Pujols' fitness regimen highlighted

Pujols' fitness regimen highlighted

JUPITER, Fla. -- Albert Pujols arrives at the Cardinals Spring Training complex before 8 a.m. ET, while the clubhouse is still relatively empty. He arrives early to work on his swing, but also to work on his strength and agility.

One of baseball's workout fiends, Pujols will next week be featured as the cover story in Muscle and Fitness magazine. It's the first time a baseball player has ever adorned the publication's cover.

"They talked to my trainer [Chris Mihlfeld]," Pujols said. "I worked out one day in the stadium, and that's where they did the shoot and all the stuff. It wasn't really crazy because it was late [in the offseason]. It was February, so I wasn't lifting as heavy by then."

Pujols' cut physique doesn't draw as much attention as his hitting, but it is part of what garners him so much notice as one of baseball's most visible stars.

"Albert is the poster boy for the evolution of weight training in pro sports," senior editor Eric Velazquez said in a statement issued by the magazine. "His offseason workout program is really much more intense than we had anticipated."

Pujols began taking weight training seriously when he was playing baseball at Maple Woods Community College in the Kansas City area. He grew more dedicated when he began to play pro ball, when he met Mihlfeld.

"I never believed in weights until I got drafted," Pujols said. "I felt like it tightened your swing. Actually, it does that if you don't know how to do it -- if you just want to get bigger. But if you know what you need to do to strengthen your body, I think you're OK. And that's what I did. I did it in the Minor Leagues for a little bit.

"In '99 and 2000, I really got into learning more about weights and everything. And that's when I met Chris, in '99. It was great. I knew it was going to help me out in the long run with my body, surviving the long season. But you have to train the right way. It's not just going to come to you. You need to go get it."

Pujols is not only on the cover, he's featured in a 10-page layout, examining in depth his workout regimen.

And he's aware of the context of such a feature. In a climate where performance-enhancing drugs have changed the tone of many baseball discussions, big, strong sluggers draw suspicion from many corners. Pujols is eager to show the natural methods that help him build his body.

"We've just got to go out there and prove to people that not everybody is using steroids," he said. "Everybody can get into a workout routine and build themselves up and have good success like I've been having the last six years."

Which is not to say he accepted the invitation just to prove something.

"That's not the point," he said. "My point is that's what I do to get myself ready. People can take it different ways, but I know it's my routine. I don't need to lift for people. I don't need to show people, 'Hey, this is what I do.' Because I know my routine.

"But obviously, when you have some bad people out there talking a bunch of trash about you, you want to prove to them that they're wrong. But even then, when you prove to them that they're wrong, they always try to make everything negative."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.