With baseball season right around the corner, now is the time to hit your peak. To do so, you have to transition from off-season training to preseason workouts. Too often, I see baseball players make excellent gains in the off-season, only to lose it all or break down during the season because of a poor transition into the preseason.
The problem is that most baseball players train the same way regardless of the season; and when they realize they cannot do the same workout year-round, they get discouraged and stop lifting altogether. This is a huge mistake. If you don't take care of it, your body will break down (injuries, torn muscles, etc.).
The off-season is when you focus on the qualities that make you a great athlete, including strength, power and speed. It ends about six weeks before the season starts, which is when the preseason begins. The goal of preseason training is to bridge the gap between weight room and on-field strength. The gains you made in the off-season will not enhance your performance unless you can get them to carry over to your sport. Follow my three tips (below) to maximize your transition to the preseason.
1) Incorporate baseball-specific skill work, such as hitting, throwing and position work.
- Tee work
- Soft toss
- Batting practice
Player Position Drills
- Catchers should practice receiving the ball, footwork to throw to all bases and blocking the ball
- Pitchers should focus on fielding practice and pickoff moves
- Infielders should focus on footwork drills for fielding ground balls and getting their feet set for cutoff throws and double plays
- Outfielders should focus on hitting cutoff men and tracking down fly balls
- Practice taking leads
- To avoid overuse injuries, run bases in both directions
- Build up arm strength with long tosses
- Build up position-specific arm strength
2) Use odd objects and imperfect training methods.
Odd object training refers to the use of nontraditional gym equipment such as truck tires and sandbags. Odd object training effectively bridges the gap from the weight room to the field, because your body is forced to use muscles that may be overlooked during a traditional training program. Below is an example of a sandbag exercise that will help bridge the gap between weight room strength and the baseball diamond.
- Assume athletic stance with feet slightly wider than hip width, holding sandbag at hips
- Bend at hips and knees and lower until sandbag touches ground; keep back straight and head up
- Explosively extended hips and knees and swing sandbag over shoulder
- Lower and repeat on opposite site
- Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 3-5x3-6 each side
"Imperfect training" is a term coined by James "Smitty" Smith and Joe DeFranco. In a nutshell, it means training for unpredictable conditions. Below is a sample imperfect exercise that will prepare you for the unpredictable nature of baseball.
Mixed Kettlebell Carries
- Assume athletic stance
- Hold two kettlebells, one overhead and one in rack position; walk for specified distance
- Switch sides; walk for specified distance
- Hold both kettlebells in rack position; walk for specified distance
- Hold both kettlebells at sides; walk for specified distance
Sets/Distance: 3x25-50 yards
3) Perform more jumps and sprints.
Through your off-season program, you should have built a solid foundation of strength and power. To make them more baseball-specific, you need to prioritize in the preseason. No matter what position you play, you must be able to move your feet laterally. One way to develop this is by jumping side-to-side. Sprints should be done two ways: linear (in a straight line) and non-linear (running around the bases).
When the goal is speed and power development, make sure to always take a full rest when performing sprints and jumps. Below is a lateral jumping exercise that will help bridge the gap between weight room strength and the baseball diamond.
- Start in athletic stance
- Load up back leg and then explosively jump off leg
- Land on opposite leg; repeat movement
Sets/Reps: 3-5x3-5 each side
To avoid overtraining during the preseason and to peak properly for the season, follow the three tips above. Just remember: your body has a limited amount of energy, so perform these exercises no more than two to three times per week. If you start to incorporate more baseball drills, sprints and jumps, you will have to cut back on the number of days you train and/or the amount of weight you lift. Once the season starts, you will have to cut back even more on jumps and sprints, and focus on more pre-hab and rehab. Do you have any questions? Shoot me an email at Joe@meglioperformance.com.
Joe Meglio is a strength and conditioning coach at the Underground Strength Gym in Edison, N.J. He is STACK's Expert of the Month for February 2012. Mentored by one of the brightest minds in the strength and conditioning industry, Zach Even-Esh, Meglio has worked with athletes at the high school, college and professional level. He specializes in training baseball players. Besides being a strength coach, Meglio competed in his first powerlifting meet in 2010, setting the New Jersey state record for Squat, Deadlift and total in his weight class and division. He graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2011, following his final season as captain of the baseball team. For more information, please go to MeglioFitness.com.
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