In this modern age of inactivity and specializing too early on in single-sport development, it has become a very common occurrence to find youth athletes severely lacking fundamental movement skills.
The overall lack in movement ability can be attributed to too many video games, too many cell phones, and an overall lack of funding in the physical education departments within our school systems. You could also include the overall lack in parks, or the time it takes in order to get to the nearest park.
All of this means less play for our children, which immediately increases the need for structured activity in our kid’s lives – such as baseball and any other sport or event. They all help.
From a structural perspective, you could also attack what you want directly by incorporating some intelligently designed youth baseball training workouts. These workouts can help condition your little athlete by focusing on activities to develop the movement skills necessary to optimize sport performance, minimize injury risk, and improve a specific quality of performance – in today’s article, I want to improve youth baseball agility.
Speed, Agility, and Quickness
Speed, Agility, and Quickness (SAQ) training became a highly popular term in the 80’s – but these styles of training have been around forever. For the past couple of decades, SAQ training has been kind of the “buzzword” coaches will use to discuss movement skill training and sport-specific conditioning.
You’ve seen these before, the drills typically focus on:
- Running mechanics
- Movement efficiency
- High-velocity direction change
- Reaction training
Naturally, these drills are excellent at improving strength, speed, endurance, and overall athletic ability. And specifically in our youth athletes, SAQ training can be excellent at preventing injuries – especially the knees.
We have seen this already in several clinical trials where SAQ drills have improved performance, but also consistently improve joint stability during athletic movement. This is important to care about because the less time you can spend being injured the more time you can spend developing your skills and becoming a better baseball player.
One of the protective mechanisms of action at play here seem to be that the drills allow athletes to reduce the time it takes for them to reach peak torque within the muscle and also reduce their reaction times. Basically, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves all “turn on” before it’s too late and stabilize the knee against the extreme shear and rotational forces of competitive sports.
Therefore, this helps our little baseball athletes not only stay healthy, but improve their own speed, agility, and quickness as well because those shorter reaction times and quicker times to maximal muscle contractions allow for a more explosive athlete. Pretty cool, right?
The Necessary Caveat
Before I give you a workout, I want to first point out that it’s wise to have some base level of strength before ever performing any plyometric/SAQ work.
Having a strength base means different things for different people, and the amount of strength you need to perform SAQ drills properly will depend on a lot of variables.
For the sedentary overweight individual who hasn’t trained or moved with explosiveness in a long time, they will likely need to go through 4-8 week program before ever trying SAQ work in order to lose some weight and build up the strength of their connective tissues so that they can handle the high amounts of force needed to perform these workouts.
But, for active kids, I just like them to be on some sort of bodyweight training program at the same time as well. Check out my writings on youth baseball training in the past and you’ll get a great idea on what I mean here.
There are various levels of entry as well when doing your first SAQ program – so I want to point out that proper progression is vital when starting out. Your youth athletes should be progressed based on successful execution of the drills, and NOT by perceived strength level or age.
A beginner can always start with the basics (jumping jacks, easy cone runs, medicine ball throws from a stable position) as they are all lower level exercises that are safe but still highly effective when you’re a beginner.
Then, progress as needed from there – and if you’re ever in doubt, start with the simplest progression first. Even if that’s too easy, you can use it as a warm-up or teaching tool to move on to the next progression. Easy-peasy.
This program will take you about 30-minutes or so if you’re moving at a good pace and if the athlete has already been taught the technical aspects of the movements, and you can have your athlete perform this workout up to three times per week for 4-6 weeks at a time before they would need to move on in their program design.
I want you to perform all drills as fast as possible, but never at the expense of technique and form. We are always after quality over quantity in our training – the last thing you want to do in your SAQ training is promote poor movement patterns, that’s the exact opposite of what we’re trying to teach here.
Take your time with your youth baseball athletes and progress slowly over the 4-6 week period if you need to, this isn’t a race and slower progression is always more productive than progressing an athlete through something that they aren’t ready for yet.
You will see lots of coaches use ladders, boxes, slide boards, and various other equipment to do their SAQ work – you can use this stuff if you know how, but for simplicities sake, I have created a no equipment needed workout for you to run through so that you can do this anytime, anywhere.
Example Baseball Speed, Agility Quickness Workout For Kids
A: Hot coal runs: 3 x 15 yards
B: Butt kicks: 3 x 15 yards
C: Lateral shuffle: 3 x 15 yards/direction
D: Bear walks: 3 x 15 yards
E: Walking lunges: 3 x 15 yards
A: Skater bounds: 5 x 12/leg
B: Power skipping: 3 x 5/leg
C: Modified T-drill*: Perform 6-8 total run-throughs
D: Figure-8 runs**: 5 x 3 run-throughs in both directions
*Set up four cones all 10yds a part in a T formation. Start at the bottom of the T, then execute a forward run to the top-center cone, then carioca left to the left cone, stop, carioca right to the far right cone, stop, carioca back to the center cone, and then do a backwards run to your starting point at the bottom of the T.
**Set up two ten-foot circles side-by-side to look like the number 8. Run a complete figure 8, starting and finishing at the bottom.
Try using these exercises in addition to your current training program – you will see a dramatic improvement in your kid’s speed, agility, and quickness over the course of this training phase. You should also see some major improvements in their conditioning levels as well.
The best part?
Everyone in the family can do this one!
This gives you the power to make this a “family thing” to keep your youth athlete motivated, and you can all do it together at a local park or even in the backyard. Friends can come, the whole team can come, the coach can come – whatever it ends up being, you’ll have fun, spend good time together, and improve your baseball performance.
You can’t beat that, can you?
We’ve got a Youth Baseball Training Program available if you’re looking for more baseball-specific workouts!