If you have that laser fast sprinting speed, you can get away with a bad hit here and there simply because you can get to the bases at a fast-enough rate to where the opposing teams network won’t make it to you in time. That’s a powerful tool to have in your arsenal and makes it a no-brainer decision for the coach to have you be the designated “go-to” guy when the team needs to get some momentum going.
Despite popular belief, speed is a trainable quality. Like every other skill though, there is a genetic portion to it. Some people are just born to be fast, others are born to smash homeruns, and others are born to throw 100mph fast balls. But at the end of the day, too many guys feel they are doomed to be slower than their better genetic counterparts.
Getting out of this “poor me” mindset, and adopting a “it’s on me” mindset is where you have to begin. It’s on you to put in the work to become a faster athlete, so get to it. This is no different than strength. Some people are strong the first day they walk in the gym, whereas others have trouble even bench pressing the bar the first time they get in the gym. Yet, some of the strongest people in the world have a story about how weak they were when they first got into weightlifting. Knowing this, they put their head down and grinded to become the strongest versions of themselves they could possibly be.
This is how you must approach your speed development, because this is a two prong approach. You need the mindset for success, but you also need the proper methodology for success. Being driven is one thing, but driven people who train like idiots still won’t progress. This is where the science of application comes in, and this is what speed looks like in a nutshell:
• Alactic power
• Alactic capacity
• Proper warm ups
• Sport specific conditioning
• Sport specific mobility
• Structural balance in the upper and lower body
• Staying injury free
• Nutritional support
• Fatigue management
This looks like a whole lot of stuff right?
Well, it is.
You see, speed isn’t a single trainable quality. Speed is the result of several controlled training stimuli all dialed in to focus on one outcome; blazing speed.
In a proper training program designed for baseball players over the course of both the in-season and off-season, all of these variables are carefully taken into consideration throughout the entire year to consistently ensure you’re improving your performance. Sometimes there are phases where there is a high emphasis on a certain quality, for example, structural balance work immediately after the in-season to kick off phase 1 of your offseason. Other times, there can be a lot of balls in the air as we “peak” your performance for try outs, camps, tournaments, or playoffs.
This controlled application of the many variables of speed is known as periodization. Periodization is a term I will be using in many future blogs so I wanted to define it clearly today. Periodization is the systematic planning of both your on-the-field and in-gym training over the course of a year. The aim is to reach the best possible performance and work on the individual characteristics required for optimal baseball performance. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific periods. In other words, multiple phases of training back-to-back that all build upon each other to keep you moving forward in your progression.
Back to speed.
Since it would be impossible to discuss all of the above variables I just broke speed down to in one blog post, I am going to make future blog posts covering those topics so a more comprehensive outlook can be seen in the big picture. Today, let’s tackle how you need to warm up because without the proper warm up, you’re not going to be going anywhere anytime soon and you will be opening yourself up for injury.
It also makes perfect sense to go over the warm up first before we dive into other strategies for baseball speed as this warm up protocol will enhance everything else you do from here on out.
Properly warming up for training is crucial to your development.
Some guys like to rush through the warm up because they feel it is boring, or unnecessary, or “for wimps”. But trust me, if it was unnecessary or it wasn’t going to improve your performance I wouldn’t be writing about it.
Proper baseball warm-ups increase body and core temperature which is going to improve mobility and in turn decrease your risk for injury. Mobility is important to hold on to during the season because throughout the long competitive season of baseball, players will increase tightness’s in many areas of both the upper and lower body. Additionally, if you’re doing speed training or sprints, the amount of power output and velocity that is required puts you at a high risk for injury if you are not properly warmed up beforehand.
How dumb would it be to get injured during the season in training just because you were too lazy or too impatient to warm up?
Both you and your coach should kick you in the ass if you are missing games and workouts simply due to laziness and impatience.
Once the body has reached top speed in a sprint, the forces coming down on your body each stride can reach 5-6x your own body weight. That is a tremendous amount of weight when you think about it, especially when you consider how many sprint steps are taken during a given conditioning workout, or when running from base to base. Being warmed up to properly absorb these forces is critical to your long-term training life and career longevity.
Additionally, a proper warm up stimulates the central nervous system which is going to improve performance earlier within the session. You know that feeling you get half-way through a workout and you’re like “Man I’m really killing this thing I feel great!”
Or it takes a few sets to get in “The Zone”
That’s your central nervous system waking up.
The objective of a proper baseball warm up is to get that nervous system woken up at the beginning of the session so your performance is strong right from the beginning and all the way through. If we can sooner fully activate the nervous system plus decrease the risk of injury at the same time, I don’t know why anyone would want to skip it.
When it comes to stretching, pre-workout stretching will not increase performance, in fact, it may even decrease your overall strength and power output. Specifically, recent research has shown that passive stretching reduces neural drive in the Type ll motor units. This makes it very difficult for your body to work to its potential, this holds true both in the gym and on the field because baseball players rely heavily on explosive and fast movements.
Flexibility programs, specifically static stretching, should be done on its own day or after training in order to preserve optimal training intensity and performance when you are active.
An effective baseball warm up should:
• Prepare your mind and body for the training session
• Get you in “the zone”
• Wake up your nervous system
• Improve mobility
• Improve joint fluidity
• Increase core temperature
• Increase sympathetic activation of the heart and body
• Improve blood flow
The main objective from an application standpoint here is to get both the upper and lower body warm and loose since baseball players need to utilize the entire body for optimal speed, it’s easy to forget about the importance of your posture, shoulders, and arm drive in speed development but they play a massive role here. Additionally, we need to do this in a dynamic fashion (not static, for reasons outlined earlier) while also utilizing unilateral movements to get both sides of the body warm and ready. A problem that’s easy to run in to in baseball is only doing sport specific movements for your warm up, such as throwing the ball around a bit or swinging the bat a few times.
That’s all good and well, but it’s very imbalanced. Take the nature of pitching for example, you push off one leg and land on the other one for your entire career, while also only running your throwing arm through a full range of movement/warm up stimulus. To take full advantage of priming your body for performance, a more thorough and more balanced approach is required.
EXAMPLE SPEED WARM UP FOR BASEBALL
1. Jog for 3-5mins (change your pace here and shake out your limbs, really try and loosen up)
2. Jumping jacks x 20 (reach right out all the way to the sides and at the top, full range of motion)
3. Body weight squats x 10 (below parallel, weight on the heels. If you can’t go below parallel, holding your arms out straight in front of you or holding a counter weight in goblet position will help)
4. Leg swings forward/backward x 10 per leg
5. Leg swings laterally x 10 per leg
6. Hip circles x 10 each direction
7. Arm circles x 10 large circles in each direction
8. Arm circles x 10 small circles in each direction
9. Cossacks squats x 8 per leg
10. A-skips 10 yards there and back
11. B-skips 10 yards there and back
12. Iron cross x 10 per side (in the beginning, hold each side for 1-2secs as your loosen up. Once you get around 5ish reps per side, you can drop the isometric hold)
13. Lying down single leg hip thrusts x 10 per side
That’s a wrap everybody. Utilize this baseball warm up for your next speed session and I promise you will feel like a million bucks. This warm up is subject to change based on what exactly you’re doing on a day to day basis for speed and what your current abilities are, but following this general formula for a dynamic warm up (upper and lower movements, unilateral movements, jumps, full range of motion, really getting the hips involved, etc) is going to be big for your future performance.