In order to be a successful baseball player, a person must possess anaerobic capacity, anaerobic power and to a lesser extent, aerobic capacity. Methods that help to improve these qualities should be included in training to play baseball. The principle of specificity states that muscles need to be used in similar ways and patterns as a way of making specific gains. A logical approach would be to have the conditioning methods for baseball players resemble the various demands that the sport requires. Baseball training should center around the development of the anaerobic energy systems.
The failure to adhere to exact scientific data has caused the use of techniques that are both conventional and unconventional. These techniques have been used as a way of improving and maintaining baseball players’ physical conditioning. However, an anaerobic emphasis is not included in many of these programs.
Traditional Training Methods
Training baseball players using traditional methods focuses on the building of an aerobic base that is large. Position players require an adequate aerobic capacity between their various anaerobic bouts of power such as swinging the bat, running the bases and sprinting on the field. Pitchers need it to completely recover from the stressful activity of pitching, which is an intensive anaerobic bout of power.
These anaerobic bouts can be divided by the extended times of inactivity that are commonly associated with them. Continuous running over a long distance helped to develop the aerobic base. Over the years, studies have confirmed that when endurance exercise is sustained for a period of time exceeding 30 minutes, power output is diminished. Rhea and colleagues published a study that shows power and endurance training are not compatible. Therefore, baseball players should not use them to train at the same time.
High-Intensity Interval Training vs. Endurance Training
The power, strength and fiber size of muscles have all been shown to decrease with the use of endurance training. Obviously, all of these things are negative regarding the performance of a baseball player. How can a baseball player’s strength and power be maintained while building an aerobic base at the same time? A Burgomaster study indicated that high-intensity interval training can increase aerobic capacity. This is as opposed to long aerobic training. A Bulbulian study indicated that VO2max could be increased by sprinting repeatedly while minimally using rest intervals.
An increase in aerobic capacity correlates to a VO2max increase. Conditioning methods for baseball should phase out traditional extended aerobic exercise and replace it with interval-type sprint conditioning that is repeated. This method of training is best showcased by tempo throws and tempo runs.
The Power Equation
The definition of power is P=(force x displacement)/time. There are two ways in which an increase in power can happen: Decrease the time necessary to exert the force or increase the ability to exert the force. It should be noted that this equation has a limitation. As weight increases, the velocity of movement will tend to slow down. As a result of this, you need to figure in the right range of percent repetition maximum (RM) that will enable the largest production of power to be used.
A baseball bat weighs 32 to 36 ounces. A baseball weighs five ounces. Because of these factors, greater importance should be placed on the velocity of movement than on force. Research conducted by Kevin Kerekes has revealed that 30 to 50 percent of a person’s IRM for a specific exercise is the optimum range for movement velocity. The development of power can be maximized when weights are moved in this range. The addition of resistance bands to a barbell is considered to be a safe alternative as a means of preventing the deactivation and slowing down of muscles towards the end of movement. The stretch shortening cycle can be put to greater use with the addition of resistance bands.
A critical component in all throwing and running activities is the stretch shortening cycle. Elastic energy gets stored inside the muscle when it is stretched rapidly. A concentric contraction that is more powerful can be produced by the elastic energy that is stored. This can result in a muscular contraction that is more powerful overall. This finding has allowed experts to conclude that this training method can enable the improvement of running and throwing speed.
When accommodated resistance is used, the time it takes for the barbell to slow down is decreased. Also, the time spent close to peak velocity is increased. Therefore, the rate of force development is also increased. A person’s peak force and peak power have been proven to be increased with the use of resistance bands on a barbell.
Position players and pitchers need to train for power and strength. A baseball must be thrown using the correct mechanics. According to research, the majority of professional pitchers possess a certain amount of instability in their shoulder. Because of this, the addition of heavy overhead and chest lifts cold possibly cause an increase in the instability of their shoulder. It could also heighten the possibility of posterior impingement syndrome.
Additional imbalances and asymmetries could be caused by adding more pressing exercises because of the large amount of throwing involved. As a way of avoiding the shoulder becoming unstable during the process of training, exercising the shoulder should only be done after a throwing practice, or after the major muscle groups have been exhausted. This will enable the rotator cuff’s small muscles to be concentrated on during lifting. Fatigue before lifting or throwing will also be avoided.
Because of the large amount of games and practices that baseball players are involved in, along with the many repetitive motions that are required for a player to learn the correct movement mechanics of pitching and hitting, it is common for players to suffer injuries due to overusing muscles and joints. However, there are things that can be done to prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place. Scapular mobilization drills and prehabilitation work for the elbow and rotator cuff are some examples.
Shoulder Injuries / Stresses and Prevention
The joint for the shoulder is weak. It is held together by tendons, ligaments, muscles and surrounding fascia. This is commonly referred to as the rotator cuff. Its range of motion is larger than all of the other joints. However, the risk of injury is increased dramatically because of this increased range of motion. This is because a large amount of stress is placed on the joint of the shoulder and the connecting tissues. Warming up the shoulder properly through exercise is critical for a baseball player prior to beginning any baseball activities.
Limits are set to protect a baseball player from becoming injured. A good way to maintain the health of the shoulders is to begin a resistance program. This will help to strengthen the shoulders and prepare them for the rigorous demands of the baseball season. Ice treatment should also be used as a means of reducing inflammation. Proper rest is needed to rebuild muscle tissue that has broken down from use. Range of motion can be gained by stretching. Future injuries can be prevented with the help of strengthening exercises. Finally, a throwing program can help to build throwing durability and velocity.
Robert Ander enjoys his career as a sports psychologist. When not mentoring students through school, he often blogs about the range of options for improved psychological states.