Heading into the 2017 season, New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard—aka “Thor”—fully embraced his nickname. With an intense lifting program and protein-packed meals, the 6’6″, 240-pound Goliath added 17 pounds of pure muscle to his frame in hopes of improving on his 2016 All-Star season. But his plan failed: Last April, Syndergaard tore his right lat muscle, which limited the thunderbolt-hurling righty (his fastball routinely clocks 100 mph) to just 30.1 innings during the 2017 season.

Syndergaard had focused on heavy lifting: sled pulls, deadlifts, rows, barbell squats, leg curls, and sets of weighted pullups, often wearing 30 to 40 pounds of extra weight on his shoulders.

“The first couple of years in my off-seasons, I was just very gung-ho in lifting weights, and I just kind of neglected [being athletic],” Syndergaard admitted to the New York Daily News in February. “I was very wound tight and couldn’t move very well.”

Some baseball insiders, including writers at ESPN and The New York Times, groused that Syndergaard’s hardcore workouts all but guaranteed his injury, even if the selfdescribed gym rat wanted to push himself to new heights and avoid complacency, as he said last spring.

“I thought I was doing what I needed to be doing, but now I realize how messed up my body was, and I’m working hard to get it back to normal,” he told The Times in July.

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No one would blame Syndergaard if he’d decided to skip the weights ahead of 2018. Instead, Syndergaard worked out just as hard—maybe even harder than before. But he also took a better approach.

Syndergaard linked up with trainer Eric Cressey, C.S.C.S., who specializes in working with injured baseball players, including 2014 American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Cressey designed a program to avoid Syndergaard’s injured lat area, all while focusing on increasing agility and flexibility and getting his upper body back to full strength.

“I am still lifting heavy, but in a [smarter] way,” the 25-year-old told the Associated Press in April. “For instance, last year I did a lot of pullups—that’s a lat exercise. This year I haven’t done one pullup yet. It’s different, but still a taxing workout.” 

His new program also incorporates “a lot of mobility work to get my hips and my core to work in synergy,” he told the Daily News.

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The Swarthmore College Baseball Workout

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The new training philosophy has already produced impressive results. In a March 8 spring training appearance, Syndergaard struck out seven straight batters while throwing 11 triple-digit fastballs. 

The god of thunder’s reaction to that performance? He thinks he hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he can do. “I wouldn’t say I’m in midseason form yet,” Syndergaard said in training camp.

Lightning bolts from the mound aside, Syndergaard believes his new workout routine will keep him healthy throughout the 2018 season—and, as the baseball fanatics of Queens, NY, are hoping, into the postseason.

“My body’s never felt better,” Syndergaard told mlb.com in January. “I realized how jacked up my body was last year, and I’ve been working extra hard to make sure it’s loose and it’s limber and as mobile as it can possibly be.”

The Mets are hoping so, too—their success this year will depend on it.

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