Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Baseball Strength Training

Baseball Strength Training -
The Truth (Part 1)
By Jon Doyle

In this 3 part expose, Jon Doyle will reveal the current state of baseball strength training and baseball conditioning information, explain what the baseball player needs and tell you how to get there...

Look at any "baseball strength training conditioning" program and you will find glaring mistakes that will lead to decreased performance and increase chance of injury. To those coaches who know what the heck they are doing these mistakes stick out like a sore thumb. The problem is 99% of "coaches" out there do not understand this, yet continue to damage our young ballplayers…robbing them of their athletic ability.

Baseball strength and Conditioning should enhance athleticism, not debilitate it. So why are baseball strength training and baseball conditioning programs so bad? In my opinion there are far too many self-proclaimed "experts" who do not truly understand the body or the game of baseball. Far too many bodybuilding and football workouts have simply been renamed with "baseball" on it.

This is even rampant at the NCAA and professional level, where one would never fathom that this could occur. You would surprised how easy it is to get one of these cush jobs simply because you know someone or have kissed enough butt. In truth, the real coaches out there don't want these jobs because the hours suck and the pay isn't great.

Ok now that I have cleared the air, let's get into the reason why I am writing this article in the first place.

Far too often, the term "strength" is thrown around in a very vague manner…but never with an explanation. Well, I here to explain exactly what is wrong with your current baseball strength training program and how to fix it.

"Strength" is a very broad term. There are many aspects of strength such as speed, reactive, relative and starting. Typically, when someone says "strength" or "strong" they are referring to how much weight can be lifted. They are looking at one aspect of strength…the weight on the bar. This is referred to as maximal strength.

While maximal strength shouldn't be ignored (as with any aspect of strength) it should not be considered the Holy Grail of strength and conditioning work when looking at addressing the needs of a baseball player. In fact, maximal strength is not even in top three aspects of strength that are used on the baseball field.

With that said it amazes me that a 95% of baseball strength training and baseball conditioning programs revolved around maximal strength. (side note: the ones not falling in that 95% do not stress maximal strength enough) There needs to be a delicate balance of all aspects of strength, not just maximal.

So you ask, "What is the Holy Grail of Baseball Strength Training?" Ladies and gentleman…with great pleasure I introduce to you…"Force Production"

I think everyone agrees that in order to swing a baseball bat at 90 mph, throw a pearl at 95 mph or run a 6.5 sixty a great deal of force must be produced. This is fact. How you get there however, is where we run into problems.

First let me give you a simple, basic scientific fact…Force = mass x acceleration.

In order to increase force one must increase the mass (weight on the bar), acceleration (speed at which bar is moved) or a combination of the two.

Most programs simply rely on increasing the mass, or amount of weight lifted. This is a monumental mistake.

As with most things in life the law of diminishing returns comes into play. If you continue to increase the weight on the bar, naturally the speed at which you perform the lift will decrease. So, what exactly are you accomplishing? Not much for sure.

There is a certain percentage (typically 40-65% of a theoretical 1 rep max) that yields the highest force production. Typically, baseball players train 85% or above a large majority of the time.

This type of training will not only LOWER force production, but will significantly increase risk of injury due to postural breakdown. Talk about a double-whammy!

This is not to say heavier loads (i.e. 70% and greater) are never used. Of course they are. But they are carefully placed within a training program, not the sole basis of one.

Training to increase force production will enable the athlete to generate force from within. Look at some of the current great sluggers such as Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez. Watch Josh Beckett pitch. These players are very "quiet" and then BAM! They explode.

They have developed the ability to generate a great deal of force from within their bodies. As they say the calm before the storm. These players are great examples of athletes who are dialed in to their bodies and know how to maximize force production.

THAT'S what baseball strength training is about.

Next installment, Jon will cover just how important reactive, or speed strength is to the baseball player...

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