Baseball is powerful Sport; Train that Way
If you want to play at a high-level in this game you have to be honest with yourself. The game has changed, and the most powerful athletes are the ones that make it. 88 MPH strike throwers don’t get opportunities at the highest levels anymore, even if they can get outs.
If you’re a hitter that doesn’t hit home runs, you better be able to fly or have at least a couple elite tools, but even then it’s probably not enough.
First and foremost, in order to exert power, an athlete has to move well. How can you ever hit a big squat or heavy lunge if you can’t do a body weight squat in the first-place?
Athletic development is a long-term process that takes patience, consistency, and delayed gratification to develop quality movement patterns. The small gains you make early on in the training process can pay huge dividends down the road.
Baseball training has come a long way over the past decade. For the most part, most coaches have finally come to accept that there is no lactate build up from pitching, and we don’t need to waste time running poles.
That being said, that doesn’t mean as coaches we can just run our players into the ground with sprints and other over-zealous conditioning protocols. We have to match the conditioning to the needs of the sport and understand that each player has a limited training economy.
More does not equal better. The goal is to give the athlete the minimum effective dose to elicit a training effect. If the athlete is always in a state of fatigue, they’ll never learn to move well or gain a high level of strength.
Strength is the foundation the gives the athlete the ability to be fast and powerful. An untrained player has spent their entire life at the speed end of the speed-strength continuum (pictured above). The lowest hanging fruit to see gains in speed and power is simply to get as strong as possible. It is possible to be strong enough, but most will never get there.
Power is the product of strength and speed. By simply focusing on strength players will find themselves hitting the ball harder and farther and will see an increase in velocity. Strength is the game changer. Turn on a big league game now a days, it’s hard to find a guy under 200lbs. This is where a baseball player should spend most of their training economy.
When focusing on power or speed development it's important to have a purpose with every rep. Whether it is a sprint or throwing a med ball, each rep should be done at max intensity. As coaches it's really easy to let speed work get turned into conditioning by not allowing our players enough recovery between reps. A good rule of thumb is to have a minute of rest for every 10 yards they sprint.
Another method is to superset with some sort of filler such as a mobility, stability, or arm care drill. This forces the athlete to slow down and get full recovery while they perform a less taxing exercise, and allows for their next sprint or med ball throw to be at full speed.
The biggest, strongest, fastest, and most powerful athletes are the ones that make it. The game 20 years ago almost looks like slow motion compared to the game today. If you don’t get a hit off the starter, good luck because each arm out of the pen is probably throwing 97-100.
Baseball is not an endurance sport, and if you're still training that way you’re going to get left behind.