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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Four Little-Known Baseball/Softball Training Secrets, PART 1

By Steve Zawrotny


Train for POWER


Baseball and softball are not games of strength, but of EXPLOSIVE POWER. Just how strong do you have to be to pick up a 5 oz baseball, or a 30 oz bat? On the other hand, propelling that 5 oz ball 90+ mph, or hitting a ball 400+ feet with that 30 oz bat requires tremendous power - the ability to perform work. In this case, the work of playing baseball and softball at a high level.

In both games, while they can be slow in duration, the various activities that comprise a game are short and quick. Rarely does a play take longer than 6 or 7 seconds. There are exceptions, of course - an inside the park homer, or an extended rundown or "pickle." But, for the most part, things happen very quickly on the diamond.

Why does this matter to you?

Well, let me ask you this: how often have you heard coaches tell pitchers to condition themselves by running laps - Long, Slow Distance (LSD) training, or to spend a lot of time pedaling a bike?

If you've been around as long as I have, you've seen this a lot. Here's the problems: these coaches (and many players) incorrectly think that LSD (or aerobic) conditioning improves player performance. In fact, studies show the aerobic demands (the amount of oxygen needed by the body) of baseball and softball to be very low.

In fact, the oxygen uptake of a baseball pitcher (the most active position) is a low 45% of the maximum needed. Apparently the rest pitchers get between each pitch and in-between innings is sufficient to replenish the main energy system used.

Baseball and softball are considered to be "alactic anaerobic" sports in terms of the energy system utilized, with pitchers in both sports the busiest players on the field. What this means is that there is little to no lactic acid buildup as a result of this activity. That burning feeling you get when you lift weights really hard is a result of a buildup of lactic acid, a by-product of that (and other) short-term, intense types of exercise.

Have you ever heard of a ball player complaining of this problem?

Consider the baseball pitcher: it takes about 0.15 seconds from the time the front foot contacts the ground until the ball is released. Very little lactic acid can be built up in this short burst of activity. The primary source of fatigue in pitching is not metabolic, but neural. [1]

Again, why does this matter to you?

Because studies show that LSD training significantly detracts from power, strength, and speed development.

Reduce these characteristics, and you educe your ability to throw with high velocity, hit with power, and run at high speed. Look at the bodies of sprinters vs. marathoners. You don't have to be built like a sprinter to be successful as a ball player, but this illustrates how training affects one's body, conditioning, and hence, ability to perform.

Put another way: Train Slow, Perform Slow.

As mentioned earlier, aside from the game itself (which can be be long and slow) things happen quickly on the ball field. Playing softball and baseball requires high velocity, ballistic movements like throwing a fast, well located pitch, taking a hard swing at this high velocity pitch, and exploding out of the batter's box to sprint down the first base line.

So how should you train?

To augment the aforementioned activities, concentrate on developing power, flexibility, and speed. Weight lifting, plyometrics, flexibility, and short burst sprint interval training should form the basis of conditioning for baseball and softball players.

[1] Gambetta, V. A Big Windup. Training & Conditioning, p. 43 March 2003

Steve Zawrotny, MS, CSCS 405.373.3253 FREE REPORT: "Harmful Resistance Exercises Baseball/Softball Players Should Avoid" VISIT:

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