You need to make the most improvements to your baseball strength, power and speed in the offseason. If you wait until 2-3 weeks before the season starts, it is too late.
Many young baseball players are too busy playing year-round and don't get in needed strength, speed and power training (that's a hint to dads and select coaches)!
If you don't have foundational strength and stability then that's where your training would start. You should not progress to more risky sport specific training exercises until you build your foundation.
During the offseason, you have adequate time to strength train and recover. Maximal strength is not the goal here. The baseball player's objective is to achieve adequate core strength and limb strength to aid in training for sport-specific power.
So, forget about lifting as much weight as you can (i.e., one-rep max) and concentrate on building full body strength and conditioning.
Exercises such as dumbbell bench press, squats, step-ups, rows, shoulder press, lunges, etc. are used. Also, every baseball player needs a strong shoulder/rotator cuff of the throwing arm. There are a series of exercises designed to strengthen and stabilize this area.
As for muscle growth, you will need a certain amount of muscle growth but not so much as to inhibit playing the game with fluidity. Power is more important to achieve.
Rate-of-force production or power (how fast your muscles can produce force) is one the best physical predictors of success in baseball and sports in general.
Power is achieved by performing resistance and plyometric exercises at maximum effort. This type of training has great potential for injuries. So, it is imperative that you have adequate core and body strength before starting power training.
The speed demands of baseball are: starting ability, acceleration, stopping, cutting, stride rate, stride length, sprinting form and speed endurance.
Most explosive movements occur after some other movement (swinging, sliding, etc.). Maximum velocity is rarely reached except in the case of hitting a triple, inside-the-park homerun or running down a long fly ball. Therefore, starting ability, acceleration and lateral speed should be emphasized during speed training.
Long distance running for position players should be limited. Too much long distance running decreases speed. You must train fast in order to get faster. A better alternative would be to do high intensity interval cardio training.
This type of cardio training would consist of rotating sprints and walking/jogging. A good example would be to sprint for 30 seconds and walk or jog for 1 minute. Do this rotation for 20 minutes. This type of cardio training has been proven to produce superior heart health and fat burning results.
Train hard and smart!
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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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