Baseball Players: 5 Areas of Training You Might Be MissingDate: 3/23/2017
Posted by: John Irwin
Baseball Players: 5 Areas of Training You Might Be Missing
By Bill Miller , Head Strenght & Conditioning Coach at Dream Big Athletics
Everyone knows the staples of most basic, generic strength and conditioning programs. Squat, Press, and pulling movements are a constant in training programs, and for good reason; they are the best way to elicit muscular improvements. Especially with younger athletes, training in a basic manner will allow for kids to get bigger and stronger. Bigger, stronger kids are more athletic. Kids who are more athletic are usually going to better at baseball than if they weren't as athletic.
Like most coaches, I will agree with this logic for the most part...but we know something's missing, right? There is always a fear of becoming "too bulky" for baseball. Some people claim that weight training is too slow to have a proper training effect for baseball players. There are plenty of other myths out there about what baseball players should and shouldn't do. In this article I hope to put those myths to rest and provide the 5 areas of training that do need to be addressed in your baseball players' strength and conditioning programs.
1. Train the shoulders properly. The idea here is to create proper scapular mobility and shoulder stability. Scapular mobility is the shoulder blade's (a.k.a. "Scap") ability to glide along the rib cage when the arm moves (specifically the humerus) and when the shoulder is elevated. The shoulder blades gliding keeps the shoulder's ball-and-socket joint (Glenohumeral joint) in a safe position when going through a throwing motion. Shoulder stability is created by having proper musculature around the shoulder to help prevent improper alignment from throwing. Basically, weak shoulder stability will allow for the head of the humerus to ride too far forward and put more stress on the rotator cuff. Exercises like Rhythmic Shoulder Stabilizations and isometric holds can help target shoulder stability in a proper fashion. Shoulder injuries are obviously extremely prevalent in baseball. In order to create a better shoulder for baseball, make sure to include more Dumbbell press and Single Arm Row exercises as opposed to using the barbell. Incorporate light weight exercises like Back-To-Wall Shoulder Flexion, Single Arm Trap Raise, and Prone Shoulder Press, amongst many others. Exercises that train the shoulder blades to properly move create a much better effect for shoulder health in the long run than limited arm movements like "Jobes" and jogging. This brings me to my next point...
2. Stop overdoing cardio. In some sports, there will be many times during competition where you will be out of breath. For these sports, training the aerobic energy system at a fairly consistent basis is a good idea. The only time you will ever need to catch your breath in a baseball game is after a triple or inside-the-park homer. Curtis Granderson has the most triples in a season in the modern era, and that only occurred in about 3% of his plate appearances that year. If this is something that might only happen once every 35 at bats, then why is it such a staple in training baseball players? The key to training as a baseball player is to train explosively and powerfully. Exercises like Squats, speed squats, deadlifts, speed deadlifts and other movements like these require rest to get the most out of them. Rather than doing 60 half-ass reps where you're winded, perform 30 reps with perfect form as explosively as possible. This will create a training effect that tells the muscles to fire quickly and efficiently on command, as opposed to slow and uncoordinated on command. In your training, use a higher set-lower rep structure such as 6 to 10 sets and 1 to 5 reps in an explosive manner. Take at least 40 seconds (20 breaths) to a minute between sets. Rather than running and jumping around until the point of exhaustion, take your time on each sprint and jump set to ensure that it is the most powerful your body can be. Training properly in explosive movements like this brings me to my next point...
3. Train power through the correct planes of movement. There are three planes of movement: sagittal (vertical jump/straight line running), frontal (Lateral and horizontal movement), and transverse (rotational movement). All three planes have a part in movements for a baseball player. Far too often though, players only train the vertical jump, hang clean and running in a straight line. This is taking time and energy away from training big moneymaker movements that mimic hitting and throwing a baseball. Though I will always agree that explosive movements like the hang clean can help improve force from the ground which is extremely important, you need to train the body to be explosive and efficient through the transverse and frontal planes. The lateral drive from the legs necessary to throw a baseball hard can be trained through the following: lateral jumps, band-resisted lateral jumps, lateral sled drags and shuffle sprints. The rotational power necessary to hit a baseball far and throw baseball hard can be trained with rotational medicine ball throws (many variations) and diagonal kettle bell swings. When doing these exercises think of the term 'separation'. When you hit or throw a baseball your hips should start the movement. While creating force from the ground and rotating your hips, your trunk should create an elastic effect between your lower body and upper body. This is the same separation that you should try to mimic when throwing a medicine ball. Don't play patty-cake with the wall, throw it is hard as possible while keeping your head centered over your body to help create that separation effect. This tightening of the trunk to create an efficient flow of energy brings me to my next point...
4. Train anti-rotational core exercises. Far too often we see baseball players doing exercises like crunches and supine leg raises. These movements train the abs, but that core recruitment does not translate well to the way your core will work when throwing or hitting. In order for that separation effect that I talked about earlier to really work, every part of your abs needs to be tight and firm while the movement is occurring. Rather than just training the six pack, or rectus abdominis, your transverse abs and obliques need to be equally as strong. Exercises that you should shoot for are variations of the Paloff press and anti-rotational cable chop. In order to have an efficient transfer of energy from the ground all the way up through your hands you need to have a very stable and strong core. This brings me to my last point...
5. Don't forget grip strength. In order to be really good at sports, The kinetic chain that is your body can't have any weak links from your feet all the way through your fingertips. Baseball is no exception. If you can swing a baseball bat at 90 mph, but do not have the hand strength to keep the barrel from dipping underneath the baseball as the barrel comes through the hitting zone, you will probably not make great contact with the ball. So many aspects of baseball require energy to start from the ground and travel all the way up through your hand, and if your hands are weak you will not be able to perform at the highest level possible. You do not have to look much further than the physique of a professional baseball player. Of course they are all strong and athletically built, but no matter their body shape, they all have very big strong forearms connected to hands stronger than concrete. This is no coincidence. Grip strength can be properly trained through exercises such as Farmer Walks, hex dumbbell holds, deadlifts, towel grip holds and rice bucket digs. As I said before, there are many generic programs out there. There are also many fears and myths about how a baseball player should train, and what to avoid. The big and bulky myth can be dispelled simply by looking at a professional baseball player, and how many of them are very muscularly built now days. Rather than conditioning players to be ready to play baseball, get them ready to perform on a baseball field. Research harder and train smarter- train to be a baseball player.
Head Strength & Conditioning coach at Dream Big Athletics.
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