In this article, I am going to present to you a very unique exercise for improving your running endurance in baseball.
Additionally, it is going to complete the three-part series we have gone through together on how we can build baseball specific speed through understanding the science of strength transfer.
To catch you up to speed, I have been doing a series on the three main movement drivers that separate the fastest runners from the slowest runners, these components are:
- Hip Extension (hamstrings, adductor magnus, and the glutes)
- Hip Flexion (psoas major and rectus femoris)
- Knee Flexion (hamstrings)
To this point, I have done a very comprehensive breakdown on both hip extension and knee flexion and how those directly correlate to improving your overall baseball speed and agility.
Some of the exercises may have surprised you in those articles regarding their functionality in a sports setting, this article will be no different.
I want to open your eyes as to how deep real baseball-specific programming can get and why it’s not just all about “go do some sprints”.
Sure, that’s a part of your speed program, but it should never be the whole program.
So without further ado, let’s complete the final segment in this series and analyze why you need to start caring about hip flexion if you want to improve your baseball speed.
Understanding Hip Flexion and Baseball Speed
The hip flexors are several muscles that bring your legs and trunk together in a flexion movement.
They allow you to move your leg or knee up towards your torso (think about when your knee drives upwards when walking up the stairs), as well as to bend your torso forward at the hip (like when you take a bow).
During sprinting the hip flexor muscles produce the majority of their force while the foot is in the air (hence, driving the leg upwards towards the torso).
Put another way, they are what drives the leg upwards after the leg has driven force into the ground in order to propel your body forward.
Once you drive force into the ground to propel yourself forward, you are in full hip extension. According to time motion research, the degree of this hip extension is much faster in elite sprinters.
After full extension has been reached, the baseball athlete has to drive that leg back upwards as fast as possible in order to take another stride at equal or greater velocity as the last stride.
Again, according to time motion research, this upward driving motion tends to reach a point where the thigh is just 20 degrees away from being completely parallel with the ground.
Why You Need To Train The Hip Flexors
You can only improve an athlete’s speed through two different mechanisms, you can either:
- Improve their stride length (which is the distance you take per sprinting stride)
- Improve their stride frequency (which is how many strides you take per unit of distance)
Hip extension really allows you the explosiveness you need to improve your stride length, but hip flexion allows you to have the fastest recovery rate possible in between strides so that you can take another stride sooner than you otherwise could have.
This is exactly why the hip flexors are so important for baseball speed, stride frequency is literally 50% of the speed equation. Your stride length means nothing unless you have the stride frequency to back it up.
All of this biomechanic talk serves as a reference to let you know that you need to be able to move your hip at very high velocities through a very large range of motion.
The hip starts in a lengthened position (during hip extension when you’re driving off the ground) and ends in a shortened position (during hip flexion when you’re driving your knee up to take another stride).
End ranges of motion are met, and the hip must be strong and stable in both a lengthened and shortened position if you want to be as fast as possible during a game.
Because of this, hip flexion is best trained using very high-velocity movements since this is exactly what you would be doing in a game setting, thus, creating an exercise that will have the greatest amount of transfer to a game setting.
My favorite exercises for training the hip flexors at high-velocities for baseball speed are:
- Wall sprints
- Butt kicks
- Resisted knee drives (band, cables, and ankle weights all work here)
- Banded leg overs
Many of these exercises can be easily incorporated into a speed or conditioning workout and will pay major dividends towards improving your baseball speed.
I hope you enjoyed this three-part article series on unique ways in which you can start building your baseball speed up in your strength and conditioning training program.
The hip flexors are something that fatigue very quickly during running, which is why I categorize them as an endurance exercise for baseball athletes rather than just a pure speed exercise, even though hip flexor training does accomplish both simultaneously.
If you would like to see exactly how I program to get the best possible results for baseball athletes, make sure you check out the programs page and get started today.