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How Haylie McCleney Trains To Prepare For The Olympics

(Photo courtesy of USA Softball)

Team USA outfielder Haylie McCleney is one of the best five-tool softball players in the world. But if you ask McCleney, her ability to perform at an elite level in softball starts with the training she does outside of the white lines.

In addition to being a 2020 U.S. Olympic softball team member, McCleney is also a strength coach at Florida A&M University, where she not only helps collegiate student-athletes become stronger and better versions of themselves each day, but where she also prepares to be in elite playing shape herself when she is not training with Team USA.

McCleney wakes up at 4:30 a.m. daily to go to work and trains around her work schedule. She lifts weights four days each week and conditions for two days per week, while also giving her body one day off from any sort of training so that it can recover.

During her playing season with Team USA, McCleney lifts three days per week and conditions once or twice a week, depending on the volume of practice and games she has in front of her.

When training, McCleney always focuses on her core and isolates various parts of her body as she lifts. She will do separate lower- and upper-body days in order to make sure whichever part of her body she is training at any given moment is properly recovered.

Since her playing style is a combination of strength and speed, McCleney's main goal in the weight room is to be able to move a lot of weight, very quickly.

McCleney also does everything she can with shoulder rehab, so that she can get her throwing arm as strong as it can possibly be. As a result, she focuses a ton on arm-care programs, while also using Jaeger Bands to help her properly recover.

McCleney's Favorite Exercises

Squats and Deadlifts - According to McCleney, every strength coach should be able to do squats and deadlifts like a beast. As a result, she makes sure to use both of these power movements regularly within her training. Both movements, she says, are really good at developing total body strength, and specifically, lower body power.

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French Contrast Method ✊🏼💪🏼 • Literally my favorite day of the week & I absolutely LOVE how powerful and explosive I feel after lifting with this protocol. Utilized this method before, but super happy that @marc_hickok keeps it in our programs every week. We are going to start to implement this in the coming weeks with @famuvb , as we are currently laying a foundation of strength before we progress into the complexity of this type of training! • The idea around FCM is that we are increasing rate of force development & stimulating/manipulating our central nervous system by using a careful selection of loaded and unloaded movements. A near maximal load increasing motor unit recruitment, followed by an unloaded plyometric, a lighter loaded but explosive movement, & either an assisted plyometric or another unloaded jump. • What I am using here is: A1) Trap Bar Deadlift x3 A2) Tuck Jump x5 A3) DB Squat Jump x5 A4) Skater Jump x6 • Most sports are powerful in nature & in my training, I truly haven’t experienced power gains like The ones I have seen with using FCM. I’m a BIG FAN. Consider adding this in once you have a suitable foundation of strength. Get them bunnies & them fast twitch muscle fibers 🐰 • #StrengthAndConditioning #Softball #Tokyo2020 #FrenchContrastMethod #TriphasicTraining #RFD #FCM #FAMU #strengthtraining #strength #strengthcoach #TeamUSA #Training #StrongWomen #EmpoweredWomen #LikeAGirl

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Landmine Presses - McCleney enjoys doing landmine presses because they switch things up for her from just traditional bench presses. With the landmine press, McCleney likes to do it both from a knee and standing with a split-stance. The bar stands at a 45-degree angle and is pressed up at that angle. It is a shoulder-friendly movement that takes a lot of pressure off of her shoulder blade and mimics throwing.

Push and Pull Movements

McCleney likes to split her workouts into push and pull movements, meaning that if she does a lower body pushing exercise like a squat, she will also do a pull movement like a leg curl in order to work both sides of her body.

McCleney will also do the same thing with her upper body. If she does a standard dumbbell bench press, which is a push movement, she will pair that with pull-ups, which is obviously her pull movement, so that she can hit all of the quadrants that she needs to when training.


McCleney is a big believer in utilizing sprint workouts to improve one's speed as a softball player. She says that any time a player can sprint, she should, and to make sure players stay away from training at long distances, even for pitchers who want to improve their endurance. The ability to repeat maximal-effort sprints over the course of time, which is called repeat sprint ability, will take one's conditioning to the next level and be more softball-specific training.

Also, McCleney says she keeps her sprint work to under 60 yards at a clip. When training, she builds up to those 60 yards by starting out at 25-percent effort with a jog, and then gets into maximum velocity toward the end of that stretch.

She is also a big fan of agility drills that improve the quickness of one's feet. As a result, she incorporates 5-10-5 agility drills into her own training, as well as the training she designs for both the softball and baseball teams at Florida A&M.

For McCleney, no conditioning session lasts longer than 45 minutes. She incorporates a long warm-up into her training with some mechanical speed work at the beginning involving an agility drill, and then she does her longer-distance sprints between 30 and 60 yards for 10 to 15 reps, with 30 seconds to one minute of rest in between each sprint.

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