With both collegiate and high school baseball & softball seasons starting up, I wanted to share some thoughts on how athletes can maximize their potential by taking initiative and being consistent with their training/recovery strategies.
While it may seem like a tough task to squeeze in two to three training sessions per week, if you’re able to organize your weekly schedule, you and your game will benefit greatly. Each athlete may have a different weekly schedule, so it may take some adjusting to accommodate individual needs.
1. “Quality over Quantity”
Many athletes run into the same problem; wanting to keep adding more and more into their daily stress. Too many athletes don’t understand that adding in practice and game reps, means that you have to take a “less is more” approach to their training in the gym. Simply addition by subtraction! We find shorter training sessions that focus on the qualities that you are not getting on the field such as strength, mobility, soft tissue, and anti-core work provide more “bang for your buck”.
"In-season training has been just as important to my success as off-season training. Continuing to train throughout the season ensures I don't lose out on the progress I made during the off-season." (Hailey Dolcini, Senior Pitcher - Texas Longhorns)
2. No added distance running
Many coaches make the mistake of “punish-running” their players or “aimless” conditioning which further adds to the fatigue and stress applied to each athlete. Baseball isn’t a sport of “fitness” and keeping the goal of strength and power could be hindered by the additional running administered. According to late Canadian sprint coach, Charlie Francis’ famous “High/Low” model, the intensity goal was to either be high enough to create an adaptation or low enough to create recovery. According to Francis, any time spent in the middle ground (76-94%) was too low to elicit a specific training response and too much to dampen the recovery process. Besides, players need to at least maintain if not improve their strength and power during the season to continue to produce and resist high amounts of force, and distance running isn’t going to get you to the “promise-land”.
3. Weight Management
In order to maintain strength and power, you need to maintain body weight. If overall caloric intake drops, bodyweight is likely to drop with it, which in turn will decrease overall muscle mass. Dr. Josh Heenan is the creator of the height/weight coefficient which has stated that an athlete should weigh 2.5-3.25 times your height in inches to tolerate the stress of such high amounts of force production as well as the ability to decelerate after ball release or ball contact. With increased pitching and exit velocity being a focal point, each player should make it a point to hone in on their nutrition management to decrease their chances of injury from malnourishment.
4. Increased throwing/hitting causes decreased mobility AND stability
Two qualities that get overlooked by most in my eyes are maintaining mobility and stability throughout a season. The increase in throwing has been shown to decrease shoulder flexion from the amount of eccentric stress placed on the body during practice, games, and the long haul of a season. Losing shoulder flexion will inhibit the repeatability of proper arm path, which will then place unwanted stress on the elbow and I’m sure you know the rest. Hitting is another animal that causes undue stress to the lumbar spine when hip/thoracic spine mobility is not maintained. Ensuring you maintain hip mobility will likely decrease the high amount of rotational stress placed on the spine from such high amounts of forces produced with increased swing velocity.
Losing range of motion now means that stability at “end-range” is compromised which is where most injuries take place. Decreased stability results in the loss of a stable foundation which is the prerequisite for high amounts of force. Maintaining pelvis, trunk, scapular, and cuff strength/stability throughout the season will promote a much better chance to maintain velocity when it matters the most.
"College baseball is so competitive, that if you are not continuously training and staying dedicated to the process, you surely will be passed up by somebody that is more disciplined. Maintaining all of the progress that you work so hard in the summer for, is too good to let go by not making time to train in-season." (Jacob King, Sophmore Pitcher - UC Irvine)
Many individuals fall into the endless pit of “not having enough time”, and I will rebuttal that they need to prioritize their time a bit better. I will be back soon to lay out training considerations for pitchers and position players.