Baseball: Train Smarter, Hit Harder and Throw Faster
Courtesy of STACK.com
STACK's summer workout guide was developed with MLB and NCAA experts to keep you in shape and off next season's DL.
What to Do
Balance Work On and Off the Field
Emphasis should be on making small gains throughout the summer, so your strength and conditioning efforts do not affect your ability to play at a high level. Work not only to maintain, but to achieve small levels of improvement every week. By the end of summer, those small gains will add up to significant performance improvement. The goal is to go back to school at higher levels of skill, strength and ability than you had at the end of the spring term.
Increase Shoulder Stability and Mobility
Getting a big contribution to your baseball performance from your shoulder complex (the front, middle and back of the shoulder) requires that you get stronger and more flexible. Having strength throughout the shoulder complex keeps the shoulder stable for throwing and the hard chops of batting. Flexibility to freely move the shoulder through the full range of motion helps you get more speed and power on your throws, prevent injuries, produce more batting power, and get into position for catching.
Maintain and Build Lower Body Strength
Experts say that 60 percent of the speed and power from throwing a ball comes from the legs. "Strong legs and a strong core help to generate power," says Detroit Tigers strength coach Javair Gillett. "It promotes the ability to push off and deliver the ball at a high velocity. You need to have a strong lower body to do that, and do it for nine innings." Since every position on the field demands fast, hard throws, baseball players who expect to improve must focus on building leg strength.
Develop Your Core for Rotational Power
Hitting and throwing involve explosive movement through the core, so your ability to generate force and power from the chest to the knees is critical to baseball success. To meet the demands of baseball, where throwing, hitting and catching occur at high speeds and at a variety of angles, you must train for total muscular development of the core. To do this, include in your program exercises that work the core in a variety of ways and a variety of angles: up and down, diagonal right and left, and across the body with rotation right and left.
Improve Your Baseball Conditioning
Baseball players must develop stamina and muscular endurance. Stamina keeps your body strong throughout the long games and day-after-day play of the summer season. Muscular endurance enables you to repeatedly do the same activity without getting fatigued. Having a good cardio-conditioning program, including functional exercises that mimic explosive baseball moves, is important to success. Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks performs an intense Conditioning Gauntlet, which involves sprinting down and back to each of six cones lined up about 10 yards apart.
What to Avoid
With the number of games you'll play, and the high level of competition in the summer, make sure that additional strength and conditioning training doesn't increase the wear-and-tear on certain body parts. Particularly vulnerable are the shoulder complex and the shoulder joint. Working to develop and strengthen the muscles that support, stabilize and assist the movements in these areas will help you stay injury free. For example, increasing upper-back strength, chest flexibility and arm strength can help relieve strain and stress on the shoulder.
It's important to include some time for active rest, so you avoid burning out. You also should be aware of the symptoms of burnout. If you feel like you are losing your mental edge, your performance levels are dropping off, your sleep patterns are changing, or that it's just hard to "get up" for the big game, take a break for a short period of time. In this case, taking time off will improve your chances for a longer, more successful career.
With baseball, bigger isn't always better. Too often baseball players look to bulk up their weight, size and raw strength. It's more important over the long run to develop "functional" or useable strength. That means building balanced strength throughout the body, while maintaining flexibility and mobility.
The resistance-training program is designed to develop muscle size and strength for the entire body. Rotator cuff and upper back exercises strengthen the muscles of the shoulders and stabilize the trunk. Multi-direction torso rotation exercises mimic rotational actions of the game.
Dr. Frank Spaniol is the Director of the Sport Science Laboratory at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. A former college player and NCAA Division I head baseball coach, he offers a unique research perspective that combines science and practical application. A leader in performance research for baseball and softball, he has worked with the Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.
David Szymanski, Ph.D., is Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of Baseball at Louisiana Tech University. A certified strength and conditioning specialist and registered strength and conditioning coach with distinction, he was a member of the Auburn University baseball team that went to the 1997 College World Series.