Among the major professional sports, baseball has the longest season in terms of total number of games while also requiring teams to play almost every day. So with games that can take up to 3 or 4 hours to play and players being asked to perform almost every day of the week, what is the proper approach to pre-season conditioning?
Baseball broken down into its simplest form is a series of short bursts of maximum effort. The processes of pitches and swings take only a fraction of a second to perform with approximately 20-30 seconds of rest in between. An inside-the-park homerun represents baseball’s longest play which will take about 20 seconds or less at professional and college levels. Therefore, an appropriate pre-season conditioning program should consist of power-based plyometric and sprint exercises that simulate game-like situations. Movements associated with baseball are also largely rotational movements such as throwing, hitting and reacting to balls put in play.
Sample plyometric exercises would consist of tuck jumps, broad jumps, box jumps, or single leg jumps. Sprints would obviously be appropriate, but individual drills for acceleration and top speed should be included such as band resisted sprints, banded slingshot, or running up and down hills. It is very important that the plyometric and sprinting exercise are performed at maximal effort in order to produce the best benefit. Game specific rest between sprints would suggest at least 20 seconds of rest in between with longer sprints (10-15 seconds of work) requiring 45-60 seconds of rest. As for rotational movements, using weighted medicine balls can provide a wide range of options such as Russian Twists, rotational throws against a wall (simulating a swing), or medicine ball slams into the ground (simulating a pitch).
Baseball is a unique sport with a wide variety of movements. However, the game breaks down into short bursts of maximum effort with extended rest in between. A proper pre-season conditioning program should reflect the actions performed throughout a game. Following this sport-specific type of conditioning program should not only reduce fatigue among players throughout games and the season, but should also improve their performance in terms of power and quickness.
Written By: Stephen James CPT