One of the most powerful tools that you could ever have in baseball is if you are well-known as the player who can steal bases – and they still can’t stop you.
In this article I’m going to teach you how to steal a base through base running specific speed training that isn’t talked about often by baseball trainers and coaches.
Very few baseball players work on developing their ability in this area because it is something that is very difficult to recreate in training, but, if you understand sport specific training and how the human body operates in athletic outputs – it is something that is both highly understandable and highly trainable.
When it comes to proper functional training for optimal baseball performance, we have to concern ourselves with four primary movement patterns:
- Changing levels
For the most part, if you understand these terms at an elite coaching level, this completely dominates how you create your training programs year-round to support the varying specific needs of improving skills.
We will discuss 1, 2, and 3 in the future – for now, since I want to teach you exactly what you need to do in order to start stealing more bases, we are going to place the focus in this article on the importance of rotation.
The Importance Behind Rotational Training
If you want to start stealing more bases, you’re going to need a couple things:
- You’re going to need an explosive starting speed
- You’re going to need to be able to flawlessly change your direction at high velocities in a split second
Both of these factors rely very heavily on your ability to powerfully and effectively rotate.
Although, rotational ability is not limited to stealing bases. When I talk rotation, I want you to think both “changes of direction” (which represents what most would refer to as agility) and swinging a bat (think about all the rotation involved within both the upper and lower body during a swing).
Rotational power and strength are arguably the most critical movement factor you could attain in baseball. It also makes up some of the replays we love the most – swinging a bat for a home run or exploding away and faking out your opponent while stealing a base in the 9th inning. This is all rotation.
The reason why I place such a massive level of importance behind this movement pattern is that it is crucial towards power generation.
Rotational movement also “hides” in the other primary movement patterns as well.
For example, if you analyze human locomotion during a sprint you will quickly realize that the upper body moves in opposition to the lower body; that is, the right arm comes forward at the same time your left leg does.
If you study the pitching motion of a right-handed pitcher, you will see the left leg and right arm come together in the windup and then separate as the pitcher steps toward home plate into the cocking phase of the pitch. As the pitcher’s hips turn to home plate to begin accelerating the ball, the right arm comes towards the left leg again during the follow-through.
If you study the batting motion, a good batter will separate the right shoulder from the left leg during the backswing and stride. Then as the hips rotate and the bat comes through the impact zone, the right shoulder comes towards the left hip.
If you have been reading very carefully, you will notice all of the similarities here between these examples:
- Changes of direction occur when you are at a fixed point on the ground
- You need a dominant point of ground contact (usually a single leg) in order to propel yourself in a rotational direction (for example, driving off the ground with your left foot when facing the pitcher from first base and you want to rotate explosively into the base path to steal second)
- After the initial drive from the point of ground contact, all propelling movement will be driven by rotation first within the hips – and then followed up by rotation within the shoulders
- The pattern of ALL these is cross-directional. Meaning, it is driving from left hip to right shoulder, and right hip to left shoulder (think of the opposite leg stride and arm pump during a sprint, this is cross-directional rotation movement propelling you forward)
- Changing direction quickly to steal a base requires decelerating one area of your body and immediately accelerating another area of your body in an opposite direction
- Your core is what bridges the gap between all of this rotational and cross-directional power and is a major key towards baseball performance development
Training Rotation to Steal Bases Like A Pro
From all of this discussion on the cross-directional and rotational importance on your ability to have a quick starting speed and “on the dime” change of direction ability to steal bases – it’s obvious that in order to properly train this in our programs we need to activate these same muscles and movement patterns.
When training these patterns, utilizing unilateral movements alone will already provide tons of rotational benefit.
This means things like single arm presses, split squat variations, reaching lunges, single arm rows, etc… all feature enough cross-direction (because one side is constantly stabilizing and decelerating while the other is contracting and accelerating) to provide a functional sport specific result.
Most people don’t see that because you’re not physically rotating during the movement – but on a true biomechanical level, you are getting a highly transferable result.
Although, if we get deeper into the training principle of specificity, you can clearly see that adding more lateral movement and more actual rotation to your training would further improve functional outputs in baseball.
This means working in exercises such as the mirror lateral shuffle drill, skater bounds, lateral reaching lunges, medicine rotational scoop tosses, diagonal choppers, and rotational choppers.
These will all provide a more targeted training result to make you more agile, have a quicker starting speed, and be able to change directions in between the bases much faster.
Example Base Stealing Workout
The exercises below are something you could add to any well-designed baseball training program to start working the muscles and energy systems responsible for allowing you to become unstoppable out there and start stealing bases at will.
Of course, I have not included a workout below which outlines the other ways in which rotational training benefits baseball (improving bat swing, batting power, pitching, etc) as this was a base-stealing focused blog.
Add this workout in 1-2x per week and get after it!
A1: DB lateral reaching lunges: 3 x 10/side with 60 secs rest
A2: Single leg lateral wall squat with stability ball: 3 x 10/side with 60 secs rest
B1: Cable (or) Band horizontal choppers: 3 x 10/side with 60 secs rest
B2: Cable (or) Band diagonal choppers: 3 x 10/side with 60 secs rest
C1: Skater bounds: 3 x 4/side with 60 secs rest
C2: Rotational medicine ball scoop toss: 3 x 4/side with 60 secs rest
*A1 and A2 indicate a superset (as do B1, B2, and C1, C2). This means you will perform one set of A1, rest, perform A1, rest, and go back to A1, for until you’ve completed all given sets in the superset.
If you’re ready for more baseball workouts that will help you develop the speed to steal more bases check out our baseball training programs.