Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Biggest Secret in Baseball

RT Staff Note: The following is from Jon Doyle's Baseball Training Secrets.

By Jon Doyle

No, I am not referring to steroids. Or greenies. Or even HGH. Besides, those are the last things that are a secret these days. You cannot get this from a pill or a bottle, but you can certainly get it through the correct training methods that virtually nobody uses or even knows about. This method provides such a profound increase in performance and ability that others may start accusing you of illegal substances. Or, at the very least, ask you what the heck you’ve been doing to improve so much.

What if I told you that a certain aspect of your strength has been literally holding you back from becoming a great hitter and overall baseball player? Coaches, improving your teams reactive strength and ability can bring your from last place to first. From regional contender to national powerhouse. It can perform a complete make-over, even on players who already have very good skills.

If you do not know what reactive strength and ability is or have never trained to increase it you are in for a HUGE surprise. I call it reactability. Developing this can be the difference between a strikeout and a bomb. The difference between a hitter that bats .250 with 10 jacks and a guy who hits .400 and jacks 50.

And…It’s virtually untapped by 99% of players and most coaches never even heard of it!

When most people hear the term “strength” they think of big muscular bodybuilders, powerlifters or strongmen. Chances are you just pictured someone you know who is very large in size. You thought about how “strong” they are and how much weight they can lift.

Now, think about that person swinging a baseball bat. Yeah, not a pretty sight. While these athletes are incredibly strong in one sense of the word and very impressive in their chosen sport , this is not the strength that is need on the playing field. The key is to develop athletic skills and qualities that transfer over to the diamond.

There are many different meanings of the term “strength.” Absolute, maximal, speed, reactive, and starting strength are just a few of the different aspects of strength. Lumping them together into one category is like placing baseball, basketball and football players into one category called “ballplayers.” While it is true, they are all ball players, we all know each sport requires a different set of rules, skills and abilities. Yes, there are certain qualities that are common of all three sports, yet they are still extremely different. The same thing goes for strength. Improving reactability can literally transform a bench warmer into an all-star, virtually overnight.

This is because baseball is almost a completely reactive game. Especially hitting. You obviously cannot swing until you see what pitch is being thrown, at what velocity and where it’s located. So your swing is completely a reaction to what the pitcher does . If you do not have the ability to react you will simply not perform, especially against the better competition.

However, if you can react, you can make hitting look easy. It has been said, and I whole-heartily agree, that the freaky hitters of the world are born with this ability. The ability to react at a world class level comes natural to them. Training for increased reactability would certainly yield great benefits to them, but they don’t necessarily “need” this training to excel. These players are few and far between, even in the major leagues. I am talking about the players that the other pros calls “freaks.” You can count the number of these guys on one hand.

Don’t worry if you do not posses this vital skill. You can develop this ability and turn yourself into an extremely dangerous hitter that nobody recognizes. Do you know what it feels like to put the ball into play with such authority that your own teammates and coaches are in disbelief? I do. It is pure euphoria.

My students routinely improve their batting averages by 100 points in just one off-season. Most by much, much more. All while their power numbers go through the roof and strikeouts decrease. Understand that if you can react you will have the ability to wait on a pitch and still crush it. This will allow you to get your pitch almost every at-bat. You simply won’t swing at bad pitches. And when you do swing your bat will explode through the zone like never before.

Virtually nobody trains for maximal reactability. For example, going into the gym and cranking out heavy bench presses and struggling to get those last few reps up is the WORST possible way to increase this vital skill.

Think throwing a medicine ball around thoughtlessly or swinging a heavy bat will do it? Not a chance. Performing these drills incorrectly do absolutely nothing for your reactive abilities and will not only decrease your bat speed, but will also destroy your mechanics. Not exactly what you are trying to accomplish, for sure.

Virtually all conventional training methods do very little for increasing your ability to react to the surrounding around you. Most training is based around “static” strength. Static strength is basically what you improve doing conventional weight training programs based around 3-4 sets of an exercise and at a rep range from 8-15. Sure if you have never done any training before a program like this will make you a little bit stronger for sure, but that is simply due to neurological adaptation. These results are very short lived.

How It All Works

Your brain and your muscles are connected by your nerves. The brain sends the signals to the muscles through the nerves. If your nerves aren’t functioning properly then you will not perform up to your abilities. Period. Think about a wire from your DVD player to your TV. If that wire isn’t hooked up right, or if it has a short, then the TV won’t perform, or have a picture. Same principle applies to your body.

Most certainly you have seen a player who seems to be faster than the game. He gets great jumps both in the field and on the basepath. He has a lightning quick bat. Everything he does is at a faster speed than everyone else. One large reason for this is his superior reactability. It simply puts him on a higher playing field than everyone else.

You need your nerves to fire as quick as humanly possible. The great thing is that your reactability can be significantly improved through certain conditioning drills as well as specific skill work. Training for increased reaction abilities can be worked right into regular tee and soft toss work.

Every one of my athletic training programs is geared towards really increasing “reactability.” These programs have been the secret of countless All-Stars and All-American’s.

Please understand this is a very tough concept to teach in an article. I will explain a few basics that can help improve reactability in your training, but please understand my plan of attack changes for every athlete and is rarely the same. However, the following always holds true…

1. Imperfect Environment

Have you ever wondered why the only “perfect” place is in the weight room? And this is supposed to be the place where you trained in order to be prepared for anything? I doubt it.

You MUST create an imperfect environment. When, and only when, you do so will you thrive under pressure. To learn more about an imperfect environment check out my article “Imperfect Practice Makes Perfect.”

2. Bar Speed

How many times have you heard the term “slow and controlled” when being told how to workout? Well, let me be the one to tell you it’s a bunch of BS.

In order to develop world-class reactability you MUST focus on bar speed. You want to move the bar as fast as you possibly can. The term should be “Explosive and controlled”

One of the most difficult thing’s to do in the weight room is move a light load (40-65% of 1RM) extremely quick and under precise control.

Remember, in baseball you control a baseball, a glove and a baseball bat. All which are extremely light in weight in comparison to overall strength and maximal weights used in the gym.

So, as you can see, it is vitally important to develop the ability to generate a tremendous amount of power and speed with relatively light objects in order to succeed at the game of baseball.

3. Reactive Strength

Reactive strength, or speed strength, is one of, if not the most important aspect of strength that needs to be developed for baseball. Sadly, it is rarely trained in most baseball training programs.

In order to develop supreme reactive strength one must focus on a very explosive eccentric (or lowering) portion of movement. Now this does not mean you should perform movements with terrible form.

As always keep good posture and move a bit quicker each workout. Each and every rep should be a millisecond faster than the last. Before you know it you will be exploding throughout the entire movement, yet you will be moving with extreme control as well.

Your transition between the lowering portion (eccentric) and the lifting (concentric) portion of the exercise will become seemless. This will create an illusion as being effortless to any onlooker. This is the goal and what is commonly known as extreme athleticism.

4. Bendability

This is another term that I coined the name for. It basically refers to the athletes ability to be strong, powerful and explosive, yet be extremely limber and bendable like Plastic Man.

As world-renoun Strength & Conditioning coach John Davies says, “No athlete has ever been cut because he has too much bend.”

This very important in baseball because the body is forced into many different planes and directions. You must have excellent bendability in order to thrive in these environments.

Hip range of motion (ROM) is one of the most overlooked aspects of training that can immediately increase speed, power, rotational ability, overall athleticism as well as reduce injury. Hip ROM is a very large part of an athletes bendability.

In order to increase your bendability in a very safe and effective manner simply perform hurdle mobility drills (Found in the book “Diamonds” and on “Ultimate 7 Minute Warm-Up DVD” ) every day.

It only takes a few minutes and the payoff is nothing short of amazing. In addition, be sure to work on static stretching after your training sessions to increase static ROM. This should not be done before training or practice, only after.

So there you have it. I strongly encourage you to utilize the information provided in this article. It does not matter if you are 6 or 60, you can benefit tremendously from this information.

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