In this article, I’ll be doing a bit of a “call out” to the baseball strength and conditioning coaches who take the easy road in this business.
It’s very commonplace to see a coach in this field say something like:
“The best coaches just focus on the basics”
Although that sounds all fun and dandy, we’d be lying to ourselves if we aren’t admitting that’s a bunch of BS.
It’s great marketing for sure though.
Essentially, I tell you that I know nothing outside of the basics, but it sounds hardcore/cool so you buy into it and I can remain a lazy coach.
This is why you see some coaches who have made their name in bodybuilding or powerlifting transcend over to baseball training and pretend that the same concepts apply.
How Lazy Coaches Screw Up The Basics
Here’s the thing, I have absolutely no issue with promoting the basics. Funny enough, laying out some of the basic principles of strength training have allowed me to break out in this industry as a leader and yet I was only parlaying the basic principles.
The basics are CRAZY important and they must never be overlooked in the context of creating a well-rounded baseball training program.
The real problem that occurs though is you will find coaches who misuse the term basics.
Instead of basics referring to the principles and variables of program design (principles representing important concepts such as specificity, overload, variation etc. and variables representing the variable components of stimulus such as tempo, volume, intensity, and frequency), they instead promote the idea that the basics refer to just a small group of core exercises they consider to be “fundamental”
These exercises are usually squats, deadlifts, and bench press. The idea behind their version of “the basics” is that if you use these movement patterns you will see improvements in your running, jumping, agility, and overall baseball performance.
Although there will be some carryover to your baseball performance, it’s far from an optimal approach. If that’s all we needed then baseball performance experts like myself wouldn’t even exist, and neither would my massive body of work in this area.
These coaches think the basics refers to exercise selection, it doesn’t, it refers to the basic principles and variables that apply to creating a sport specific training program.
This mistake is crucial and has cost a lot of parents a lot of wasted money, and has cost a lot of baseball players a lot of wasted hours of training.
Why Your “Basics” Don’t Work
Baseball athletes need to develop the strength qualities that are unique to baseball performance.
The qualities are unique to baseball alone, and these qualities are nearly impossible to achieve by exclusively using the “big movements” alone.
For example, running speed involves force production from some muscles while they are lengthening, others while they are shortening, and some others while they are producing peak force production during very small windows of movement.
Yet, classic barbell lifts involve peak force production while contracting (and not lengthening) and they are often contracting very slowly (reducing power output).
Additionally, a classic barbell lift will not train the hip flexors, and as I wrote in my three-part speed series this is crucial for maximal running speed.
I haven’t NEARLY gone into the detail that could be gone into here, and I’ve also only brought up one movement pattern (running) — but I think you’re getting the point.
Although the big movements play a role, they don’t play the entire role by any stretch of the imagination.
You’re Not Normal!
Baseball athletes are not regular people.
The big basic movement alone are great for almost the entire general population for very obvious strength and health-based reasons, but that doesn’t also mean they are the one-stop-shop for baseball performance.
Baseball players speed, conditioning, agility, and power-bursts are off the charts compared to the average person. Beyond this, you can’t compare them to other sports either like hockey or soccer because the movements patterns and duration of physical activity are vastly different.
Calling the sport of baseball the same as basketball would make anybody laugh, and yet for some reason coaches will make the same program for both sports with their “basics” logic.
That’s not logic, that’s ignorance.
The idea that there is a fundamental “basic” list of exercises is flawed in sports science.
Sometimes a barbell does a great job, but other times you’ll need some dumbbells, a stability ball, some cables, a band, or *gasp* even a machine.
Functional training doesn’t mean it has to be free weights, it means that it has to be specific for the sport.
The moment coaches realize this is the moment we can get past this lazy coaching era of “the basics”
In my opinion, the most productive way in which coaches should start expressing themselves through the basics is by understanding and applying the basic principles and variables of program design.
In contrast, allowing the basics to be referred to as a short list of exercises does a major disservice to the baseball strength and conditioning industry as well as all the athletes and parents involved.
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