The physical demands of baseball

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As we spend time analyzing sports, each sport has its own set of physical, mental, and skill demands. For years and years, soccer has been the gold standard when comparisons begin to take place when it comes to the general athleticism you need to play, as well as the general physical demand. For this very reason, there are so many young athletes as well as older athletes who are integrating soccer lifting techniques as well as conditioning techniques into sports like baseball.

In the past, when I heard and saw this happening, the growling, yelling, and excessive weight handling, I cringed. But, after taking a deeper look at what is really going on, it turns out that there is a lot of hard work, inner drive, and pushing of personal limits. Exercise selection and form aside, this type of higher intensity training is achieving an often overlooked quality: fitness.

Because baseball is a sport with very low metabolic and physical demands, athletes learn to adapt to their sport. Some athletes even play baseball because it has a very low physical demand. Over time this will lead to athletes becoming very competent and sport-specific skills such as hitting and throwing, but health and fitness levels are often very poor. When these fitness levels begin to be lacking, injuries are often due to the high speeds and twisting that are needed to execute sport-specific skills. Throwing a baseball is one of the most explosive bodily actions in all sports, yet many pitchers are overweight and inherently lazy.

If, as coaches and athletes, we really stop and analyze this situation, can you tell that you and your team are doing enough to stay slim? Over the years, I have heard of coaches executing their athletes with excessive distance runs, and again it made me sick to my stomach. Although distance running is not a specific protocol for baseball, it will certainly work to increase calorie burn, leading to excess body mass loss. I still wouldn’t recommend running excessively every day, but it would require some form of conditioning every day. I would also recommend that these circuits be primarily cardiovascular rather than strictly geared towards weightlifting. These circuits could include medicine balls, body weight training, form runs, jumping rope, plyometrics, band work, core work, etc.

The great advantage of a circuit is that they work very well for teams. Circuit training allows you to create multiple stations, each containing a different exercise, and accommodating multiple athletes, as well as providing a good amount of variety. The circuits can be done by repetitions or by time. Once the athlete achieves the specified repetitions, or the allotted time, they will proceed to the next station. When choosing stations, just like when designing a general program, you must have a goal. If your goal is strength, then your circuit would be primarily geared toward weight training. If your goal is cardiovascular fitness / endurance and strength, you should select a variety of exercises that contain cardiovascular fitness, strength, or both.

I have become a huge advocate of seasonal circuits because they are time efficient, they will work to maintain and hopefully increase the body’s work capacity, and they are fun.

Although the physical demands of baseball are extremely low, athletes who spend time increasing their work capacity have a tremendous advantage in recovery time, as well as reduced time on the disabled list. Increased work capacity will allow pitchers to pitch deeper into games, while keeping position players strong during the rigors of the game every day. The gold standard of training in the major leagues has been Roger Clemens and his legendary SEAL Program. This program is basically a giant circuit. This program is not extremely focused on circuit weight training, but rather on increasing conditioning levels. This program is a combination of distance and sprint work, as well as side work with baseballs.

Learn a lesson from the Rocket, don’t be the typical lazy baseball player who gets by on the sport’s low demand alone, but learn to overcome the sport’s demands and you will be rewarded with health, efficiency, and most importantly, higher performance.

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