I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work for a terrific high school baseball program that competes at the highest level of competition in the state of Florida, as well as train D-I collegiate athletes on an everyday basis for almost a full academic year. With that being said, I have come upon a lot of knowledge that I know will help benefit baseball players trying to develop the physical side of their game. This post will cover just a few of the fundamentals that I have seen work with those athletes, or have learned from the greatest minds that I could get access to.
Tip #1 – Training for power is a must, but only in moderation and with proper timing
As we all know, baseball is a sport made up of many short and explosive movements. Very rarely does a player perform a high-intensity movement exceeding 8-10 seconds in baseball. So, it is important that we train for power when we are strength training. But, we must not overdo them or misplace them in our workouts.
The body can only produce high-levels of power for so long. Not only is power output lower when fatigue sets in, but technique will also start to break down, thus creating a less efficient movement and predisposing you to injury. That is the last thing we want! To generate maximum power, you want to be as fresh and efficient as possible.
Also, it is important to note that power training is used to create an adaptation within the Central Nervous System (CNS). The CNS can be fatigued just like muscles can. If you persist to train for power when the CNS is shot you will only be defeating the purpose.
So, while doing explosive medicine ball drills and such is nice, doing hundreds of reps per session may in fact be doing more harm than good. This is why you will see legitimate strength programs on the collegiate or professional level only perform power movements at the start of a workout (when the body is least fatigued) and in moderation (only a few movements and sets).
The Key: Use power movements (medicine ball drills, jumps, Olympic lifts, etc.) at the start of your workout and in moderation.
Tip #2 Power comes from leg and glute drive
While many things contribute to throwing velocity, bat speed, and home-to-first times, there is one major factor on the physical side: glute and leg force.
In short, whenever you initiate a movement in baseball, you are generating force to be applied into the ground. Optimally, you want to have the highest force of contraction (strength) with maximum velocity (speed). To generate this force into the ground, it must start with the legs since they are nearest the ground. This applied force must then be transferred through the body’s kinetic chain (link of muscles and tissues from toe to head – fingers, in the case of throwing).
This is why it has been found that glute (the butt) and leg force positively correlate to wrist velocity in pitchers. So, to sum up, the amount of force your legs can create, the higher your wrist velocity, thus higher ball velocity.
And, here’s the bonus: since many athletes neglect the glutes (one of the strongest but most neglected muscles in the body), you will make the greatest gains with initial training, meaning you will see quick gains!
The Key: Lower-body strength training is crucial for power development. Start incorporating glute-work into your lower-body training as well.
Tip #3 Balance out your pull & push exercises
A quick and easy way to categorize a movement: Is it a push or pull?
- Push movements are when you are pushing the weight away from your body (push-ups, shoulder press, bench press, squat).
- Pull movements are when the weight is pulled toward the body (pull-up, row variations, RDL’s).
Athletes, and the general population alike, overuse push movements. For example, everyone likes to bench press but not many like to row. Unfortunately, being push-happy creates an imbalance in the body, especially in the shoulder. This imbalance can induce injuries that will ultimately hamper a ballplayer’s performance.
To ensure balance, strive to perform one set of pulling exercises for every set of pushing exercises. You can even go as far as to do two sets of pull for every one set of push to ensure you stay strong on the backside.
The Key: Prevent imbalances and injury by doing at least one (if not two) sets of pulling for every set of pushing you do in your training.
If you start incorporating these three components into your strength-training program, you will undoubtedly be heading down the right track for staying healthy and improving your performance on the diamond!