José Altuve stands tall above Major League Baseball as one of the sport's brightest stars.
The Houston Astros second baseman isn't just one of the most talented players in the game — he won the American League MVP en route to leading his Houston Astros to a World Series championship in 2017 — he's one of its most approachable and relatable, too. At 5'6", Altuve (along with teammate Tony Kemp) is the shortest player on any current 40-man MLB roster.
He's not a giant physical specimen like some other baseball players; he's just a shorter-than-average guy with incredible skills and a work ethic for success.
That combination of grit and talent helped pave the way for Altuve to receive nearly five million votes for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, making him the leading vote-getter in the Majors with 600,000 more fans than his closest competition. This year’s “Midsummer Classic” will be played at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. on July 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST on Fox. (Peep Altuve’s Astros look from the New Era MLB All-Star Game Collection below).
“That’s something that you never take for granted,” Altuve told MensHealth.com about making his sixth All-Star Game. “It doesn’t matter how many All-Stars you have. You always want to be in the next one and you always want to have all the support from your fans.”
The reigning MVP currently leads the Majors with 123 hits and has anchored the defending World Series champion Astros to first place atop the AL West division leading into the All Star break.
“We’re playing really good defense, we have great hitters on the team, we have probably the best pitching staff in the whole big leagues,” Altuve said. “I think we are right where we want to be.”
Altuve, 28, is now in his eighth year in the majors. In order to keep stay on top of his game — not to mention relatively injury-free — over the course of a grueling 162-game MLB season, he admitted he has bought into the fitness adage of training smarter, not harder. Even though he's short in stature, Altuve’s durability is field-proven. The Venezuelan-born superstar has played in at least 152 of a possible 162 games in each of the past five seasons, and he has appeared in all 93 games the Astros have played in 2018.
Altuve walked us through the key exercises that he has been using this season and explained how they correlate to his all-around dynamite game on the field. You don’t need to be a weekend warrior baseball player to incorporate these useful exercises into your own workout. They're suited for anyone looking to hone their flexibility and strength. But if you are a baller, batter up — no better way to prep for your Saturday beer league double header than a workout from the three-time AL Batting champ. Just remember to adjust the weight and reps according to what you can handle, and you'll be ready to play better ball in no time.
José Altuve's All-Star Full-Body Workout
Barbell Back Squats
3 sets of 8 reps on lighter days
3 sets of 3 to 4 reps on heavier days
When asked to pinpoint the one exercise that is most beneficial to his hitting, José Altuve approached the question like he does his at-bats — locked and loaded with an answer.
“Squats are my favorite exercise because when you’re squatting, you’re using every part of your body," he said. "You have to use, obviously, your legs, but you have to use your back and some abs, too. I think it helps me in every single aspect of the game.”
On lighter days — maybe in the middle of a long stretch of games — Altuve said he squats 200 pounds for 3 sets of 8 reps. On heavier days, he pushes up the weight and drops the reps to 350 pounds for 3 sets, aiming for 3 to 4 reps each, “depending on how I feel that day.”
The second baseman credits the staple exercise for helping him to hit for power, generating strength from his base and core. “I’m not a big guy. I’m only 5'6", but usually if I’m able to squat and I have that routine in my daily basis, I feel like I can create some power. Not by trying to swing hard, just by trying to tune everything in my lower body.”
3 sets of 10 reps
Altuve supplements each set of squats by grabbing 40 to 50-pound dumbbells and knocking out 3 sets of 10 lunges. While squats help José with his hitting strength and fielding prowess, he says lunges give him the flexibility he needs over the course of a marathon MLB season.
“They’re a complementary exercise for squats,” Altuve said of the lunges. “They can help me to get more flexibility in my body and some strength to my legs, so I can move a little faster playing defense or get me in the right position to steal a base.”
Altuve has stolen at least 30 bases in each of the past six seasons, leading the American League with a career-high 56 in 2014. He has 13 stolen bases through Sunday, so try to catch up to him by adding lunges to your workout.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts (RDL)
3 to 4 sets of 5 reps
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
Altuve credits some of his durability to exercises, like the RDL. “It doesn’t help me to get better or hit for power or be faster, but it helps me to stay healthy,” Altuve he said. “That’s one of my favorites to do because it goes right in my hamstrings and it helps when trying to stay healthy for 162 games.”
Altuve keeps his RDL technique light with a 20- or 25-pound dumbbell in each hand for three to four sets at five reps per clip. Try them out.
Dumbbell Bench Press
4 sets of 8 reps in the offseason
3 sets of 4 reps during the season
Altuve has two different phases when it comes to attacking the bench press. In the offseason, he aims for 4 sets of 8 reps with dumbbells. But during the season, he ups the ante to heavier weights (80- to 90-pound dumbbells, typically), cutting the reps in 3 sets of 4 reps.
So, how does the dumbbell bench press help him besides maintaining upper-body strength? “Bench press is more to keep your arms flexible,” he said. “Right after I do bench press, I do [a variety of] stretches with elastic bands. The combination of the two help to get your arms and upper body stretchable and ready.”
3 sets of 8 reps
José tips his cap to lat pulldowns for upper-body flexibility and strength, with the added ability to hit for power and distance on his swing. And they’re working for him. Altuve hit his ninth home run Sunday via this compact, uppercut swing.
90-foot run for 2 reps
127-foot run for 2 reps
Your legs have to be loose before a baseball game — you never know when you'll have to sprint around the bases. Altuve and the rest of the Astros rev up their motors with a simple pre-game sprinting and conditioning routine during the season. First, they running the 90-foot distance from home plate to first base twice. Then, they cover the distance first to third, 127 feet, twice. From there, they sprint the whole diamond for a total of 344 feet: from first to home, home to second, and second to home plate.
The key to the sprint work? Keeping the top on and staying away from full power. “We’ll do it 70 to 80 percent,” Altuve says. “You don’t want to kill yourself, but at the same time, you want to make sure your legs are ready for the game.”
To hone your agility and hand eye coordination, grab a friend and face each other a few feet apart. Now, shuffle your feet and sprint parallel, while tossing a tennis ball back and forth, making sure to only catch it with one hand each time. Watch Altuve and teammate Carlos Correa make the drill look easy here.
General Hitting And Fielding Advice for Baseball Players
Altuve admitted he is frequently asked if his height puts him at an advantage or disadvantage at the plate. He hates to burst your bubble, but the answer is neither.
“Approach-wise, I just try to look for one pitch to hit. I think we all do,” Altuve said. “Look for the ball off his arm and just look to drive it.”
Altuve encourages baseball players of any age to make use of a hitting tee, advising to “keep your eyes on the ball and try to hit it back to the middle,” — a technique he incorporates into his training regimen today. That, or you could recruit a buddy and take some live BP.
To hone your fielding skills, Altuve recommended having a friend hit or roll ground balls to you, while you “keep your eyes on the ball, get down on your knee and try to catch the ball with one hand.”
Other than that? Whether you’re working out in the gym for a few hours for fun or playing in the big leagues, Altuve believes effort is paramount over everything else. “Give everything you have,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.