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Strength and Conditioning for Baseball

“...take power from the ground through your legs, waist, and back.” -Bruce Lee

 

 

The main source of power in baseball is generated not from the wrists and arms in hitting, or from the shoulder in pitching, but from the body’s core. More than half of it. The core consists of the legs, gluteus, low back, trunk, and shoulders. The philosophy at Strength, Fitness And Speed is to build this foundation stable and strong, so that other athletic attributes may develop maximally. If there is a weak link (usually the torso), force generated in this seat of power cannot be maximally transferred to the arms and hands. Proper conditioning will increase your base running speed, reaction time in the field, agility in the field, increase your strength and power at the plate, protect and strengthen your throwing arm and rotator cuff, and will prevent injuries. Conditioning is a great equalizer. It could make the difference as to whether you start or sit, or whether you can advance to the next level. When one looks at the various athletic qualities, more often than not strength is at the core. Strength is the ability to exert force at a given speed. Let’s take a look at speed, power, and agility.

Speed is the amount of distance covered in a given amount of time. Acceleration is how quickly you get to top speed. A baseball player does not hit top speed unless he is going for a triple, or is chasing a long fly ball. Acceleration and starting ability are the most important speed related factors in baseball. Strength, particularly in the quadricep, hamstring, and hip flexor groups, plays a role in all of these abilities.

Power is the product of force, therefore strength, and velocity. This quality is needed both at the plate and on the mound. Power is the ability to exert strength in a given time frame. A good example is a vertical jump. It takes about .2 seconds for most athletes to go from flexion to extension at the knee before leaping. Why do some athletes that weigh the same amount and extend their knees in the same time frame jump higher than others? They can express more force via strength and motor recruitment in this time frame.

Agility is the body’s ability to change direction while maintaining speed. Power, and therefore strength is at the root of agility. Key areas are the legs, hips, abdominals, and low back.

A special concern to pitchers includes the maintenance and strengthening of the rotator cuff. Large amounts of energy are absorbed by the body as the hand releases the pitch. This stress should be transferred to the stronger scapular stabilizers rather than the rotator cuff. Training this area together with certain plyometric moves, direct cuff work, and closed chain movements reduces the incidence of injury and strengthens the throwing arm.

 
 
HOW IS IT DONE?

 

 

Strength is developed at the facility mainly through the use of free weights. Free weights are supreme since the various stabilizers and co-contractors come into play, not just prime movers, much like during a game situation. A foundation of strength and stability is necessary in order to build upon this foundation using other modes of training in a safe, effective manner. Other modes utilized include plyometrics, medicine and Swiss ball training, speed training, and agility training. In addition, cardiovascular conditioning is enhanced during drills using appropriate work/rest ratios to mainly tax the phosphagen energy pathway, which is the main pathway utilized during the game.

Plyometrics utilize the body’s stretch reflex to yield a more forceful contraction. The goal of plyometrics is to increase power output. It is the linking of speed and strength to develop reactive power. It also teaches good coordination and agility. One needs a good strength base before performing plyometric exercise.

Medicine ball training is utilized in correspondence with weight or resistance training to develop power. Motions can be multi-planar and sport specific. The core, which consists of the abs, back, hips, and thighs, can be targeted in a sport specific way. Athletic ability is enhanced. The core contributes greatly to body power.

Swiss ball training enhances balance and teaches strength expression and coordination in unstable environments, much like the playing field. Activation of prime movers in a motion is 100% only when balance is present during the motion. Therefore, functional strength is enhanced by improving balance alone. Neutralizer and stabilizer muscle action is enhanced. High levels of nervous system activation occur, which leads to a reserve when the athlete hits the playing field.

Speed training utilizes strength training and plyometrics. Sprint resistive and sprint assisted methods are used more specifically to target stride length and stride frequency respectively.

Agility training is accomplished utilizing cone, ABC Ladder, and rope drills. Work/rest ratios are designed to enhance the appropriate metabolic pathways and for cardiovascular conditioning as well.

The total program is affected by and should be planned in accordance with at what point of the season the athlete is in. Generally speaking, the program moves from very generalized in the off season to more specific as the season approaches. Initially strength gains and muscle mass, if needed, are emphasized. As the season approaches, more emphasis is placed on translating these gains to sport specific speed and power. The younger the athlete, the more skills training should be at the forefront. Provisions should be made in programs to blend skills and conditioning accordingly.