Oakland A's center fielder Dave Henderson has discovered the easiest fitness program imaginable.
Says Henderson: "I just use a simple formula: hereditary genes."
That's Henderson's way of saying, "I don't have to get fit. I'm never out of shape."
He doesn't run, and he doesn't lift weights. He doesn't get fat, and he doesn't get flabby.
They may be baseball's world champions, but most of the A's didn't inherit genes like Henderson's. Like most of the rest of us, they follow fitness programs, which vary from winter to summer and pitcher to hitter.
First-base coach Dave McKay supervises the Athletics weight-lifting programs. He and Jose Canseco collaborated last winter on a book called "Strength Training for Baseball" (Perigree Books, $13.95).
McKay leads the A's weight-lifting contingent to gyms in every American League city. He says his biggest job is reminding the players that they are lifting for baseball skills and not the Mr. Universe contest.
"We spend more time on the triceps, because we use those muscles for throwing and swinging," McKay says. "And we do more back than chest for the same reason. But everybody likes to work the biceps more than the triceps and the chest more than the back, because those are the muscles you see at the beach.
"I have to make sure the guys don't wander off into bodybuilding. That's not for baseball players. We need more flexibility. We have to make sure we don't build short, compact muscle."
This is especially true of A's pitchers, who do only light weight work, if any.
"I haven't touched weights since my sophomore year in high school," Dave Stewart says.
He does, however, run on all but pitching days -- about 30 minutes, or 2 1/2 to 3 miles. Then he gets onto the Versaclimber or Stairmaster in the A's gym for another 20 minutes. Mornings, he spends one hour and 45 minutes on his martial arts program.
Other A's pitchers run with Stewart, but A's hitters concern themselves more with weight work.
A few items of note:
-- Workouts that might take 90 minutes in the offseason are shortened to 30 to 40 minutes during the season. Says first baseman Mark McGwire, "In the offseason, it's heavy weight, few reps, to build strength. In season, it's light weight, lots of reps, to keep size and strength."
-- Legs get pampered during the baseball season. McKay tells his players not to do squats, which put stress on the knees. Says shortstop Walt Weiss, "It's important to keep the legs strong, but the law of diminishing returns comes into play. I probably could, probably should, do squats during the season. But if I can only do them once in a week, I get sore in the legs and buttocks. And I can't play shortstop if my legs hurt me to move. So I don't do squats during the season."