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VERY good article that addresses many baseball strength/conditioning myths.

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  • VERY good article that addresses many baseball strength/conditioning myths.

    From the rough outline you gave it looks like you are doing a lot of good stuff. The emphasis being on A LOT. I understand and appreciate your desire to better your athletes and use the best methods out there, you just have to careful not to use all of them at once. There is a time and a place for everything. You didn't give a lot of details on exactly what all of this entails, how much you are doing, for how long, how often, etc. I will do my best to give a summary on my thoughts on training for baseball and tell you what I think is important in developing a better baseball player.

    Baseball is, first and foremost, a game of skill and hand/ eye coordination. There is nothing that a strength and conditioning program can do to improve that. You can be weak and slow and still be a good hitter. This is obviously something that you are born with. This is why the sport itself, ie. practice will always be more important than speed and strength work; although this is the case for all sports anyway. I just always like to point that out because sometimes people are deluded into thinking that getting stronger will make them a better hitter. Becoming a better hitter will make you a better hitter. That's years of practice with good hitting coaches. Drills to improve hand eye coordination are something that should be a part of every baseball players repertoire.

    Now we have to look at what a s&c program can help baseball players with. Injury prevention is always first on the list. So we have to look at the high frequency of Tommy John surgeries and rotator injuries as our main concern. The rotator cuff must be strengthened through various external rotation exercises. I have noticed that many baseball teams also do loaded internal rotation exercises but I don't see the logic in this. Everything you do in baseball is in internal rotation so what you want to do is work the opposing muscles of the external rotators. This will help to offset imbalances and keep the shoulder healthy. The muscles of the rear delts, rhomboids and entire upper back must also be strengthened as much as possible. The biceps are the muscles that decelerate the arm when throwing. As such they must be strengthened optimally as well. By doing a lot of chin up and row variations this is pretty much taken care of but I always like to throw in some direct arm work as well. With all of the lat/upper back and direct bicep work I usually like to emphasize the eccentric portion of the lift as that is how the biceps contract when throwing.

    The aforementioned injuries can also help to be prevented by maximizing the strength of the lower body and the core. This is where all the power is generated. Some pitchers have incredibly strong arms and can throw the ball unbelievably fast. The problem is that over time this will lead to problems if their lower bodies are not up to par and they end up being "all arm." I have all of my pitchers push their squats and deads through the roof. I have several pitchers who can all squat in the mid 400's and pull over 500. So far they are all injury free. I believe this is one of the reasons.

    With the main injury prone areas addressed lets next look at what we can do to improve a baseball players game. Getting stronger will obviously help hit the ball further. Again, all of the power is generated in the lower body and core. The lats are also of critical importance and would best serve as the upper body max effort lifts. Finally, forearm strength can not be overlooked and should be included in every baseball training program.

    Getting stronger will also improve linear speed (home to first) and lateral speed (jump on a steal attempt). It is often suggested to split these two speed sessions into separate workouts on different days but I think that is overkill for kids at the high school level. Besides the last time I checked every sport included both types of speed in the same game. Again, we need to focus on exercises such as squats, dead lifts and a wide variety of single leg movements such as split squats and step ups. Baseball is all about transferring power from one leg to the other so we need to address unilateral work in our training.

    To improve speed, baseball players should be trained like sprinters. There is no endurance component to the game of baseball so any kind of endurance training is counter productive. You may sprint to first to beat out an infield single, then five minutes later sprint to second to break up a double play. Ten minutes later you may sprint ten feet to field a fly ball and then have another thirty minute break before you run again. This is not a grueling sport! Do not ever train baseball players for endurance. Work on starting speed and the first step out of the batters box and the first step on a steal. Teach them proper technique for both. Do all of your sprints with adequate rest periods as well. Most work should be no more than the distance from home to first. Secondary concern would be running home to second or home to third. But the frequency of that happening in games makes it a lower conern on the totem pole. As a side note, to avoid imbalances, I am a fan of having players swing the bat in the opposite direction and run the bases in the opposite direction. Doing the same repetitive motion over and over can lead to pattern overload, imbalances, and injuries.

    I notice that you are doing plyos, mobility, agilities, hurdles, med balls, etc. My take on that is this: Most high school baseball players are weak. If you get them stronger while they are simultaneously improving their on the field skills, they will get better. Doing too much will take away from their ability to get stronger. You said yourself that your players are traditionally weaker than you want them to be. Spend most of the time that you have with the kids making them better baseball players, ie. skill work. Running mechanics should be your second priority and injury prevention and improving basic strength should be next. I don't think there is a need for a ton of other stuff at this level. Also, do not ever try to mimic the throwing motion a player will use on the field with heavier implements. This will screw up their mechanics and could lead to injury.

    If I had to train a high school baseball team three days a week here is a general idea of how I would set up the program.

    1) Dynamic warm up (outside) (10-15 min)- jumping jacks, mnt climbers, squats, shuffle jacks, etc., movement prep- high knees, butt kicks, side shuffle, etc., dynamic stretches, PNF stretching for tight areas
    2) Starting speed/ short sprints with adequate rest periods of 60-180 seconds (10 min)
    3) Strength and power development (inside) (40-50 min)- I prefer to use whole body workouts in most cases like this. Some of my athletes use upper/lower splits but most start on a full body workout. You can set these workouts up in one of two ways. One is to include speed work (DE), heavy or max effort (ME) work, and repetition work on the same day every day of the week. This is similar to Joe Kenns tier system and works great. Another way is to split the different methods up into different training days. The reasoning behind this is that supposedly combining too many types of training on the same day will "confuse" the nervous system and lead to less than optimal results. I have used both methods with much success and can honestly say that one system does not necessarily produce better results than the other.

    After the sprint work we would come inside and do something like this:
    *Note- Some people argue that you can't run and lift in the same session but that is something that has been done for years by teams with no other options quite successfully. It is also the preferred method of arguably the worlds greatest speed coach, Charlie Francis.
    1) DE lift- this would either be a clean, some type of med bal throw, box jumps, depth jumps, jump squats, box squats, etc.
    2) ME lift- These would be split into a different lift on each day. One day would be a squat/ dead variation, another day would be a row/ chin up variation and the third day might be a strongman or full body lift either for low or high reps.
    3) Assistance work for the upper back, chest, shoulders, lower back, biceps, triceps, etc.
    4) Prehab work for external rotators- I also include this before lifting but very light and only as a warm up. Many people believe in doing the loaded prehab work first but over time I have found that people do better on these exercises after a workout when they are full warmed up. They are usually a bit more stresfufl when done first. This is something I have learned through experience and have changed on my own over the years.
    5) Ab circuit- Focus on rotation ab work such as russian twists, woodchoppers and med ball side throws.
    6) Cool down- static stretch, foam roller, post workout shake.

    Here is an example of a specific workout:
    1) Hang clean- 5x3
    2) Squat- 4x5 or 5x3 or 5RM or 3RM, etc. (Whatever option you choose, this is intended to be your heavy exercise of the day)
    3A) Chin Up- 4xas many as possible
    3B) 1 Arm Flat DB Press- 3x8-10
    4) 1 ARm External Rotation- 3x10-15
    5) Ab circuit- Side raise on ghr, inc reverse crunch, swiss ball crunch- 2-3x10-20
    6) Wrist Roller- 3x1

    1) Box Jumps- 5x6
    2) Pullup- same as squats on monday
    3) Chain suspended pushup- 3x amap
    4) Kneeling Scarecrow-3x10-12
    5) External Rotations- 2x20
    6) Ab Circuit- Med ball russian twist, lying leg raise, janda sit up
    7) Farmers walk- 1x100 yards or 1x around the bases or 3x90 feet, etc

    1) Med ball overhead scoop throw- 6x1
    2A) DB Split Squat- 3x6-10
    2B) 1 Arm DB Row- 3x6-10
    3A) 1 Leg Back Extension- 3x8-12
    3B) Offset Med Ball pushup- 3x6-10
    4) External Rotations- 2-3x15
    5) Ab Circuit- barbell russian twist, hanging knee raise
    6) Towel Hang- 1 x 30 sec

    That is just one of many ways I would set up the training programs. That is not taking into account many factors that I would usually need to know of before writing a program. I could go on listing different options for program set up and also discussing specific thoughts on training for baseball all night. I would also include other strongman lifts if I had the ability to do so, such as rope rows, tug of war, tire flips, sled dragging, etc. Explaining every aspect of training would take quite a while. Unfotunately I have to go to bed now. Hopefully I have given some useful insight and was at least of some assistance.

    Good luck and, most importantly, have fun. Let me know if I can ever be of assistance.

    Jason Ferruggia

    Taken from EFS.

  • #2
    Originally posted by MrUniverse09
    Baseball is, first and foremost, a game of skill and hand/ eye coordination. There is nothing that a strength and conditioning program can do to improve that.

    This I disagree with. Leaving aside the psychological edge of knowing you are stronger, being stronger and quicker does improve your already established hand-eye coordination. Does it technically improve it no; it's the same as it was, however being stronger allows you to see the ball longer before committing to a pitch. In that sense, being stronger does improve your hand-eye and your ability to make routine solid contact.

    Good article overall though.


    • #3

      If you are interested in General Phyisical Preparedness, is an interesting site. They have a strong belief that Olympic lifts, (also squats and deadlifts) combined with Gymnastic exercises, make an overall better athlete. One thing you don't see them do a lot of, is bench press. However once a month or so they throw in a bench press max lift, and most see improvement because of the heavy work they do with rings (weighted dips on rings are tough). The gymnastic movements increase range of motion.

      Also one of the contributors on their message boards, Coach Dan John, is huge believer in all 3 forms of the squat (front, back, and overhead). Overhead squats really stretch the entire pelvic region.

      Here are links on the philiosophy behind it, but the reason olympic lifts are preferred is because athletes perform on their feet so they might as well train this way. I'd think the emphasis on dips, ring work, chin-ups, handstand pushups, etc. would also work to also streghthen and improve flexibility in the shoulder/scap area.

      Most workouts are extremely intense, and meant to be 20 minutes or less for elite athletes.

      For real fun download a workout video called Fight Gone Bad. 5 Stations, Medicine ball toss, Box Jumps, deadlift high pull, row, and push-press. You do 3 circuits total, where each of the 5 exercises done for 1 minute solid, completes 1 circuit.


      • #4
        Originally posted by MrUniverse09
        Very interesting article. One thing that sticks in my mind is that Hank Aaron was an avid distance runner, he considered it to be the most important part of his offseason training. I don't know that endurance training should not be a part of baseball training...I know that I feel much "lighter" towards the end of a game when I'm in better aerobic shape. Baseball may have a lot of sprints, but there is also a lot of general movement...running to back up a play, jogging over to make sure a foul ball is really in the stands, etc. Sounds dumb, but playing a non-strenuous game can still really tire you out, and I think that having some aerobic capacity can make a big difference in the 9th.

        I have some reservations about the strength comments, too, but Bill already addressed that.
        Good posting!
        "I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base." - Preacher Roe on pitching to Musial


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