Why Hitting The Weight Room is Necessary for Baseball & Softball Players
I see it so often. Whether it be from the parents of the athlete or the athlete themselves, the fear of the weight room is real. This fear usually comes out in the following ways “I will lose my flexibility”, “I don’t want to get slow”, and the popular “I don’t want to get bulky” over in the female sporting arena. The truth is however, that none of these thoughts are true. Training PROPERLY will lead to faster, more explosive athletes, and on top of that they will even develop a greater active range of motion!
Mobility Vs. Flexibility
Out of all the athletes that we train currently, I would say that just about 10-20% of our athletes at the max were able to touch their toes when they first came in. This is true for not only the 13 and up crew, but even the 12 and under athletes. So again…how will strength training reduce your ROM (Range of Motion)? I don’t know a single person who has been training properly for over 2 months that cannot touch their toes. Why is that?
Before we tackle the reason why these strength athletes can touch their toes, we have to identify the difference between flexibility and mobility. Flexibility is the range of motion that an athlete has under passive conditions. Picture an athlete lying on their back getting their hamstring stretched out. Mobility however is the range of motion that an athlete can access under active conditions. Picture the same athlete lying on their back, but this time actively using their anterior leg and core muscles to bring their straight leg up as far as they can.
It is extremely common to see athletes who have very poor flexibility AND mobility, but it also common to see athletes with average flexibility of a joint and poor mobility. These athletes need to develop range of motion and most importantly, they need to develop control of this range of motion. This is a topic that I could ramble on and on about (future article), but I’ll leave it at this. The athletes that we are seeing, are in desperate need of strength to establish a greater range of motion than they currently have. Mobility training simply put is strength training for the end range of motion.
Speed and Power Development
Through proper programming the weight room will lead to tremendous gains in speed and power. This happens for a few reasons, but the easiest to grasp is a formula.
Power = (Force * Distance) / Time OR Power = Force * Velocity
By increasing force via developing a base of strength, the athlete will be able to produce more power. Proper programming is the key to maximizing this effect though. By training strength using heavy loads force will be high, but velocity will be low. However, by training strength AND velocity via plyometrics and explosive movements the athlete will see monumental gains over time. They will be able to run faster, jump higher and farther, throw harder, hit further, and even change direction quicker. When I took this methodology into my
own personal training, I was able to increase my vertical by 7 inches from 22” to 29” and was able to reach the 10’ mark on a standing long jump. To put this in perspective, I went from barely touching rim to getting a basketball above the rim consistently and even dunking every once in awhile. All in only 6 months of exploitation of this principle. The best part was that the year prior to this I had a strength coach providing me with my workouts and I didn’t gain a single inch on my vertical.
This is one of those benefits that might be taken for granted. Training in the weight room is not as simple as just getting stronger. It is also about teaching the athlete how to put their body in the best positions to maximize their biomechanics and absorb force. For instance, quite commonly Ron and Kate will have an athlete that can’t figure out how to “fire” their hips to create the whip effect which leads to greater power. By doing drills in the weight room consistently that require hip loading, I can teach athletes how to load their hip better. This is one of those quick hacks that can make all the difference in their power at the plate. Medicine ball drills are a staple of our athlete’s training for this reason. We can load a movement that is typically pretty light and bring more awareness to a movement pattern.
Teaching bracing and stability techniques in gym also allow for us to hack the athletes biomechanics. By teaching these proper positions, all of a sudden we have athletes that can transfer force from their lower, to their upper body. This is incredibly important for all athletes to work on since sports nearly always have components that require the athletes upper and lower body to work in sync together.
Minimize Injury Risk
Most athletes don’t care about this when they are young (hell I know I didn’t). This is single handedly the most important reason that baseball players need to train in the gym. My favorite quote is “An injured athlete is the worst kind of athlete”. There is not much you can do as an injured athlete except being a leader and providing a great energy for your teammates. Staying healthy and keeping a high-level of play through the entire season is at the heart of what we do. The off-season should be used to increase your body’s capacity to deal with load and in-season you should be working your ass off to keep your body as resilient as possible.
By learning to move better and getting stronger, athletes will become resistant to injury. This doesn’t mean that they won’t get hurt, but simply that the likelihood is far lower. This also comes from identifying potential injury risks using an assessment such as the FMS and then attacking the imbalances or issues that arise through testing.
The earlier you start, the more time you get to progress. The season is nearly upon us, don’t wait until next season.