really bad last game,” states Waino. “Then my first 20 pitches might all be fastball command, making sure I lock that back in. Once I’ve got my fastball established, then I can move onto my breaking ball, getting that to where I want it.”

Focusing on purpose also applies to the non-essential things you might add to your routine. If you’re going to spend time (and money) on something like massage or dry needling—make sure you know exactly why you’re doing it. The same goes for mindset coaching, watching film, and consuming content on the internet. 

Having a purpose won’t magically give you more time. But it will ensure you get the most benefit possible from what you include in your routine. 

Don’t Neglect Game Prep

Albert Pujols has talked about the importance of studying film for game preparation. And this is also a big part of Waino’s system.

For both of these MLB legends—studying film is all about being prepared to outsmart the competition.

Before he goes to bed on day 4, Wainwright watches about an hour of film of at bats with the hitters he’s going to face the following day. “Then I go to bed remembering what I did to them the at bat before. The game before. The week before. Maybe it was a year before,” he explains.

Waino’s reason for being so thorough is explained simply.

“I feel like he’s going to watch those at bats,.” he says.. “And if he’s watching them and I’m not—he’s going to be more prepared than I am. And I don’t want that to happen.”

Remember, being prepared for your game is about more than physical training. Baseball is a game of strategy. And often the winner is the one who outsmarts, rather than overpowers, their opponent.  

The Key to Confidence and Consistency

To have a successful career in baseball you must master consistency.

Obviously, you need to outplay your opponents. But if you can’t do that regularly—you’ll never progress through the ranks.

The key to consistency is having a process you can repeat through the entire season, to reliably show up at your best for each game. 

That's what great athletes and coaches are talking about when they say, “trust the process.” 

But what’s often missing from this discussion, is an explanation of exactly what “the process” is.Well, Waino answers this question in his exclusive video session on routines.

He breaks down exactly how he structures his days in between starts. And how you can use the principles that go into his winning routine to create your own process for success.

Wainwright gives you a detailed guide to develop a plan that is:

  • Individual and adaptable 
  • Balances stress and recovery 
  • Incorporates eating for performance
  • Has purpose driven training drills; and
  • Allocates adequate time for game prep

With a routine like this, you can be confident you’ll show up to every game ready to compete at  full capacity.

To watch Adam Wainwright’s full training video on routines—simply select a plan, download the app, and start learning. 

If you want to learn more about the importance of routines, Adam’s thoughts on the game overall, and and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to our lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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