Every baseball player should be strength training. There is no other comparable exercise modality that can give you as many amazing physical, mental, emotional, and overall health benefits as weight training can.
When you lift weights, you find out what you’re really made of, and what you can overcome with a little hard work and discipline. When you challenge your body, this is a phenomenal way to also develop the strength of your mind. As you continue to run into plateaus and then overcome them – you get a great idea on the depth of your drive, and how this type of forward acting momentum can translate out on the field.
A strength plateau is no different than a skill plateau, you need to find where you’re weak, fix the weakness, and keep moving forward. This develops self-confidence, and if you talk to any baseball player in the big leagues, they will all tell you how important confidence is when going into a big game.
Although it seems as though weight training gets a bad reputation sometimes in baseball communities with baseball parents or coaches saying that it will “hurt their athleticism” – this couldn’t be further from the truth, and I think you already know this by my extensive work within this blog section.
But today, let’s talk about five reasons that make strength training a no-brainer for baseball players!
Reason #1: Weight Training Improves Body Composition
A lot of baseball players think running is the best way to lose fat, but the truth is that running is not all that useful when it comes to dropping body fat. I know it’s counter-intuitive sometimes to think that weight training is going to improve athleticism in baseball, but it really does.
Weight training increases lean muscle mass which boosts metabolism, and also has a greater effect on the hormonal chemistry within our body that influence fat loss such as leptin, insulin, and cortisol.
When fat loss is the main priority, I recommend baseball player weight train a minimum of 3 days per week and work in additional speed and conditioning work where their schedule permits.
Reason #2: You Get Stronger
I know some of you might be thinking… duh!
But, most baseball players don’t understand the real truth behind the simplicity here. Strength training builds leg strength, power, and coordination – all of which make you faster out on the diamond.
In fact, research done on both elite and recreational runners has found that weight training with the purpose of increasing maximal lower body strength can enhance all components of speed performance:
- Energy efficiency is improved 5-10% (when you improve the efficiency at which you produce energy, you enhance how long that energy can be used for, which results in a direct improvement in overall endurance)
- Time spent in an aerobic state is improved up to 20% (meaning, less fatigue producing by-products in your muscles during a game)
- Top speed times in trial performance runs increased 5-8% overall
Not so obvious now is it?
Strength training isn’t just about throwing and hitting, it’s also about stealing bases and getting under the ball in time.
Reason #3: Enhancement of Nervous System Pathways
Strength training enhances neural pathways in athletes which allow them to react faster, have a quicker starting speed, and are able to apply more force into the ground (propelling them forward at a much faster rate). What you’re looking at here is a combination improvement in both starting speed and acceleration.
The overall effect is better brain function (via nervous system pathways) and coordination of movement for all baseball players who partake in a well-designed baseball-specific program.
Reason #4: Build Bone Tissue
If you follow the news in the strength and conditioning world, you have undoubtedly heard that endurance training reduces bone mineral density through an elevation in the stress hormone cortisol and the high levels of oxidative stress that it produces.
Less well known is that your reproductive health can suffer from too much aerobic work as well, strength training reverses all of these issues:
- A moderate to heavy strength training program has been demonstrated to reduce chronic pain, increase natural anti-oxidant production, and reduce long-term physical stress markers
- Weightlifting increases testosterone and growth hormone – both of which counter the negative effects of cortisol and improve overall hormonal balance within the body
- Heavy strength training is one of the most effective forms of treatment anybody could ever do to increase bone density – leading to a longer, healthier baseball career longevity. In fact, studies have demonstrated that even elite athletes can reduce their risk for a bone fracture by 50% by incorporating weight training into their weekly routines
- Of interest to the older players out there, strength training has been demonstrated to reduce pain perception by 43% in populations over 50 years old
Reason #5: Strength Training Improves Sleep
The research on this area is interesting, what we have seen is that although the process of weight training fatigues the body and therefore increase our need for more sleep, weight training also increases the quality of our sleep, so it ends up evening itself back out.
What you end up with is a better sleep, not a longer sleep.
A recent intervention study found that men undergoing a hypertrophy training program increased their sleep quality by 5% and woke up much less throughout the night. This is important to care about because sleep is the KING of recovery. If you aren’t sleeping, you aren’t recovering. Period.
Beyond this, sleep has also been tightly linked to blood sugar control, testosterone, growth hormone, and fat loss results. So, it goes without saying, this is a very welcomed “add-on” we get from strength training.
Baseball Strength Training Conclusion
At the end of the day, all baseball players should be incorporating some form of resistance training, and that includes the youth athletes out there. The only important point I want to make when concluding this blog is that you must make sure it is a baseball-specific training program.
Too often people hop on general fitness programs to improve their baseball performance, and although you might get a little something out of them, they are called general for a reason. They don’t focus on the exact energy system, outputs, muscles, and movements that are actually going to translate to a better performance on the field.
So, it’s not just “weight training” – make sure you are weight training for baseball.