In my most recent article, I broke down the different components of baseball speed and gave some examples of how you can very effectively train speed through “in the gym” exercises.
It can be hard to conceptualize sometimes, but, it is very possible to get faster at running without always just running.
Sure, sprint exercises can and should be a part of your baseball training periodization, but, a proper understanding of what drives baseball sport-specific performance would also include a well-designed resistance training program (not just for strength, but also for speed).
As a quick reminder, the three elements that dramatically separate fast runners from slow runners are:
- Hip extensor muscles (hamstrings, adductors, glutes)
- Hip flexor muscles (psoas and rectus femoris)
- Knee flexor Muscles (hamstrings)
Last time we covered the importance of hamstrings first as I believe it to be the most underrated and therefore needed to be discussed first.
Today, I want to take the conversation a step further and dive into the hip extensors so I can teach you about real explosive speed.
Explosive Training for Baseball
When you’re sprinting to first base, all of the muscles associated with hip extension produce the majority of their force while your foot is still on the ground.
The length of this time period (which is known in sports science as “ground contact time” during a sprint stride) is incredibly short and is much less than the time required in order for these muscles to reach their peak power output.
We know from the science of strength transfer that the gains you make from training are specific to both the velocity you move at and the joint angles you are training in.
For example, when we train at very high velocities, like doing box jumps, we improve our ability to produce force at high speeds much better than say a heavy barbell back squat would (which requires very low velocities).
The other way around is true as well.
Using heavy loads in the gym does not transfer nearly as well as you would hope to high-velocity force production.
Even though it does still increase fiber recruitment, it does not increase the rate of fiber recruitment. So essentially, you have the engine of a MACK truck, but unfortunately the speed and acceleration of one as well.
Long story short, for baseball specifically, hip extension can and should be trained using high-velocity explosive exercises to get the best possible result in terms of both joint angles and velocities-used during running.
Vertical and Horizontal Baseball Speed Exercises
Because of the various reasons discussed above, you will never reach your force production potential without a large amount of hip extension-based power exercises.
This isn’t just opinion either, this is very abundant within the sports science data that we have on these types of exercises and how they translate into improving functional outputs in athletes.
For example, let’s just have a look at the biomechanics of it all.
When you are in a starting position, your body is running at a 45-degree angle, so naturally, you are utilizing more vertical force production to fight gravity.
But, the more and more you “stand tall” as you approach your top speed, the more and more active horizontal force production becomes.
In fact, horizontal force production has been found to be at its highest during both top speed and deceleration.
Meaning, not only can horizontal force production improve your top speed, but it is also going to have a major impact on your agility (deceleration is a major component to optimizing agility).
So, if you want to make it easy on yourself to understand, just remember:
Vertical power exercises help more so with explosive starting speed and acceleration, whereas horizontal power exercises help more so with top speed and deceleration.
This is why it’s no mistake that over a dozen studies correlate both vertical and horizontal force production to improving speed outputs in athletes.
Here are some of my favorite exercises to incorporate into a baseball training program for all of the above purposes:
- Box jumps
- Single leg box jumps
- Squat jumps
- Split squat jumps
- Squat variations
- Trap-bar jumps
- Broad jumps
- Single leg broad jumps
- Sled pulls
- Hamstring curl variations
- Good mornings
- Kettlebell swings
If you want to improve your speed to elite levels, you’re going to need to get on a comprehensive Baseball Speed Program.
This blog only touches upon some of the science and nuance behind speed programming, but there is much more than meets the eye.
If you’re ready and willing to go through a completely “done for you” program to blow up your speed, then let’s get started now.