1. Reduce Your Chance of Injury
The baseball season is long and hard on the body. Baseball is also, primarily, a one-sided activity (hitting and throwing). This repetitive motion on an athlete’s dominant side can lead to disaster if they are not prepared for the season or do not maintain their strength, mobility, and function throughout the season. A properly designed in-season baseball training program can take a proactive approach to avoiding common injuries and breakdowns throughout a playing season.
The excuse of ‘not having enough time’ to train during in-season is invalid. If you get injured and you cannot play you will have all the time in the world. Which would you rather?! Make the time.
2. Maintain Your Strength
If you do not lift weights during in-season, within 3-weeks of stopping you will have considerable strength losses. That means each week you are getting weaker and weaker; come play-off season when you should be at your strongest you will consequently be at your weakest.
In-season strength training is different than off-season training. We are not trying to bulk up or hit PR’s but trying to maintain the gains we have made over the off-season. This means come next off-season you can start getting stronger right away without having to spend time and energy getting back to where you were.
3. Gain Strength
Why simply maintain your strength when you could get stronger? If your goal is to play baseball at higher levels (college and/or pro ball) you are going to need to be STRONG. At every level, the players get bigger, faster and stronger. If you want to keep up you cannot WASTE 6-8 months every year just playing baseball, while maintaining or, worse, losing strength.
A good in-season strength program is adapted to your playing schedule so that it allows you to get stronger without compromising performance on the field. This way you are not relying on 4 short months a year to accomplish the gains you desire.
This is especially true if you aren’t getting a ton of playing time, because of age, experience or position (pitchers have off days, and relief pitchers usually do not play as many innings). If this is the case then you should focus on getting stronger, since you have the time and energy to make some SERIOUS gains!
4. Increase Your Power
POWER = FORCE X VELOCITY
Force (aka strength) is HALF of the equation for creating more power. Meaning by getting stronger during the in-season you are in-turn increasing your power output! Practices and games take care of the velocity (speed) training with running bases, hitting, throwing, drills, etc.
Wouldn’t you like to END the year throwing and hitting harder than when you started in the spring?!
5. Stay in Shape
Unless you can hit like John Kruk or pitch like David Wells I suggest you keep yourself in shape! Sitting on the bench munching on sunflower seeds and HubbaBubba and bad meals when on the road can lead to weight gain quick. Your in-season baseball strength & conditioning program will help combat this. Keeping you lean and fit all season long, helping you perform better on the field.
6. Stay Loose
True or false; lifting weights decreases flexibility and range of motion (ROM). FALSE!!!! If you perform your exercises through full ROM and include exercises that work multiple joints (squats, lunges, Push-ups, rows) you will keep your body flexible and mobile. In-season training programs should also have a large emphasis on flexibility, mobility, and myofacial release work to encourage the body to stay loose and mobile through the whole season.
7. Prevent Yourself from Getting SLOWER
If your “in-season” program consists of running poles or long distances and band work you should expect to become weaker and slower. Every movement in baseball is one of POWER and the main movements, swings and throws, last less than a second. Why then should your in-season (or off-season for that matter) program include anything but training to enhance your power production?
If you don’t believe me listen to other experts in the field:
“I don’t do any distance running for my guys. Coaches who have their baseball players run long distances are either lazy or flat-out stupid (or both).” – Eric Cressey, MKin., CSCS. (Co-founder of Cressey Sport Performance)
Distance running Sprinting
Which athlete looks more conducive to the demands of baseball?!
“This research demonstrates that power training and intense, lengthy cardiovascular endurance training are not compatible with the aerobic training resulted in decreased power among college baseball players. Such a decrease in lower body power during the length of a baseball season is a negative outcome that must be avoided to maintain performance in both pitchers and position players. It is suggested that conventional metabolic conditioning for baseball players, which generally includes extension aerobic endurance exercise be altered to include interval-type training or repeated sprint conditioning. By keeping all conditioning on the power end of the muscular fitness spectrum, power can be maintained or even increased throughout a baseball season.” – Rhea, M.R., et.al. (2008). Noncompatibility of power and endurance training among college baseball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning. 22(1) 230-234.
8. Enhance Recovery
With such a long season with numerous practices and games, quick recovery is vital during in-season. So then how does exerting energy and lifting heavy things aid recovery?!
Simple. Strength and conditioning session during the in-season are not ‘gut-checks’ and are not meant to leave you gasping for air and full of lactic acid. Your workouts should be short, 35-40 minutes, and sub-maximal. This type of training will help increase blood flow to your working muscles, bringing oxygen and nutrients to them while removing metabolic waste that hinder your muscles ability to produce forceful contractions. A good in-season strength and conditioning program will also include myofacial release (foam rolling), mobility, and flexibility work, which all enhance the body’s ability to recover quickly.
All-in all, continuing your strength and conditioning training through the in-season is vital to staying strong, healthy, mobile, powerful and one step ahead of the other guy. Make it a priority this season and see the difference it will make, you might surprise yourself.
Courtney Plewes BSc. Kin., CSCS
Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach - SST Mississauga