Training

Maximizing Speed and Power Development For Baseball


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In this article I would like to discuss what I believe to be the optimal approach to speed and power development over a 5–6 month off-season for the professional baseball player.  While the process is always individualized for a given person based on an assessment, the information below can be applied with success to any position, and modified easily for different levels of athletic development.

Baseball is a tricky sport for the preparation coach to tackle. Of all team sports, baseball may well be the most skill-dependent. By this I mean that performance on the field will be most greatly affected by the athlete’s skill level in terms of hitting, fielding, and pitching. Sure, bat speed, agility, and throwing velocity can all be positively influenced by sound physical preparation, but no methods or means, from a purely physical development standpoint, will measure up to improvements made in technique, and experience acquired.

This is why a proper assessment of the athlete must be administered. Asking the 6 big questions (read this) and screening their movement should give you an idea of what the ball player needs at this time in their development. If skill improvement is of the utmost importance at this juncture, physical preparation should be very general in nature, and a priority should be placed on technical skill practice.

Given that this article is meant to be a look at the optimal sequencing of a segment of the professional player’s physical preparation scheme, we will move on with the assumption that technical skill is already at a professional level. This means physical preparation can be used advantageously to improve upon their outputs, and boost their longevity in such a demanding environment as professional baseball.

Let me quickly back-track to the statement made above. Speed and power development is merely a segment of the preparation means for baseball. Given the demands of the sport, speed and power development actually play a minor role in the success of the professional baseball player.

For starters, we must understand that the competitive baseball season is the longest competitive season in professional team sports. It can span at a minimum 6 months, and include over 160 games. Therefore, it is safe to say that more than half of the year a baseball player is executing movements on the furthest end of the general-to-specific continuum. Therefore, the largest portion of their off-season workload should be dedicated to work that falls on the other (general) end of that continuum. This is most easily identified as standard maximal strength training type modalities.

Strength training has tremendous carry over to baseball, but it is the furthest removed means of preparation from the actual task(s) of their sport. It is so effective because it is largely under-trained in the baseball population. It is largely under-trained both in the context of the long-term development, as well as within a given year. Therefore, strength training will make up at least 70% of the workload for the baseball player throughout the off-season. This is unlike other team sports where modalities such as jumping and sprinting will eventually become the primary focus of preparation closer the competitive season.

With this said, the other 30% can be used quite advantageously if administered correctly. This 30% can make a substantial difference in someone who has reached expert skill levels in baseball. While important for general athletic development, it is not as crucial to the development of younger baseball players, at least in the context of baseball specific improvements.

Let’s take a look at how I sequence this 30% and why.

Month 1:

The first month of the off-season should place a focus on restoration of the athlete. As noted above, the competitive schedule is long and arduous. Therefore, in month one there will be no intensive speed or power work completed. Instead, the workload (in addition to strength training) will be focused on aerobic development, and variety of movement.

This will be split into 2 sessions per week, completed on days where no strength training takes place. The sessions will have elements of basic speed drills, movement variety circuits, and a small amount of cyclical aerobic work.

Here is a general example:

Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (2x10yds/side)
Arms Overhead High Knee March (2x10yds)
Arms Overhead High Knee Skip (2x10yds)
Lateral Arms Overhead High Knee Skips (2x10yds/side)
Carioca (2x20yds/side)
A1) Inchworm: 3×8
A2) Squat To Stand: 3×8
B1) Birddogs: 3×8/side
B2) High Knee to Reverse Lunge w/ Reach: 3×6/side
C1) Core Engaged Dead Bug: 3×5/side
C2) Cable Pull Through *low load: 3×8
D1) 1-arm Band Rotational Row w/Weight Shift (1/2″ band): 3×10/side
D2) Alternating Lateral Lunge w/Overhead Reach: 3×5/side
  1. E) AirDyne Bike: 20 minutes, Heart Rate between 120-150BPM

Month 2:

Month two we will begin to include speed and power work with elements of each appearing as often as 6 days per week. I would split the work into a few categories:

  1. Linear Speed
  2. Change of Direction
  3. Rotational Power
  4. Sagittal Power
  5. Lateral Power

In general, what I find lacking in most baseball development are categories 1,2, and 4. Most coaches do not place a priority on any traditional speed work or sagittal power development. This is a grave mistake. Traditional speed work is crucial to making baseball players better athletes. While the game is largely skill-dependent, it is also based hugely on decision-making and reaction time. Ultimately we want our athletes to be better prepared to achieve the tasks the game presents within the environment.

In any sport situation there are three things that will ultimately produce the output. There is the task (hit baseball, for example), the environment (pitch, back-drop, scenario, etc.) and the body (the coordinated movement of the athlete).

By developing a large range of movement qualities, we make the athlete’s system supple. It has more options, a larger pool to draw from, and is better equipped to react to the environment in such a way to successfully complete the task.

Choosing to overlook traditional speed development and change of direction means is choosing to give your athletes fewer options.

The other mistake is ignoring sagittal power development. Baseball, in its most specific sense, relies on lateral and rotational power. Therefore, most coaches place all their eggs in this basket. In some respects it is wise. Specificity is, of course, paramount, but only if specific means are continually improved upon.

I prefer to move from a prioritization of roughly 80/20 sagittal to lateral to 20/80 over a 5 month span. I will keep rotational measures fairly high and constant throughout, consolidating them as the season draws near and throwing and hitting measures become more frequent and intense.

Here is why:

Lateral power development reaches a point of diminishing returns quite quickly. Lateral power movements are high skill, and single leg dominant. Single leg dominant power means are extremely hard to yield high outputs from. Furthermore, if the athlete is not well prepared in a force production, force reception, and a force transfer sense they will not be able to even produce medium outputs on these movements. That in hand, you can develop general force qualities like these more efficiently using bi-lateral sagittal plane measures first.

Given this explanation here is an example of month 2:

Day 1
A1) Box Jump
A2) Rolling On Triceps w/ Stick
B1) Med Ball Stomp To Floor
B2) Core Engaged Dead Bug
Day 2
A1) Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss
A2) Rolling On Triceps w/ Stick
B1) Recoiled Med Ball Stomp To Floor
B2) Prone Bridge
Movement Day 1
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (40yds) to Backpedals (40yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Technical Practice
High Knee Wall March (1-2’s)
Wall Assisted Load and Explode
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March
High Knee Skip
PF Skip – One Side Only
High Knee Skip (5yds) To Sprint (10yds)
20yd Sprints From 2pt Stance
Day 3
A1)Seated Box Jump
A2) Rolling On Forearms w/ Stick
B1) Rotational Med Ball Shot Put Toss
B2) Core Engaged Dead Bug, Hands Pressed Into Wall
Movement Day 2
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (40yds) to Backpedals (40yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
High Knee March *hands over head
High Knee Skip *hands over head
Medial Lateral Hurdle Hops w/ Stick:
Repeated Lateral Heidens
Side Shuffles w/ Line Touch (5yds)
5-10’s
5yd Back Pedal to 10yd Sprint

 

Month 3:

In month 3 I will begin to build off of month 2.

Here we will begin to progress the rotational power work to become more technical. By this I mean that there will be more specificity in the sense that movements will become more coordinated, as well as require more time constrained force production, with elements of needing to receive and re-produce force.

Speed work and power means will also become more technical, and while not shown, percentages of perceived effort will increase as volume of ground contacts decreases. Furthermore, I will begin to introduce reactive constraints such as visual cues.

Here is an example:

For the sake of example, I have kept pairings with a “filler” column where I would include active rest modalities such as the ones seen in month 2.

Day 1 – Lower Lift
A1) Drop Squat To Box Jump
A2) Filler
B1) Double Clutch Med Ball Stomp To Floor
B2)Filler
Day 2 – Upper Lift
A1) Step Behind Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss
A2) Filler
B1) Heidens
B2)Filler
Movement Day 1
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (35yds) to Backpedals (35yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Technical Practice
Prowler High Knee March
Prowler High Knee Bounds
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March
High Knee Skip
PF Skip
Push Up and Go 10yd Starts
30yd Sprints From 2pt Stance
Day 3 – Lower Lift
A1) Reactive Seated Box Jump
A2) Filler
B1) Side To Side Med Ball Stomp To Floor
B2)Filler
Day 4 – Upper Lift
A1) Figure 8 Rotational Med Ball Shot Put Toss
A2) Filler
B1) Medial Lateral Hurdle Hops w/ No Stick
B2)Filler
Movement Day 2
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (35yds) to Backpedals (35yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March *4lb Ball Overhead
High Knee Skip *4lb Ball Overhead
Change Of Direction
Coach Directed Side Shuffles w/ Line Touch (5yds)
Coach Directed 5-10’s
10yd Jog To 10yds Directional Sprint

 

Month 4:

Again, this will build off month 3. Intensities increase; volume decreases, and means become more technical. These include even more highly coordinated movements as well as auditory cues.

Example:

Day 1 – Lower Lift
A1) DB (10lbs) Reactive Box Jump
A2) Filler
B1) Split Stance Overhead Throw To Wall
B2)Filler
Day 2 – Upper Lift
A1) Jump Back Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss
A2) Filler
B1) Reactive Heidens
B2)Filler
Movement Day 1
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (30yds) to Backpedals (30yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Technical Practice
High Knee Skip w/ Sled Tow
High Knee Bounds w/ Sled Tow
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March
High Knee Skip
10yds Bounds Out Of 2pt Stance
5yd Prowler High Knee March to 20yd Sprint
40yd Sprints From 2pt Stance
Day 3 – Lower Lift
A1)DB (10lbs) Reactive Seated Box Jump
A2) Filler
B1) Sledge Hammer Swings To Tire
B2)Filler
Day 4 – Upper Lift
A1) Recoiled Rotational Med Ball Shot Put Toss
A2) Filler
B1) Jump Back Repeated Lateral Heidens
B2)Filler
Movement Day 2
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (30yds) to Backpedals (30yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March
High Knee Skip
PF Skip
20yds Sprints From 2pt Stance
Change Of Direction
Side Shuffles w/ 2 Line Touches (5yds) to 10yd Sprint
20yds Side Starts From A Knee
Auditory Cue 10yd Jog to 10yd Directional Sprint

 

Month 5:

Month 5 is typified by continued progression with a shift to higher volumes of lateral work, and lower volumes of sagittal based means. Sagittal movements do reach a peak of intensity here, which facilitates the lower volumes as well. Change of direction work will now include reactive agility measures based off teammate’s decisions. Med ball work also reaches it’s peak of specificity with drills including overhead efforts.

Example:

Day 1 – Lower Lift
A1) Depth Jump (12″) Box Jump
A2) Filler
B1) Split Stance Recoiled Rotational Med Ball Throw To Wall
B2)Filler
Day 2 – Upper Lift
A1) Hot Feet Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss
A2) Filler
B1) Band Resisted Repeated Lateral Heidens
B2)Filler
Movement Day 1
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (30yds) to Backpedals (30yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Technical Practice
High Knee Wall March (1-2’s)
Wall Assisted Load and Explode
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March
High Knee Skip
Pop Float Skip
Kneeling Med Ball (10-12lb) Toss To 20yd Sprint
60yd Build Ups
Day 3 – Lower Lift
A1) Box Jump w/ Single Leg Landing
A2) Filler
B1) Split Squat Med Ball Stomp To Floor
B2)Filler
Day 4 – Upper Lift
A1) Rotational Med Ball Shot Put Toss From A Knee
A2) Filler
B1) Repeated Lateral Heidens w/ External Rotation Stick
B1A) Position Players: Depth Jump w/ Single Leg Landing To Lateral Jump
B2)Filler
Movement Day 2
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (30yds) to Backpedals (30yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March
High Knee Skip
PF Skip
20yds Sprints From 2pt Stance
Change Of Direction
5-10’s
5yd Back Pedal to 10yd Sprint
Reactive (Partner) Side Shuffles (10yd) To Take Off

 

Month 6:

This is the final stage of preparation. Volume is low, and eccentric stress in limited. Means return to fairly simple drills, that require less coordination. This is the means of transition into spring training. The most conducive training from a training effect standpoint was conducted last month. In this phase, athletes should begin to taper in anticipation of a high specific workload in the next month of spring training.

Example:

Day 1 – Lower Lift
A1) Band Resisted Broad Jump
A2) Filler
B1) Med Ball Stomp To Floor
B2)Filler
Day 2 – Upper Lift
A1) Drop Lunge To Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss
A2) Filler
B1) Band Resisted Heidens
B2)Filler
Movement Day 1
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (30yds) to Backpedals (30yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Technical Practice
Prowler High Knee March
Prowler High Knee Bounds
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March
High Knee Skip
PF Skip
Reactive (Mock Pitcher) 30yd Sprints
60yd Tempo Sprints
Day 3 – Lower Lift
A1)KB Swing
A2) Filler
B1) Recoiled Med Ball Stomp To Floor
B2)Filler
Day 4 – Upper Lift
A1) Recoiled Rotational Med Ball Shot Put Toss w/ Jump
A2) Filler
B1) Lateral Jump Off Mound For Distance (Push Side Only
B1A) Positon Players: Band Resisted Jump Back Repeated Lateral Heidens
Movement Day 2
Full Dynamic Warm-up
Side Shuffle w/Overhead Reach (10yds/side)
Carioca (10yds/side)
Forward Jog (30yds) to Backpedals (30yds)
*repeat this sequence 4 times
Linear Speed – Acceleration
High Knee March *4lb Ball Overhead
High Knee Skip *4lb Ball Overhead
Change Of Direction
10yd Side Shuffle To 20yd Sprint
5yd Side Shuffle To 10yd Sprint To 10yd Sprint
Reactive (Partner) Side Shuffles (10yd) To Take Off

It is my intent that this article and the detailed examples have helped you to see the optimal sequencing of these means for the development for the professional baseball player. There is sound reason for the implementation of speed and power means in the preparation of baseball players. Furthermore, it is advantageous to put thought behind a general-to-specific transition, as well as the volumes of the workload associated with each. Always remember to assess the development of your athletes; this will determine the best movement selection and amount.
For more information you can contact me directly at [email protected]. I am available for consultations, and programming for baseball players and coaches, both in a distance based format or by scheduling a consultation at our facility: Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA (www.cresseysportsperformance.com).

Related Articles:

Exercise Classifications for the Baseball Pitcher by Greg Robins

Specificity in Baseball Training by Greg Robins

Greg Robins is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA. Greg has worked with clientele ranging from general population to professional athletes. His unique experience in many different aspects of fitness, strength training, and athletic preparation have helped him become an unbiased authority on all things fitness and performance related. Outside of coaching Greg is a former collegiate baseball player, active member of the MA ARMY National Guard, and enjoys power lifting.

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