Friday, May 1, 2009
Your Legs are Your Lifeblood
RT Staff Note: This is the last of a week long series on strength and conditioning. This article is from gene Coleman from the Web Site, Be A Better Hitter.
By Dr. Gene Coleman
Regardless of whether you're a position player or a pitcher, your legs are your lifeblood. And, for successful, injury-free performance, they need both stamina and power. They need the stamina to endure 9-inning games and 162-game seasons and the explosiveness to run, hit and throw with power. Remember, all actions in baseball, not just running, start with your legs. The forces used in hitting and throwing, for example, don't originate in the arms and hands. They originate in the legs and are then transferred through the trunk to the arms and hands where they are applied to the bat and ball. Likewise, getting out of the box, charging bunts, backing up bases, going in the hole, stealing second and getting a jump in the outfield all require explosive action by the legs.
Start by building stamina. All too often, we are consumed by the need for speed and power and fail to build or maintain a solid fitness base. Successful players spend hours per day executing explosive movements in practice and game situations. Doing multiple, all-out repetitions without a solid base increases the risk of injury to the muscles, joints, connective tissue, tendons and/or ligaments. The first goal of your leg program should be to prevent injury - the second goal should be to increase speed and power.
Start by maintaining or rebuilding your aerobic and strength base. Do aerobics 2-3 times per week for stamina and lift 2-3 times per week for strength. A solid aerobic base will help prevent injury by allowing your legs to recover quicker and more completely. A good strength base will let you perform at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.
Your training should mimic the game as closely as possible. It should use the same muscle groups, same movement patterns and same energy system(s) used in the game. Running, because it lets you condition the muscles in a manner similar to that used in game situations, is the most beneficial form of aerobic work. Use a cycle or Stairmaster when injury, fatigue, time or weather prohibit running and/or in situations where you need a change of pace. All players should run. Starting pitchers should run the most; about 20-30 minutes per day between starts. Relievers and extra men need about 10-15 minutes per day. Position players need about 8-10 minutes. Do speed work over distances of 10-60 yards 3-4 times per week.
For strength, do leg curls and functional full-range of motion exercises using body weight as resistance. Step-ups (forward and sideways), walking lunges (forward, sideways and backwards), split-squats, "cowboy" squats and squat touches develop both the primary and support muscles of the hip, groin, knee and ankle. In addition, they mimic the movement patterns used in running and develop a high degree of agility, balance and coordination. Start with one set of ten reps of each exercise. Add a set per week to a max of 3x10.
When you can do 3x10 of the leg exercises, add a day of low intensity plyometrics each week for power. Start with ankle hops. Stand with feet shoulder with apart and hop in place as you generate momentum with your ankle joints. Extend your ankles through their full range of motion on each hop. Do side to side ankle hops for lateral speed and agility. Hop laterally 2-3 feet from your ankle joints, keeping your feet at shoulder width and landing on both feet at the same time. For first-step quickness do single leg push-offs and box crossovers.
Start single leg push-offs by standing behind and to the side of a 6-12 inch high box. Place your right foot on the left corner of the box. Extend your right leg and foot and explode up as high as possible. Land in the same position and repeat. Use your arms to gain additional height and balance. Repeat on the left leg. For box cross-overs, stand in a "ready" position with your feet about shoulder width apart and about two feet to the left of a 4-6 inch high box. Use a cross-over step and step on to the center of the box with your left foot. Push off with the left leg and foot and land in a "ready" position about two feet to the right of the box. Cross back over with the right leg and repeat. Start with 1x10 of each drill. Progress to 3x10. For variety, have a partner toss or roll you during these drills.
The running drills, leg exercises and low impact plyometric exercises listed above combine injury prevention and performance. They build stamina, increase strength and improve agility, balance, coordination, speed and power without pounding the body.