“Hey coach, are you sure we should be doing some of these powerlifting/bodybuilding type movements? Won’t they make me less athletic?”
If I had a nickel…
Designing training and nutrition programs primarily for athletes in my career, I’ve heard this one come up many times from both the athletes themselves and from their parents, but usually from their parents. They seem to somehow understand sports science training theory better than the strength and conditioning coaches themselves. As I typed that out I was joking, but honestly, that’s actually sometimes the reality. *sigh*
It comes naturally to think that being a gigantic bodybuilder will impede your performance in just about every sport that you take part in, and this is absolutely true. There is definitely a point of diminishing returns here, or else bodybuilders and powerlifters would be the best athletes in the world—and we all know that isn’t true.
Weight Training Increases Flexibility
Research has demonstrated that weight training by itself, when performed with proper technique and through a full range of motion, can effectively increase flexibility. NOT decrease it.
The University of North Dakota put this to the test taking 25 subjects and diving them into three groups. One group did nothing (control group), one group did static stretching, and the third group did weight training. After 5 weeks, there was no difference in improvements in flexibility between the static stretching and resistance training group (mobility measurements conducted included hip extension, hip flexion, shoulder extension, and knee extension). But, you can assume the resistance training group got stronger at the same time, which can translate into dozens of benefits towards baseball performance including throwing power, batting power, speed, and injury prevention.
Another study that was conducted in a University in Brazil (Castelo Branco) demonstrated that 8 weeks of resistance training was actually superior to static stretching for improving flexibility.
When weight training properly, you’re repeatedly taking your joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments through full ranges of motion that overtime improves mobility. Some sample exercises that are fantastic for this include split squat variations, stiff-legged deadlifts, chest flys, DB rows, overhead press work, and deep squats. Not even mentioning the baseball-specific mobility routines that I’ve both wrote and recorded videos on in the past.
When we weight train, we do improve our mobility and we back that mobility up with a decreased risk of injury due to now being stronger within those ranges of motion. Although, even when presented this data Ii’s still commonplace in the strength and conditioning industry to make the claims that performing powerlifting or bodybuilding exercises causes you to lose your athleticism or “function” in baseball.
This couldn’t be more untrue.
A Baseball Training Plan is Important
In reality, bodybuilding or powerlifting exercises won’t make you unathletic, but, ONLY doing bodybuilding or powerlifting exercises likely will. Put another way, these movements can and should be a part of a complete baseball performance-based plan, they just shouldn’t be the whole plan.
You will 100% NOT lose your athletic ability if you are regularly doing athletic-based movements.
It’s insane to promote the idea that the nervous system is so fragile that just because you did some isolation exercises during this phase that you now only have the ability to move in that range of motion and you have effectively offset the years of practice you have put into the movement skills you have acquired in your sport.
A coach who barks these types of ideologies hasn’t done a single course in fundamental sports science or exercise physiology.
Rotational exercises, power work, energy system specific conditioning, playing baseball, and baseball specific speed work IN ADDITION to your bodybuilding/powerlifting movements will ensure your newfound muscle still has the neural networking and contracting ability it needs in order to function at top athletic capacities.
Just like doing some biceps curls won’t give you arms like Arnold, doing a few sprints won’t make you run like Usain. It always comes down to the big picture, the body will always adapt to what it is exposed to most over a given period of time (not a single event or single phase of training). How client-centered and baseball specific the program is in the big picture will determine your success.
In many cases, using powerlifting and bodybuilding movements can be dramatically helpful due to their ability to improve total body power, bring up lagging body parts, and get your musculature to the point where it needs to be before you reach the point of diminishing returns.
The sooner you can get there, the sooner you can maximize your potential in this sport. Not to mention the standard dialogue of coaches marketing themselves…
“Hip extension work for explosive movement” – Athletic coach
“Glute and hamstring work for that muscle tie-in” – Bodybuilder
“Accessory lift to get stronger on the deadlift” – Powerlifter
Oh, you mean a stiff legged deadlift?
See how function and purpose can change also just by how you say it?
Many of the so-called bodybuilding/powerlifting exercises are also proper sport-specific strength exercises as well, some people like to just repackage them to sound smarter than the average bear.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the big picture of your yearly baseball periodization. Laying foundational hypertrophy work in order to later be transferred into power, strength, and athletic function is incredibly important to incorporate and it is a complete disservice to the industry to claim silly movements on a BOSU ball should be the exclusive methodology a plan is organized and created from.
This is not function. I couldn’t stress this enough.
Instability-only movements can be effective tools at certain times of the year, but they are also like paint on a house. Hypertrophy work is in many cases the house, and if you don’t have a house, why are you already buying the paint?
Don’t be afraid to utilize powerlifting and bodybuilding movements within your baseball training program. In fact, this is something you should be doing on a regular basis.