I’ll spare you the build-up and tell you this mistake right out of the gates, baseball players have to stop being so inflexible with their day-to-day program design.
Some days are always going to be better than others, in no sport is that truer than with baseball due to the brutal playing schedule of the competitive season.
If you’re going to the gym with exact sets, exact reps, and exact weights you MUST hit for that day, you’re more often than not going to run into two major problems.
- If it’s a bad day and you’re starting to get fatigued, forcing yourself through the workout with no alterations will just dig you a deeper recovery hole that you have to get out of. If you’re already having issues recovering from your workouts and game schedule (which I’m assuming is yes since that got you here in the first place), this is exactly what you don’t want. All you’ll accomplish is getting frustrated that you “are weaker today” and “just don’t feel it” – all the while increasing your injury risk because fatigue negatively impacts technique.
- If it’s an amazing day, but your shackling yourself to just the workout you have planned for yourself, you’re leaving a whole lot on the table that could have otherwise been placed in more productive activity. You might have been able to handle more training volume, train at a higher intensity, or try some new exercises. Instead, you bailed on an opportunity to push yourself and maybe hit some new personal records. This wouldn’t just be physical growth; it would be psychologically, emotionally, and confidence-building.
This is where baseball specific autoregulation is supposed to come in.
It’s something I constantly work into the programs of my 1-on-1 clients in one way or another. Essentially, based on how you’re feeling from one day to the next, your workout will change to accommodate you.
So many times I see baseball players try to make themselves fit the programs when instead they should be making the programs fit themselves.
This doesn’t have to be complicated.
It can be as simple as having one or two “adaptable sets” where you will just hit the bare number of reps of on a bad day (let’s say it was a set of 8-12, you would just hit 8 and be done with it), or, on a really good day you would run this to 12 or even more if you had it in you.
Or, if you’re working on a percentage-based system:
Let’s say you were prescribed to hit 3×5 at 85% of your one rep max. On a bad day, you could modify this to 3×3 with 85% (which would be totally doable).
But on a good day, you would have the option of doing 5 reps on your first two sets, and then running it to failure on your third set to build confidence emotionally and psychologically. Not to mention the newfound physiological stimulus you would be placing on your body for strength enhancement.
From a program design perspective, this type of approach doesn’t fundamentally alter the program, but it still allows the baseball athlete to take advantage of their good days and minimize unnecessary overtraining on their bad days.
It could also be as simple as cluster sets where you do a few reps, rest for a short period, and then do a certain number of reps at given time intervals until you are no longer able to do the reps anymore.
This wouldn’t take much time at all on bad days, yet on good days you could literally double your training volume at a given intensity.
That’s powerful stuff and seems to be so lost in modern baseball program design.
Using the above 85% scenario again, 3×5 at 85% could easily become 3×3-5 at 85%, and then 1 set of as many reps as possible, followed up by a 20-second rest, then one rep, then 20 seconds rest, then one rep, and so on until you reach fatigue.
Your cluster may start with a set of 4 followed up by only 2 reps on a bad day or start with 7 followed up by 10 more on a good day. Again, the point is to allow your program to autoregulate to your personal readiness that day. This is where the real money is.
Regardless of HOW you autoregulate training, I think baseball players should have a very concrete “listening to your body” approach while working out.
When you combine work life, school life, hitting practice, games, practices, speed, conditioning, agility, and everything else… you need to find a way to make the most of your good days, cut the losses on your bad days (but still not backtrack), and minimize your overall injury risk by not doing a workout because “it says so on the paper”.
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