The development of structural imbalances within the body is very common in unilateral sports.
Structural imbalances referring the size and strength differences from the upper body to the lower body, and from your left side to your right side. And unilateral sports referring to competitive sports that overemphasize only one side of your body repeatedly throughout the competition.
For example, tennis and arm wrestling are obvious sports where people can immediately recognize the strength and size difference from one side of their body to the next.
Unfortunately, baseball falls into the unilateral category as well.
You’re always throwing on one side, pitching on one side, and swinging on one side. These repeated movements over the long haul can create potentially dangerous and performance limiting structural balance differences throughout the body.
Which is why any thoughtful baseball strength and conditioning system needs to create a special emphasis on what goes wrong with baseball players, and how can we train to maximize their performance, balance their bodies, and ensure that these imbalances throughout the body don’t lead to future injury risk.
Off-Season Baseball Training
With elite level baseball players, the initial phase of the off-season should be dedicated to testing the structural balance of the athlete, and testing predictor lifts/movements for baseball-specific performance.
For example, one rep max bench press strength and overall rotator cuff development has a direct correlation with throwing power. So, we would test these parameters in the beginning and then program the athlete accordingly throughout the off-season to eliminate any structural balance differences from one side to the next while simultaneously train these muscles to enhance throwing power.
This is very important to care about because structural balance differences in the body increase injury risk, and with how long and brutal the baseball season can be, you want to be as durable as possible going into it.
Depending on the length of your off-season, you will have a mixed blend between “General” and “Specific” training phases.
General training phases will be dedicated to enhancing your conditioning, fixing your structural balances, and enhancing your strength/hypertrophy in a more total body, general format.
Specific training phases will come after your general work is complete and will provide a training split that utilizes higher intensities, harder conditioning work, more power-based exercises, and a complete speed development sprinting system.
Typical general phase length is 6-12 weeks, whereas the typical specific phase length is 6-8 weeks before we begin the taper and peaking process going into the season.
General Phase Structure
General preparation work will include a natural exercise selection of many compound movements and movements specific to correcting the imbalances in baseball athletes. The average training intensity is lower in the beginning of the off-season, which allows the baseball athlete to perform more total training volume and increase hypertrophy at a faster rate.
With that in mind, here would be the general frequency you would be looking at:
Day 1 – Upper body A
Day 2 – Lower body A
Day 3 – Mobility work
Day 4 – Upper body B
Day 5 – Lower body B
Day 6 – Conditioning + Mobility work
Day 7 – Off
Specific Phase Structure
As the baseball athlete progresses throughout the off-season and transitions from general to specific, the training split needs to be more specific as well. We are looking to create a larger debt in the recovery process, create a massive stimulus for change, and yield the best possible results.
With a greater degree of specificity, here’s what a specific phase should typically look like:
Day 1 – Chest + Back
Day 2 – Lower Body
Day 3 – Mobility work
Day 4 – Arms + Shoulders
Day 5 – Posterior chain + Remedial work
Day 6 – Speed training
Day 7 – Off
To provide some context on the variations differences from general to specific, and why I have a posterior chain day separate from the lower body day, here’s a closer look of what the posterior chain and lower body day would look like for a baseball athlete at this stage of the off-season:
A: BB Back squat 6 x 3, with 3 minutes rest
B1: Kneeling leg curl 4 x 3-5, with 90 seconds rest
B2: Drop lunges 4 x 5-7, with 90 seconds rest
C: Standing calf raise 3 x 10-12, with 90 seconds rest
D: Medicine ball crunch 3 x 10-12, with 90 seconds rest
A: Glute ham raise 10 x 2-3, with 2 minutes rest
B1: Seated good morning 4 x 5-7, with 10 seconds rest
B2: Snatch grip Romanian deadlift 4 x 6-8, with 2 minutes rest
C: Seated calf raise 3 x 20, with 60 seconds rest
D: Hanging leg raises 3 x 15, with 60 seconds rest
Notice the dramatic shift in muscle recruitment between these two sessions?
One is highly quad and core focused, while the other is hamstring, glute, and core focused. Separating these two is highly beneficial during specific training phases as it allows you to apply a greater amount of stress per muscle group per workout, and ultimately create a variation your musculature hasn’t been exposed to yet in the off-season which forces new adaptation.
In-Season Baseball Training
During the in-season, the volume of training should decrease dramatically in order to allow the baseball athlete to perform at the highest level they can.
It’s not what you can do, it’s what you can effectively recover from.
If you’re not recovering during the season, there is no way you are going to perform to your potential. And that’s what we are all here for, to become better baseball players, not better powerlifters.
Here is an example in-season lower body workout to give you an idea of what type of volume and intensity you should be looking for during this time:
A: Back squat 3 x 6-8, with 2 minutes rest
B1: Standing leg curl 3 x 6-8 per leg, with 75 seconds rest
B2: Split squat 3 x 8-10 per side, with 75 seconds rest
C: 45-degree back extension 2 x 12-15, with 75 seconds rest
D: One-leg standing calf raise 2 x 10-12, with 30 seconds rest
*Of important note during the in-season, it’s likely best that you avoid deliberately slow eccentric contractions as these create more soreness than any other form of training. For this reason, they are linked to a reduction in sports performance because you aren’t moving as well as you otherwise would be.
Baseball Training Scheduling Recap
For proper baseball training, it’s critical to have a firm grip on the reality that baseball athletes can have some severe imbalances in their lower body, core, and shoulder development.
Because of this, it’s wise to create a programming structure between general phases which are dedicated to correct these issues and specific phases that are built on baseball-specific performance once the athlete is balanced enough to get the most out of them with the smallest amount of injury risk.
To learn more about how to properly schedule your baseball training check out one of the baseball training programs that we offer!