In-Season Training Metrics for the Baseball Player

The high school season is closing in! This was truly a remarkable off-season for me personally. We’ve had multiple athletes put on 15-20 pounds while simultaneously moving better and getting a lot stronger, and we’ve had athletes lose a few pounds while accomplishing the same things.

We said “see ya later” to our professional pitchers Joe Palumbo (Texas Rangers), Anthony Kay (New York Mets), Ben Brown (Philadelphia Phillies), Mike O’Reilly (St. Louis Cardinals), Kyle McGowin (Washington Nationals), and Bruce Kern (Lamingo Monkeys, Taiwan) and we are super excited to see the stellar season they are all going to have!

We also said “hello” to multiple high school athletes who are getting their names on the radar, and have some young men who might hear their name called in June for the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft.

With that being said, none of this will matter if training is put to a halt once March hits.

Fortunately, the official high school season start date was pushed back 2 weeks to accommodate for the brutal northeast weather. This means 2 more weeks of pre-season development!

The entire focus of in-season training is completely different from off-season and pre-season training, and I would like to highlight those differences in this post.


Injury Prevention

The baseball player’s workload volume increases a TON once practice starts. Throwing and swinging 5/6 times a week coupled with cold weather really do not mix well from an injury prevention standpoint.

Overuse injuries are real, and they could be hiding beneath the surface. One aspect of in-season training is maintenance of joint health. Here’s what gets abused repeatedly in the game of baseball:

  • The left ankle gets over worked when performing multiple base running drills, leaving the other muscles on the same side to become overworked, and leaving the other side of the body exposed
  • The pelvis tends to get dumped into an anterior tilt during the swing as well as an overactive quadratus lumborum from lateral tilt, which can lead to low back pain and stiffness during rotation
  • Hamstrings get tired and over worked from changing surfaces of sprinting: turf in the off-season to hard dirt with cleats during practice
  • The posterior shoulder takes a beating from both throwing and swinging a bat
  • The medial elbow also takes a beating from both throwing and swinging a bat
  • The thoracic spine (the mid back) gets out of whack and shows muscle imbalances from swinging, which can also lead to altered muscle firing patterns
  • The cervical spine (the neck) gets over worked from looking over one shoulder for multiple at bats


To prevent any injury from occurring, we must do 4 things religiously well:

  1. Mobilize/desensitize the overactive joints, which will be very common among most of the population
  2. Activate the problem areas associated with baseball movement patterns
  3. Learn how to reset the body and find peace of mind with relaxation techniques/breathing drills
  4. continue to get stronger, develop, and preserve your power stores


There is some great research from the American Sports Medicine Institute discussing movement of the shoulder and elbow and the risk of injury. See here and here.

  • Pitchers should have within 5 degrees of total rotational motionof both shoulders. If your throwing shoulder is significantly less than your other shoulder, you are 2.6 times more likely to sustain an injury.
  • Pitchers should have at least 5 degrees more external rotation in their throwing shoulder when compared to their nonthrowing shoulder. Pitchers with less than a 5 degree difference are 2 times more likely to sustain an injury.
  • Pitchers with a deficit of 5 degrees in shoulder flexion are 2.8 times more likely to sustain an elbow injury.


Performance Enhancement

“If you don’t use it, you lose it”. 

This is the biggest concept to understand when training in-season. You spent all winter developing your strength and power to get ready for the long season.

For every week taken off from training, will be lost, dependent on training age. For the entire high school season being at least 12 weeks, that is at least 36% of your strength gains out the window.

You could train ONCE a week during the season and further maintain and improve your strength numbers to keep your strength around. Easy fix.

However, speed on the other hand tends to be lost a lot quicker. You will be displaying your speed multiple times throughout the week from base running and getting to balls over your head, but if you’re not training your speed at some point then you are limiting yourself as a baseball player.

On the other hand, let’s just think about the aggressive action of the upper body during the throwing motion. Repeated eccentric stress will result in a loss of strength and mobility in some joints. To prevent this loss from being chronic, you need to strengthen these areas and try to get as close to your “baseline” as possible.

I’m a big believer in auto-regulation ever since I got my hands on the research in college. I saw first-hand a group of trainees get stronger and put on even MORE muscle by following an auto-regulated training model as compared to a fixed periodization scheme.

To put it in the simplest terms, auto-regulation can be thought as listening to your body. You are the only one who knows your body better than anyone else. Rather than chasing the numbers on the bar, or the percentages of your 1-RM, try chasing your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) during the season.

Not only will you further enhance your strength and power, but you will also reduce the likelihood of being fatigued from your lift. Get in and get out!


Recovery Management

At Infiniti Sports Performance, we like to use restorative techniques and modalities in our popular recovery room during the season, taking “arm care” to a whole other level. These techniques include, but are not limited to:

  • Myofascial massaging
  • Foam rolling and lacrosse ball trigger point release
  • Cupping
  • Voodoo wrapping
  • Vibration massage
  • Marc Pro systems
  • Mobility training


There are a ton of modalities that we can use to promote recovery for the baseball player, and we usually recommend a recovery session within 48 hours of your last pitch.

While the body should be doing most of the work itself when it comes to recovery, we assist in the process with the techniques and tools listed above.

However, since there are many ways to instill “recovery” work with the baseball player, we do not want them to get married to these concepts. Here is why.

Our body craves adaptation, and it also can get habituated to the same stimulus. Just like how we periodize and vary our strength programs, the same concept goes for recovery work.



Every baseball player needs to take advantage of in-season training. To sum it up, here is why:

  1. Overuse injuries are real, and they could be hiding beneath the surface. One aspect of in-season training is maintenance of joint health
  2. Learn how to reset your body in conjunction with getting stronger and more resilient
  3. Loss of range of motion in the throwing shoulder can lead to an increased injury risk of up to 2.8 times greater than pitchers without motion loss.
  4. For every week taken off from training, usually 3-5% of your strength gains will be lost, dependent on training age.
  5. Following an auto-regulated training model allows the player to still develop while minimizing fatigue

How to Own the 60-Yard Dash

Speed is one of the most important tools in the game of baseball. Everyone wants to get faster in some way, whether it be linear speed or being quicker towards the ball.

There’s a reason why the 60-yard dash is the first test that is performed at every showcase across America – because speed matters!

Believe it or not, you can train yourself to become a faster athlete. Since speed is a skill, it can be trained.

Since the 60-yard dash is the first test that is performed at showcases, it’s important to grab a coach’s attention early on.

To improve on the 60-yard dash, you need to have outstanding relative strength, mobility, acceleration/top speed mechanics, and start mechanics!


How Can You Improve Your 60-Yard Dash?

First, you need to improve your relative strength. The stronger you are per pound of bodyweight, the more force you’re going to be able to apply into the ground with each foot strike. What this does is propel your body further in space, leading to a longer stride.

Here’s a crazy display relative strength – Miami Marlins Outfielder, Matt Brooks Trap Bar Deadlifts 3x his body weight (550 LB)! It should come as no surprise that Matt is also EXTREMELY fast!


Next, you need to MOVE BETTER! Flexibility and Mobility is HUGE!

By improving flexibility and mobility in your hips and legs you will be able to improve extension of your hip, knee, and ankle when accelerating.

Improving your flexibility and mobility goes along with performing a proper warm-up before your 60-yard dash.



Sprint Technique for the 60-Yard Dash

When we perform the 60-yard dash, we go through two different phases of sprinting: acceleration and top-speed.

The first phase of your sprint in the 60-yard dash is known as the acceleration phase.

For this phase, your goal should be to maintain a steep forward lean and a positive shin angle. This will give you the best mechanical advantage to accelerate and dominate the first 10 yards of the 60-yard dash.

Exercises to Improve Acceleration Technique include Sled Drags, Sled Pushes, Hill Sprints, Push-Up Sprint Start, Mountain Climber Sprint Start, Falling Sprint Start


Once you have concluded the acceleration phase of the 60-yard dash, you will approach the Top Speed or max velocity phase.

For this phase, your body angle will shift to more of an upright posture.

You will want your foot strike to be directly underneath your center of gravity and you want to perform more of a cycle action of the lower limbs, as opposed to the drive action we’re looking for with acceleration.

Exercises to Improve Top Speed Running Technique include Flying Sprints, Speed Bounds, Straight-Leg Bounding, Running High Knees


Owning the Warm-Up

Now that we talked about some specific exercises and speed drills you can incorporate in your training to lower your 60-yard dash, we should talk about how to warm up properly before you run your 60.

This is SUPER important because you want to prepare your body in the most efficient way possible so you have the best opportunity to DOMINATE the 60!


Start Technique

Finally, you’re ready to practice your start technique!

Your starting technique is critical because this will determine how much distance you will cover in the first few steps. A strong start can help you lead into a stronger finish.

The start technique shown in the video below is the same starting stance I used to run an elite 60 (6.42 when I played) and continue to utilize with my high school and college athletes that have to run the 60-yard dash for scouts.


By improving on your mobility, mechanics, and strength, you’ll be a step closer into getting faster.

In his newest 8-week Speed Program, Six Stages of Speed, Alex covers multiple exercises and modalities to use that will help you own the 60-yard dash.

If you’re a baseball player that is serious about training for better speed, give the program a try!

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.

In-Season Training Guidelines For The Baseball Player

When training baseball players in-season, it’s very important to consider that the body does not know the specific stress that is being put upon it. Practicing and playing multiple days out of the week is still stress on the body, so we need to take that into account with our training.

The main purpose of this article is to provide exercise selection guidelines so you don’t put any unnecessary wear and tear on your body during the baseball season.

The chart posted below was put together by the late Canadian sprint coach Charlie Francis. This chart shows different movements and their varying degree of CNS (Central Nervous System) demand.

Note: For the purposes of illustrating the significance of CNS demand, it must be assumed that all movements listed in the chart are performed as fast as possible and against maximal resistance.

So, what does this chart mean for YOU?

You only have so much energy you can expend. When you’re in-season you want most of that energy used on the field playing your sport. This chart is a great self-check for you guys to see the varying demand each movement places on your CNS.

For example, if you’re playing three to four games per week, it’s safe to say you’re sprinting at maximal intensity, throwing a baseball as hard as possible, and swinging a bat near maximal intensity in each game. You NEED to account for this stress especially since all those movements are highly taxing on your nervous system.

To account for this CNS stress and to maximize on-field outputs I believe your in-season training should refrain from any sprinting or explosive power movements.

Exercises that have a high CNS stress include:

  1. Sprinting (Outside of playing in games)
  2. Vertical and Horizontal Jumping
  3. High Volume Medicine Ball Throws
  4. High Volume/Intensive Plyos
  5. Cleans, Snatches, Clean and Jerk

Examples of exercises that you can include in your in-season training that may not result in a lot of CNS stress include:

  1. Trap Bar Deadlift (60-80%) – Drop bar at the top to avoid eccentric portion of exercise
  2. Sumo Deadlift (60-80%) – Drop at the top to avoid eccentric portion of exercise
  3. Pin Squat
  4. Barbell Hip Thrust (Supine & Upper Back on Bench)
  5. Other Hip Thrust Variations (Supine Leg Whip, Single-Leg Hip Thrust, etc.)
  6. Supplementary Pull (Chest Supported Rows, 1-Arm DB Row, DB Pullover etc.)
  7. Supplementary Push (Push-Up Variations, Landmine Press Variations
  8. Sled Drags
  9. Sled Pushes
  10. Step Up Variations
  11. DB Reverse Lunge (Goblet or DB)
  12. Upper Back (BPA’S, Banded Face Pulls, etc.)
  13. Low Intensity Core Stability Variations (Plank Variations, Pallof Variations, Chop Variations etc.)

When training in-season, it is all about managing stress and fatigue for your athletes.

Hopefully now you can preserve your strength, limit muscular soreness, and dominate on the field!


Combining Strength Training And Throwing Programs For Baseball Pitchers

The increases in pitching velocity and the distance guys are covering when they go yard tells one thing for sure… Guys are getting in the gym and getting bigger, faster and stronger. Period.

That’s great. As a matter of fact, nothing could make me happier as a strength and conditioning coach. But let it be said, with training comes a responsibility on educating athletes as to how and when is the best way and time to incorporate it.

This gets especially tricky when it needs to be integrated with a throwing program. A great program should incorporate throwing and strength training as ONE program and not viewed as two separate entities. Let me try and briefly explain why one hand washes the other.

When an athlete lifts, he is spending valuable energy that he must pay back via recovery before going at it again the next time. Much like paying back a debt.

As we get closer to the season and throwing is introduced alongside lifting, overall training volume is increased and the amount of debt to payback is doubled. Stack up enough debt, and both an athlete’s recovery and performance will tank.

Any strength training program that’s combined with pitching / throwing needs to be highly coordinated to be effective.

This is the first thing we need to understand when we start putting together a strength and throwing program. As each athlete’s size, strength and other characteristics differ, so must the overall program. We break this down into three parts:

  • Physical Preparation
  • Skill Preparation
  • Periodization

Let’s look at these three separately…

Physical Preparation

This is strength, mobility and power. This is where a lot of guys miss the boat.

These goals will likely create the greatest initial performance improvements as well as lay down a “grass roots” foundation of strength and mobility for the future when training protocols get more advanced. It also goes a long way in helping to reduce the risk of injury.

An example of this would be a 6’2” high school junior weighing 165 lbs. with a less than average strength numbers in the weight room.

For this athlete, playing fall ball and spending that much-needed energy on the weekends pitching becomes not only counterproductive to his physical preparation strength-wise, but adds extra and unnecessary mileage on the arm.

Getting in the weight room earlier (September / October) to work on some hypertrophy prior to starting a strength phase in November / December should be the priority and just what the doctor ordered.

Skill Preparation

Video Analysis and Mechanical Remapping

The use of video analysis helps us break down mechanics, not only from a bio-mechanical standpoint but also from a sequencing and delivery view point. From there, we can better prepare a set of individualized throwing correctives into the throwing program.

Timeline and Throwing Sessions

I am not going to get into the specifics of the timeline too much here, but during a four-month off-season program there should an ample shutdown period which would allow for a heavier lifting schedule. Here is a summary timeline from November – February:

Frankly, I think it’s a must that pitchers throw 2x per week in preparation for the spring. Throwing 1x per week does not allow the connective tissue of the arm to develop the resiliency necessary to resist the demands of a high-level throw.


Pitch Design and Development

We have had a Rapsodo baseball camera in-house for a while and it has changed how we evaluate certain aspects of pitching. We are discovering things about pitchers that were unfathomable just a year ago without this technology.

You can use the information from a Rapsodo in a long-term development plan with pitchers in ways unheard of even a few years back, both for improving their existing repertoire and also in new pitch design and development. Here is a typical screenshot from the device:

While strength training should never be out of the equation for this athlete, it should share the spotlight with more sport-specific work such as correcting mechanical issues, addressing his mobility and increasing force production through plyometric training.


Let me start by saying this. Both types of athletes need to spend time in the weight room and working on throwing movements and skills throughout the off-season.

However, each athlete simply needs to spend the bigger part of his time on what he needs the most to optimize performance. This is all about individualized programs and customization.

A complete initial physical assessment and throwing evaluation will give us the roadmap and help us make the best use of the time spent with our athletes.

On a final note, please make sure you’re getting a thorough assessment to determine where you fall on the physical / skill preparation profile. Your off-season program should be designed with this in mind and most importantly make sure it’s performed by a highly qualified PT/strength and conditioning coach or AT with a great track record.

See ya’ in the gym…



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.

Acute to Chronic Workload Ratios in Baseball

Baseball season is just around the corner and as practices fire up, coaches should remember to focus on the process of gradual rises in workloads.

Whether it’s in the weight room or on the field, all aspects of sport development are stress on the body.

As stress builds, so does an athletes reaction to it.

On the one hand, as stress rises gradually so does the athlete’s tolerance. With increased tolerance means the ability to withstand longer, and more intense workloads.

However, on the other hand, raising the intensity or volume too quickly results in fatigue, and eventual breakdown. All coaches are prone to jumping the gun. I’m no exception.

Realizing what your athletes are prepared for can go a long way in keeping everybody on the field and out of the training room.

An athlete’s best ability is durability and not being on the field doesn’t lend itself well to being a great baseball player. Excessive increases in training loads too quickly are highly correlated to soft tissue injuries.

Recent research, from Tim Gabbett especially, has shown the high correlation between rapid rises in workloads over the norm and breakdowns. This is known as the acute versus chronic workload ratio.

Pre-season practices ramp up in January for many. December and January become hugely important months to prepare for the stress and strain of what’s to come.

The most time away from coaches seeing their athletes happens during that same December, January period.

No other sport begins a season following a long layoff on break away from coaches and support staff.

Football programs train in the summer all the way up to camp. Basketball teams are in the middle of a school year when their season begins. Baseball returns from a long layoff and is thrust into their season.

It presents extremely unique challenges when it comes workloads and preventing injuries.

Acute vs Chronic Workload Ratio

The acute training load is the current load on the body from training.

The chronic training load is the long-term training load over the past weeks, and months that an athlete has been doing.

We’re not just talking about the weight room when we talk about training load. This applies to practices, weight room, throwing, everything. The acute versus chronic basically boils down to what they’ve done versus what they’re currently doing.

Take the example of a pitcher that did no throwing over Christmas break and the first week back is expected to reach max long toss distances and throw a bullpen. They essentially went from 0 to 100 in a matter of days. They have not prepared for what they are currently doing.

Sharp rises in workloads result in stiffness, soreness, and increased injury risks.
What does all this really mean in terms of planning practices?

Gradually increase the workloads. Gradually increase volumes and intensities. You’re asking for trouble by starting the year’s practices off with a bang if your athletes haven’t been doing anything but playing video games.

A study by Posner in 2011 over a seven-year period for MLB players show that the large majority of injuries occur in the first month of the year.

How Acute and Chronic Workload Ratios Impact Baseball Performance

The study didn’t include spring training injury rates but we could safely assume from the data that the injury rates are most likely even higher in March. Most overall injuries during a season happened in April and regressed the rest of the year.

The reason is athletes’ bodies are adjusting to the new stress.

In many cases, the athletes aren’t fully prepared walking into spring training. Workloads spike, and eventually something fails from being over-stressed.

Whether a muscle strain, or a ligament tear, spiked workloads will catch up to the athlete.

Baserunning Workload

It never fails when pre-seasons start up one of the biggest injuries are hamstring and quad strains.

These dominate injury reports across the board in the first month from the high school level to MLB spring training.

Athletes often fall into 3 buckets: they haven’t run, they have run but haven’t sprinted repeatedly at full speed, or they have sprinted at full speed but haven’t ran the curve of the base paths. All three leave athletes unprepared.

We combat this problem with tempo runs gradually increasing intensity from sub-maximal speeds to full speed bases over the course of several weeks leading up to the start of the year.

Athletes start with apron runs to adjust to running on a curve. These runs are usually at 65-75% of full speed around the dirt edge of the infield.

From there we move into bases and gradually keep building intensity to max speed runs.

Remember this progression happens over the course of days and weeks, not just one or two workouts. Build intensity gradually.

Throwing Workload

It should be obvious to coaches that prep for the season must start far in advance of the first practice for pitchers but you would be surprised.

Preparation is at the peril of holiday breaks for most high school athletes. Often, it’s on the athlete themselves to take care of their throwing.

Southern states start up official practices mid-January. Athletes usually rush throwing programs through January to be mound ready for practice day one.

This typically comes from the “I forgot to throw” over Christmas break. Mix terrible preparation and large escalating workloads on the arm and you’ve got a recipe for injury.

Appropriately dosed and progressed throwing programs may be the single most important aspect for keeping your team on the field. Muscles heal relatively easily compared to ligament strains, and tears.

Every year, UCL’s are at peril in the elbow from callously thrown together programs that don’t incorporate a gradual progression of intensity.

It’s not always on coaches, athletes are just as responsible, if not more, for taking care of their throwing during these breaks. Too much too soon and you’ll be sidelined.

Weightroom Workload

All forms of training are stress to the athlete regardless of where it takes place.

The weight room is no different in that we want gradual progression of intensity.

Starting athletes off the first day with percentages that reflect their pre-holiday maxes are often asking for trouble.

Young, novice athletes will lose strength quickly following a layoff. It’s not unusual for a high school athlete to lose 10-15% in a matter of weeks.

The less trained the quicker the residual effects disappear. Lowering a max number to 90% of previous capabilities is one way to adjust for those who haven’t trained over the break.

Another method is to drop the relative intensity. If you would normally start athletes at week 1 at 70% for 4-6 reps, have them use 70% for 2-3 reps.

We’re still using 70% but now we’ve lowered the relative intensity. Obviously, performing 2 reps is much easier than 4 or even 6 reps at that 70%.

Technology has taken over everything in the past few years. Resources can be thin at many schools making some coaches feel like their missing out on these expensive high powered tools.

Coaches must realize they don’t need a fancy method of measuring readiness. Common sense should take over in most cases.

The coach’s eyes are often the most important tool adjusting practices and training sessions.

A good coach can tell when athletes are tired and run down. Having the ability to know when to pull back on the reigns is integral.

Know your expectations of the pre-season period. If it’s to have simulated competition as far as games, and live at-bats from the get go make sure you’ve prepped your athletes to face those stresses when they start up and you’ll watch early year pains and strains go by the wayside.

Want to Monitor Your Own Acute to Chronic Throwing Workload Ratios?

The Motus sleeve is an amazing device that you can wear while throwing to measure the force on the arm and stress on the ligament. It has the ability to monitor the forces while throwing, but also to calculate your own specific acute to chronic throwing workload ratio. Then, the app will give you guidance on how to adjust your throwing program to optimize your results.

Motus has a special $10 off coupon code for EBP readers. Click below to learn more and enter coupon code ELITEBASEBALL: