Traditional methods of training baseball players focus on building a large aerobic base. Pitchers need an adequate aerobic capacity to fully recover between their intensive bouts of anaerobic power (e.g., pitching) and position players need it between their anaerobic bouts of power (e.g., sprinting the field, running the bases, and swinging the bat).
Power is defined as P=(force x displacement)/time. Increases in power can occur in two ways: increase the ability to exert force (get stronger) or decrease the amount of time it takes to exert the force (rate of force development) (4,6). However, there is limitation to this equation. The velocity of movement slows down as the weight increases. Therefore, it is important to work in the correct range of percent repetition maximum (RM) that allows maximum power production to be utilized.
Due to the weight of a baseball ball (5 oz) and bat (32 – 36 oz), the velocity of the movement is of greater importance than force due to their lighter weights (6). According to research by McEvoy et al., the optimal range for this movement velocity while power training is 30 – 50% of one’s 1RM for a given exercise. Moving weights in this range has been shown to maximize power development for the given exercise (6). A safe alternative is adding resistance bands to the barbell in order to prevent the slowing down and concurrent muscle deactivation near the end of the movement. Adding resistance bands in this manner allows for greater use of the stretch shortening cycle.
The stretch shortening cycle is an important component in all running and throwing activities. As a muscle is rapidly stretched, elastic energy is stored in the muscle. This stored elastic energy can be used to produce a more powerful concentric contraction, which results in a more powerful muscular contraction overall. Based on this finding, it can be concluded that the use of this method of training may contribute to increases in throwing and running speed.
Pitchers and position players must train for both strength and power, and throw the baseball maximally with proper mechanics. Research suggests that most professional pitchers have some degree of shoulder instability (5). Therefore, adding heavy chest and overhead lifts could increase shoulder instability and increase the risk of posterior impingement syndrome.
Furthermore, the addition of extra pressing exercises could cause further asymmetries and imbalances due to the high volume of throwing performed (9). To help avoid shoulder instability while training, shoulder exercises should be performed after exhausting the major muscle groups, or after a throwing practice. This allows for concentration on the small muscles of the rotator cuff when lifting and helps avoid rotator cuff fatigue prior to throwing or lifting (1).
Due to the high volume of practices/games, that nearly all players deal with, and the countless repetitions that are needed to ingrain proper movement mechanics of technical skills like pitching and batting, overuse injuries are common among baseball players. Although much can be done to combat the onset of these types of injuries, such as prehabilitation work for the rotator cuff and elbow as well as scapular mobilization drills, to keep baseball players healthy and properly rested from game to game, the introduction of soft tissue work from a trained professional is very important.
The physical capacities that should be trained for baseball are outlined in this article. Improving anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity will greatly improve sport performance. Baseball players and coaches should stray away from the traditional methods and adapt the methods outlined here to maximize their performance on the field.
Learn to master exactly what you need to beat your competition on the field
Base running, fielding and some throwing movements are comprised primarily of "sagittal-plane" or forward/backward motion. This dominant direction of motion produces locomotion and propulsion, enabling a baseball player to make an accurate throw or run quickly to a base or ball.
"Frontal plane," or side-to-side motions occur during catching, throwing, hitting and running. This plane of motion is the least dominant baseball skill component, and frontal plane exercises are frequently the last to be included in training programs. As a result, joints and soft tissues are vulnerable to low-level injuries.
Pitching, throwing, hitting and fielding involve a considerable amount of transverse plane of rotational motion. Power and speed in the transverse plane enable the player to hit the ball harder. Balance and coordination through the transverse plane, coupled with hand-eye coordination, enable the player to make consistent, solid contact with the ball.
Baseball is a quick game. Everything needs to be done as fast as possible. To be successful, baseball players need multi-directional quickness, first step quickness, lateral movement, acceleration and linear speed. These performance factors must be trained and developed as much as possible.
Every single action in baseball is an explosive action. Hitting, throwing, quick lateral movements, jumps off the bases and others are all explosive. The need is for muscular power. Power is a function of speed and strength. More specifically, baseball players need throwing power and acceleration power. A base in overall body strength and maximal strength is also important; it serves as a foundation to build muscular power. Some muscular endurance is also beneficial, especially for pitchers.
Because of the variety of skills and movements in the sport of baseball, most body parts need to be trained. They all contribute in one way or another to enhance performance in baseball. Shoulder and back strength as well as the rotator cuff muscle group are important to throwing but the legs and the core (hips and abdominals) also contribute to the throwing motion. The legs and the core are even more important for hitting since the power comes from the middle and lower body.
Baseball players need strong stabilizers to keep them injury free and a lot of them have weak stabilizers (mostly shoulder, trunk and knee stabilizers). There is an important need to work on shoulder, core and knee stability. The most neglected area in sport performance training is core training and it is one of the most important. Core training will enable the athlete to achieve better performance, increase torso power and joint stability, improve posture and neuromuscular coordination, reduce injuries and enhance movement efficiency. Floor-based crunches and sit-ups do little for core stability and trunk power. Stability ball training will develop the deep abdominal muscles needed to stabilize the trunk while medicine ball exercises will develop the power of the trunk.
In short, baseball players need to develop a base of strength and then concentrate on developing muscular power with explosive training (plyometrics, explosive tempo weight training and Olympic lifting). They also require strong stabilizers. Lots of time should be spent on core training.