The Physical Demands of Baseball
As we spend time analyzing sports, every sport has its own set of physical, mental, and skill demands. For years and years now, football has been the gold standard when comparisons start taking place in regards to overall athleticism need to play, as well as the overall physical demand. For this very reason there are so many young athletes, as well as older athletes that are integrating football lifting techniques, as well as conditioning techniques into sports such as baseball.
In the past when I would hear and see this taking place, the excessive grunting, yelling, and weight handling I would cringe. But, after taking a deer look at what is actually going on, it turns out that there is a lot of hard work and internal drive and personal limit pushing taking place. Putting exercise selection and form aside, this type of increased intensity training is achieving a quality that is often times overlooked, fitness.
Because baseball is a sport that has very low metabolic and physical demands, athletes learn to adapt to their sport. Some athletes even play baseball because it has such low physical demand. Over time, this will lead to athletes that become very proficient and sport-specific skills, such as hitting and throwing, but often health and fitness levels are severely lacking. When these fitness levels start to lack, injuries often result due to the high velocities and torques that are needed to execute the sport-specific skills. Throwing a baseball is one of the most explosive, total body actions in all of sports, yet many pitchers are overweight and inherently lazy.
If as coaches and athletes we really stop and analyze this situation, can you say that you and your team are honestly doing enough in regards to stay lean? Over the years I have heard about coaches running their athletes with excessive distance running, and again I would get sick to my stomach. Although distance running is not a specific protocol to baseball, it will without a doubt work to increase caloric burn, which will lead to the shedding of excess body mass. I still would not recommend excessive running everyday, but I would require some type of conditioning everyday. I would also recommend that these circuits are primarily cardiovascular based rather than being strictly weight lifting oriented. These circuits could include medicine balls, body weight training, form running, jump rope, plyometrics, band work, core work, etc.
The great advantage to a circuit is that they work great for teams. Circuit training allows you to create multiple stations, each station containing a different exercise, and accommodates multiple athletes, as well as providing a good amount of variety. Circuits can be done for reps, or for time. After that athlete fulfills the specified reps, or the allotted time, he would then move to the next station. When choosing stations, just like when designing and overall program, you must have a goal. If your goal is strength, then your circuit would be primarily weight training oriented. If your goal is cardiovascular fitness / endurance and strength, you would select a variety of exercises that contain either cardio fitness, strength, or both.
I have become a huge advocate of circuits in-season because they are time efficient, will work to maintain and hopefully increase work-capacity of the body, and are fun.
Although the physical demands of baseball are extremely low, athletes that spend time increasing their work capacity are at a tremendous advantage in regards to recovery time, as well as a reduced time on the disabled list. Increasing work capacity will allow pitchers to pitch deeper into games, while keeping position players strong through the rigors of playing everyday. The gold standard of workouts in the Major Leagues has been Roger Clemens and his legendary SEAL Program. This program is basically one giant circuit. This program is not extremely focused on weight training in the circuit, but on increasing condition levels. This program is a combo of distance and sprint work, as well as lateral work with baseballs.
Take a lesson from the Rocket, do not be a typical lazy baseball player that just gets by because of the low demand of the sport, but learn to out-work the demands of the sport and you will be rewarded by health, efficiency, And most importantly increased performance.