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The One Aspect of Baseball Training That You Must Master to Succeed

If I were to ask you what the most important part of baseball training is, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps programming, force production, or sport specificity? Maybe injury prevention, strength, or speed? Even nutrition, movement quality, and recovery could make the cut.

Based on each coach’s individual philosophy, that list could go on forever. While there is no right answer to that question, as long as you can give a reason “why” it is the most important aspect, I would probably agree with you.

All of those listed (as well as countless others) are just pieces of a much larger training puzzle. In my years of competing and coaching, I have come to the conclusion that arguably the most important aspect of training is “consistency.”

 

Consistently Show Up to Train

 

An athlete that trains 4x a week is more likely to make gains faster than the one that comes 4x a month. The same can be said from season-to-season. Working in the private sector, we have plenty of turnover from month-to-month.

If a high school athlete plays baseball and football (which we strongly encourage all of our athletes to play multiple sports), their only true “offseason” is from November (end of high school football season) through the beginning of March (start of high school baseball). That gives them only 4 out of 12 months in the year to really focus on training.

Now compare that to the athlete that consistently makes time to train in-season. Those strength gains they made in the offseason will not disappear (they can even continue to increase) as the season progresses.

That strength is necessary to combat the stresses these athletes experience during games and practices to keep them healthy and performing at a high level.

 

Consistently Attack Their Training, Too

I have witnessed way too many athletes that show up just to go through the motions and do the bare minimum during training.

The athletes that are always taking advantage of their time in the weight room are the ones that seem to build strength, move better and complain less about injuries (if at all).

That means showing up early, get moving and taking their warm-up seriously, competing on every rep, encouraging others around them, asking for help when needed, making sure they are moving correctly, progressively overloading, never skipping sets or reps, staying after to do extra, focusing on mobility work, and so forth.

 

The Consistency Must Apply to the Coaching as Well

 

As a coach, we must bring energy every day. I’m not saying that every coach needs to be a “hype man” or “hype woman” like you see with many in the field.

They just need to know their identity as a coach and follow their principles they set forth for themselves while making sure that they are locked in to help every athlete that walks through their door that day.

Their programming should always be working towards certain goals depending on the athlete(s), time of the year, available equipment, etc. They must be learning and looking for new ways to improve on a daily basis.

Lastly, constant communication between a coach and athlete is crucial. They can write up the best program in the world, but none of it will matter if the athlete and coach are not on the same page.

 

The Athlete Must Stay Consistent with Their Nutrition and Recovery

I have been asked numerous times what supplements I recommend. I love seeing their faces when I say, “real food, water and sleep.”

If you consistently make time to eat a real breakfast, lunch and dinner while sprinkling in 2-3 smaller meals aside from those, you will have a much better chance to gain weight than the athlete that skips breakfast, eats a turkey sandwich and chips for lunch, and then nothing until they go grab Chipotle with their friends after class or practice.

For athletes that need to lose weight, following a similar protocol while just controlling their portions should yield results.

Programs like the 21-Day Fix, 24-Day Challenge and so on are effective for some of the general population because they ask someone that eats junk and sits around all day to consistently exercise and eat normal food every day over 3+ weeks.

The exercises and foods are nothing new; people have been using them for years. Those companies just gave them a plan to change their ways and found a way to hold people accountable.

 

Athletes Need to Consistently Practice Their Sport

Skill development on a consistent basis is critical. I will admit that throughout high school baseball, I did the bare minimum in terms of hitting and throwing and was fortunate enough to still earn a preferred walk-on spot at a Division-I school.

It was not until I stepped foot on campus that I realized just how far behind I was in terms of development. The “show-and-go” mentality was not enough anymore.

All of those guys that were spending extra time in the cages every day, long tossing, making live reads on balls during batting practice and so forth for the past few years were way ahead of me. Relying on natural ability will only take you so far.

It was not until a year of buying in to my coaches’ system and working my tail off while redshirting that I finally earned my chance to play halfway through that following season.

Consistently putting in extra work each day with the right intent will put you in your best position to succeed in your respective sport.

I recently came across this tweet from Coach Aaron Feld who is now a strength and conditioning coordinator for the University of Oregon (and also happens to have the best mustache in the game):

 

I feel this pretty much sums up how you handle yourself on a consistent basis. If you are being honest with yourself, is your “average” where you want to be?

If not, what steps are you taking to improve? For a lot of athletes, I’d say be more consistent with your training, eat real food, drink water, improve sleeping habits, practice skill development and just doing the right thing on a daily basis.

4 Considerations for In-Season Baseball Strength Training

When life becomes busy and your free time starts to dwindle as you work to balance school and your social life with travel, games, and practice, it’s easy for other parts of your routine to get left behind.

One of the most common of those parts to be neglected is strength training. Even though, due to schedule demands, training at the same frequency isn’t possible, it’s still important to maintain some type of strength training routine during the baseball season.

In-season strength training is important for staying healthy and maximizing performance. Other benefits will vary from player to player, but include maintaining strength, mitigating stress placed on tissues during the season, and working to continue their athletic development.

With that said, you can’t treat your in-season strength training program like your off-season workouts.

Guys’ bodies are encountering different volumes of different physiological and biomechanical demands. Because of those demands, you need to appreciate these four considerations in order to set yourself (or your players) up for continued success throughout the season.

Areas of the Body That Encounter the Most Eccentric Stress

Eccentric stress is defined as high amounts of mechanical stress placed on a muscle while it’s lengthening.

High amounts of eccentric stress lead to increased muscle damage, muscle soreness, and potentially a loss of range of motion at the joint(s) where that specific muscle acts upon.

As a player’s throwing volume increases during the season, you need to consider the amount of eccentric stress placed on:

  • The posterior shoulder
  • The elbow flexors
  • The hip external rotators

To gain a better appreciation for this accumulation of stress, look at the equation for the law of repetitive stress below:

If you can effectively manage the “I” in the graphic above, you’ll do a good job at mitigating injury. The body doesn’t separate stress occurred while throwing vs. stress occurred while lifting.

Insult to specific tissues is insult to those specific tissues, regardless of where it occurs. When a player’s shoulder is experiencing high amounts of stress during the season, the gym needs to be a place where you learn to remove insult to that area, instead of giving it more.

This can be done in a variety of ways.

Smarter exercise selection, e.g. push-up variations instead of dumbbell pressing, single-arm lat pulldowns instead of pull-ups, split squats instead of rear foot elevated split squats.

Managing volume (sets x reps) in the gym, e.g. only having 12-15 sets in a training session instead of 24-30.

Increasing mobility and learning to move better. However, understand that during the season you’ll be chasing your tail trying to continually improve range of motion.  Do your best to allow tissues to optimally recover, while still getting a training effect.

Better postural awareness outside of the gym along with soft tissue work.

Educating athletes about adequate recovery between throwing, games, and training.

Prevent Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness


Like what was mentioned above, you don’t want to add more insult to tissues in the gym that are already taking a beating on the field each week.

You also want to make sure players can still train while feeling fresh for their games. In order to do this, you want to ensure your workouts are providing a training effect without causing too much soreness.

Here are a few simple strategies.

  • Shorten the training sessions. Train for 45 minutes instead of 90.
  • Decrease the total number of sets performed during the session.
  • Minimize exercises with high amounts of eccentric stress. Sled pushes and step-ups may be better options than RDLs and walking lunges.
  • Gradually increase volume throughout the program. Start the first week with the lowest volume. Give players’ bodies time to adapt to the exercises. Then slowly increase sets or reps as the month progresses.

Modify Your Direct Rotator Cuff Training

The rotator cuff training you were doing during the off-season should be adjusted while you’re in-season. The increased frequency and volume of throwing means players’ rotator cuffs will be more fatigued in the gym.

This state of fatigue isn’t ideal for performing high volumes of band external rotations and other rotator cuff work every day. Keep it simple, and perform some type of external rotation exercise and rhythmic stabilizations only a couple days a week.

Still Lift Weights


All that considered, players still need to lift weights during the season. You still want to get a training effect and make workouts challenging; you just need to put more consideration into what’s going on outside of the weight room.

While players are training with you 4-6 days a week during the off-season, you’ll have more control over their exercise and activity. But when the season rolls around, that may be limited to 1-2 days a week.

Be sure to take the demands of the season into consideration and get creative with your programming to allow yourself or your players to continue to strength train and remain challenged in the gym.

In Summary

A crucial component of staying healthy and improving as an athlete is balancing work and recovery.

An in-season strength training program can easily shift the pendulum in either direction. A poorly planned program can increase the stress placed on the shoulder, elbow, and/or hip and hinder one’s on-field performance.

A smart, well-thought-out program will allow players to maintain strength, allow tissues to receive adequate rest, and prevent injury by keeping mobility in check.